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How to Set Partner Goals


By Diane Krakora, CEO of PartnerPath

apple-watch-rings.jpgI have an Apple Watch. It was a surprise Christmas gift from my adorable husband a year and a half ago. While I love it for immediate notifications like text and Slack, the Activity tracking app confuses me. If you’re not up on this latest craze, each week the watch sets a daily Move goal for how much you should stand and exercise. I see my progress throughout the day and if I don’t hit my Move goal, the watch recommends a lower daily goal the next week. It feels like a reward for missing the goal. That’s not right. The same is true for partner goals. If a partner doesn’t reach the goals outlined for them by the vendor or program, do you lower their goals? Awe, you didn’t make it … here’s a lower bar for you. That’s no way to drive excellence.

Goals Motivate Improvements

First, you need to decide why you are setting a goal for channel partners. Are you trying to motivate them to sell more? Rewarding them for reaching a specific sales number or generating great customer satisfaction? What’s the purpose of the goal?

We often see the partner’s goals focused on a sales revenue number. That seems to make sense – make a revenue number and get a reward. However, at PartnerPath we suggest creating goals on growth, not simply a revenue number. Meeting the same target quarter after quarter or year after year is not a goal. Yes, that sales performance can be rewarded. And you can still require a certain sales performance metric per program level. Those aren’t the goals I’m talking about. We believe a goal should be focused on improvement because it pushes the partner to do more or do something differently. When did anyone have the goal to run the next marathon at the same time as the last? (Answer: never.)

Motivate with a Carrot or Stick?

Second, are you a believer in the carrot or the stick? Decide if you want to reward partners for meeting their goals – increased margin, more MDF, access to executive briefing sessions, or if you want to penalize partners for not meeting goals – taking away margin, MDF, executive access. Know your personal preference. I prefer to motivate with carrots, rewarding partners for improving and doing more. I believe people generally want to do well and be recognized for their achievements. The new President of the United States is a stick kind of guy.

Goals should be set per partner. Yes, it is daunting and some might say unmanageable. However, a goal should be unique for each partner, not a goal for each partner in the same program level. A partner’s goals should be specific to that particular partner’s business situation. Evaluate their capabilities, capacity and desire. Are they a $100m company and selling $1m of your stuff? Or are they a $2m company selling $1m of your stuff? Do they have 10% or 50% or 80% of their System Engineers trained on your solutions? Does this partner have room to grow with you or not? When you’re doing business planning with your partners, start with what behavior you are trying to motivate and then set a goal together – something they haven’t yet attained.

Apple’s “close your rings” messaging relies on rewards to motivate behavior. Apple Watch wearers get stars and awards for hitting daily and weekly Move goals. Instead of simply recommending a lower goal when I don’t meet the previous goal, I wish my Apple watch functioned more like how I would work with a partner. It could collect more information about me and the improvements I want to make and then set a realistic goal – and keep it until I make it – then reward me with gold stars and high fives and maybe even promote my achievements.

Where are you setting realistic goals for each partner and motivating their achievements and success? Let us know.

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

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