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Pulling Maximum Benefit From a Partner Ecosystem
Global companies don't become as successful as they are by going it alone
For the rest of the December 2017 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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A partner ecosystem is essential to building sales today. Partners have expertise that the original manufacturers often lack, and so they are a great resource for filling in the necessary gaps to expand sales.

“It’s not feasible in today’s world to take a direct sales approach in every market. At some point, the infrastructure to support a direct sales model—the management, the employee infrastructure, etc.—is not justifiable,” says Brad Pace, vice president of customer success at impartner, a vendor of partner relationship software. “An indirect model enables a company to capitalize and take advantage of those valuable markets that don’t yet support the direct sales model.

“A partner ecosystem gives you the market leverage you need to expand your market globally in a way you can’t with a direct market,” Pace adds. “There is no way a company like Microsoft, for example, could create the foundation for global expansion without seeding markets with partners before you go and build a direct sales model.”

Additionally, Pace says, partner ecosystems give manufacturers a predictable, controllable expense for those markets and reduce surprises, while enabling companies to maximize sales investments. This applies equally whether entering a new geography or offering a new product or service; companies can often expand better and faster through partners.

If in the future the company determines that there is enough demand in the expanded market, it can add its own employees, salespeople, and other infrastructure it directly controls.

“When you do invest in your direct model, you’re not taking risks because you know where and when you’re ready to enter those markets with a full infrastructure,” Pace says.

DIFFICULTIES EXIST

But many of today’s partner ecosystems, at least in the business-to-business space, are falling short, according to a recent report from Accenture Strategy.

In its “B2B Customer Experience 2017” report, the consulting firm said that complex customer buying journeys and sprawling partner networks are preventing B2B companies from delivering the personalized experiences that drive loyalty and growth.

Based on a survey of 1,350 sales and customer service executives from B2B organizations around the world, the report found the following:

• While 97 percent of B2B sales and customer service execs say that channel partners are critical to their businesses, just 21 percent have total control over their organizations’ sales networks and overall customer experiences.

• More than eight in 10 (84 percent) do not have visibility into sales partner opportunity pipelines.

• More than seven in 10 (71 percent) say customers increasingly want business-to-consumer-like experiences—faster response times and 24/7 availability—but nearly half (49 percent) say they’re failing to deliver the personalized experiences their customers crave.

• Companies with integrated partner lead generation and coaching are 63 percent more likely to exceed their indirect channel revenue goals.

Selecting the right partners, establishing and maintaining strong lines of communications across the sales ecosystem, setting reasonable expectations, and employing technology to solve the challenges are all keys to success, according to experts.

In nearly all areas, there are several partners that are capable of handling regional, vertical, or horizontal integration; consulting; technical expertise; providing ancillary products or technologies (i.e., wireless connectivity and system integration); supplying, supporting, and connecting back-office systems, such as ordering, accounting, payments, and fulfillment; follow-up; and everything else necessary for a successful sales ecosystem.

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