2018’s Revenue Scale Pedal May Not Be What You Think It Is

The data is in: More than two-thirds (71%) of hiring managers are looking to hire more than five enterprise sales professionals over the next 12 months.

Good luck. In a new study, hiring managers of more than 200 companies doing business nationally and internationally, 90 percent of them are struggling to find enterprise sales candidates. The market, they say, is too competitive, with 57 percent saying it’s gotten harder in the past year and a half – and a full 75 percent say it’s holding back revenue growth.

That’s where indirect sales come into play – and why the golden age of the channel has arrived. In a business climate where qualified enterprise sales candidates are costly and in short supply, companies can’t put all their revenue eggs in the direct sales basket – especially in the face of this talent shortage. Why struggle to hire direct sales people in an extremely competitive market that’s stifling the ability to increase revenue, when the indirect sales channel provides an immediate avenue to growth.

What that means however, is that to continue to scale, companies that already have a channel need them to work harder than ever before to make up for the inability to grow their direct sales teams, and companies without a channel need to create one at the risk of being left behind in the market.

In either case, contemporary PRM solutions like Impartner’s play a critical role:

  1. For companies with an existing channel, if they’re still struggling to manage a partner program on spread sheets, using a dated, home grown portal with limited functionality, or using a myriad of point solutions which create a frustrating user experience for partners, they will underperform competitors who have an updated PRM solution. On average Impartner PRM customers see a 31 percent increase in revenue and a 23 percent decrease in administrative cost in the first year of use alone, by being able to automate administrative processes and optimize partner performance at every step of the partner journey.

  2. For companies without an indirect channel, they will fall behind competitors who do, because they lack the additional “feet on the street” they need to be able to make up for the lack of enterprise sales talent available in the market. A contemporary PRM solution helps companies ramp their partner programs 46 percent faster and their partners to revenue productivity 37 percent faster. Plus, today’s solutions erase dated concerns about a perceived lack of oversight and visibility, by making it possible to manage indirect channels with the same level of visibility and control as they have over direct sales.

Ready to stop competing for rare and expensive direct sales teams to scale your revenue? Take a demo of Impartner PRM and learn how help world leading corporations from Xerox to Rackspace to Fortinet to LogRhythym scale their partner programs, and accelerate their company’s revenue.

Bring Manufacturing Into the 21st Century With Partner Engagement

If you’re in the manufacturing industry your customers buying journey can easily become complex. The amount of time and consideration dedicated to these investments is critical to your organization and your channel partners. Partner Relationship Management helps improve the communication between companies and their channel partners. In the first-year of using Impartner PRM (Partner Relationship Management), companies have seen a rise in partners by 46 percent and a bump in revenue by 31 percent.

Your company relies heavily on the success of an indirect sales channel to market and sell. It’s time you thought about increasing your partner engagement and how it will help streamline your manufacturing operations.

  1. Automation will create an effective and efficient interaction between your company and channel partners. Partner Relationship Management software will increase productivity, loyalty and engagement, thus creating greater consistency and profitability. By automating your systems, you increase the value of your partner interactions, ultimately making it easier to do business with you. This also frees up your sales talent from mundane manual processes and allows them to get back to selling and building relationships.

  2. Amplification of your message to more people. Impartner’s PRM integrates marketing into your business strategy. Channel management software will allow your partners to market their unique value-added solutions and distribute complete and accurate content. In the meantime, we suggest including all your partners in your digital marketing campaigns. Targeting specific titles and industries will ensure you are getting the right message to the right person, and it is a great way to start managing your channel partners. They have reach that you don’t, taking advantage of this asset is a great way to generate more leads that close.

  3. Optimization of your channel strategies. The time is now to move your data from spreadsheets; which can be error prone and time consuming, to a cloud based CRM. Optimizing your systems will allow you to close business quicker and increase accuracy. If you are currently running your channel from spreadsheets and email, you can almost guarantee that you are leaving money on the table. Keeping an organized, trackable digital record is a great starting point and will help you move towards a full functioning PRM.

As we begin to see more and more manufacturing companies become clients, they soon realize the benefits of ditching the spreadsheets and emails for a full functioning channel partner/distribution channel eco system. For more information about PRM software solutions, check out The Ultimate Field Guide to Starting a Channel.

The New Partner Watering Hole

Can You Give Each Partner the Right Care and Feeding to Thrive?

In very recent history, the average vendor’s “partner watering hole” contained a limited blend of partners. Gold, silver and platinum partners pretty much made up the mix, and getting the right care and feeding to the right type of partner was simpler. However, today’s channel programs look much different. As SaaS solutions are growing five times faster than on-premise solutions, the average channel program contains a mix of partners – traditional partners selling hardware to IT teams, born in cloud partners selling only software to business unit buyers – and now referral partners who have a completely different business models and who only take referral fees. This change is all in additional to the standard business challenges of meeting needs for partners in different geographies, those in specialized markets such as finance and healthcare, etc. Each, need something different to thrive.

While it may seem that this diversity creates more opportunities to be successful with more companies, most companies know that’s not the reality. Segmenting partners and making sure they get the right care and feeding based on their particular business needs has simply been too complex to do without automation. As a result, most suppliers tend to focus only on the top 10 to 20 producers, and fail to nurture other types of partners and optimize their performance. The problem is a big one -- so much so it’s the topic in a major new SiriusDecisions Channel Partner Segmentation Matrix core strategy report.

Impartner Senior Director of Product Management Gary Sabin echoes this need in the market. “One of the most common issues prospects raise in our sales conversations is their inability to provide the right kind of care, of every kind of partner, beyond just the big guys,” Sabin said.

“Inevitably,” continues Sabin, “the performance of their channel suffers because they haven’t had the organizational bandwidth to truly service the broader range of partner types in their network – until now. With our Fall '17 release, we bring the full power of partner program segmentation and asset delivery. Our SegmentAI segmentation engine ensures each partner gets a customized partner experience that is laser focused on helping their business accelerate performance—regardless of partner type.”

If you’re ready to make sure that every partner gets the right care and feeding so you can truly optimize the performance of your entire partner eco system and not just the performance of the few, click here to take a demo.

How to Evaluate Channel Management Tools: 3 Common Downsides to Avoid

Organizations around the world are overwhelmed by the frustrations of building and growing their indirect channel. Countless hours have been wasted looking for a solution to bridge this gap. While the goal is to make your channel an easy program to integrate for your partners, the result is often a proliferation of disparate tools and processes that only complicate your partners journey. Choosing the right PRM (partner relationship management) software will simplify every aspect of your partners journey.

You want to grow and optimize your channel, you have decided it is time to implement a tool – but you aren’t sure where to start. We put together a few common pitfalls to avoid when making this important decision for your business.

  1. Spreadsheets are a thing of the past – well, not fully. At the start of growth, sometimes your only option is using spreadsheets. Be cautious not to let too much time pass, as this tool will largely inhibit your growth. Spreadsheets, by nature exist in a silo and depend on a human element for accurate data. It is simply not a scalable option.

  2. A Homegrown Solution is another temptation businesses consider in an effort to improve their channel performance. A business will create an in-house PRM solution, but what they are actually creating is an IT nightmare. Like any other business, PRM must be maintained. When a business grows, so should its solutions. The maintenance of in-house operations can take away resources from other profit-making areas, making it a burden for the entire business.

  3. Partial Solutions are also common when evaluating tools for your channel. Tools that can only do some of what you need. Much like using a butter knife when you needed a swiss army knife, these partial solutions will only serve as a temporary solution and are likely to cause more mayhem down the road. You may think you can get by with a partial solution, and try to fill in the gaps using your marketing automation platform or CRM, but much like spreadsheets, you will be left frustrated – and so will your partners.

Your business needs are clear and you don’t want to make any mistakes. Now that you know how to avoid some of the common pitfalls when choosing a channel management solution, how will you move forward? There have been a lot of advances in channel tech, PRM software has become an essential piece in your sales tech stack, rendering many of the old tools obsolete. Knowing your options and choosing wisely can make all the difference in the growth of your indirect sales channel. To learn more about PRM software solutions, check out The Secret Sauce for Accelerating Indirect Sales.

Not too Big to Change: Xerox Proves Size is Not a Barrier to Nimbleness

We see it all the time at tradeshows around the world - the sigh of longing from channel, sales and marketing managers at enormous companies when they see a demo of Impartner’s Partner Relationship Management software. In minutes, they realize that Impartner’s contemporary, turnkey PRM solution could be dropped into their network, and transform the experience they deliver to partners. They can see clearly, that from the first digital handshake with their Partner Portal, they’d be able to transform their partner’s journey throughout the partner lifecycle -- and accelerate their indirect revenue.

However, the sigh is generally usually followed by some sort of a tired shrug and a resigned look to the ceiling, given their experience to date in getting their organization to “pry up the floorboards” of their existing technology. Migrating to a more powerful technology may take more life force than maybe they or their organizations have.

Without question, making that kind of transition in a major corporation requires more horsepower, because it often means needing to get dozens of departments and possibly hundreds of people aligned.

At this month’s SiriusDecisoins Summit Europe, however, one $11 Billion corporation with nearly 14,000 partners proved it’s not only possible to make the transition, it’s possible for the end result to be a crown jewel in the company’s technology mix that is helping them transform from a direct sales organization into a world leading channel company. In a case study at the summit, Xerox Vice President of Business Transformation Aqua Porter outlined how Impartner’s contemporary PRM technology is playing a role in helping the company transform and expand its global channels program.

In her presentation, “Not Too Big to Change: How a Partner Relationship Management Solution is Helping Xerox Become a World-Class Channel Company,” Porter detailed how Xerox, despite its size, is in the process of transforming from an indirect sales organization with multiple regional channel programs and disparate technology solutions with the aid of a single, global PRM platform to better enable channel partners and empower channel managers globally.

Porter did not paint an easy picture of the transformation, but rather, outlined how the company outlined its case for change, a path forward, and lessons learned – sparing no bumps along the way but inspiring confidence that with the right vision and focus, anything is possible. Her closing quote, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end” drew laughs and the most attention.

As a vendor, it was heartening to see the room nodding in unison and taking non-stop photos. Clearly, Porter tapped into a nerve for the audience packed full of channel leaders from major corporations. They know they need to make major transformations to stay on the edge – or risk falling into the same trap of “bigness leading to a lack of nimbleness” that many others do -- and which explains why so many corporations have such a short tenure on the S&P 500. But what was most heartening, was feeling the room collectively absorb the journey Aqua and Xerox have been on, and gain confidence there is a path– and a technology – that can help them transform their channel business and maintain their leadership in the market.

We’ve helped everyone from Xerox to Fortinet to Splunk to National Instruments transform their channel programs with a contemporary PRM. Click here to get a one to one demo and let us show you how we can deliver the same results for your business, whether you’re a small company, or one with 10s of thousands of partners with a seemingly untamable global partner organization.

How to Woo Your IT Department

As the front end of the technology buying decision continues to shift from IT to the business units, you might think it means that IT should just “do your bidding” and get the darn thing (whatever it is) implemented already. Rarely does it happen that way. In most corporations, IT still plays a key role in helping vet and roll out new technologies, and having them be a friend and not a foe, makes getting the technologies you want for your marketing, sales and channel technology stack exponentially easier.

Fortunately, the secret to getting IT on board is not particular tricky, it simply requires you to suspend what you care about for a bit, and focus on what they are accountable for first and foremost – making sure your network is safe, fast and available. Time and time again in interactions with prospects in our sales funnel, we come across marketing, sales and channel professionals who failed to put themselves into the shoes of their IT colleagues, and ultimately, they fail to get support for their purchase.

So, step back, and make sure that you’re ready to address the 12 most important things your IT team is going want to know, first and foremost:

  • What it is: Your IT team has EVERY department at their doorstep asking for different technologies and no one person or department is going to be familiar with everything on the market. Make sure you can clearly articulate what the technology you’re asking about does, why it’s important to the business, and how it’s different than what you already have.

  • Is it Trusted: While some companies are willing to be the first one to try a new technology that’s unproven by others, that’s the exception, not the rule, and a much harder sell. Your IT team is going to want to know who out there has already given the technology a go, and relies on it to help them meet the business need it’s designed to serve.

  • Is it Secure: Network security is in the headlines for a reason – the consequences are dire if your company is breached. Your IT team will want to dig deep on the security protocols of the technology you want. They’ll want to understand what security tests they’ve passed, and understand things like tiers of sandboxing, layers of security, how it logs to ensure compliance, and on and on. Make sure your vendor is ready to provide every level of detail in this area, because concerns here can stop a purchase faster than anything else.

  • Is it Multi-Tenant: In 2017, the promise of SaaS technologies, is that everything can we updated in one fell swoop – product updates, security patches, everything. If the solution you’re looking at is a single tenant solution, it’s essentially a digital “Etsy Project” that requires every instance to be updated one at a time – and you’ll probably get a “No.” Few companies want to risk out-of-date products and security patches that could be weeks or months in the making.

  • Can it Scale: While your company may be small, very few corporations showcase anything other than a chart showing a hockey stick of growth in their boardrooms. Your IT team is going to be looking for solutions that can grow as your company grows, without having to be retooled to serve larger number of customers, add on additional functionality, etc.

  • Is it Ready for Disasters: Data centers go down occasionally - it happens. However, smart companies look for solutions that have backups in the most robust type of data centers (Tier 3 and Tier 4) in geographically dispersed locations. That way, a hurricane in one area or an earthquake in another doesn’t mean your company is down until the infrastructure is restored.

  • Is it Easy to Implement: If every new technology that came over your company’s digital transom was difficult and/or time consuming to implement, your IT team would grind to a halt. Your team is going to be looking for solutions that requires as little time as possible from IT, and once installed, are easy for the business unit to manage. They’ll want to understand from the vendor just exactly what they’ll need to do, before they feel they can commit to the resources to bring something else on board.

  • Does it Support SSO: Nothing is more frustrating for users than a plethora of solutions all requiring a different password. Your IT team will rightfully expect that the solutions you choose support Single Sign On and comply with the standard authentication protocols to avoid creating a bad experience that drives users away.

  • Does it Integrate Well: Many companies may offer an SSO integration – but an SSO does NOT mean that one solution integrates well with another at all levels beyond that first digital handshake Clugy connections that require tons of customizations to fully integrate solutions together are huge time hogs that rarely work well and result in siloed solutions and data. Your IT team will be looking for robust APIs and solutions that already have pre-built our easily configurable connections that let them plug one solution into another and move on. A prime example would be the integration of a PRM with a CRM solution.

  • Are Updates Regular and Well Communicated: Your IT team will be looking for a cadence of regular updates AND assurance they’ll have advance notice when updates are coming. No one wants to go through the trouble of installing a new solution, only to find it quickly out of date. They also can risk being surprised by updates that require emergency configurations to resynch them with the rest of the network -- or they won’t work at all until someone can figure out what’s wrong and has the time to fix it.

  • Does It Protect Data Integrity: If the data’s wrong, the system’s useless. Your IT team will be looking for how the solution synchs data to avoid duplicate records or if it has trouble synching data across multiple time zones. They’ll also expect the solution to have robust access policies to make sure only the right team members have access to data, and that any changes are made are tracked and logged, just in case it’s necessary to “roll back” to a better state if something catastrophic happens.

  • Would it Be Cost Prohibitive to Cancel the Contract: Companies occasionally chose a solution and decide, for whatever reason, to change their mind. IT teams will want to know that it won’t be cost prohibitive to be able to finish a contract, and pay a one-time admin fee and move on. Fair enough.

Without question, that’s a lot to think about. However, by taking the time with your vendor of choice to have a fundamental understanding of these 12 key technical needs BEFORE you talk to your IT team, it will go a long way in establishing your credibility and helping you win their support to make the technology purchase you believe will best support your function’s business goals.

If you’re in the process of evaluating a PRM, click here to learn more about why your network will love our Impartner SaaS PRM solution.

Is Your Partner Journey Ready for 2020?

Business telescopes everywhere are trained on the fast-approaching horizon of the year 2020. And while prognosticators are still hard at work with a flurry of predictions on what’s to be, one market dynamic is already solidly in place:

     By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator.*

When you sell through the channel, the majority of your customers – your partners – start their journey in the same spot – at the front door of your partner portal. From the first digital handshake that general starts with recruiting, moves onto onboarding, then training and sales enablement, then into leads, and deal registration, and marketing, and performance analytics – ultimately through the entire partner lifecycle – it’s never been more critical to optimize your partner journey at every step of the way.

Leading analyst firm SiriusDecisions agrees. “As customer experience (CX) continues its stronghold on the CEO agenda, the same holds true for partner experience (PX) for companies selling through the channel,” said Maria Chien, service director of Channel Marketing Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Chien outlined five key reasons channel chiefs consider improving their partner’s journey to be one of their top priorities:

  • The channel is an engine of growth
  • Increasing competition for partner mindshare
  • Partners are more selective about investing in vendors, with PX as a primary decision driver
  • PX directly impacts CX
  • Evidence shows that PX directly impacts partner engagement, performance and loyalty

Fortunately, today’s PRM technologies are 100 percent focused on helping vendors optimize the partner journey at every step of the journey. Is it any wonder, that in a blind survey, Impartner PRM customers report a 31 percent increase in revenue, a 23 percent decrease in administrative costs, a 53 percent increase in engagement and a 37 percent decrease in the time it takes to ramp partners to revenue productivity in the first year alone?

Want to learn more? Check out our new interactive infographic on how Impartner PRM can help you optimize your partners’ experience. The infographic can be found here.

*The Future of B-2-B Customer Experience Study, Walker Information