Are you tracking Channel Partner Engagement?
There’s considerable focus these days on customer experience. After all everyone knows a satisfied customer is more likely to buy additional products and services (research shows up to 14x). That’s obviously critical as it’s a lot less expensive to sell additional products and services to an existing customer than to acquire a new one. The same corollary applies to channel partners. The more engaged a channel partner, the greater the tendency for them to sell more of your products and services.
The challenge many channel leaders struggle with is determining not just what key performance indicators (KPI’s) to measure channel partner engagement levels, but which are the most critical. As a provider of a widely employed channel automation platform, it’s been our experience at Channel Mechanics that there are 12 important Channel Partner Engagement KPI’s to track.
Among the simplest of KPI’s to track, the number of times a partner logs into a partner portal indicates just how engaged a partner really is. If a partner isn’t consuming the assets provided via the partner portal there is something either amiss with how the portal is constructed or, just as likely, where and how that partner strategically aligns with you as a vendor. It may simply be that partner just isn’t all that into you as a vendor.
Some partners, for one reason or another, may get themselves stuck. They may be logging into the partner portal, but not generating meaningful sales activity. One way to determine that is to correlate the number of logins to the portal to the number calls made to a CAM or PAM. It may be a vendor has constructed the perfect self-service portal for all their partners. But in the absence of that unlikely achievement, lack of interaction with PAMs and CAMs indicates the relationship is not nearly as strong as it should be.
There is no product or service that sells itself. If a partner isn’t setting up customer meetings, there’s little to no chance sales are being actively pursued. Partners that don’t have many sales meetings on their calendars are typically hoping a customer will make an inquiry. Hope, of course, is never a strategy.
There’s no replacement for the face-to-face meeting. If partners are not attending either the primary conference being hosted by the vendor or other industry events, chances are they’re waiting on the vendor to do all the heavy lifting for them.
Partners that are actively selling a product or service need sales collateral. If they aren’t downloading the sales and marketing collateral provided, it’s typically indicative to two potential issues. The first is there’s no potential customer to leave that collateral with after a sales call. The second is that they don’t find the sales and marketing collateral to be especially relevant. Either case represents a significant problem because partners that don’ t employ sales and marketing collateral are not going to be generating many sales leads or, for that matter, closing deals.
Very few customers will buy a product or service as an act of faith. Seeing is always believing. A proof of concept demo typically occurs late in a sales process. But if partners are not getting that far, it means very few deals are going to close that quarter.
While downloading sales and marketing collateral is an important indicator of channel partner engagement, partners that invest their own time and effort to build sales and marketing campaigns aimed at, for example, a specific use case, are deeply engaged. Vendors should be well advised to try and leverage those efforts where they can, by sharing those campaigns with other partners because it’s clear a partner has developed a repeatable solution.
The single most valuable resources any partner has is their sales and engineering talent. Their entire business revolves around those individuals. If sales and engineers are not taking the time to get certified, the partner is sending an unequivocal signal that it has decided to prioritize other products and services over yours.
It’s critical for IT vendors to have a stable base of channel partners. With high levels of churn in the channel, at times a lot of time and effort can often be wasted. A primary indicator of forthcoming channel churn is when a lot of marginally profitable channel partners are either about to be acquired or, worse yet, go out of business altogether.
Most IT vendors don’t engage directly with end customers. There is however a direct correlation between how satisfied a customer is overall and how satisfied they are with partners. It takes a significant amount of effort to measure customer satisfaction with partners. But when that satisfaction rate directly reflects on the IT vendor being aware of the state of the relationship between customers and partners, it’s indispensable.
The cost of on-boarding a new channel partner is high. It can be six months before a new channel partner starts to deliver a return on investment. High churn rates are indicative of a flawed channel program that is not delivering on the promise of a more efficient indirect sales model.
Partners that are not making money selling a product will turn their attention elsewhere. It’s one thing to tolerate low product margins when making good margins on the services enabled by that product. But without real profits dropping to their bottom line, a partner will quickly conclude a vendor is more trouble than they’re worth.
Tracking no single Channel Partner Engagement KPI will determine success or failure in the channel. Each Channel KPI needs to be evaluated within context. For example, if partner satisfaction rates are starting to decline it should not come as a surprise that partner churn has significantly increased in subsequent quarters.
Partners, of course, are not always willing to provide honest feedback. That’s why measuring Channel Partner Engagement KPI’s is critical. After all, the best way to determine the real health of any business relationship is by measuring the things that matter.
We invite you to demo what’s truly possible to Automate, Connect, Track, and Sell in your channel. Discover how easy it is to take advantage of a cloud application that comes with all the channel partner engagement KPI’s needed to successfully manage your channel in today’s rapidly changing environment.