Be proactive in winning over your sales, services & training teams
If you’re struggling to get your company to adopt a partnering model – you’re not alone. In our recent roundtable with twelve senior channel chiefs, we discussed the challenge of conveying partner relevance across an organization. This group of seasoned executives have led channel efforts at some of the largest and most partner-friendly technology vendors – and even they are struggling to get all teams in their companies on board. Even if you have your CEO and board of directors committed to indirect routes to market, it can still be a challenge to get all the other departments aligned to supporting partners. Don’t feel badly if you find yourself regularly facing this fight. Here are some tactics which can be used across any department. We’ve used the sales, services and training departments to highlight how presenting data, telling partner success stories and asking customers can help you overcome a resistance to partnering.
1. Present Data
I’ll use sales to illustrate our first tactic: Present Data. Historically, the sales organization has been the most resistant to partnering efforts. Speaking generically (and as a salesperson myself), salespeople want to control the sales process. Vendor salespeople may trust partners to successfully sell a customer but, because they have different priorities, they don’t want to give up control (or lengthen the sales cycle).
Partners want to sell and support a full solution and they tend to take a more holistic view of the opportunity – looking at all the hardware, software and services that come together for a full solution. Inside sales want to get a purchase order for as much of their product as possible. I know, I know. This is a generalization and not ALL salespeople have these tendencies. (But some do; you’ve met them.)
One way to overcome the objections of salespeople and sales management is with data. The data collected by our channel chief roundtable participants shows partners actually accelerate the sales cycle because they are trusted advisors to customers. More data shows partners make deals bigger by including more licenses and more services in the overall solution. And when it comes to renewal, the data shows the same thing: faster and bigger. One of the channel chiefs at the roundtable provided this evidence:
“We did some analysis looking at customers who landed with a partner and those who didn’t. We did a cohort analysis looking at quarter-over-quarter results with our fastest-growing customers with the highest renewal and growth rates. Guess what, they were landed with a partner.”
2. Tell partner success stories
The services department helps to illustrate our second tactic: Tell Partner Success Stories. Services is another group that has historically been resistant in supporting indirect partners. Typically, you have two hurdles to jump with the services group. Like sales, they are expected to be a profit center for the company and, also like sales, they often believe they are the only ones who can do it right.
One way to convince the services team to engage and support partners is to increase their awareness of the partners’ skills and capabilities. Responsible for customer service and success, the services team may not trust the partner to deliver a satisfied customer. Allay these fears by sharing stories on partner successes, even if they’re with different vendors. The more you can paint a picture of your partners as being capable and consistent – even with someone else’s product – the more likely it is that your services team will give them a chance. If the services team is measured on customer satisfaction, they need to trust partners will also deliver happy customers.
Like sales, providing data can also help overcome the services organization’s hesitance to support partners. Present data on the partner’s ability to create a satisfied customer. As one channel chief roundtable participant indicated, “We ran the data. The second deal is 2x bigger and consumption is XYZ faster when a partner is engaged in services.”
3. Ask Customers
Finally, I’ll use the training team to illustrate our third tactic: Ask Customers. Building on the topic of adoption and consumption, a third group often hesitant to engage and support partners is the training team. Usually, their hesitancy is less a need for control and more about their priorities. They are more focused on producing revenues and profitability for the vendor than worrying whether partners have the proper skills or abilities.
Like services methodologies in the ‘Tell Partner Success Stories’ example , training tools and materials can easily be leveraged by partners to ensure effective knowledge transfer. Training departments have traditionally been cash cows for technology companies able to leverage the same materials across thousands of people with very little incremental cost. Vendors regularly charge customers thousands of dollars per person for product use and administration training. Like the services team, the training team doesn’t want to give up those revenues by allowing partners to train customers.
Training is key to adoption and consumption. Ask your customers why they are (or are not) using your products/solutions. Have your partners ask their customers which portions of the technology solution are being used and by which groups. You’ll often find the reason customers aren’t fully leveraging the solution they purchased is because no one taught them how to use it effectively. Use your customer feedback to demonstrate how partners can help accelerate consumption by training customers on usage, administration and reporting. I think most CEOs would happily trade increased revenues from adoption and consumption to offset the losses in revenue from your training team.
If much of your job is internal evangelism, we would encourage you to use all three of these tactics – data, success stories and asking customers – to convince any and every department in your organization to align behind engaging, empowering and evolving partners. Whether you’re a channel chief or channel manager, we’re all cheerleaders in elevating the impact of partnering. (The PartnerPath motto!)
For more information about all things partnering, check out our Resource Center. And if you're struggling to get your company to support your partnering efforts and need advice or a compassionate ear, please contact us – we're happy to chat.