Having received a media enquiry about a vendors approach to Partner Program in the form of a number of questions,

  • Why is it so hard for vendors to keep partner programmes simple? 
  • What are the main challenges they face to do so? 
  • What are the contributory factors that cause complication and add layers into partner programmes? 
  • What can be done to make them easier to understand and to use? 
  • How do vendors make them more effective and more efficient for partners – and for themselves?

I felt it appropriate to share our thoughts to demonstrate why it really is all about our partners!!

A vendor’s primary objective is to have One Partner Program that addresses the needs of the developing partner eco-system accommodating different classes of partners and structuring benefits at the various stages of business development to incentivise behaviour that is proven to drive incremental growth. 

Changes occurring over time, which include new product development, new routes to market and M&A, create new scenarios that have to be incorporated.  Without careful thought, new functionality could be bolted on and that, over time, leads to confusion and complexity.  It is therefore more important for all stakeholders - both internal channel teams as well as aligned partners - that as the program is evolved, inputs are considered to meet current market conditions and new routes to market.

Currently, we are seeing increasing demand for an MSP approach, and rather than creating a separate MSP program, it makes more sense to evolve the current program with the addition of an MSP track.   The advantage of this is that program tools such as MDF, Tiering, Enablement, Accreditation and Certification can be applied as a foundation for the new track.

Getting a solid program foundation in place clearly provides a familiarity to the partners – they know where to go to access assets that they need; where they get their training and information about special events or activities and that in turn helps them build their business.

Regular outbound communications are instrumental in directing partners into the partner portal and giving them notifications of new assets. In addition, keeping the partner portal up-to-date with new information and making redundant information obsolete is critical.  

Ensuring partner enablement – both for sales and pre-sales partner teams - mirrors corporate training initiatives means partners are knowledgeable and gaining in confidence enough to be self-sufficient to go and talk to customers about their problems in order to align specific solutions.

By talking to partners about their needs and executing surveys vendors ensure that the program develops over time to provided increased value to the partners and drives increased commitment.

A common trap vendors fall into is that in the quest for developing the perfect program or incentive is they over complicate it and only look at the situation from their point of view. Partners are bombarded with the “next greatest incentive” from all the vendors they are aligned to as well as others that are trying to recruit them. If the proposition is not simple, easy to implement and achieve, they simply do not have the time to invest in understanding what could well be “the perfect program.”

A simple rule for developing a change program or incentive is “keep it simple” and don’t have lots of rules or caveats – no one reads the T&Cs fully and then when a partner misinterprets an offer and the vendor does not reward, you get fall out.

Putting the partner first and understanding what motivates them, how they are paid and how they operate when developing the initiative is key.

Driving partner preference is being able to demonstrate to the partner that the vendor can solve their customer’s challenges, making it relevant to the partner’s business goals (primarily to help them grow and be profitable) and easy to work with. Get this right and we form the basis of alignment for a successful partnership. The next trick is to execute - which requires company-wide support for the strategy we have defined and articulated to the partner community.

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