Onboarding – no time to lose
Many articles written about onboarding new channel partners use the imagery of welcoming them on board a ship. Though there is certainly some visual symmetry in that, effective onboarding is much more.
Onboarding, the process of bringing on new partners, really means bringing them along. They didn’t sign up for a cruise. They are coming on board to work. So what is a vendor to do? For a start, come up with a plan and follow through. Onboarding isn’t complex once you break it down into parts. Onboarding is just another business process and should be treated as such.
But “let the buyer beware”: If you start onboarding new partners only once they have started making sales, you’ve started too late. The first six months are critical.
Make your partners feel at home – give them a specific contact person and a portal. It may seem innocuous, but the simple things matter. Registration and logging in should be as simple as possible and, once in, partners should be greeted with interesting and motivating material. If it is their first time to log in, there shouldn’t be any ambiguity in what their next steps are.
By the way, good visuals are incredibly important in getting people to actually read content. Once a new channel partner has visited the portal, keep an eye on their activity.
During those critical first months, you want them to become accustomed to visiting your website. If they don’t, start targeting them with automated, time-triggered mail, push messaging or give them a call. Engage and provide immediate support with live chat. And if you really want to be on the cutting edge of partner engagement, gamify your portal.
Encourage open, authentic and, most importantly, ongoing communication. That means both talking and listening. Just because you are talking, doesn’t mean you are actually communicating. Convey the value and benefits of your company and its products, the experience you have gained in marketing them and what expectations you have of your new channel partners. But that is just the beginning.
As the relationship progresses, your channel partners can provide valuable insights from the field. Be authentic. You can learn as much from mistakes as you can from successes. Sit down with all parties involved and openly discuss what is going well, what not and then recalibrate your strategy accordingly.
If you start training new channel partners after they begin making sales, you’ve started way too late. The first six months are critical to keeping the momentum going. New partners need to learn everything there is to know about your products and how to sell them. It is in both your interest that partners get the best training possible. But that’s just a start because if you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backwards.
Partner performance should continue to improve from the day they come on board. And, as businesses evolve, both yours and your partners, you will need to continue upping the game. Here business information software can be used to help identify upselling and cross-selling possibilities.
For instance, you may have a partner who has only been selling entry level products, but you see an opportunity for him to sell enterprise. This requires nurturing.
This is where partner relationship management (PRM) software and reporting comes in. Effective partner relationship management (PRM) software can significantly speed up and improve onboarding by automating processes, checking the current status and tracking results.
For instance, reporting lets you see – in real time – where partners are in their training and certification, and when they are ready to complete their business and marketing activity planning. Curricula, service certifications and product knowledge can be effectively delivered virtually and on-demand via the Internet.
This not only reduces cost and complexitiy, but also significantly enhances the partner’s experience with your company. And, if you are able to automate onboarding, you can replicate and effectively deliver solutions to welcome, communicate and train your future channel partners.
Onboarding partners is always a work in progress. However, a good tactical plan, the right PRM software and a willingness to learn from past mistakes are all good facilitators in welcoming your new partners on board. Get started right away.
Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.