Partners bring scale, vertical expertise, customer management skills and renewal process to technology vendors - it goes without saying that the relationship between vendors and channel partners has never been in sharper focus. PX lies at the very heart of this relationship.
2021 is proving to be a year of rapid evolution for the channel. To be successful in your channel strategy, this year is all about empowering Partners through partner experience (PX). We took some time with our CEO Tom Perry, to reflect upon PX, and asked him to share his unique thoughts on the significance of successful channel Partner experience in 2021.
What is Channel PX?
Channel has evolved. We are familiar with the traditional top-down, Vendor-led channel partner programme models which have characterised the channel for many years. Too many Vendors continue to look at the channel as an opportunity to enact their own MO without fully understanding the impact it will have on the recipients.
What we are seeing now is that power has shifted, and it’s the Partners who are driving business. They are at the forefront and know exactly what customers need, so they have to be the ones at the centre of every channel strategy, rather than the afterthought.
Partners can help the vendor align better with audience acceptance and response by providing reliable, consistently excellent, and on-brand experiences to their end customers - especially in an era where they are starting to own more of the customer touchpoints.
The key to doing so is to build better relationships with your Partners, treating them as well as you would treat your customers or employees and enabling them to be an extension of your own team. This improvement to ensure an excellent partner experience will lead to an improvement in customer experience.
What are the Core Components of Successful PX?
Channel success primarily stems from scaling in your market to achieve growth. In a recent PwC study, 32% of consumers say they would walk away from a brand after one bad experience. A further 54% said that most companies' customer experience should be improved. In short, happy partners equals happy customers.
This makes it imperative for vendors to understand the partner lifecycle. Specialising in tech at Sherpa we have found that the heart of the channel is the people within it. Tech is fast-evolving to subscription-based models of software as a service, meaning vendors need to take the time to understand the partner experience and be aware of how they can improve it.
Being a specialist channel agency, working with vendors to better-navigate their channel partner experience has been something that we have been asked to help with a lot over the last 18 months. The needs of the channel partner programme has evolved a lot, the last 20 years have all been geared towards sales and revenue - but there is now so much more to PX.
It’s important to take a step back from your channel. Inspect the systems, processes and tech of your channel, and use this as an opportunity to get under the skin of your support package. Partake in extensive conversations with your Partners, and scrutinise your channel from all viewpoints and angles.
As I’ve said, the channel has evolved greatly over the past year and a half. Post-COVID tech has responded by becoming Saas on subscription pricing. After this rapid change, your Partners will have different requirements - be sure to record, measure and benchmark PX. Take time to uncover the flaws of your channel partner programme and focus the next 12 months on solving them.
What are the key PX metrics Vendors should measure?
The traditional sales-focused channel was simple to measure - revenue is a number with clear benchmarks and could be easily measured to review the performance of your channel. But how can you measure the core elements of today’s customer experience? Such as communication, support and strategy.
Measures such as partner coverage, revenue, partner satisfaction and the length of tenure are common metrics, and should provide a basic understanding of PX. However, I would advise that you go further, FTE’S, sales velocity and SaaS renewal rates are a whole host of new metrics that better indicate partner experience.
Once you have collected this data, set a benchmark for customer experience in your channel partner programme. Identify weak spots, and reach out to Partners who are showing signs of dissatisfaction. Not only will this give you a chance to repair the strained partner relationships, but the additional transparency also guides you to monopolise further on your successful partnerships.
What is the biggest challenge for Vendors wanting to improve PX?
As a specialist channel agency, we are frequently asked to help vendors evaluate channel partner experience. Undoubtedly, the hardest part of achieving successful PX is the execution stage. It’s a big deal to change part of your channel partner programme, but when I think of vendors who have successfully implemented partner experience initiatives, they are quite clearly monopolising the benefits of their new and improved channel.
To name a few, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce have successfully shifted the focus to place their partners at the heart of the models they’ve got. My advice here would be to be bold with changes, really focus in on the partners, and as a result the measurement support process will naturally increase.
Achieve channel success by empowering partners through PX
So there we have it; the concept of PX works on giving a partner what they want, improving their relationship with your ease of working and satisfaction. From there it can be built upwards. Conversely avoiding this concept will leave partners disillusioned and less likely to work hard for you vs another Vendor. Vendors who recognise and respond to Partners' needs will always perform better!