Pulling Maximum Benefit From a Partner Ecosystem

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While working with different partners can help increase sales, companies need to make sure that they work with partners that add value to their own organization, agrees Stephen Moss, president of service at PCM, a value-added reseller of technology products.

Additionally, when negotiating deals, make sure partners are included, he adds. When his firm worked on deals to provide services at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, and at Wrigley Field in Chicago, it included partner providers of WiFi services, original equipment, software, and training. He added that there will often be different partners for different sales opportunities.

“Agree on service-level objectives and reporting requirements,” Moss adds.


Another critical issue for many companies is the change management necessary in moving from a model where everything is done in-house to using a partner ecosystem, says Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach, a sales engagement platform vendor.

Many sales organizations have their sales playbooks in a three-ring binder that was likely developed by someone no longer with the organization, Medina explains. While that sales playbook exists, more often than not, employees and partners no longer follow it.

“If I have more than 50 sellers, maybe only 25 percent follow the process. Some that don’t may still do well, but you can’t scale that. You need a standardized process to create opportunities to scale the organization,” he says.

But just because companies and their partners have defined sales processes and other essential sales ecosystem elements in place doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful in deploying them, Medina acknowledges. So Outreach uses trainers to help different partners maximize their effectiveness.

“Companies with integrated partner lead generation and coaching are 63 percent more likely to exceed their indirect channel revenue goals,” adds Jason Angelos, managing director and sales transformation global lead at Accenture Strategy. “It’s not surprising that the majority of organizations are planning significant investments in enhancing digital channels to improve ecosystem engagement over the next two years.”

Additionally, some firms already rely on digital channel management systems to maximize efficiencies. Salesforce.com offers partner management capabilities, and impartner, NetSuite, IBM, Zyme, PartnerPath, Relayware, Allbound, and other firms have partner management software that, according to Pace, helps companies manage partnerships much like CRM software helps them manage customers, providing visibility throughout the sales ecosystem.

But even carefully selected partners can underperform, so it’s important not only to set expectations but to monitor performance on an ongoing basis, Medina says. After that, companies can then optimize the sales ecosystem to focus on the best-performing partners. Additional training might help underperforming partners, but some will never make the grade and should be eliminated from the sales ecosystem.

Then it’s important to use technology to provide transparency throughout the ecosystem, recommends John Garvens, senior consultant and technical trainer at Simplus, a Salesforce.com consulting partner.

Garvens also recommends that companies pivot from partner management to “ecosystem orchestration.”

“Companies can regain control over customer experience by considering indirect partners as extensions of their own businesses and critical enablers of customer value. Intentionally teaming with a select network of partners and ensuring they are well supported can significantly improve customer experience,” he says.

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