The summer issue of The Partner Channel Magazine is all about becoming the total package in the Microsoft Dynamics Partner community. Learn how to round out your roster, enhance your professional skills, and more!
sales Management better partner = Performance better channel story by Dana Citron illustration by shawn Olson <strong>Channel</strong> management is among the more challenging roles in today’s high-tech company. And yet, according to Accenture, it’s also among the most important to get right: On average about 70 percent of the typical high-tech company’s revenue comes from the indirect channel. In the years we’ve been working with ISVs in the channel, we’ve noticed that often a lack of good management tools leaves them resorting to inefficient management modes that – rather than enabling <strong>Partner</strong>s – limits them or drives them to focus on other ISVs’ products. For Better <strong>Channel</strong> Performance, Stop Trying to Control <strong>Partner</strong>s <strong>The</strong> problem with trying to control <strong>Partner</strong>s is that it doesn’t work. We’ve seen ISVs attempt it, but all they end up doing is overworking their own internal resources and irritating their <strong>Partner</strong>s. What does work to improve channel performance is implementing a good <strong>Partner</strong> relationship management (PRM) system. It won’t give you control, but it will give you the next best things: Visibility and influence. 34 summer <strong>2016</strong> | thepartnerchannel.com
Visibility improves when you can resolve issues around registering deals, distributing leads, and tracking market development funds (MDF). And <strong>Partner</strong>s are willing to be influenced by ISVs who are easy to work with and don’t get in the way of them selling. A well-designed PRM system gives ISVs the visibility they need to better manage performance and the influence necessary to lead <strong>Partner</strong>s to better sales performance. Instead of controlling, ISVs should focus on enabling <strong>Partner</strong>s, an approach that will differentiate them from other ISVs. As Ali Din points out in the <strong>2016</strong> State of <strong>Channel</strong> Marketing report published by <strong>Channel</strong> Marketer Report, “In a time when experimentation is critical, ISVs’ channel marketing programs are inflexible…Only a few ISVs have been able to truly enable their <strong>Partner</strong>s.” GET THE VISIBILITY YOU NEED – WHILE ALSO SHOWING YOU RESPECT PARTNERS’ TIME <strong>Partner</strong>s are busy, and they don’t want to be micromanaged. We’ve worked with hundreds of ISVs facing this challenge: How do you walk the line between staying in front of <strong>Partner</strong>s’ sales mind without regularly annoying them for the data or information you need to manage performance? It’s a balancing act that requires consistent attention, but the best way an ISV can show they value <strong>Partner</strong>s’ time is to employ a management system that enables better business processes between the ISV, all their different <strong>Partner</strong>s, and their customers. You want to be on their mind – but in a good way. A PRM system can allow ISVs that visibility, without demanding a lot of desk time from <strong>Partner</strong> sales reps. Having a solution in place that allows ISVs to not only receive and push information to their <strong>Partner</strong>s one time, but also on an ongoing basis, keeps ISVs from being that annoying company, the one constantly hounding their <strong>Partner</strong>s. Unobtrusive and simple information exchange between <strong>Partner</strong> and ISV is the goal. PRM can enable easy input of data and stress-free navigation. It lets <strong>Partner</strong>s get their job done quickly and doesn’t force them to jump through unnecessary hoops. This requires ISVs to have a clear communication process, but when that’s in place, <strong>Partner</strong>s are much more inclined to log in and provide any missing data points around leads and deals. It’s helpful to look at the process from the <strong>Partner</strong>’s point of view. <strong>The</strong>y have dozens of portals they need to engage with, all different. If yours is intuitive and complete, you give them an extra incentive to give you the information you need, and it’s more likely that info will be accurate. WHY CRM ALONE WON’T SUFFICE IN THE CHANNEL Visibility and influence are not as well-served by using CRM (customer relationship management) to manage <strong>Partner</strong>s. In his book “<strong>Channel</strong> Revolution”, Stefan Utzinger says, “It’s crucial for the proper execution of a larger channel network to have a system and process in place for managing the indirect channel.” He explains that the processes involved with CRM are different from what’s needed to effectively manage the indirect channel. For that, you need PRM. It’s true that some CRM systems include features to support PRM, but he says indirect sales is different and warns that “most CRM systems are focused on managing the relationship between the ISV and the end customer. <strong>The</strong> focus of a system to manage the <strong>Partner</strong>s should be on the business processes between the ISV, the different <strong>Partner</strong>s, and their customers.” This may seem like a minor difference, but the amount of interaction required between ISV and <strong>Partner</strong> on opportunities, leads, and exchanging information means a CRM system can’t really provide that effective communication platform you need for success in the channel. With that said, communication between your CRM and PRM is critical to ensure complete visibility into customer data across the organization. <strong>The</strong>re are PRM systems available that have a tight data synch between the two systems. He explains that a true PRM system facilitates that communication and makes it easier for channel <strong>Partner</strong>s to sell by including critical features like: Opportunities registration, a way to receive leads from the ISV, access to content and tools, the ability to track MDF, and a forum for asking questions that also guides to additional info and personnel as needed. And with a truly effective PRM system, these features cannot be “one time only.” Both <strong>Partner</strong> and ISV need to be able to update information on leads and deals to show progress or additional information. Without this functionality, ISVs won’t have the visibility and influence they require, nor the intended bottom line impact. MANAGING YOUR PARTNER PROGRAM WITH 24-7 SONAR With this functionality, ISVs get a clearer view of the <strong>Partner</strong> relationship landscape. <strong>The</strong>y can quickly detect <strong>Partner</strong>s whose performance is sub-par, along with those who are excelling. With this 24/7 sonar, ISVs can make better-informed decisions rather than going about activities blindly. THEPARTNERCHANNEL.COM | SUMMER <strong>2016</strong> 35