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

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