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For Channel Partners, Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

June 21, 2013 | By Patrick Coulbourne

Channel suppliers are now assessing partners more rigorously and more often. SiriusDecisions has developed the SiriusDecisions Partner Assessment Model to help suppliers evaluate partners.

At first glance, a channel partner often seems to be a perfect match for a supplier’s channel program, but time and experience with the partner reveals its issues (e.g. limited resources and bandwidth to resell new products). Suppliers are looking beyond the initial impression to assess partners more rigorously and more often. SiriusDecisions has developed the SiriusDecisions Partner Assessment Model to help suppliers evaluate partners in the following ways:

  • Assess new partner candidates. To successfully navigate the partner recruitment waterfall, suppliers must start with a qualified pool of potential partners. Yet in most cases, partner candidate qualification is based on unsubstantiated claims or market reputation. Our assessment model matches candidate capabilities to specific product offerings, capacity to geographic coverage and sales growth objectives, and compatibility to partner market-share and wallet-share requirements. The assessment response forms the basis for the partner “qualified” and “committed” phases later in the recruitment waterfall, as well as the design for a customized, role-based partner onboarding plan in the “engaged” phase. Equally important, the assessment exposes a supplier’s internal requirements (people, processes and programs) to help the new relationship succeed quickly.
  • Re-engage existing partners. As b-to-b companies transform, so must their channel programs and partner ecosystems. For example, changes in a company’s products or services may produce a new paradigm (e.g. a cloud offering). Without revisiting the “qualified” and “committed” phases of the recruitment waterfall, it is impossible to determine if a channel program’s current top producers are able to adopt and excel with the new offering, or if currently underproducing partners are better aligned to achieve success. Our partner assessment model can be used to assess each partner’s capabilities for selling the supplier’s current or planned offerings.
  • Evaluate and develop the ecosystem. The partner assessment model can also be used to analyze partner segments, answering questions such as: Which tactics can channel leaders employ to improve the lower-performing 80 percent of partners? At the other end of the spectrum, what strategies can be engaged with the top 20 percent to increase mind share and squeeze out more productivity? For the broad group, use the partner assessment to stratify the population, focusing on the most promising relationships, and develop custom enablement plans with prescriptive tasks that eliminate capability or capacity gaps identified from partner responses. For top performers, use the assessment to further align internal resources to build additional capability or capacity, and improve compatibility by removing obstacles and increasing ease of business.
  • Partner scoring and best practices. There’s no shortage of work today in b-to-b channels, but busy channel personnel don’t equate to productive channel teams. Establishing a common framework to periodically assess partners helps channel resources map out prescriptive enablement activities and track effectiveness, measure partner capability and commitment levels over time, and compare the ROI across partner type and contribution percentage. To build repeatability, use assessments to develop best-in-type partner models and channel best practices for internal teams.

Patrick Coulbourne

Patrick Coulbourne is a Research Director for Channel Management Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Patrick brings 17 years of real-world channel sales and marketing experience building profitable channel partnerships and executing revenue-generating channel programs in the high technology and software industries.