What is Partner Onboarding?

When you were recruiting your channel partner, the partner provided information that convinced you they would be a great sales resource. Now it’s up to you to ensure they’re equipped and prepared to “hit the ground running” as soon as possible. The more efficient your onboarding process is, the faster they will start creating revenue. The more thorough your onboarding process is, the greater the amount of revenue they’re likely to bring.

While onboarding a partner is similar to hiring a new employee, it’s important to remember that it’s more like hiring several employees at once. There will be salespeople, pre-sales support engineers, marketing people, technical people, back-office people, a whole new team. They need you to show them where everything is. Where can they get product information? Who can they work with to discuss competitive pricing situations? How do they get questions answered?

Even before that, they need to know what’s expected of them, and what they can expect from you.

Understanding the Partner Onboarding Process 

The plan begins with a frank discussion of expectations. You and your partner are best served when this discussion focuses on your existing account base. You’ll also be helped when you identify which clients are interested in your product and/or services. There are two key reasons for this:

  1. One of your key objectives should be to help your partner taste success as early as possible and then continue succeeding going forward.
  2. It really is at least five times easier to sell to an existing client than it is to create a new one. You start more than halfway through a typical sales process. You’ve already met the client, gotten to know them, understand their needs, and you’ve even gained their confidence. All that’s left is to present a new solution, overcome objections, and close. 

What Really Matters in Partner Onboarding

In today’s channel, it’s just as important to train the technical team as it is to train and motivate sales. Your channel partner may have few expectations of margin production from your products. They know their competition and that some competitors will discount down to basis points.

Their own services, especially ongoing managed services, are where your partner really makes their money. The more you prepare them to configure, provision, install, deploy, and support your solutions, the more money they can make, and the more enthusiastic a partner they will become. The more your Partner Program supports their servicing efforts the more they will value your partnership.

It’s also to be sure you’ve made yourself as easy as possible to do business with. Purchasing, accounts payable, and other back-office departments should be very clear about how to process transactions with you. Don’t surprise your partners with hidden return or exchange policies. Document your terms and conditions, as well as present them upfront during onboarding.

Done right, effective partner onboarding leaves your new partner feeling like a true partner in every sense of the word. They are part of your organization. You’re on their team. You have their back, and they’re going to enjoy tremendous success selling with you.

5 Partner Onboarding Best Practices from Real Channel Programs

Great partner programs come not only from vendors of all sizes. 

1. Putting a Value on Influence

First established in 1989, the Citrix partner program was among the first to include a referral program that actually paid partners for influencing a purchase decision even though the actual purchase went to a catalog or warehouse fulfillment seller. This recognition of the relationship between the expert partner and the ability to close deals has been practiced by many others since. It recognizes that the much lower overhead characteristic of distribution organizations makes it possible for them to easily and substantially underprice expert channel partners. 

2. Quick-Start Guide

Acumatica has made great strides in the ERP market in part because of the organized, disciplined process they have for partners. Their Quick-Start Guide provides concise step-by-step instructions in getting an Acumatica environment up quickly and running so partners can “start their development efforts in earnest.”

3. Predictable Fixed-Length Onboarding

Acronis describes theirs as “a 90-day step-by-step onboarding developed for your success. Partner care specialists will guide you through everything from enablement to launch and forward growth.” By clearly defining each step, they make the partner onboarding experience predictable and plannable.

4. Business Training and Support Beyond Product

Recognizing that partners must be successful MSPs before they can be successful partners, Datto continuously provides MSP training, including the business, sales, marketing, and other aspects of running a successful MSP.

5. Supplier of Tools

Nintex began as a systems integrator. They quickly realized their intellectual property could be packaged as products and offered by other systems integrators. This rapidly transformed them into the Microsoft SharePoint tools and templates provider they are today. Taking the model a step further, they train their partners to use their products on behalf of end customers. While customers may never actually purchase licenses from Nintex, the partners make that investment and use the tools on behalf of their customers, creating a strong new revenue stream for themselves. More and more software providers are adopting this model and incorporating this into their onboarding processes.

More Onboarding Resources

Onboarding is the most critical step in the channel partner roadmap. For more information and insight into building superior onboarding programs, talk to your Zift Solutions representative or contact us at this link.