Are You Easy for Channel Partners to Do Business with?
In April we participated in the Baptie Channel Focus Conference and attended a workshop entitled: “5 Golden Rules to Make Your Company Easier to Do Business with In The Channel”. We found the discussion very interesting and therefore worth sharing. Below are our takeaways from the workshop.
1. Help Channel Partners Help You. Show your channel partners benchmarks including average, minimum, and maximum values for on sales, operations, program results, etc. This gives the partner a better understanding of what works and where they stand. There are also few things as motivating as a little competition.
Business performance visibility scorecards against agreed upon individual partner targets by providing weekly performance statistics for sales, rebates, discounts, inventory, data submission, registrations, training, etc. This allows the partner to know where they stand individually and the opportunity to take advantage of opportunities or address issues.
Give partners some level of pricing control so they can quote most business without having to come to you, the vendor, for special pricing or a price at all. This is a balancing act between partner competitiveness and autonomy while keeping up margins. With experimentation and analysis, the right balance can be stuck. Keep in mind that it opens you up for competition and is embarrassing for a partner to not be able to tell a customer the price of your product.
Trust your channel partners and they will trust you. Make it clear to your partners what your responsibilities are in the partnership as well as what you will do with their reported data and then stick to it. Manage the relationship for the long term, which sometimes means making short-term sacrifices.
2. Pay Them Right, Pay Them On Time. Paying on time matters more to distributors than to VARS because public distributors are measured on Return on Working Capital Employed but everyone needs their money in a timely manner.
Solve your data quality issues by adding resources, systems or processes to automatically manage, calculate and report on partner data.
Provide payment visibility to partners for what has been paid as well as what is still owed to your partners. Transparency goes a long way in building a relationship.
3. Less is More. Simplify your registration program. It is exciting to imaging knowing everything about every deal all the time but partners need to be able to easily register an opportunity, track it and ultimately get paid on it if it closes.
It is better to have fewer, better programs. You can market and measure a few programs and only keep the ones that really work.
Centralize your processes across all business groups. Your partners have multiple manufacturers each with different processes. Don’t make it harder on them to have different processes for each of your divisions or product lines.
Segment your partners into similar groups and design programs by group instead of trying to have programs for each partner. That way they are easier to market, run, measure and improve.
Provide Single sign on for all your portals and dashboards. We all struggle to keep our passwords straight and safe.
Clean up and simplify your partner tiers. There should only be a few tiers and it should be clear to both you and the partner how to qualify.
Refresh incentives when needed. There is a delicate balance between fresh and consistent. Programs should be updated but only when needed – not too much and not too little.
4. Maximize Learning Opportunities. To foster participation, training should be free and available online so partners can train at their pace and on their schedule. Keep online training simple and straightforward. Save fee based, instructor training for the more complex and advanced topics.
Training should not be painful. We enjoy learning if the process is not too onerous or mind numbing. Try to make it interesting and fun.
Stay focused on the key issues and on the partners’ point of view. What is important to the vendor is not always what is important to the partner.
Test your partners after training but remember the test is a learning opportunity as well as a measurement for certification.
Training should be consistent with your brand experience. Keep the wording and style in line with your brand to reinforce your positioning. Training should be a relationship-centered activity with training as the by-product.
5. Technology Is a Double-edged Sword – Use It Wisely. Technology has opened up the opportunity to online, on demand training as well as social interaction. Be careful not to lose focus on of the training objective because you have a cool new technical toy.
Be careful that the technology is not complex or difficult to use. Provide users with single sign on, search capabilities, online help, and results dashboards to make the process intuitive and easier.
Measure results but keep in mind that just because you can measure something does not mean that you should.
Keep your training organized and easy to find. This may require data stewards to keep the training up to date and organized. In closing, implementing just a few of these Golden Rules with will improve your partner relationships and likely their performance as well.