When The Buck Stops With the CFO: Make Sure Your PRM Biz Case Has the Goods

In the not too distant past (three years ago), the line at the CFO’s door asking for a new technology buy was a short one: IT.

These days, it’s probably someone from every department – accounting itself, HR, sales, marketing, engineering, and so on. As the buying decision has shifted from IT to the business units, CFOs are faced with requests from every direction for THE technology every group is certain they NEED to have or they will fall behind.

Unfortunately, many fail to come armed with the information they need to help the CFO prioritize requests and understand what will truly have the most impact on the business. However, we know putting together the right info can be challenging. That’s why, in a recent white paper, we summarized the pre-sales conversations we’ve had with our customers, who are some of the world’s top corporations such as Splunk, Xerox, Conga, Zendesk and Ingersoll Rand. We’ve packed it full with data from a global Impartner customer survey to get right the business hard of the matter with your CFO and help you get the PRM buy of your dreams.

So, if you’re a channel/sales/marketing leader, read through this white paper, “The CFO’s Business Case for PRM,” and learn more about the top 13 reasons a PRM solution is the single most important technology purchase your company can make to accelerate your indirect sales. Just consider these performance stats from our Impartner PRM customer survey:

  • 31 percent increase in revenue
  • 23 percent decrease in administrative costs
  • 46 percent faster partner program scalability
  • 32 percent increase in percentage of partner base which improved their performance
  • 48 percent increase in sales for partners who have completed training programs
  • 56 percent increase in profit of partners who used sales enablement materials
  • Savings of up to $50,000/year by 90 percent and savings of up to $100,000/year by 10 percent by consolidating technologies and using functionality built into the PRM

Want to learn more, set up a one on one demo. We’ll help you make sure you’re ready to go grab a copy of this white paper for your CFO, secure your place in line, and get the budget you need to transform your channel’s performance.

To Whom It May Concern

"To whom it may concern..." Is that how you greet your partners on your partner portal? Of course not, you’re thinking to yourself, that would be crazy, right? Surprisingly, despite the explosion in the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) market, there are a tremendous number of companies out there who haven’t upgraded their partner portal technologies – and because they cannot personalize the experience for each of their partners who sign on – that’s essentially how they say hello to their partners.

If you’re one of those, you may be thinking – “Does it really matter so much, if ultimately, they can find the information they are looking for?” The answer is yes. Consumer-grade experiences with retailers like Amazon and airline frequent flyer sites, mean that most of us expect to be greeted by name, and given full insights into our purchases and offers that are available to us.

So what’s good enough in today’s market? Think in threes. If you cannot personalize your partner portal in at least three places or more, you are immediately at risk of “leaving money on the table.” Because you’re not able to optimize your digital conversations with your partners, you can’t convey the most important information when they visit your portal, and you’re at risk of having them leave you for vendors who make it easier to drive value out of your mutual relationship.

When your partners sign in, they should be greeted by name, see what next steps they need to take to be onboarded, be able to see their status and what would take to bump them to the next level, get info on new products, see what incentives and special offers are available to them, view their leads, see what events you have coming up in your area, see new content that’s available to them, understand what training is available…and on and on. At every level, Impartner customer stats show the power of that personalization: a 31 percent increase in revenue, a 37 percent increase in partner ramp time to profitability, and a 56 percent increase in partner profitability for partners using sales enablement materials.

Fortunately, if that is your current state, Impartner can help shift to a fully personalized partner portal experience in as few 30 days with our simple, yet highly engineered 3-step Velocity process. Take a demo to learn more.

An inability to personalize your partner portal is a topic covered in our recent eBook, "The Top 13 Signs You’ve Made the Wrong PRM Decision.” Read more about the 13 signs it's time to consider a new PRM solution to truly drive the performance of your channel.

Do You have the Business Mindset to be a Top Channel Chief?

When it comes to accessing your own business acumen, ask yourself these questions. Can you see around corners, tease out insights from a spreadsheet or dissect a PowerPoint presentation for structural flaws? How about breaking down an industry report and extracting new understandings that others miss? You’ll have to do these and more effectively to lead in the channel. Working with partners requires:

  • A data-driven mindset and the ability to think broadly and clearly at scale.
  • An understanding not only of sales models, but also marketing, customer experiences, social media, partner satisfaction and macroeconomics.
  • An understanding of the dynamics of partner recruitment, recognition and reward.
  • An ability to master more than your employer’s economics; you also have to immerse yourself in your partners’ finances no matter their size, focus or territory.

In addition to those skills, you’ll also need an ability to understand international business and regulations. For example, establishing a sales office and business entity in some countries is all you need to recruit and engage partners. In others, it’s merely a first step. In a significant portion of the world, you’ll have to master not just partner but government relations. And how you sell, reward and retain partners will require a vast amount of business acumen and cultural savvy. Partners in the some regions do not like entering information into Partner Resource Management (PRM) systems unless its triply verified. In other regions… things are more casual.

What does business acumen look like in action. In one instance a few years ago, an up-and-coming channel chief took a job for a company that, out of almost nowhere, zoomed to the top of key tech market. The company’s products were ideally suited to indirect sales and provided partners with lucrative after market opportunities. It literally was a “razor-and-blades” business for a moment in time. At the height of the company’s success, however, the channel chief sensed something was amiss. Product failures were growing and price commoditization, which negatively impacted partner margins, was rampant. When another vendor offered the bright young executive a job, he accepted it with mixed emotions. While he adored the people he worked with, he recognized that his employer’s technology was optimized for an era that was quickly coming to an end. His business acumen saved his career, in other words. At his next assignment, the same channel chief relied on his business acumen to secure greater funding and technological support for his company’s business partners.

To be a world-class channel chief, in other words, you must become develop a word-class mind for business. Think of it as though you were pursuing a Masters in Partner Administration or MPA.

This post is an excerpt from our new free eBook. Learn whether you have more of the element of what it takes to be a top channel chief in The Nine Attributes of a World-Class Channel Chief, authored by T.C. Doyle, Senior Content Director, Channel Brands, Penton Technology.

13 Signs You've Made the Wrong PRM Decision

Oh #@*$!

Is this what you’re thinking about your Partner Relationship Management (PRM) purchase? If so, you’re not alone. The number of marketing, sales and channel technology solutions has sky rocketed, and so has the complexity of the buying decision…and often, companies aren’t making the right decision. If you feel like “something is wrong,” but you can’t put your finger on it, we’ve just released a new eBook to help you identify the “Top 13 Signs You’ve Made the Wrong PRM Decision,” which are listed below:

  1. No one owns the roadmap or updates for your custom portal - and it's falling behind.
  2. You've realized the resources for a build-it-yourself portal are beyond what was anticipated - and the project is stalling for lack of funding and bandwidth.
  3. You realize the demo positioned aspects of the solution as out-of-the-box, but it was over positioned - and it's going to require major customization.
  4. Your “good enough” functionality is proving to not be good enough — frustrating partners and/or causing you to lose credibility in the organization because you can't see and report the necessary metrics.
  5. When your PRM vendor has a product or a security update, it is taking weeks or months to get it.
  6. You can’t personalize your partner experience – it’s not tailored or unique.
  7. Your team finds it too hard to update the content on your Partner Portal and the content is not fresh.
  8. Your dot.com site is better than - and doesn’t match - your Partner Portal, the front door to your relationship with your partners.
  9. You have almost no insights into past success or future projections for your channel partners.
  10. Your portal can’t support today’s end-user journey.
  11. You have other solutions in your tech stack that don't integrate with your PRM — and you're losing insight because data is siloed and your partners hate having to sign into multiple sites.
  12. You have channel conflict.
  13. You only have visibility into a small portion of your channel revenue represented in your sales funnel.

Don’t be surprised that you see your problem or problems -- the inspiration for the book, was conversations with a multitude of potential new customers, who are frustrated with their PRM purchase and looking for a new solution. If you didn’t get it right the first time, you can certainly make the decision to ‘live with it.” However, in the case of PRM, which is the single most foundational technology investment companies need to make to optimize the performance of their channel, if you don’t have it right, you need to acknowledge it, pull off the bandage and move on to something that works for your business. Otherwise, you will fail to unlock the potential of your channel and fall behind your competitors.

To learn more, download your complimentary copy of our eBook. If you already see the signs your company has made the wrong PRM decision, take an Impartner demo, and learn how we help leading companies like Xerox, Conga, Ingersoll Rand, LogRhythm, Ciena and National Instruments generate an average of up to $9 million in additional revenue from their indirect channels per year.

Modifying Partner Behavior for Sustained Change

Vendors need to reward partners’ journey, not just the destination.

By Larry Walsh

We often hear about the channel’s long tail – the vast number of underperforming partners that, en masse, generate a tremendous amount of revenue despite being individually uninteresting. Wrenching more sales out of this large segment seems a rich opportunity except for one problem: the reason these companies are in the long tail.

The majority of companies operating in the channel aren’t well-structured or disciplined business organizations. The channel lacks maturity because most partners are technologists first, businesspeople second. According to research by The 2112 Group, four out of 10 partners don’t have strategic plans for growth or business plans governing operations. Another 45 percent don’t set annual growth targets, and more than one-half don’t have annual sales goals.

Vendors, on the other hand, incent too little as a part of their partner relationship. Most channel programs influence and reward partners based on revenue generation and training and certification. While revenue productivity is important, as is empowering partners with knowledge, translating that productivity into persistent and consistent sales and marketing activity is what drives long-term success.

Vendors may realize that the channel isn’t automatic, but they don’t pay enough attention to this fact. Partners don’t always have the same alignment, goals, or interests as their vendors. They’re often tugged in different directions by numerous vendors wanting higher product sales. They service diverse markets and customers with a variety of needs and expectations. Couple these factors with their lack of business focus and you get inconsistent results and return on channel investment.

Partners need the guiding hand of vendors to help with organization, management, governance, and, ultimately, performance. This guidance can’t happen just once; engagement needs to be persistent, with vendors leading partners, and partners completing periodic tasks and receiving corresponding rewards for performance that results in positive returns. This process is called micro-behavioral influence. 2112, in conjunction with Impartner, produced a complimentary white paper, “Micro-Behavior to Macro Results,” that details how vendors can use micro-behavioral influences to drive more productive partner outcomes, why guiding micro-behavior is more advantageous than current channel program frameworks, areas in which to focus micro-behavioral influences, and how to measure influence outcomes.

The issue isn’t whether vendors should influence partner behavior, but to what degree they should influence business practices, operational processes, and customer engagements.

The channel nominally operates at a 90/10 ratio, with 90 percent of the channel revenue flowing through the top 10 percent of partners. The 2112 Group has assessed channel programs in which the top 2 percent of channel partners drive as much as 90 percent of the gross indirect revenue generation. These ratios reflect unbalanced channel programs that put vendors at high risk of disruption due to inconsistent partner performance.

Our white paper details how vendors can define micro-behaviors, assign tasks to partners, and reward partners based not just on end results but also on the process by which partners arrive at those results. The goal is getting partners to learn and incorporate good behavior that generates consistency, not just opportunistic and unpredictable outcomes.

Organizational Hutzpah: Do You have the Influencer Chops to be a Top Channel Chief

Organizational influence is one of the most important qualities of a successful channel chief in the information technology industry today. Being a channel chief requires securing a seat at the table wherever big decisions are made. If you don’t have a relationship with your CEO, you’re unlikely to occupy a spot in that all important place. Without a seat at the table, you’re likely to find yourself living in the shadows of your chief of marketing or head of worldwide sales.

It Takes Juice

To succeed as a channel chief, you’ll need what Hollywood calls “juice” to get your job done. That’s because you’ll need the help of others inside your company to coordinate go-to-market activities, plan for product rollouts and provide sufficient support to partners. There’s more: Being a channel chief requires more than just getting along with others; it sometimes requires compelling them to work on your behalf. This includes powerful leaders within an organization that have different if not competing agendas. Think executives who represent engineering, legal, finance and more. Without organizational influence, you’ll never get their cooperation when it comes to revenue sharing, customer satisfaction, partner reward or support. To be a successful channel chief, you have to thrive amid ambiguity, change and conflict. Is that coded into your DNA? Here’s a simple test to find out:

  1. Do you play well with others?
  2. Can you work across cross-functional lines and motivate others that do not report to you?
  3. Can you secure promises including funding, commitment and talent to work on your behalf throughout your own organization?

What does that influence look like in action? Here’s an example: A few years ago, a tech company known for its broad product portfolio and mercurial CEO scheduled some media interviews to promote the appointment of a new channel chief. Because the CEO was not especially involved with partners at the time, reporters were eager to ask the new channel chief about meeting the CEO before taking the job. After fumbling around for some words, the channel chief confessed sheepishly, “I didn’t meet him before I took the job.” It was a portentous sign. Despite the chief’s best efforts to improve channel relations and implement pro-friendly channel policies, the company’s partner programs never fully transformed. One reason? Sales leaders with closer ties to the CEO persuaded him to accept more channel conflict than what the channel chief liked. Not surprisingly, the individual lasted only a few years in the role.

This post is an excerpt from our new eBook, The Nine Attributes of a World-Class Channel Chief, authored by T.C. Doyle, Senior Content Director, Channel Brands, Penton Technology. Download it for free and learn whether you have more of the element of what it takes to be a top channel chief.

Customer Love: How do You Choose Just One?

On a dark stage at ImpartnerCON ’17, Brad Pace, our vice president of customer success, jokingly told the story of he and his many brothers and sisters barging up to their parents and demanding to know who was planned – and who wasn’t. His quick thinking parents quickly deferred, and assured them that it didn’t matter – that they loved them all the same. Pace said that when it comes to deciding on award recipients for Impartner’s yearly award ceremony, it’s difficult – because we love all our customers the same.

While the story drew a laugh from the crowd, Pace continued, however, that there were certainly customers this year, who raised the bar on accelerating performance in the indirect channel. Following are the highlights of each of our Impartner Accelerator Award Recipients – our sincerest congratulations to this year’s award recipients, whose persistence and innovation has broken new ground:

Xerox Corporation, Onboarding Octane Award:

For excellence in designing a 90-day onboarding fast-start program to accelerate partner productivity and customer value.

Quest Software, Route 66 Award:

For rapid implementation of Impartner’s PRM solution and accelerating ROI by more than 50 percent.

GENBAND, Marketing Afterburner Award:

For enabling partner productivity by constantly refreshing content and implementing an extensive co-branded marketing program.

Fortinet, Pedal to the Medal Award:

For world-class partner recruitment and engagement, making Fortinet’s PRM one of the industry’s fastest growing programs.

LogRhythm, Leaderboard Award:

For gamification of their PRM solution, to enhance the engagement of what is already one of the industry’s most robust PRM implementations.

Ingersoll Rand, Pathfinder Award:

For its pioneering approach in bringing new age PRM functionality to the manufacturing industry. Ingersoll Rand’s innovative solution establishes the value of PRM with or without a CRM.

During the ceremony, Pace stressed that 2016 was an incredible year of transformation for the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) industry, for Impartner and for our customers. “We couldn’t be more proud of the achievements of this year’s award winners, who truly exemplify best practices on how technologies like Impartner’s PRM solutions can accelerate channel sales,” he said.

The second annual ImpartnerCON, held in Salt Lake City, grew by 3x in attendance, mirroring the explosive growth of the company in the previous year, which includes a 156 percent increase in new customers and topping nearly 3 million partners using its technology. The agenda included keynotes from IDC Channel Research Analyst Margaret Adam and channel strategy firm 2112 Group’s CEO and Chief Analyst Larry Walsh. Other key speakers included Channel Strategist and Penton Content Director T.C. Doyle; Intacct SVP of Channel Sales Taylor Macdonald; Is Inspired Channel Strategist and President Gina Batali-Brooks; and Channel Chiefs from leading Impartner customers, including National Instruments, BigCommerce and LogRhythm.

Last year’s Impartner Award winners included Xerox, National Instruments, Quantum Corporation, Rackspace, SGI and SunGard Availability Services. To learn more about how companies with contemporary SaaS PRM solutions help generate an average of up to $9 million a year in additional channel revenue, click here.

Is Your CQ high enough?

At this year’s ImpartnerCON ’17, the theme was straight forward: Acceleration. For three days, the focus for channel leaders from around the world was 100 percent on best practices for accelerating channel operations – including individual performance. In a thoughtful overview based on more than 30 years working with and interviewing Channel Chiefs, Channel Strategist and Senior Content Director at Penton T.C. Doyle pulled back the curtain on the nine attributes today’s top channel chiefs have in common.

The topic could not be more timely, given that more and more, today’s top chiefs must match the skill base of other c-suite players, or they are at risk having their channel operations lag behind – and being replaced by someone with a more contemporary skill set.

“In 2017, compressed product cycles are evolving customers’ needs and business models are undergoing significant reinvention – and the skill set needed for those who manage partner programs for vendors—aka ‘channel chiefs’ – is now much broader and more sophisticated than ever before,” Doyle said. “It’s not just enough to have a high Intellectual Quotient (IQ) or exemplary work ethic to succeed in this capacity; you need a high “Channel Quotient” CQ, which is a combination of nine attributes that include a range of both business and emotional skills.”

In his presentation, Doyle outlined the nine attributes listed below, and brought the power of these attributes to life with real-life examples of successes – and failures:

  1. Organizational Influence
  2. Business Acumen
  3. Decisive Leadership
  4. Technological Savvy
  5. Operational Efficiency
  6. Customer Orientation
  7. Personal Integrity
  8. Intellectual Curiosity
  9. Infectious Optimism

To illustrate the power of organization influence, Doyle share a rather painful example of a new channel chief of a well-known tech company, who had failed to meet the CEO before taking the job. After fumbling around for some words, the channel chief confessed sheepishly, “I didn’t meet him before I took the job.” “It was a portentous sign,” Doyle said. “Despite the chief’s best efforts to improve channel relations and implement pro-friendly channel policies, the company’s partner programs never fully transformed. One reason? Sales leaders with closer ties to the CEO persuaded him to accept more channel conflict than what the channel chief liked. Not surprisingly, the individual lasted only a few years in the role.”

While we’re sorry you may have missed this year’s ImpartnerCON, Doyle’s comments are available in a new eBook underwritten by Impartner and authored by Doyle, “The Top Attributes of a World-Class Channel Chief.” Get your complimentary copy here and find out what skills you need to work on to be a top channel chief in today’s market.

Portals and Your Pyramid: Meeting the Needs of Your Partner

Since The Age of Enlightenment philosophers, psychologists and economists have studied and debated the motivations behind human behavior. Theories abound. Sigmund Freud, for one, theorized that the unconscious mind motivates behavior to a far greater degree than the conscious. During WWII, General Dwight D. Eisenhower had the ultimate motivational task of asking his forces to perform tasks up to - and including - the ultimate sacrifice. He observed that motivation is “the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”

Less learned theories and approaches abound as well. In the 1992 presidential campaign, political strategist James Carville coined, “The economy, stupid” as a message that could motivate voters to act.

And then there’s Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs, “a theory of human motivation predicated on fulfilling innate human needs by priority, culminating in self-actualization.” Motivation is driven by needs. Maslow noted that the human hierarchy of needs spans from the tangible, such as food and water, to the intangible, such as self-esteem and creativity.

Taylor Made Motivation

Not to place too fine a point on it, but an organization also has needs and subsequent motivations to satisfy them. While Maslow’s theory was expressed in terms of how an individual’s needs drive motivation, they can be applied equally to what motivates aspects of your business activities, including channel management. This is something I call “Taylor’s Hierarchy of Channel Needs.”

If you step back for a moment and consider the implications, this humorous take on Maslow is really no laughing matter. You have sales targets, budgets, quotas, etc. Are those needs being satisfied using the right motivational carrots and sticks? Still relying solely on sales incentives and overrides to satisfy the needs of your sales team? How about the needs of channel partners? What happens when those are no longer sufficient to slake their thirst?

In Maslow’s foundation, the physiological need for food, water and shelter are the very requirements for human existence. In today’s hyper-competitive environment - regardless of your industry – your sales foundation is likely built upon indirect sales channels.

Indeed, indirect channel sales are the foundation of a modern and infinitely scalable sales organization representing over 80 percent of all technology sales and more than 70 percent of non-technology sales. That’s the foundation your sales success (or failure) is based on. Build it on a spreadsheet or some other infernal in-house contraption (sand) and the entire structure - scalability, deal registration, etc, - collapses like a bad soufflé.

The Concrete of the Pyramid

Too many organizations today still try to cut corners on this most mission-critical component, deploying either re-purposed CRM software or half-baked in-house solutions that could never possibly take into account the plethora of capabilities that true world-class PRM tools can offer, and for far less than it costs in time and money (time is money) to DIY.

The key to achieving a strong, durable foundation rests in the careful proportioning and mixing of the ingredients. That starts with your PRM portal. It is the cement, water and aggregate of your foundation. Indirect channel partners worth their weight are also worth the effort of provisioning them with the highest quality of resources and mobility they need to succeed.

The capabilities and ease of use a partner portal offers is the most frequently quoted “must have” for indirect channel partners. In an eye-opening new stat from global analyst firm Frost and Sullivan, a full 86 percent of today’s partners base their decisions on which vendor to work with on the partner portal.

If that surprises you, it shouldn’t. As a business, you also prefer doing business with vendors that make it easy to work with them – even if a particular vendor happens to not be the least expensive. Speed and ease of use have costs, and value is comprised of many components. Treat your indirect channel partners to the same benefits of doing business that you want from vendors you conduct business with. Call it the “Golden Rule” of business.

Your PRM portal is the door to your business, so don’t make your indirect channel partners jimmy open a window and climb through. There aren’t enough chochkies and overrides in the world to sustain that behavior.

Make Guests Feel at Home

Once inside, a world-class, purpose-designed PRM has to satisfy a growing number of channel partner needs, even a short list of which must address the following basic needs:

  • Partner sales enablement
  • Deal registration
  • POS solutions
  • Lead management and distribution
  • Channel marketing and management
  • Social recruitment
  • Channel incentives management
  • Learning management systems
  • Channel data management

Any DIY or re-purposed CRM would be overwhelmed with just one of these. Leave these basic needs wanting in the eyes of your channel partners at your own peril. It isn’t like they are without options or alternatives. They have needs and are motivated to satisfy them. More to the point, your competitors are in a race with you to meet those needs and reap the benefits.

PRM as Needs Be

Moving beyond human basic needs, Maslow describes psychological needs, including belongingness, esteem and, ultimately, self-actualization, as the ability of one to realize their full potential. Your channel partners, while not necessarily expressing it so, want peace of mind that comes with seeing results proportional to their efforts, in realizing their full potential.

Your choice in a PRM should be driven by which one has the proven capabilities to reduce friction points and provide the kind of comprehensive tool set that makes doing business with you not just sticky, but irresistible, to use a consumer space term.

We all have needs and are motivated in various ways to satisfy them. Make no mistake about it, a channel partner’s decision to partner with you satisfies a need, but it also is an investment decision, one that is never taken lightly and that occurs in a world of suppliers increasingly vying for attention. Satisfying their needs requires taking the uncertainty out of that decision by offering them a world-class PRM.

This article was originally published in the January/February edition of Channel Vision Magazine: http://www.channelvisionmag.com/cv_editions/Jan-Feb-17/#60/z

Channel Ready? Read Impartner’s Ultimate Field Guide to Starting a Channel to Find Out

The lure of starting a channel is an easy one to understand: indirect channels are an instant multiplier of a company’s “feet on the street” to drive dramatic revenue growth. This lure is stronger than ever with today’s new crop of fast-growing SaaS companies, who are struggling to find enterprise sales talent and at the same time keep up with the explosive growth trajectories most investment groups have come to expect.

As tempting as starting a channel is, however, the path can be a treacherous one and requires careful analysis to know if your business is ready, how to get started and best practices for success.

At Impartner, as companies evaluate our Partner Relationship Management (PRM) technologies, we talk to thousands of channel teams a year, many of whom are only just thinking about starting a channel.

To help evaluate the opportunity, we’ve partnered with leading channel strategist Theresa Caragol, president of TCC Consulting to create the Ultimate Field Guide to Starting a Channel. She’s been there and done that with top corporations from IBM to Extreme Networks and sits on the board of leading channel organizations and media outlets and her experience shines through with years of experience in bringing channels to life.

What this guide is not, is a light list of bullet points, but rather, is a meaty, comprehensive, in-depth guide to truly helping companies evaluate the channel opportunity for their business and get started if indeed the analysis shows the opportunity looks solid.

So, click here to download your complimentary copy, grab your favorite giant mug of something warm, and immerse yourself in this instructive guide on how to make sure your company is thinking of moving into the channel for the right reasons, you are taking the appropriate steps, and you’re deploying the right initiatives early on to ensure long-term sustainable success.