• Suppliers are pressured to increase sales through indirect channels – enough that indirect sales are increasing more than direct sales
  • So, why are most suppliers still spending the lion’s share of their sales enablement budget on direct sales?
  • Channel sales and channel marketing must arm PAMs and PDMs with the tools to recruit the right partners

Facing a need to do more with less, suppliers are under pressure to increase and expand sales through indirect channels – enough that indirect sales in many industries are growing faster than direct sales. So why are most suppliers still spending the lion’s share of their sales enablement budget on direct sales?

Most sales executives understand the importance of providing their direct salespeople with training and tools to help them close more deals. Yet these same sales executives think nothing of sending out their channel organization to recruit new partners without access to quality training or tools…and then wonder why the majority of their partners aren’t producing.

To avoid this common channel management pitfall, channel sales and channel marketing should work together to arm your partner account managers (PAMs) and partner development managers (PDMs) with the tools (and training) needed to successfully identify and recruit the right partners to meet company goals and objectives. Much like a direct sales playbook, the recruitment toolkit should provide the right content, tools and messaging to employ through the entire recruitment process. Here’s a brief outline of some of the most effective and widely used recruitment toolkit deliverables:

  • Ideal partner profile. The primary driver of partner recruitment success is providing the organization with a clear vision of who it should (and should not) be recruiting. Much like a job description, the ideal partner profile is a list of the specific criteria that should be used to identify and qualify potential partners to ensure they possess the attributes that match the supplier’s target customer requirements and company priorities. Answer the following questions to help identify those criteria: Where do we need partners from a geographic, target market/customer type and domain expertise perspective (coverage)? What does the partner need to successfully sell and support our offering (compatibilities, capabilities and capacity)? What factors will lead to a profitable win-win relationship (creditworthiness and commitment)?
  • Partner evaluation and selection tool. To drive a fact-based and accurate selection process, convert the ideal partner profile to a scorecard that weights the relative importance of each section or individual attribute (i.e., which are nice-to-haves vs. need-to-haves). For example, 20 percent of new partner selection could be based on compatibility and 10 percent on commitment. This approach allows the organization to easily and objectively judge how a potential partner stacks up to preset standards, as well as how potential partners compare to each other.
  • Partner suspect list. Once a supplier has gone through the process of identifying the perfect partner, it needs to enable PAMs and PDMs to find that partner. The most common recruitment approach, often referred to as passive recruitment, is to use traditional outbound marketing (e.g. advertising, trade shows, direct marketing) and wait for partners to identify themselves. Instead, suppliers – particularly those selling more expensive and complex offerings – should invest in providing their PAMs and PDMs with a suspect list of potential partners that match the ideal partner profile. Suppliers employing this more proactive and selective approach have found they’re much less likely to waste time and resources on trying to recruit and onboard ineffective resellers.
  • Qualifying questions. In addition to a weighted scorecard, provide PAMs with a list of questions to ask potential partners to gain the necessary insights for evaluating and scoring them (as well as insights that will accelerate sales when they are onboarded). For example: How do you typically develop sales leads? How do you differentiate yourself? What do you think makes a good client relationship, and what do you think makes a good supplier/partner relationship?
  • Partner value proposition. Success in recruiting highly coveted partners depends on presenting them with a compelling value proposition that clearly conveys why they should sign with your company instead of a competitor (i.e. what’s in it for them). Just like an end-customer value proposition, the partner value proposition should include information on the strength of the product, company and brand. To ensure it truly resonates with partners, it must also convey how selling and supporting your offering will consistently benefit their bottom line (e.g. margin, start-up investments, ongoing incremental expenses). Delivery methods include content on the supplier’s public Web site, as well as a professionally designed slide presentation and leave-behind.
  • Partnership ROI calculator. An ROI calculator is a tool that allows PAMs to quickly calculate and communicate the ROI of selling a supplier’s offering. The key inputs should include initial start-up investments (e.g. program fee, training, demo unit), as well as any incremental asset-related and operating expenses (e.g. inventory/accounts payable, additional headcount, marketing expenses). The key outputs of the tool should include how long it will take for the partner to recover its start-up investments and how much it can earn after the break-even point.
  • FAQs. These are the most common questions/issues raised by potential partners (and their corresponding answers). When done well, this tool is great for helping PAMs prepare for recruitment calls and get immediate answers to questions when they’re in the field. Examples of potential recruitment FAQs include: How much demand exists for the product? What is your long-term channel strategy? What type of sales and marketing support can we expect to receive?
  • Proof points. It’s much easier to sell something that has proof to back it up. That’s why it’s important to provide PAMs with assets and tools that will allow them to successfully validate your partner value proposition and address the FAQs. Examples include a guide that details your partner program (e.g. benefits, qualification criteria, ongoing requirements), partner case studies and video testimonials that demonstrate partners experiencing real success selling your offering, and third-party research that outlines partner demand for your offering.

Creating and launching a comprehensive recruitment toolkit can be challenging and time-consuming. Plus, salespeople will be salespeople…so you’re going to hear complaints about what’s missing or what needs to be changed. But don’t let this dissuade your efforts! Without these types of tools and the training that supports them, PAMs/PDMs learn and execute by trial and error. Providing even reasonably complete toolkits based on best practices will vastly improve the quality of partners recruited and the velocity at which they are signed.