We all know that channel partners help vendors scale by expanding their reach, increasing sales, and driving growth. We want them to start producing revenue as soon as possible, but that can be a challenge. When partners are slow to onboard, it’s like watching paint dry as you anxiously await the day they can start selling. It’s a common frustration amongst channel suppliers: How can you get your partners to the finish line faster? 

Almost a quarter of companies say that it takes partners over a year to become fully productive, and that’s just too long. Luckily, partner onboarding is an area in which we have a solid expertise, so we’re here to help. Here are 10 best practices to onboard partners quickly, smoothly, and efficiently.

Clear Communication

It sounds intuitive, but we’re surprised quite a bit by the number of vendors that haven’t set up clear and open lines of communication with their partners. This is something that should be done at the outset so no one is surprised. Give your partners a detailed roadmap of what they can expect during the onboarding process, including your company’s goals, any timelines the partner needs to adhere to, common hiccups in the process and how to overcome them, and who to reach out to for help.

Customized Training

Not all partners are cut from the same cloth. You have resellers, referral partners, MSPs, ISVs, and a dozen other types of partners. You have SMBs and enterprises. You have partners with high levels of technical acumen and others who need a bit more help. Your onboarding program should accommodate the unique needs of and capabilities of each partner. Take a personalized approach to each partner segment to make sure partners get the training and resources that are most relevant to their business model and target audience.

Documentation and Resources

Your partners don’t want to have to call you every time they have a question (and you don’t want that, either), so make sure you have a comprehensive repository of training materials, documentation, and resources. Product guides, sales playbooks, marketing collateral, training videos, and any other relevant materials need to be easy to track down and access.

Online Learning Platforms

We harness technology everywhere else, so why wouldn’t you do it for training and onboarding? Learning management systems (LMS) or online training platforms are indispensable tools for efficient onboarding. They let you deliver the training modules your partners need, and they let your partners access them on their own time and at their own speed. A good LMS will let you monitor partner progress to make sure everything is completed on time and give you the capability to follow up with nudges when needed. Speaking of…

Progress Tracking

If you want partners to get to revenue fast, you need to stay on top of their onboarding progress. Have a system in place to track partner advancement – as a bonus, this also helps you identify any systemic bottlenecks or things in your process that aren’t working and need your attention. Remember, partners are busy folks, and you’re only one vendor in a long stack that is asking for their time, so sometimes you have to stay on them. If it puts money in their pockets quickly, they won’t mind (too much).

Feedback Loops

Your partners are your greatest source of truth, especially when it comes to processes like onboarding. You need that constructive feedback to make continuous improvements and address any pain points or challenges that partners encounter. Make sure you have a system in place to encourage open communication in order to build a collaborative relationship.

Certification Programs

Who doesn’t like getting a gold star? Offering certification programs can serve as a powerful motivator for partners, instilling a sense of achievement and recognition while also making sure your partners are equipped to sell and service your solution. Certs also exhibit partners’ commitment to your brand, foster trust, and build loyalty. You and your partners want them to be trusted advisors and subject matter experts to the end user, so put some thought and strategy into designing a certification program.

Integration with PRM Software

You knew we had to talk about PRM somewhere! PRM software really can streamline and automate your onboarding process. They’re designed to simplify partner management, making it easier to track performance, automate workflows, and provide real-time insights into the onboarding process. You can create customized onboarding plans based on partner type and maturity through a PRM. Not to mention they can also help you centralize partner data and communications for more efficient collaboration.

Ongoing Education

Partner onboarding is not a one-and-done event. It’s a continual process to make sure your partners are best equipped to represent your product or service on an ongoing basis. Make sure you’re offering partners opportunities for ongoing education so they stay informed about product updates, market trends, and sales strategies. Invest in their knowledge and skills so they continue to invest in you.

Incentives and Rewards

It’s human nature to want to get something in exchange for doing something, so consider offering incentives or rewards. Giving them to partners who successfully meet predefined milestones during onboarding can create a powerful mechanism for motivation and engagement. Lots of partners also exist in a sense of “co-opetition” and friendly rivalries. When partners see their peers reaping rewards for hitting goals, it creates a good-natured, competitive atmosphere that encourages everyone to perform at their best.

The Bottom Line

When you’re eagerly awaiting your partners’ revenue contribution, the onboarding process can feel painfully slow and uncertain, not just for you, but for your partners. Focus your energy on streamlining onboarding, enhancing partner engagement, and making sure your partners are well-equipped to start selling sooner rather than later. No one likes the waiting game when it comes to making money.