Business Woman Partner Network

Do I have a good channel partner network?

After putting in lots of effort to build a partner network, you’ll want to be able to measure your success. The easiest metric, the one your CEO will love – revenue, won’t always be the most applicable though. Some companies try and peel this back a little and talk about the volume of new opportunities opened. Both are undeniably important and should always be a focus, but when you’re first establishing your network and leads aren’t forthcoming – how do you know if your channel is growing the right way? Other metrics such as geographic coverage, knowledge, engagement & loyalty can be excellent indicators.

 I like to consider several non-financial measures when reviewing a channel network:
      1. Size &  coverage: Some partners are a good strategic fit because of their geographic coverage. They may not sell much of your product, but they give you the capability to advertise coverage in an area that you would otherwise struggle to service. You might also want to interpret coverage as access to particular market segments. For instance a partner that specialises in hospital & clinics, providing access to a market that most other partners can not easily access.Individual partners aside, an important metric to consider is your overall geographic/market coverage. You could measure this by a metric as simple as countries served (by an active dealer), or be more detailed and consider cities/regions or specific markets within countries.
      2. Knowledge & capability: Most people are happy proposing systems that they understand, rather than ones they don’t. So the more people that are trained to use your product, the more likely it is that your product is going to be recommended & sold. Keep track of the volume of staff that are trained & certified on your solution. The more people your partner is sending for training, the more likely they’re proposing it.The total number of trained/certified engineers or sales people, per partner, country and overall are good metrics to track by. This will give you an indication of how involved & how important your partners feel it is to keep their teams abreast of your technology.
      3. Engagement &  motivation: This is slightly harder to gauge. It’s possible to use a simple metric such as sales or lead volume, but it’s easy for lead volumes or revenue to be skewed by advertising or one or two big orders. As metrics go, they dont’ really reflect how motivated a partner is to sell your product. Instead I prefer to look for more qualitative factors, how often & how many team members join your webinars, inquire about new products, or actively try to source other materials. If your partners launch their own in-market campaigns, the volume/frequency of their campaigns can be a great metric.
      4. Loyalty: Are they pitching any other competitive products? How many similar products do they promote? Do they have any dedicated sales people? Have they converted any competitive opportunities to yours? Loyalty is particularly hard to  measure and is very much a qualitative metric. All other factors aside, loyal partners are worth their weight in gold. There’s nothing more difficult than having to change a partner (especially when a client is already engaged with your product) and having to restart the education & relationship building process. Even if a partner sells good volumes but flits over to the competition for a few extra percentage points, they’ll likely represent more of a risk to your business than the potential revenue bonus is worth.

There are a few negative indicators you should track too. This is where I like to consider:

  1. Revenue & leads: If you’re sending business to a partner but not getting anything back in return, I’d start looking closely at the lead pipeline, are there a good volume of leads coming in? Is the lead volume trending upwards? Even if lead conversion is poor, lead volume trends are a good indicator of the sales effort your partner is putting in.
  2. Communication: How quickly do they respond to you? There are always other priorities, but if the response time to your emails & messages is poor, then you might need to consider trying to re-energize the partnership. Response times and pro-active communication are good indicators of whether your partners are really interested in working with you. Poor response times are also a worrying indication of how your partner is going to be treating any clients that you might send over.