The benefits of a Partner Advisory Council (PAC) are abundant. At first blush, your executive team will be enthusiastic about connecting with key partners and provide broad buy-in. But to execute a successful PAC initiative valued by both sides – your organization and the partners involved – appropriate planning is necessary. You’ll need to consider questions like which partners to include, who on your team should attend, event length, location, timing, frequency and the list goes on. (See our guide on 10 questions to consider when designing a PAC program.) But before getting mired in the details, start with the fundamentals. No matter how you design your PAC program, remember these 7 essentials in developing a great partner advisory council.
1) Listen, Listen, Listen
Design the agenda with ample time for partners to provide their insights and advice. Limit the ‘show and tell’ to partners telling you their thoughts and showing you how to remove roadblocks for their growth. Avoid lots of presentations and talking “at” the audience. A good rule of thumb is spending 30% of the time presenting and 70% of the time listening.
2) Establish Ownership
Designate an individual to own the council program – from designing the charter to executing the meetings, communicating with the partners and following up to effect change. Success is achieved through an ongoing consistent PAC program that continues to address issues highlighted by the partner attendees.
3) Build a Budget
Designate a three-year budget for your Partner Advisory Council. You don’t want to fight every year to continue the progress from the last year’s meetings. This budget should be held, at least in part, at the corporate communications level so it doesn’t become reallocated to regional level priorities or consumed by shorter-term partner sales needs. In addition to the resource to drive and manage the PAC, you will need between $30,000 and $50,000 for meeting logistics (depending on how fancy your event is and if you need to pay for partner travel costs).
4) Bring in a Facilitator
A key component of effective listening is creating a safe space for honest dialogue. One of the advantages of having an unbiased, experienced third-party facilitator is ensuring what is being said is truly heard. Breakout sessions devoid of vendor attendees – with only the partners and a facilitator present – prove to be highly efficient in gathering feedback partners might feel uncomfortable bringing up in front of you. Allowing for “off the record” time for partners to discuss and debate roadblocks among themselves is an effective way to draw out insights and prioritize feedback. You know you’re successful if each attendee has a voice in the meeting.
5) Take Timely Action
Part of the commitment to a partner advisory council is the expectation that something will be done with the information (partners need to see action to validate their participation). Aggregate, synthesize, prioritize and develop specific action steps across your organization based on the partner feedback. Not all feedback needs to be actioned. But you need to decide which items you will act on and create the project plan within two weeks of the PAC meeting.
6) Establish Ongoing Communications
Coordinate communications across your internal teams and your partner participants. Leverage a mix of emails, newsletters and web conference calls to keep the partner participants up to speed on the progress of your action plan. Include ongoing feedback from the partners alongside the status communications to keep them engaged in producing insights and advice. The PAC should hear from you at least quarterly.
7) Demonstrate Value Internally
In addition to assigning action items to those accountable for driving change in your company, provide a project plan and status dashboard your entire company can access. Clearly identify the initiative, goal or expected outcome, responsible party and status (on track, behind, ahead) in an executive snapshot. This should be updated weekly by each individual responsible for a task and accessible on your company intranet by everyone.
Producing an effective Partner Advisory Council is about internal alignment, communicating expectations and operations discipline. We help clients elevate the impact of partnering by creating collaborative relationships that accelerate and extend their business success. Connect with us to learn how we can help!