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Oh no, I just got word of yet another “big” change to another of the partner programs from a CRM vendor we work with. I’m not going to name the CRM vendor. But I can tell you this: you’ve heard of them. My company is a “partner” for a few CRM vendors.
And when it comes to partner programs we’ve seen it all. Over the past 25 years we’ve been introduced to “exciting” changes, “new” developments and “innovative” ideas. We’ve also been warned about our sales levels that don’t meet their arbitrarily defined minimums, buried in oftentimes useless certification requirements and subject to a revolving door of channel managers who arrive at their jobs all jacked up to change the world and then leave months later in a state of despair.
At this point, I’m ambivalent when it comes to “partner” programs. I don’t get worked up when changes are announced. I don’t get “excited” when new offers are introduced or when new channel managers come on board. It’s not exciting. It’s just another headache. So I just keep my head down and continue working. That’s because most CRM partner programs are terrible.
They’re terrible because the CRM vendor goes into it with the wrong expectation. Sorry, but your partners aren’t going to provide you with leads. We’re not the magic-silver-bullet-answer to your sales challenges. We can help in the sales process but let’s be real: we’re better utilized when we’re brought in to keep your customers happy and help you nurture new ones. You’re the big software vendor. You’ve got all the marketing money. You’ve got the sales resources. But we’re the guys with our feet on the ground that’s closest to the customer. It’s our job to service these people and we can do that job better than you because we’re closer to the project than you are.
So to that end stop paying us commissions on new sales. Instead, pay us commissions when our mutual customers renew their subscriptions. Make it easy for customers to align themselves with a partner and encourage each customer to have one. Also make it easy for a customer to change partners if they’re not happy with theirs. It’s up to us, the partners, to do what’s right for the customer and if we’re not doing the job then it’s on us if we lose them. But you, the software vendor, shouldn’t lose the customer because of our incompetence. Let a better, more competent partner do the work.
As a software vendor, you can do a few other things to improve your partner channel.
You can raise the bar on certifications. Make them more relevant, harder to achieve and more technical. This way you separate the men from the boys and you improve the quality of the people you’re relying on to service your end users. When you do this, make sure your customers know about these certifications so that they can choose who’s best qualified to service their project.
Stop with the reporting. Don’t waste money on systems that require us, as partners, to update you on leads and activities. Again, we’re not your salespeople. The only metric you should care about is our mutual customers’ satisfaction and renewals. Everything else is irrelevant.
Support us. I tell our clients that, if hired as their partner, we can best liaise with the software vendor on their behalf if any problems come up. For the most part that’s true. Your job as the vendor is to make it as easy as possible for me, the partner, to get answers for our customers. You want to prioritize our calls and emails because we’re not going to waste your time and know what we’re talking about. We also don’t want to talk to you but if we are it must mean it’s serious enough to warrant an investment in our time. You should be investing the same. Web and self-service help is fine. But have a quick way for me to get hold of a live person too. If I’m calling it’s probably a complicated question enough to warrant speaking to a support rep, not a chatbot.
Share your tools. Don’t make us buy licenses or restrict what we can use. We’re your partners, for God’s sake. Let us use your software like you do so we can test and demonstrate and figure things out on behalf of our clients, your customers.
Share your customers. It drives me nuts when I bump into a user of your software who’s located in my backyard and yet I’ve never heard of them. Why aren’t you sharing? If they have a partner already, I get it. But many don’t. C’mon! You’re a cloud based service and the value of your business is based entirely on your future revenue stream. What better way to ensure that revenue stream then making sure your customers are happy and well-supported by a local, qualified, certified, experienced partner? If you want to really reward me, then instead of giving me cold leads of perhaps-maybe-possibly new prospects, introduce us to existing customers where we can help them.
So if you’re a CRM vendor and you’re thinking of starting a partner channel – or changing your partner program – then please, with peace and love, take my advice. It comes from over two decades of suffering with terrible partner programs.
April 11, 2019 at 08:23AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs