In our latest post, we discussed the five rungs of channel partner engagement. Climbing these rungs will lead you to stronger partnerships – but you’ll need to develop your partner engagement strategy to see continued success.

1. Review Channel Partner Engagement KPIs

Recently, we talked about five partner engagement metrics, or the key performance indicators (KPIs), that show you how well your partner enablement plan is performing.

If you’re really hungry for cake, stop thinking about the cake and start thinking about the recipe so you can gather the necessary ingredients. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing solely on pipeline and sales. However, that’s a bit too late in the process.

Instead, focus with your partners on the steps they’re taking to reach more qualified prospects and get them into a sales motion. Then, review how quickly they’re moving along that motion so you can coach them on ways to accelerate the process.

Keep stepping back and look carefully at partners’ marketing efforts. Are they showing results? Are they tracking them? One of your quick KPIs here is how much of your market development fund partners are spending; ensure the proper care and time is being taken to track the effectiveness of marketing activities.

Remain focused on both halves of the customer universe; those they’ve already sold to and those they haven’t sold to yet. Creating new customers is a long road, but it becomes more and more necessary as they near saturation with their existing account base. You must guide them to remain aware of the customer experience their company is delivering. This will be impactful on partners’ success in winning future business.

Don’t forget to keep your finger on the pulse of their experience working with you. If channel partners are not having a pleasant working experience, it’s crucial to know and immediately do course corrections.

2. Improve Channel Partner Engagement through Optimization

If you’ve ever heard yourself say something like, “Let’s see where we’re underperforming,” consider reframing this mentality. Areas where you may be underperforming are more productively characterized as “opportunities for improvement.”

If a partner salesperson reports that they’re constantly encountering voicemails when cold calling, they may have a bad case of call reluctance. Help them shore up their confidence in their ability to the point where they can’t wait to make their next call. It can be done.

Carrots and Sticks

Incentives can play a powerful role in improving all kinds of performance from sales to service delivery, customer experience management, and more. The trick is to find the right carrot and the right stick. 

People primarily do things for one of two reasons:

  • Getting to what is pleasant
  • Getting away from pain

You can help partners manage their people by identifying what team members would consider to be pleasant. Partners can then demonstrate to their team that doing their jobs well can result in more of what feels good to them: improved company morale, sales, and so forth.

You may also need to help partners identify what each team member finds most painful. Then partners should supply clear examples of how performing well can get away from the pain of stressful meetings or tense interactions.

The Value of Coaching

Many people go to sports events and yell “Yahoo, Coach!” when their team wins the game. These people appreciate the extreme value of coaching, and they’re not alone. The greatest athletes in the world, top musicians, and other performers all continue to work with coaches. They need the constant interaction, the feedback, the external stimuli. Never undervalue coaching, and help to provide it wherever and whenever you can.

3. Focus on Channel Partner Communication

Any time is a good time to review your partner engagement plan, and no time is better than when you feel things are not exactly going as planned.

If you feel you’ve built strong relationships without getting the desired results, you may be missing clear, consistent communication. Don’t dance around the issues. When they turn around and close deals they couldn’t before, your partner team will come to appreciate the courage it took for you to tell them the brutal truth. Don’t be harsh, but be firm.

Never think everyone will simply do what you tell them to do just because you tell them. Great leaders and partner managers recognize that they must always be selling great ideas, plans, and processes to all their team members. This gets their enthusiasm, not just their cooperation.

One of the most important things we discussed in our post on channel conflict is the key importance of trust. Trust is core to the definition of “partner.” Without trust, there can be no partnership. To achieve and maintain trust, it’s critical to always manage each other’s expectations clearly and honestly with open feedback.

4. Rinse and Repeat Your Channel Partner Engagement Strategy

Here’s some good news: Your partner engagement strategy isn’t over if you don’t get it right the first time.

Channel partner engagement is something you will always be managing. Markets, products, and customer needs will change. You and your partners will change. Every change requires adjustment to re-align you and your partner with the new realities.

Since partnering is a living thing, it will always be receptive at some level to your and your partner’s input. Keep working at it.

The only time to rethink your strategy may be when you feel stagnant. Remember, it’s ever-changing!