These days, without a partner program, it is challenging for B2B companies to have a successful sales strategy. After all, there are so many ways to reach potential buyers – and only so many full-time BDRs and direct sales employees a company can support.
Yet partners do more than fill the gap. Along with augmenting the internal sales team or serving as the primary route to market, channel partners can amplify a company’s brand awareness. In fact, several industry experts report companies that prioritize channel partnerships can experience 2.5% faster revenue growth. This is creating a high demand for top-performing partners, leaving solution providers on the hunt to attract and keep the best ones. To do this successfully and deliberately, here are five strategies for recruiting top-performing partners.
The right foundation begins with investing in a dedicated partner team that makes onboarding easy, provides ongoing training, and helps create marketing collateral and campaigns that partners can quickly co-brand.
Also, have the technology in place to support and scale a growing partner community. The technology should be more than a tweaked CRM, partner page on a Website, or a static section on an intranet. Instead, it should be a dedicated partner relationship management platform built solely to support the partner community.
Competition is fierce, and top-performing partners expect solution providers to offer better-than-average SPIFFs and commissions. Additionally, think about creative rewards – the kind that are memorable and will also drive word of mouth.
Pursue the top partners with as much enthusiasm as you would the top sales reps at your competition. Invest time and resources into letting them know they are your top choice.
When it comes to finding top partners, show up where they are most active – at in-person events, in peer groups, online via channel-centric and industry trade publications, on social media networks like LinkedIn sales groups, etc. Don’t just show up; have regular, active conversations with the partners you find here. By regularly engaging with the communities, you can spot top performers while getting your company on their radar. This also makes in-person recruitment easier and faster.
Once you’ve identified and connected with a partner you want to join your program, immediately let them know where they stand. Demonstrate your commitment to a long-term partnership by reassuring your support of their success at every step in the sales process. Don’t forget to show them that you have a solid foundation in place with lucrative and differentiated incentives.
A successful program requires regular assessments, partner feedback, and refinement. When partners see that you are receptive to that feedback and are putting an honest effort into addressing concerns or building upon successes, it gives them confidence in the value of the relationship. This doesn’t mean the program is constantly in a state of flux. Rather, it continually improves based on each partner relationship and the results of every campaign.
One way to set up partners for success is to centralize and organize every aspect of the program – ideally on a partner relationship management platform designed specifically to meet the distinct needs of partners. This makes it easier to track and analyze performance and incorporate feedback to make the most of a channel program.
In all this talk about recruiting top-performing partners, it’s also important to have systems in place that politely prohibit a partner from joining your program – and to remove partners that are no longer delivering at peak performance.
Additional criteria to consider are whether the prospective partner has the bandwidth and interest in supporting your business. Even if a partner is a top gun, they may not align with your company’s vision and business goals. In these instances, do not move forward with the partnership. This is necessary for long-term success, despite the risk of having a temporary gap in your partner portfolio.
When you consider that approximately 70% of B2B commerce goes through the channel, according to industry analysts at Forrester Research, it makes sense for a company to build a strong partner program. Done right, partners will drive more sales, form longer-term relationships with solution providers, and be vocal about their success. In turn, this creates a flywheel effect for sales.
Anthony D’Angelo is vice president of Sales, Zift Solutions.