As I mentioned in my previous blog on successful partnerships, experience is the “new product” of business. However, most companies spend more time on the experience they provide to their customers than optimizing the experience they provide to the people embedded with their customers: partners.


The secret sauce for improving your partners’ experience is to make it EASY for a partner to work with you. Making it easy empowers your partners to improve their performance in joint sales, marketing, and service engagements. So, what tools can you use to make it easy for your partners to reach new customers? And as your channel grows, how do you manage the increasing complexity of your partner ecosystem to ensure relevant information is easy to find and use?


The number one indicator of partner success is ease of use


Businesses that create successful partnerships are the ones that make partnering easy. This means making the tools used to manage the relationship easier to navigate and use in order to streamline communications back and forth. If your partners can easily find the tools, information, and resources they need, they will be better equipped to rapidly respond to the needs of the end customer.    


There is a tremendous amount of inherent complexity working with third parties to sell, service, and market a companies products. To put it in perspective, the average partner works with 12 different companies — or vendors — at one time. If each vendor gives their partners just four tools (a partner portal, a support phone number, a performance spreadsheet, and a web form for leads) it quickly adds up to 48 tools that a single partner has to manage. Partners need simple ways to quickly get on-board with your business, market your product or service, sell it, and analyze their success. This is easier when tools are centralized in a single location that matches the rest of your digital properties that partners already use.

The previous Red Hat partner portal was flat, complicated, and lacked personalization. Today, the leading provider of open source solutions looks and functions like the Red Hat properties that partners are already familiar with.


By centralizing your tools inside a familiar user interface, you remove friction from your partner experience and make it easy and seamless for your partners to find the information they need to sell your product. In turn, this has a direct impact on how effectively you can accelerate sales and use partners to grow your business.   


Training and content delivery is extremely important


Back in the day, certified trainers would travel onsite to conduct hands-on training with partners. Today, as training moves online, partners are having to invest much more of their time into learning on demand, so it’s important that businesses make finding and using technical resources easy.


According to Salesforce’s 2018 State of Sales survey, partners say that technical resources — pricing, service documentation, and training material — are the most critical content for them to find and use.


A survey conducted between Salesforce and the Sales Management Association found that while businesses know that delivering content and tools for partners is important, they struggle to do it well. “Efficiently distribute channel sales content” and “Coach and develop channel salespeople” were ranked as important priorities, but also as ones businesses were less effective in accomplishing.


What do high performers do?


The 2018 State of Sales survey revealed a few key differences between high performers (businesses exceeding channel revenue goals) and underperformers (businesses with flat or declining channel revenue) when it comes to the experience they offer their partners.


For high performers, it’s all about creating a positive experience. Compared to underperformers, those at the top are:

  • 2.4x more likely to automate onboarding

  • 2x more likely to have a Learning Management System

  • 1.8x more likely to deliver enablement resources


As an example, 73% of high performers say they use video for partner education and training. This capitalizes on the preference most partners have for this type of information to be delivered in a video format. Mobile optimization is important as well —  millennials spend 3.5 hours every day on their smartphones, 43% of which is spent on tasks related to their jobs.


First impressions matter: the partner onboarding experience


Onboarding is one of the most important activities you can do with your partners. It’s where you win partners — and save money by keeping them. It is the first series of interactions that will determine whether a partner is going to do business with you, or move onto another vendor (one with a better experience).


Only 27% of vendors believe they have a great onboarding experience. This is a problem because bad experiences strain existing relationships, and it gets more complicated when businesses consider the future impact.


On average, millennials in the channel stay with a company for only two years. If they have a bad experience with your business while working at one partnership, they’re likely to carry that bad impression with them to the next…and the next, potentially impacting your business’ ability to grow.


Furthermore, the cost of replacing someone working as a partner amount to about $20,000 in training time and lost revenue. That cost affects businesses as well as partners and emphasizes the importance of creating simple, fast, and positive onboarding experiences for your partners.


As expectations change and grow, businesses today can succeed by focusing on delivering easy-to-find resources within a single, centralized location that offers optimized education and training tools, and seamless onboarding experiences.


To learn more about creating positive experiences for your partners, check out the full webinar, “The Future of Indirect Sales: Adapt or Get Left Behind.”