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10 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Partner Program


2311-promoHere's a checklist of 10 mistakes we see people make in designing and running a partner program. For context, details, possible fixes and some friendly banter, watch the video here.

Mistake #1: Setting it and forgetting it.

Partners produce sales leverage and investments into your partners produce an exponential return. However, there must BE investment. Correction – there must be a sustained investment. From financial incentives to account management and enablement activities, we see the more you put into partnering the more you get out of it. You cannot “set it and forget it” with the partner ecosystem. 

Mistake #2: Measuring your partners on volume.

It’s not 2003 anymore and measuring on volume of business or revenue just isn’t going to cut it. Best-practice companies not only incorporate value-based metrics such as certifications, specializations and customer satisfaction into their partner performance measurements, but have them as the leading metrics.

Mistake #3: Considering your portal your program.

Partner automation systems offer scale and reach but don’t be fooled that buying and installing a PRM solution (even a great or a really costly one) is going to give you the structure you need to engage partners. The program is the framework you build the digital partner experience around.

Mistake #4: Treating all customers and products the same.

Small customers have different needs than enterprise customers and are best addressed with different partners. And different types of partners are appropriate for products at different stages of market adoption. Expand the types of partners to reach different horizontal and vertical market opportunities. 

Mistake #5: Prioritizing discounts.

Instead of prioritizing a discount off list for reselling your hardware or software as the primary driver for partner engagement, consider that partners make most of their money (from 30-60% of their margin) from services.

Mistake #6: Expecting partners to market for you.

Partners do a great many things – influencing the selection criteria, designing the solution, driving the brand decision, installation and support among many other actions with the end customer. But only 1 in 100 can execute effective marketing campaigns. Do not leave demand generation exclusively in the hands of your partners.

Mistake #7: Holding on tightly to your internal processes.

If you want partners to sell, you need to streamline your processes and policies to be easy-to-do-business with. 30% of partners sell a competitor’s product when the process with their preferred vendor is too complicated. You want partners to sell your products – focus on making doing business together easy for them, not for you. 

Mistake #8: Driving partners to sell as soon as they’re signed up.

We all want partners to sell our solutions – they are the primary connection point to hundreds if not thousands of end customers. But pushing partners to sell before they are enabled results in unhappy customers and partners selling only on price. They don’t yet understand your key differentiators. Wait until at least some onboarding is complete before having a partner sell, then keep offering training as the relationship builds.

Mistake #9: Stopping at technical certification.

Maybe you agree with #8 – partners need to be trained before they can sell. However, stopping at technical certification is not enough to enable a successful partner. Consider expanding enablement to include sales/prospecting skills, industry expertise, service delivery skills, marketing skills (#6!) and even business acumen. 

Mistake #10: Focusing solely on driving sales.

We want partners to drive sales. What do partners want? They want you to understand and focus on their profitability. At a 5% net profit margin, one more $100,000 sale might produce $100k to you, but only $5,000 to the partner. However, every dollar of cost-savings produces a dollar to the partner’s profit. How do you help your partners increase profitability with your products?


Diane-Krakora-soft-120Are you making any of these mistakes and aren’t sure how to fix it? Or do you need help crafting the solution, getting approval from leadership and/or finding the time in your day to execute the changes? We can help. Contact me and let’s discuss how to avoid these mistakes and get happy, productive partners.

Diane Krakora is CEO of PartnerPath with over two decades of experience defining the best practices and frameworks around how to develop and manage partnerships.

Watch: Top 10 Partner Program Mistakes

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