Table of Contents
What is Partner Enablement?
Partner enablement is the process of equipping a company’s channel sales partners with the training, resources, and tools they need to sell its products successfully. It includes creating helpful content (e.g., product overviews, sales scenarios), providing access to technical support, and equipping partners with the necessary sales collateral.
Most companies have a channel partner program of some kind, be it a value-added reseller, system integrator, distributor, original equipment manufacturer (OEM), or managed service provider (MSP). In the sense that these organizations are extensions of the internal sales team, partner enablement is a form of sales enablement.
Although channel partners have some degree of autonomy, they’re still selling the parent company’s products or services. As such, they’re still a part of its vision and overall strategy.
To ensure sales execution is both advantageous to the channel partner and consistent with the parent company’s values, the parent company must have a channel partner enablement program.
- Channel partner enablement strategy
- Partner sales enablement
The Challenges of Partner Management
Although channel partners are valuable revenue drivers for a company, they’re also separate businesses altogether. Things can get out of hand fairly quickly without the right partner relationship management (PRM) strategy.
Therein lies the challenge — trust is on the line, and misalignment and lack of communication are all too common.
Channel conflict can be difficult to resolve.
Channel conflict happens when two or more partners compete for the same customers.
This issue usually stems from the lack of a well-defined system to assign and track accounts. When everyone assumes they have a free pass to engage any customer, the result is, unsurprisingly, chaos and conflict.
Picture this scenario: two partners (or multiple sales reps within a single partner) believe they’re the exclusive provider for a specific customer account. Customers become frustrated and confused when they receive sales outreach for the same product from two different partners. For the partners, this leads to lost revenue and endless finger-pointing.
If not managed properly, a channel conflict can break down communication and trust among partners, cause customer irritation and confusion, and lead to lost sales opportunities (and revenue).
Partner portals are often cluttered.
As vendors introduce new programs or products, they often create additional portals or add content to existing ones.
The intent is good — to provide partners with all necessary resources. But the end result? A labyrinth of information that partners dread to navigate.
Partner portal and content clutter can lead to missed opportunities, confusion, and decreased partner productivity, not to mention a frustrating user experience. In many cases, it also results in complete misrepresentations of the current product.
Skills vary across channel partners.
No two channel partners are exactly the same. Depending on their company infrastructure, sales methodology, and individual skill levels, each partner will have its own strengths.
While this provides a rich array of expertise, it also makes it challenging for channel managers to keep track of who excels at what. It’s akin to having an orchestra with brilliant musicians, but no knowledge of who plays which instrument.
Without an accurate understanding of each partner’s current abilities, matching customer needs with the right partner becomes a game of chance rather than strategic placement.
Communication is relatively infrequent.
In the hustle and bustle of day-to-day business, channel managers often fall into the trap of “reactive communication,” reaching out to partners only when an issue arises. This means that the majority of exchanges occur under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Autonomy is a good thing, especially for businesses that drive substantial revenue from their partners. But without the right partner enablement resources and limited communication, a partner could be making mistakes for weeks or months before anyone notices.
The common excuse for infrequent communication is the lack of time. But in reality, it’s about prioritization. Regular communication with partners not only helps resolve potential issues before they escalate but also builds a foundation of trust and mutual understanding.
It’s difficult to understand channel performance and ROI.
With no real-time visibility into product sales data or the impact of partner programs, managers are left in the dark, making decisions based on guesswork rather than hard data.
When they finally gather data, it’s often outdated, siloed, and devoid of the context required for strategic decision-making.
If the system tracking product sales doesn’t integrate with partner portals and the rest of the tech stack, it’s nearly impossible to optimize the experience for partners — and as a result, they struggle to close deals.
The Importance of Successful Partner Relationships
Successful partner relationships anchor the business, provide nourishment, and enable growth. And much like roots, these relationships require care, attention, and a conducive environment to thrive.
Here are some reasons why successful partner relationships are crucial:
Extended Reach and Market Penetration
Partners are the extended arms of your sales team, reaching corners of the market that might be otherwise inaccessible due to geographical, cultural, or logistical constraints.
A strong partnership allows the company to expand its reach and market penetration exponentially while hedging against risk.
Shared Expertise and Resources
Every partner brings to the table unique expertise and resources. A fruitful partnership allows each business unit to pool its abilities.
Done right, this leads to greater market penetration, more targeted sales strategies, and a better customer experience.
Partnering reduces the need for substantial investments in infrastructure, personnel, and market research, as partners often bring these assets with them.
It also eliminates the need to create upsells and cross-sells for all potential customers. Instead, partners can provide tailored solutions to their customer segments and enhance sales velocity.
Innovation & Adaptation
Partners, especially those from diverse backgrounds and markets, catalyze innovation by bringing fresh perspectives, ideas, and solutions.
When companies cast a wider net by working closely with partners, they can quickly assess changes in the market and respond with agility.
Customer Satisfaction & Retention
Partners often have close relationships with their local customers and a deep understanding of their needs.
A successful partnership harnesses this insight to deliver superior customer experiences, increasing satisfaction and retention.
Benefits of an Effective Partner Enablement Strategy
A well-crafted channel partner enablement strategy allows businesses to foster trust, transparency, and accountability between partners.
This, in turn, facilitates effective partner program management while ensuring satisfied customers and revenue growth.
The most essential benefits of partner enablement include:
Attract, Train, and Support New Partners
Some partner enablement resources are generally available online, meaning prospective partners can see them and qualify (or disqualify) themselves before even reaching out. Articles, PDFs, video tutorials, and webinars are just a few examples of resources that can garner the interest of potential partners.
A well-structured training component within your enablement strategy expedites partner onboarding. With access to comprehensive training resources, new partners can quickly grasp your products, market positioning, and sales techniques.
For current partners, ongoing support — be it technical, sales, marketing, or operational —empowers them to operate at their best, minimizes hurdles, speeds up problem resolution, and ultimately drives sales performance.
Develop Stronger Relationships with Channel Partners
At its core, a partner enablement strategy is about giving channel partners the resources they need to sell and deliver a positive customer experience.
In doing so, it sends a powerful message: “We value and believe in you.”
This validation is the bedrock of strong, enduring partner relationships. It signals the parent company’s investment in the partnership and willingness to share the keys to success.
More importantly, an effective approach to partner enablement fosters transparency and open dialogue — two of the most difficult accomplishments in partner relationship management.
Through regular communication, feedback sharing, and joint problem-solving, this two-way interaction helps to align expectations, resolve conflicts, and meet mutual goals.
Ensure a Consistent Partner Sales Process
Implementing a consistent partner sales process via enablement provides several distinct advantages.
- Clear expectations. Partners understand their roles, the steps they need to follow, and the standards they’re expected to meet. There’s no ambiguity about what’s required, which means partners can focus on executing the sales process rather than trying to figure it out.
- Consistent message to customers. Partner enablement reinforces brand identity and develops a strong, trustworthy market reputation.
- Tools and resources to support consistency. Sales training, access to CRM systems, product information, marketing collateral, and ongoing support. These tools ensure that all partners can execute the sales process consistently, regardless of location or size.
- Performance analysis. If all partners follow the same process, it’s easier to identify patterns, track performance, and benchmark success. This invaluable data can guide decision-making, inform strategy adjustments, and highlight opportunities for improvement or innovation.
Through relevant content, continuous support, and iteration, partner enablement helps businesses standardize the process from start to finish, which makes it easier to onboard future partners.
Improve Partner Performance
Partners that don’t know how to sell won’t. Partner enablement tools like sales playbooks, product training pieces, and account-specific support (for enterprise accounts) are essential for helping partners identify prospects, create sales qualified leads, and move them through the pipeline.
Similarly, a broad range of marketing materials (web content, case studies, brochures) help partners spread the word about your products and services to their customer base.
Increase Customer Satisfaction
Customers benefit every step of the way from partner enablement.
- Frictionless sales processes
- Shorter lead times
- Knowledgeable partners
- Continuous support
- A consistent experience
Sales cycle length is one of the most common reasons for customer dissatisfaction (or loss of a deal). Another is the seller’s inability to pair customers with the right products and share the right knowledge with them.
With partner enablement content, moving buyers through the pipeline is faster and smoother. Plus, buyers receive relevant content that helps them make informed decisions.
Partner Enablement Process
The partner enablement framework varies from company to company. Since every product is different (as is its revenue strategy), partner enablement isn’t an exact science.
Still, there are four main steps every organization takes to ensure the success of its partner network:
In the first phase of partner enablement, the business assesses prospective partners and selects those that match its criteria.
The onboarding process involves providing these new partners with all the necessary tools and resources to familiarize themselves with the company’s product portfolio and sales methods.
Partner onboarding activities include:
- Giving access to company resources
- Partner portal setup
- Creating access accounts for company CRM
- Account management training
- Auditing procedures and compliance requirements
The most important part of channel partner onboarding is cohesion — an integrated CRM, project management tool, and partner portal are essential to ensure all team members are up-to-speed and on the same page.
Plus, system integration makes tracking onboarding progress and sharing information effortless.
Goal setting involves determining the objectives and metrics for partner performance. These are similar to the company’s internal sales metrics, which include:
- Number of deals closed
- Average deal size
- Average revenue per user (ARPU)
- Conversion rate
- Customer satisfaction scores
It also involves looking at company health as a whole and comparing it to other channel partners. Looking at a company’s customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (CLV), retention rate, and revenue growth rate can show how the partnership performs from a profitability standpoint.
For all sales metrics, the parent company will also have to examine them by market segment to fully understand which verticals are worth selling into. For instance, how the company’s sales look for small companies and enterprise contracts.
Setting reasonable and attainable goals based on these metrics requires some historical data. Existing channel partners, internal sales performance, and customer feedback are essential resources to inform these decisions.
Training on Processes and Technology
Channel partner enablement is more than just teaching partners about the company’s products and services. It also involves training them on:
- Sales process and pipeline management
- Back-office operations
- CRM and project management tools
- Marketing best practices
- Reporting procedures
The goal of this learning period is to familiarize partners with the company’s technology stack and integrate the two organizations’ processes.
Education on Sales Techniques
The last step of the partner enablement process is teaching channel partners how to make sales. This includes providing comprehensive training on:
- Sales communication
- Lead generation strategies
- Negotiation tactics
- Closing techniques
- Marketing for lead conversion
This is where partner enablement content is at its most important. Providing partners with the right content — such as product guides, sales scripts, case studies, and other educational material — that they can refer to whenever they need dramatically reduces ramp time.
Communication is key throughout the partner enablement process. Seemingly small changes in pricing, features, or additional products could significantly throw off the partner’s performance if they aren’t informed well in advance.
The easiest way to be proactive is to use the right technology every step of the way. This includes:
- Partner relationship management (PRM) systems
- Collaboration tools (e.g., Slack)
- Project management and task-tracking tools
- Learning management systems (LMS)
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Document collaboration and management
That way, partner communication can be fully integrated and missed updates won’t be an issue. It also makes it easier to communicate on the platforms partners are already using, instead of relying on an email thread.
People Also Ask
What is the goal of sales enablement?
Sales enablement aims to equip sales teams with the resources and knowledge they need to increase their performance, close more deals, and boost revenue. The goal is to improve sales efficiency by providing the right content at the right time.
What are the key pillars of sales enablement?
The key pillars of sales enablement are training and coaching, sales process optimization, sales collateral, marketing/sales team alignment, and the right tech stack. If any one of these pillars is missing, sales enablement won’t be as effective or efficient.
What are the types of channel partners?
Types of channel partners include resellers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), distributors, licensed retailers, managed service providers (MSPs), system integrators, consultants, and independent software vendors.