Strategic partnerships are one of the fastest and most potent ways to expand business reach and amplify your salesforce. Because they’re synergistic and offer win-win scenarios, partnerships are usually a relatively easy sell.
However, too many firms look at partnerships as a “set it and forget it” endeavor. The reality is that a truly useful partner program requires a significant investment of effort, properly allocated resources, and an ongoing commitment to participants. Here are three ways to generate fast partnership revenue growth:
1. Put in the work to develop an actual program. It’s not enough to say that your company has incentives for partnering. Ensure that your staff is doing the research in identifying the types of partners that make sense for your industry. Ask questions such as:
- What are some complementary niches in our industry?
- Within these, which companies that don’t compete directly with ours are getting in front of our prospects?
- How are they reaching our prospects? (You may need to reach out directly to some of these companies to get an answer.)
You can develop a higher level of trust with your partner prospects by leading the effort to reach out to them and showing your top-down commitment.
Review and provide input to your executive’s presentation to ensure it lays out exactly how your product or service can benefit these potential partners. This may include: expanding their portfolio; driving new business prospects; or opening up new revenue streams within existing client bases. Remember, these are not selling points. They should accurately describe how and why your offer makes sense for them.
Ensure that data capture systems are in place across the entire customer chain to provide fast, useful insight for both your company and theirs. This may require a minor investment in fine-tuning or upgrading backend systems to improve lead tracking, conversion, commission accounting, post-sale support and reporting.
It’s important to understand that not all first attempts will be perfect, and continual fine-tuning may be needed, so payback projections should be spread out. Request feedback on a monthly basis to ensure everything is on track and flowing smoothly.
By following these steps for the past three years, Easy Office Phone has experienced year-over-year growth of over 30 percent annually.
2. Open up to your partners and dedicate your resources. In February 2014, processor giant AMD retooled its entire North American partner program to increase transparency and deliver dedicated support. These are foundational elements to a successful program. Partners need to fully understand your business and vice versa. The compensation you offer should be straightforward, but also bear in mind that some end-user clients will contact you directly after speaking to a partner. To that end, your pricing models and compensation structure should be clear to both partners and end-users to avoid any “surprise” pricing due to a client calling in directly. Remember to never undercut your channel by giving clients an incentive to bypass partners.
Another key to retaining quality partners is offering dedicated support resources. Generally, partners have a deeper understanding of your product than end-user clients, and will not want to wait in support queues to speak to Tier 1 representatives. Arrange to have a toll-free number set aside, along with alternative contact methods including an email address, and/or support request systems that deliver inquiries straight to program support staff. These staff should intimately understand the partner channel and have received appropriate training on it before fielding calls.
3. Don’t hog the business. Show your partners you’re serious about mutual success. Work with staff to comb through your partner program and identify those who are committed to offering your products and deploying them properly. Sales volume is also an important metric for partners, but don’t be shortsighted—sometimes your best synergies will be with partners who start slow and truly understand your systems before going full-blast on selling. Whether you create specific “tiers” for your channel is up to you, but when you’ve identified these quality partners, demonstrate your commitment by sharing prospects. If your partner companies are local in nature, sharing leads in their areas can be a great relationship builder.
Remember to nurture “star” partners by feeding them opportunities when possible, and in turn they will be more willing to farm their existing account base and drum up more business for you. Juniper recently took a similar approach by rolling out their “Champions” tier as part of their program overhaul.
Get your team pulling together now to build out your strategic partnerships, and keep your momentum up by continually maintaining your channel. In return, you’ll get ahead of your competitors thanks to a network of sales staff who are continually motivated to offer your products and services to their own client base.
Adam Simpson is CEO and co-founder of Easy Office Phone where he oversees the creation of new sales channels, including a North American Dealer Program, plays a role in software development, manages the company’s network infrastructure, and builds sales, support and engineering teams.