One of the biggest challenges channel executives face is the way in which digital transformation has impacted every level of their channel relationships. While the effects are many, the misalignment of the partner's sales process with the new, digitally connected buyer continues to be of particular concern. We've all heard that today’s buyers go 75% of the way through their purchasing journey before contacting a sales rep, but, according to SiriusDecisions research, only 12% of partner organizations have modified their sales process to align with the digital buyer.
Adding to the complexity is the digital buyer’s demand for a whole new level of sophistication from partners: from understanding their buying journey and meeting their information requirements, to positioning an offer tailored to the particular buyer's demand type. This need for specialization makes it much more difficult for channel leaders to find and recruit the right channel partners.
Another important thing to mention is that the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to partner targeting is no longer effective. To gain a competitive advantage, vendors must match their specific needs with partner needs and the end customer needs.
The fact is that the recruiting and enabling of new partner businesses is a multifaceted endeavor that warrants a new vision, and a new approach to partner engagement. Forward-thinking channel leaders use a partner-centric approach that is modeled on best practices based on an evolved partner journey.
The partner’s journey starts at the offer stage, followed by the qualification, commitment, enablement, and productivity stages. You won’t put incentives in the first three stages because this is the offer stage where you describe how incentives are designed to accelerate time to revenue. BUT incentives make a BIG difference when you get to the enablement and productivity stages. This is where you can put incentives that reward the wider partner audience for activities and behaviors, not necessarily transactions.
Once your partner gets to the enablement and productivity stages it’s time to serve up your incentives in a way that is cohesive. Incentives for certification, demand creation incentives, early registration incentives: they are all important. Be methodical. Use your incentives to ease up points of friction.
5 Partner Engagement Best Practices Based on the Evolved Partner Journey
- Segment partners by profile, persona, and go-to-market then build specific programs and promotions for them. Check out this partner profiling that you can use.
- Identify the activities, behaviors and transactions along the partner’s journey. Move to a behavior-based incentive model that rewards key stages in the partner’s sales cycle.
- Define incentive types and programs/promotions to drive the previously defined desired behaviors at the partner company, team, and individual level. Check out this incentive framework that you can use.
- Apply the benchmark incentive rate by sales cycle stage, increasing participant earnings by stacking rewards which accelerate your partner’s time to revenue.
- Model, track, measure, and fine tune activities, behaviors, and transactions using programmatic, behavioral, and financial program measurement.
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