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August 11, 2014

Partner On-Boarding

by Adam Famularo

Adding a new partner into your sales ecosystem is a challenging concept that needs to be managed with purpose.  The biggest challenge is the time and costs that it takes to get a partner revenue contributing versus the expectations of management to deliver results today.

On average it costs $100-$200k to properly on-board a partner and anywhere from 12-18 months of time to deliver real tangible results.  While most companies set yearly financial goals and expect to see results in a 6-9 month period.  So how can we shorten the time to revenue while reduce the on-boarding costs to the partner.

Here is my five point plan to increase your chances of success while on-boarding new partners.  I will give you a view of managing a direct relationship with a partner but you can also work with distribution to scale this to work with hundreds or thousands of new partners.

 Joint Business Planning with a GTM purpose – The business planning process needs to start with a clear vision on how you are going to bring these new joint solutions to market.  Once you have a clear plan in place it is important to ensure the executive team from the partner and vendor are in agreement and ready to put weight behind the partnership.  These plans need to be reviewed on a quarterly basis and have agreed KPIs that you will both use to measure your success.  Another best practice today is to have these as living documents that partners can access through a partner portal.

Compelling Training – Training is one of the most important ingredients in the success of a partnership.  When you are developing a program for your partners try to emulate exactly what you offer your own employees.  This should include a high quality, interactive training program that is easily made available and is role based.  To me VMware is a company that does this very well – they not only have great structure and clarity in their training paths but they also have a built-in mechanism to keep the training fresh as new versions of their software are released.  A best practice in training is to combine an online learning program with certifications to a shadowing program that provides real world experience.

Comprehensive Demand Generation Programs – This should be a self-service system that can enable partners a customizable approach to generating new campaigns.  There are a couple of channel marketing platforms that can use such as SharedVue or StructuredWeb.  I have also found joint events that target the partners customer base and brings the vendors technical/executive contacts to educate the potential prospects on the joint solutions.  It is important to link your partners marketing team with your marketing organization so both can work together on a mutually beneficial marketing plan.

Building Sales Momentum – This is the make it or break it moment in the partnership.  It is very important to have a solid sales champion within the partner to be aligned with a channel account manager from the vendor.  These two should start to work together in aligning the field sales teams together and start to build momentum with some early wins.  It does sometimes take a vendor to step forward with leads to get a partnership moving but it is just as important for the partner to demonstrate their willingness to develop new leads as well.  I always liked to get a few early wins that you could celebrate within the partner to demonstrate how much money other sales reps can make by selling this new solution to their customers.  A best practice on the sales side is to ensure that you have an online deal registration program in place to protect the partners against each other.

Consistent Communication – It is important that role based lines of communications are open and stay open – this will help you as you tackle some obstacles in developing the partnership.  Having QBR meetings on the calendar, scheduled on-site meetings and then consistent newsletter/social communication program are important to keep everybody aligned on the goals.

Hopefully these five points can help to increase your chances of success while on-boarding new partners.

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