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Yes, Channel Partner Engagement Is As Low You As You Think It Is (part 2)

Channel partner engagement is such a rich topic that I’m back with 5 more tips.

Relayware Partner Relationship Management

Yes, Channel Partner Engagement Is As Low You As You Think It Is

Part 2

By Karren Gurnhill

In my previous post I shared 5 tips for increasing channel partner engagement. And today, because this is such a rich topic, I’m back with 5 more tips.

  • #1 - Make an Impact from the Beginning

The first 30 days of a new partner relationship is crucial. It sets the tone for your relationship. You have one chance to make a first impression, so this is your opportunity to convert new recruits into loyal, high performing partners who successfully sell on your behalf.

Nurture new channel partners by implementing a process that starts at the very beginning of their experience, and leads them through the steps of success. This initial period of your partner relationship should be high-touch. But remember that a one-size-fits-all approach to messaging will not be effective. The key is automating the recognition and acknowledgement of partners when they complete milestone actions, while also encouraging engagement and follow-up.

While all activities may not lend themselves to automation, a good partner relationship management system enables you to leverage every possible opportunity to engage --whether through outbound calls, emails, videos, portal notifications, training content or invitations to events.

  • # 2 - Don’t Forget Your Existing Partners

Engaging existing partners is a different beast altogether. Many companies have an entire channel partner program already in place, and are frustrated by their partners’ lack of involvement or simply seeking improved success rates and greater return. These issues plague even the most mature channel management programs.

Steenburgh and Ahearne’s have conducted insightful research* on motivating channel sales, which also applies to indirect channel partners and direct sales people. The study found thatB Level performers typically form the largest group and:

  • They’re often ignored in favor of A level players or “star performers”
  • There is generally less communication with this group
  • There is less consideration for promotion and recognition within this group

Tiered incentives can be the solution to ensure each category is motivated. B Level performers are more likely to move the revenue needle if given proper attention and incentives.

#3 - Create a Framework for Channel Partner Activity & Response

Engaging partners is about reinforcing positive partner behaviors and leveraging key points of action to deepen communications and relationships. Every interaction should be reinforced with appropriate response. The table below highlights examples of activities and responses.

#4 - Get to You Know Your Partners on a Personal Level

People like doing business with people they know. Ongoing engagement can be as humble as a call to listen to your partners and let them know that they are valued. Receiving feedback on hurdles may lead to insight into necessary resources needed by struggling partners. These findings and solutions can be communicated on an account level to low engagers through automation. Educating partners through these communications make it easier for them to access content and important contacts.

#5 - Streamline Ongoing Channel Engagement

Some key best practices to deploy:

  • Make it easy for partners to access their assigned channel account manager (CAM) by including a portal homepage with CAM photos, credentials and contact information.
  • Empower your partners to access the information and tools they need on-demand through a Web-accessed partner portal.
  • Remember more traditional outreach initiatives, such as calling partners and engaging with them voice-to-voice.
  • Send automated activity-triggered messages at key junctures in the partner lifecycle e.g. promotion of continuing education or cross-selling opportunities.
  • Leverage the power of video on your portal, whether on-demand or via live webinars.
  • Keep content fresh and relevant. Partners tire of hearing the same messages again and again.
  • Encourage bi-directional conversations through vender/partner and partner/partner collaboration, so everyone is sharing knowledge and experiences

Channel partner engagement is critical in the first 90 days, but the real test of your mutual success takes place in the long term. Continued engagement may at times feel like uphill battle, but remember that it is a worthwhile pursuit.

* Ahearne, Michael; Steenburgh, Thomas. “Motivating Salespeople: What Really Works,” Harvard Business Review (July 2012). https://hbr.org/2012/07/motivating-salespeople-what-really-works/ar/4