If you have an indirect sales channel you are probably well-aware that while they provide countless benefits, they also come with their own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges that our customers face is onboarding—the process of bringing on new partners.
This is a process that many companies struggle with, yet it greatly affects your company’s ability to partner with dealers and distributors effectively and get them up to speed selling your products in a timely manner. Fortunately, the following tips are easy to implement and should provide immediate results for your onboarding process.
1. Make Sure Someone Owns This Process
One of the biggest mistakes companies can make with onboarding partners is not getting specific about who owns the process. Like all forms of managing and developing your partners, onboarding is something that requires strict adherence to process. Yet many companies make things too complicated: one person is to help the partner’s sales team, another will deal with their marketers, another for their IT group, etc. These individuals then have no single person to whom they're responsible.
Instead, put someone in charge and ensure that they are able to dedicate the time it will take to handle this process correctly. Then define the metrics for their success and manage them carefully.
2. Use Software
It’s becoming more and more common for companies to utilize software specifically for partner relationship management purposes. Perhaps one of the main reasons for this is that PRM software does such a great job of automating the process of onboarding new partners. You can use the software to enable workflows that are specific to your business requirements. Your partners will have clear line-of-sight into your process as well as access to the documents that they need at each step along the way. And you will have oversight into where they stand and what still needs to be completed. By automating the process you will make it much more repeatable. This makes the job of any Channel Manager much easier and shows your partners that you are dedicated to being easy to do business with.
3. Start Early by Training Effectively
Long before your partner is expected to begin delivering sales and servicing your products you should be developing the skills, knowledge and behaviors that they will need to be successful. Again, a good PRM software system, with an embedded LMS, can help ensure they are ready to hit the ground running. New partner ramp-up curricula, service certifications, product knowledge and much more can be effectively delivered virtually and on-demand via the Internet. It is never too early to begin the training process. Your success will depend greatly on the knowledge and understanding of your product and services by your new partners.
4. Never Stop Communicating...and Never Stop Training
Ongoing communication and training will be essential to a productive partnership long after onboarding is successful. Turnover and dealer volatility means you'll always have new people to train and develop. And existing staff will need continual improvement. The level of performance of your partners should continually improve from the day they sign the partnership agreements. Your markets don't stand still. Your products are always evolving. The competition is continually getting stronger. You need to ensure that your channel partners are continually upping their game. This means advanced certifications must be offered and assiduous communications must continually align the channel behind your evolving goals and objectives.
Even the best software platforms only deliver the greatest benefits through active participation so it is incumbent on your team to ensure that your channel partners continue to participate through your Portal or PRM Platform.
5. Learn from Past Mistakes
After onboarding a new partner, you should walk away with at least one or two lessons about how to do it better the next time. While perfection is always the goal, these lessons are a great way to improve on such an important part of your company’s operations. All parties involved on your side should sit down and brainstorm ways things could go better next time.
In summary, if you can automate the onboarding process you can enforce repeatability and effectively deliver solutions that will engage, manage and develop your business partners. This will lead to greater sales, lower service costs and improved customer satisfaction. For an industry leading PRM solution check out www.channelsagellc.com
Onboarding a partner will usually involve a surprise or two, but this doesn’t have to spell disaster. Utilize the above 5 tips and your onboarding process will lead to more profitable partnerships.