Accelerate Managed Partners
In the Accelerate stage of partner development, we want to convert partner development efforts into market awareness and sales (resulting in pull-through of your product). This entails connecting partners to internal/external channels and directly supporting the most impactful partner solutions.
Accelerating partner sales goes beyond the market awareness tactics in the Activate stage, which were designed toward launch readiness and generating PR buzz. 3 ways to approach partner acceleration are Joint Selling, Partner-Led, and Partner-to-Partner.
Joint selling is reserved for the toughest industry segments. An example is an industry where you have very little penetration, but by investing in an incumbent, you can establish references that will open the door to other customers. Investment in this context refers to joint development funds (to offset their product development risk) and/or joint marketing funds (e.g., matching dollars for approved marketing campaigns and tele-marketing efforts). 15:1 is a reasonable benchmark for joint marketing ROI ($1 of your investment should yield $15 of measurable product pull-through). Actual joint selling of ISV products (with combined sales teams) is a rare case but does happen as in the case of joint ventures.
Aside: Establish a Partner Council to periodically review and refine the managed partner list. This council should include executive representation from the major lines of business as well as the go to market segments (if you engage customers via different internal organizations). Its purpose is to review industry alignment, revenue impact, and early adoption willingness in order to define the partners that can best be served with the limited managed partner resources. Identify top partners per industry/sector so your solution selling organization can position compatible solutions more easily. A subset of your managed partner list should include Recruit partners – those that have not traditionally engaged your product but you view as strategic to access a particular segment. Recruit partners should be developed over a couple years (and ideally commit to an internal share shift) before they mature enough to be considered for go-to-market status.
A more common scenario is Partner-Led selling. Encourage partners to confer with you (if needed) after they reach deal maturity (active relationship with known sponsor, budget, and timeframe). Business Development Managers can help make this partner-to-account manager connection. In more complex organizations you may wish to implement a “deal desk” which matches field solution requests to preferred partners. Standardized quick reference material and scenario-oriented Q&A will help partners with field engagement.
Establish Partner to Partner networks that enable your partners to form their own alliances. Connections can be facilitated through social networking tools, in-person networking events, online directories, and program matching. As you build your partner network, start with an industry taxonomy. That big picture view will aid in filling your solution gaps and inform where you should influence partner-to-partner connections. To date, I’ve been focusing on other software companies as partners but will cover other partner types (custom application developers, hosters, design agencies, etc. in the future).
Next time, I’ll start discussing the 4 stages of development from a breadth ecosystem perspective. If you’d like to question or comment on my Managed Partner point of view, drop a comment in the box.