Gwyn Edwards, our Director of Partnerships and Alliances, recently sat down with Glenn Robertson, CEO and Channel Chief of purechannels, for an open conversation on all things partner experience.

Keep reading for Glenn’s thoughts on what PX is, how to achieve a positive partner experience for your channel program, what its future looks like, and much more.

Gwyn: Thanks for joining us, Glenn. We’d like to kick the conversation off by mentioning that you’ve been flying the flag for partner experience for a long time now. There’s a lot written about this topic, so – to clarify – what exactly is partner experience?

Glenn Robertson, purechannels

Glenn: That’s a good question. For several years Purechannels was among the early pioneers encouraging this extension of customer experience to partner experience. I included it as a key part of a paper I wrote in 2019 about the emergence of partner power and the future of MDF. 

There can be a lot of complexity and unnecessary complication when it comes to partner experience. Simply put, partner experience is about keeping partners happy so that they will sell as much of your stuff as possible. Then, they’ll sell more of your stuff than competitors’ stuff. That’s as simple as it can be broken down. 

In addition, partner experience is the culmination of many different things coming together to influence positive or negative behavior from partners – which has a direct effect on selling. Beyond being about just one thing, partner experience is a culture, a belief system, and an understanding that everything you do as a vendor and distributor will have an impact on your partners.

If vendors focus on partner experience for their own reasons, it’s going to have less of an impact.

Gwyn: What should vendors (and distributors) be aware of? How can changing partner experience impact them?

Glenn: It’s important to remember that partner experience can impact a vendor and a distributor both in a positive and negative way. If we relate it back to Newton’s law, then every action has a reaction. This is very true in partner experience which is why understanding your partner’s and their businesses, people, and needs is essential. If you think about it, every interaction that you have can impact partner experience. Whether that’s online, offline, face-to-face, or over the phone that interaction plays a role. It’s part of why PX seems so complex; there’s a lot that goes into it.

Gwyn: Is there a perfect pathway to partner experience?

Glenn: If only, right? [laughs] Really, though, there is a way to optimize partner experience and it’s relatively simple. Simply listen to your partners. Embrace their needs. Understand that your channel is less about you and more about your partners and the experience they get from you. 

We hear from some people, “Oh, our partners never respond and they don’t do anything!” But when you think about it, that’s actually more about what you as the vendor or distributor is doing. If your partner isn’t performing for you, it’s very likely that they’re doing it for someone else. This is all about the fact that they’re getting a better experience elsewhere.

So yes, when we talk about “Is there a perfect pathway?” There is. Listen to need, accept differences, and recognize there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to partners. Ask partners what their experience is like and then continue to follow up on these questions. 

Gwyn: Hasn’t partner experience been a thing for years now? Why is it just getting so much airtime now?

Glenn: Partner experience has existed for years now, but we’ve only recently put a name to it. Some of this has to do with the fact that over the past 10 years, partners have begun to get power. They’ve become choosy. Then, with the pandemic, this has accelerated even more. At the end of the day, without partners, the channel doesn’t exist. It makes absolute sense that we begin to wake up to the needs of the partners; vendors need to respond to that.

Gwyn: Shouldn’t partner experience come as a standard feature?

Glenn: Yes [laughs]. I’ll expand a bit. The unfortunate reality is that, in the majority of cases, it’s not given the proper priority. Really, partner experience should be baked in from the ground up through every interaction and person in your company. Whether you’re a support technician or sales engineer, every person has a responsibility to their partners. 

Gwyn: Where do platforms sit in the partner experience process? As you mentioned earlier… Partner experience is not one thing, so where do platforms fit?

Glenn: Platforms play an incredibly important role. Good answer, right, seeing as I’m talking to you? While platforms don’t necessarily define partner experience, they are crucial in achieving and optimizing it. 

We know that platforms work. We know that they’re customized, implemented, deployed, and launched. But what we need to do is work with platforms – and the people who own them – to ensure that they’re working first and foremost for the partners. So what is it that partners need to get from a platform? They need ease of use, ease of access, and user-friendly tech. There’s no way that you can communicate and interact with every single partner every day. Therefore, the PRM plays such an important role in enabling that partner experience.

We’re seeing tech stacks expand across marketplaces, ecosystems, and partner-to-partner activities. You just can’t do all of this in person. Again, this not only shows us that PRMs are crucial but reminds us that we must optimize their implementation, customization, everything with the partners top of mind. This is only going to become more critical as we move forward.

Gwyn: What does the future of partner experience look like?

Glenn: I think I alluded to it previously, but I think it’s two things: 1) People and 2) platforms. With those people and platforms working in harmony for a shared, desired outcome, then you can achieve that desired partner experience.

From the platform side, there needs to be change. We need to dedicate more and more people and roles to partner experience. We need more partner experience managers and directors, potentially even including partner experience in the board or c-suite. What makes the real difference with partners is the people who engage them. These are simply too big of roles for CAMs or channel marketing managers. I really hope that this is the way we go. If not, we may see vendors suffer. The vendors who don’t take partner experience seriously are the ones who are going to see attrition rates go through the roof. 

The future of partner experience – I believe – is harmony between people and platforms. It’s a recognition at the top level within vendors of the needs of partners and the need to bring in dedicated people for fulfilling PX roles within their functions.