Creating a partner sales program is a great way to improve your growth while simultaneously enhancing your customer experience. This is especially the case for larger companies, since driving all of your growth by yourself can become very challenging. Jesper Larsen, Partner Director at Voyado, has built many successful partner programs in the SaaS world, and he’s shared his three most important lessons, which we’ll dive into now.
Lesson 1 – Create Your Own Partner Program
Most partner programs have many similarities, but creating a customized partner program that works well for your specific circumstances is crucial. When creating a partner program, think about how your customers would use it and what you can do to facilitate the process. It’s wise to cherry-pick the best parts of other already existing programs, but be mindful about not copy-pasting anything that might not suit you.
There are many different types of partners, and working with a partner that has a similar ICP makes the program much more effective. There are also many types of programs, so it’s valuable to look at all your options. For example, ask yourself how you create customer value, which heavily impacts which type of partner is suitable. In general, if you’re a self-service SaaS company, it’s wise to use tech partners, and consultants can be a better alternative if you need many integrations.
Having an operational partner, like a consultant, is a great way to improve your customer experience. The right partner for your business also depends on the stage you’re currently in. For companies in an earlier stage, starting broad spreads the word about you and your offering. Then at a later stage, you can focus on only using the highest converting partners that bring the maximum benefit to your customers. Here are some examples of questions you can ask yourself to find the best partners:
- How are your customers buying your services?
- What is your ICP? Are there any partners with the same?
- What value should the partnership bring to your customers?
- What skill sets does your ideal partner have?
Lesson 2 – Enablement
You are always responsible for the quality of the service that your partners deliver. That’s why you can never give your partners too much training. Sufficient training allows you to enable your employees, partners, and customers to thrive, but to do this successfully, it’s crucial to create an enablement program that contains both whom you need to train and what they need to learn.
There are a few key team members that are needed in order to support your partners. A partner manager is often the first hire in the partner team, and they should be responsible for doing the sales training, which is ideally done in person. The onboarding of a new partner is generally done by the internal service team, since they know your service the best and how optimal onboarding is executed. Here’s a short checklist of questions to answer when trying to boost your enablement:
- How can you onboard partners in the most efficient way possible?
- What can you do to maintain competence after onboarding?
- What are the critical competencies a partner needs to create business opportunities?
Lesson 3 – The Partner Manager
The partner managers are responsible for managing all of your partners, and one great way for them to expand their network and increase their value for the company is by attending gatherings where potential partners are. This enables your partner manager to build a more personal relationship with the potential partner, which goes a long way.
However, driving both of your businesses forward during the workweek is undoubtedly the most critical success factor for any partner manager. To do this well, the PM needs to deeply understand the business and industry. When conflicts arise between your and your partner’s company, which they will, the partner manager needs to act diplomatically and find common ground.
That’s why a good PM needs to be able to hold a meaningful conversation with c-level executives, sales, consultants, and developers. They also need to support the onboarding and development processes for the company’s partners by using set-out activities that are measurable by clear KPIs.
- Take inspiration from existing partner programs, but tailor it to be your own.
- You need to enable both your organization and your partners to achieve the best possible outcomes.
- A successful partner manager must have many qualities, including a deep business understanding and the ability to mediate potential conflicts.