One question we frequently receive from our customers here at Zift?

“How do I create a partner engagement plan that works?”

Stakeholders at all levels of the channel have asked us this million-dollar question. As we’ve mentioned before, partner engagement results in stickier and more successful programs, so we know asking this question pays off!

Since more and more companies rely on their partners for indirect sales, having a partner engagement plan and strategy in place is crucial to ensure success. Additionally, partners and resellers usually have multiple suppliers. This makes it even more important for suppliers to establish an engagement plan to build partner loyalty.

When creating and executing a partner engagement plan, we’ve found that there are a few key tips to keep in mind.

8 Tips for Creating a Successful Partner Engagement Plan:

1. Build Strong Relationships

Building relationships is important in all aspects of life, both personally and professionally. When solid relationships are built, all involved parties achieve some level of satisfaction and value.

This is easier said than done; there are instances where a relationship is a one-way street and only one involved party is gaining value while the other is getting nothing. This concept also applies to suppliers and their channel partners. Treating channel partners as an extension of the supplier will only strengthen that relationship.

Build Strong Relationships partner Engagement

2. Develop Partner-friendly Programs and Content

Take some time to understand partners’ challenges and be sure to structure channel programs to address those challenges and needs. This will only help drive partners to sell the products and services to the end customer and increase ROI. 

If channel partners are not receiving relevant marketing materials from a supplier, focus will shift to a different supplier that is taking their needs into account.

Develop Partner-friendly Programs and Content Partnership Engagement Strategy

3. Foster Consistent Communication

As in any relationship, fostering consistent communication is key. If partner outreach only happens when new content which they may or may not be interested in is available or out of the blue when announcing a new product, it is likely that the partner will brush it off or ignore it altogether. 

Keeping partners up to date on upcoming product releases or changes to existing products or solutions enables them to keep their customers up to date as well. 

Channel partners should be encouraged to: 

  • stay current, 
  • adopt new technology early, and 
  • be fully supported to retain their reputation as collaborative trusted advisers.

Foster Consistent Communication Partner Engagement Model

4. Get Partner Buy-In

Show that you care and that you’re listening to their needs and challenges. Your partners are only as successful as the tools you make available to them, especially when implementing a partner engagement process. Pushing out a bunch of direct marketing materials might not be relevant to your partners. 

Partners take notice if you’re providing materials that don’t suit their needs. So if they notice that as a trend, the end goal of increasing sales for both parties won’t be met and partners will begin to lose trust. If partners have the opportunity to provide input, they will be more likely to participate in programs.

Get Channel Managers’ Buy-in Partnership Engagement Model

5. Get Channel Managers’ Buy-In

Channel managers play an integral role in providing partners with the tools and education they need to utilize marketing materials from the supplier. Demonstrate the value of programs to channel managers and provide them with the resources they can use with partners and resellers to keep partners engaged. The more program advocates, the better, and this will result in increased leads, more sales, and improved ROI.

Get Partner Buy-in Channel Sales Relationship Proposal Example

6. Structure a Partner Enablement Framework

Enabling your channel partners goes hand-in-hand with engaging them. Without a well-designed partner enablement framework in place, any attempt to increase engagement with your partner community will fall short. Conversely, a solid partner enablement framework will result in:

  • Shorter sales cycles
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Better quota attainment
  • Accurate forecasts
  • Scale inside the partner organization
  • Lower partner attrition

What exactly does a high-quality partner enablement framework include? Key components of partner enablement include:

  • Partner Training – Your partner onboarding process should include training to:
    • Demonstrate market demand and the problems your products solve
    • Identify the niches or vertical industries in which your products excel
    • Show how your product helps your partners’ customers
    • Remind the partner what they gain from selling your solution
    • Alert the partner to SPIFFS and end-customer promotions
    • Explain how partners can get sales support when needed
  • Provider & Partner Goal Alignment – Identify your company’s ideal partner profile (IPP) and keep it in mind during partner recruitment, so that new partners are more likely to align with your company’s goals. Engaging a partner who has a fundamentally different business model or typically sells into verticals in which your solution is not a fit is a waste of time for both parties.
  • Partner Incentives – Partner incentive programs are a critical part of partner engagement and enablement both in the short-term to jumpstart sales and also over the long-term to retain production. Incentive programs typically include:
    • SPIFFs on product sales
    • Bonuses on revenue milestones
    • Luxury rewards like trips and for sales performance
    • Public recognition through awards and exclusive membership in Presidents’ Clubs and partner advisory boards
  • Sales & Marketing Collateral – Physical and digital materials that enable your partners to sell your solutions are critical to partner enablement. Not only does it give you control over the messaging, it’s also likely that your company has greater resources to create marketing materials than do your partners, who often have small or no marketing departments.

Partner enablement materials include:

  • Informative Provider Website
  • Sales or instructional videos and tutorials
  • Product flyers and brochures
  • Campaigns in a Box (CIBs) or Partner Marketing Kits (PMKs) comprised of:
    • Email Campaigns
    • Call Scripts
    • Voicemail Scripts
    • Blogs
    • LinkedIn Message Templates
    • Landing Pages
    • SMS Text Messages
  • Ongoing Communications – Proactive communications with partners is your responsibility. Partners are juggling dozens of similar providers in the marketplace and don’t have time to reach out to you to see what your newest promotion is or if you fixed a hiccup in your customer onboarding process. You must tell them through regular communication, which may include:
    • Monthly Partner Newsletters
    • Product Bulletins
    • Promotional Email Campaigns
    • Channel-specific Social Channels
  • Partner Enablement Software – Your partner program needs a scalable partner relationship management (PRM) platform to automate and manage partner enablement so that partner engagement — and your company’s revenue — skyrocket.

Download our one-pager on creating a repeatable partner enablement framework at the link below:


7. Track & Measure Channel Partner Engagement

Your channel partner program will need a process for measuring partner engagement levels, so your team knows when to continue investing time with a partner and when to part ways. Common metrics to measure engagement include:

  • Pipeline and revenue
    • Number of leads generated
    • Number of leads converted to prospects
    • Number of prospects converted to customers
  • Participation in QBRs and planning meetings
  • Portal and content use
    • Number of logins
    • Number of downloads
    • Number of deals registered in portal
    • Etc.
  • Participation in training or certifications earned

Get in the Trenches to Sell With & For Your Partners Partner Engagement Strategy

8. Get in the Trenches to Sell With & For Your Partners

Your competition spares no expense to enable your partners to sell their solutions instead of yours. In fact, some partner programs take the responsibility of selling to end customers and are selling for their partners. They’ll go to market, get leads through account-based sales and marketing campaigns, and then hand them off to new partners or partners with whom they’d like to nurture relationships.

To compete with programs that turn the provider-partner dynamic on its head, you’re going to need to follow suit, even if you can only hand off leads to select partners that meet certain criteria or only a certain number of deals after onboarding.

Partner engagement is in large part about creating a trusted and loyal relationship between your company and your partners. There’s no more effective way to fast-track partner loyalty than sending deals their way, especially at the very beginning of the relationship.

Plus, these initial provider-led deals can serve as a valuable training exercise for new partners. Working side by side through the sales process on a lead you handed to the partner enables them to practice selling your solution with you. Then, you can take the training wheels off and let them start selling on their own after the first few deals have closed.

Track & Measure Channel Partner Engagement Engagement Partner

Bottom line, partner engagement is essential to creating partner loyalty. Putting channel partners in a position where they can become experts on the suppliers’ products and solutions will enable them to go to market with confidence, build their sales funnel, increase revenue streams, and produce an overall increased ROI.

Ready to learn more about partner engagement?

Are you interested in reading more about this topic? Head over to the Channel Learning Center. Here you’ll find answers to your top questions related to partner engagement.