Top athletes know to get the best results you need to regularly measure performance. In this year’s State of Partnering study, we asked partners all about the elements affecting their experience with vendors. Although Performance Metrics ranked lowest of the partner experience pillars, both vendors and solution providers need metrics to gauge improvement. Plus, everyone likes to know whether they’re doing well.
When ranking performance elements by how they affect partner experience, it’s interesting how the results fell into groups. The solution providers ranked all three measurements of performance as more important to their experience than all three options for promotion to the next program level.
The top performance metric, measuring their customers’ satisfaction, is understandable, considering several vendors have been systematically measuring end customer satisfaction with channel partners for years. This performance measurement is more widely adopted than the other two.
The order of the next two elements was less predictable. We did not expect the partner experience measurement to out-pace the partner profitability measurement. It’s not that profitability is more important. In fact, we believe partner experience is the ultimate metric. It’s just that the practice of measuring profitability has been around longer and is more universally implemented. We wrote about the importance of measuring partner profitability three years ago. Maybe the ranking of partner experience reflects a surge in awareness of its importance. If so, hurray (and hopefully you find this report timely!).
But what about the vendors?
Regardless of how partners rank the measurements, vendors are collecting tons of data and objectively measuring partners, right? Shamefully, the vendor respondents aren’t measuring partner performance above revenue attainments. Only 30% of the vendor respondents reported regularly measuring customers’ satisfaction with partners at any level. And another 30% of the vendor respondents reported having no idea if end customers are happy with their partners. That’s disturbing. These vendors are trusting partners to accurately and effectively market, sell, install and support end customers with their products in the mix. What if partners are doing it wrong? Customers usually blame the vendor’s product, not the partner’s implementation. You may lose the ability to renew, cross sell or upsell. We believe it is the partners’ responsibility to make happy customers. But measure and verify. Not all partners are created equal.
It’s a similar result for the vendors measuring their partners’ experience with them. 20% of the vendor respondents measure their partners’ experience via a customer satisfaction study. That’s a good tool to collect partner feedback, but it doesn’t accurately measure their experience – only whether they are happy with you this year. An equal amount (20%) of the vendor respondents had no idea what their partners’ experience was (not even a feeling for it). However, we were excited to see 7% of the vendors employ a total partner experience study which looks not only at program elements, but processes and people as well. This is a 360-degree view of a partner’s interactions with the vendor. If you’re not doing it now (ahem, 93% of you), you will be conducting a partner experience study in the next three years. It’s going to be all the rage.
Partner profitability is measured a bit more rigorously. We noticed many larger vendors like Cisco, Microsoft, Dell and Citrix, started to systematically measure partner profitability five years ago. We heard this was because vendor channel chiefs were tired of partner complaints about profitability and wanted to measure it to know for sure. Almost 40% of the vendor respondents regularly measure the profitability of at least some of their partners. And, yet again, another 20% of the vendor respondents had no idea how profitable partners are with their products/solutions. We certainly hope that’s not the same 20% of vendor respondents who have no idea on partner satisfaction, experience or profitability. That would be flying blind.
Finally, in comparison to the partner feedback, 60% of the vendor respondents require revenue/quota attainment to move up program levels (i.e. from Silver to Gold). Training and certification requirements were also popular for promotion to the next level, as were revenue growth goals. Only a handful of the 134 vendor respondents employed a points-based system to assign partners to program levels. Sales revenue and business planning activities were cited most often as activities where partners earn points.
Have you missed any of the pillars? Want to see all the data points? Take a look at the complete report and let us know what you think.