Aug 8, 2016
“What gets measured gets done.”
We know how important it is to measure the readiness our sales reps and the impact enablement initiatives have had on their ability to perform at the moment of truth, but how does it differ when you’re managing channel partners? In my customer conversations recently I’ve been speaking to channel partner managers to find out how they ensure their partners are ready to sell and how they track their own partner enablement initiatives.
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When you consider partner enablement there are some important questions that need to be asked and answered. I found a very useful summary of the relevant questions here, and have replicated it below.
While there were some differences, depending on whether their business had an exclusive, targeted or global channel partner strategy, overall I identified three levels of how they measured their channel partners.
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1. Partner onboarding completion rate
The first metric that each customer looked at closely was how many of their channel partner’s reps actually finished their onboarding program. This was considered by all to be a good indicator of engagement levels, but most looked at it in terms of the type of partners that they had.
For those channel partner reps who are at Level 3 or have even committed some reps to sell solely their product, they found that their completion rates were often higher. This is because they had the most skin in the game and a lot more to lose if they weren’t doing well. Getting their reps’ onboarding right was step one in this process. For those who didn’t have exclusive reps but had many reps who were at Level 2, they’ve shown commitment and want to move up the ladder. So if their engagement levels aren’t doing well then many found it effective to let their channel manager know so that they could try to rectify the situation. While those who had many channel partner reps who were only at Level 1, many saw any sales of their product as just opportunistic, so when they found that their reps had low engagement levels it was unlikely that this would improve.
2. Partner certification rate
Once the onboarding is completed it doesn’t necessarily mean that the reps were ready to sell. To check that they were on message and understood the sales process many also had a certification. This meant that their channel partner reps’ completed a certification program.
Completing the certification successfully gave the channel partner managers demonstrates that the channel partner reps were ready to get out there and sell. Some even used it as a tool to reward their channel partners, allocating more responsibility or marketing funds to help them sell their product. It also allowed them to identify areas where there may be knowledge gaps or where the onboarding program could be improved in the future, thereby contributing to future enablement initiatives.
3. Correlation of channel partner’s KPIs with performance
Each channel partner manager set certain KPIs for their channel partners. These were aligned to their business objectives, whether it be the level of penetration into a new market or a quota for the number of qualified leads generated.
In order to ensure these KPIs were being achieved, each customer found it helpful to measure them against their enablement initiatives.
For example, one business, that had a global channel partner strategy, would look closely at the number of certified channel partner reps in each target region or industry to determine if their overall channel partner strategy was working. If there was a low level of penetration amongst those channel partners then they would look at finding new partners in that region to expand their potential reach.
While this may work when your organization has hundreds or even thousands of channel partners, it’s not possible to just find another partner if you have an exclusive or even targeted channel partner strategy. For those businesses, they would still correlate their KPIs with performance, but would then look at ways to improve the performance of their existing channel partners first rather than seeking out new ways. This meant that data on knowledge gaps and where engagement levels waned became more important.
Continuously improve your process
Regardless of their channel partner strategy, each customer believed that looking internally was important. Each set-aside time regularly, quarterly or bi-annually, to continuously question, analyze and improve their process.
In this process, each channel partner manager looked at a range of data points including onboarding and certification. For example, one looked at how many of their channel partner’s reps were accessing their monthly updates. Others analyzed what content was being referred to the most. This helped them identify what content was most useful so that they could improve their enablement initiatives.
Ask for what they want
Another method that some of the channel partner managers found very useful was to simply ask their partner reps. For example a couple of times a year you could survey or poll your channel partner reps to obtain feedback and encourage them to share ideas on how the process could be improved. This communication not only proved quite helpful but also increased the level of engagement of channel partner reps had with their product, as they could see they were willing to listen.
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Regardless of the type of channel partner strategy, you have in place, measuring the performance of your channel partners is about aligning them with your business objectives.