When you look at the benefits of selling through channel partners, it’s no wonder that almost 2/3 of companies embrace an indirect sales model, according to CSO Insights. Partners can provide access to a broader customer base, fast-track business expansion and reduce overhead while vendors can focus on developing a dynamite product.
It sounds like a no-brainer, right?
Of course, the reality of working with channel partners is a bit trickier. Just because a company agrees to be your partner doesn’t mean their sales reps are ready to champion your solutions. They’re free to ignore your company and push a competitor. They also may go “off script” while pitching your solutions to a buyer.
As a B2B sales organization, you need a way to keep channel sales reps engaged with your messaging and driving revenue for your brand, instead of a rival company.
In other words, you need to invest in partner enablement – and technology that supports it.
What is Partner Enablement?
Understanding partner enablement starts with understanding the principles of sales enablement. Although it’s loosely-defined, we’re partial to CSO Insights’ description of sales enablement as a strategic function dedicated to improving sales productivity and results “by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and front-line sales managers along the entire customer’s buying journey, powered by technology.”
Partner enablement (also known as “channel sales enablement”) is the same concept applied specifically to indirect sellers.
Nowadays, many partners expect vendors to share learning resources like content and training so they can more easily become “experts.” But companies that fail to provide enough support in this critical area risk opening doors for their competition, according to Brainshark’s Chief Readiness Officer, Jim Ninivaggi.
“You can’t look at enablement as a ‘one and done’ event,” Ninivaggi says. “With channel sales enablement, you need to be there continually. Yes, you want to be there in the beginning to onboard them, and help them get started, but then you need to be constantly top of mind, so you’re providing enablement that your competitors aren’t.”
When done effectively, partner enablement has clear benefits. According to Aberdeen Group, companies that effectively enable their channel partners achieve 28% shorter sales cycles, 12% higher lead conversion rates and 10% better quota attainment overall.
The Challenges of Partner Enablement
As Ninivaggi points out, an effective partner enablement strategy continually delivers the right knowledge and tools to your entire channel ecosystem, instead of limiting support to the initial onboarding process. But making your partner support consistently effective is much easier said than done.
The main challenge of partner enablement is an obvious one: channel partners work with you, not for you, meaning you’ll never have complete control of how they sell. That tricky dynamic can also skew a vendor’s view of the partnership, according to Roderick Jefferson, CEO of sales enablement consulting firm, Roderick Jefferson and Associates. It can even leave partners feeling ignored.
“Companies tend to treat partners kind of like that third cousin at a family reunion,” Jefferson says. “We’ve got to get away from that. Let’s bring them to the table, give them a nice cut of the meat and show them that they’re truly part of the family. They cannot be an afterthought.”
Additionally, your channel program may give high-value partners access to more enablement resources than others, or you may have a direct sales force that’s competing for new business – which can strain your relationship in the partner’s eyes.
Maintaining a reliable flow of information to all of your channel partners is also difficult when the average partner might work closely with 5-6 top vendors and have relationships with several others. Your company might launch an awesome new product, but to the channel rep, it’s just one of many solutions that they sell. What they need is an easy way to accurately position your solutions as they change and understand how your products stand out.
“It’s all about certification, making sure everyone is on target and on message, and [ensuring] that everything is being positioned consistently,” Jefferson says. “It’s incumbent upon the enablement team to ensure that as information changes internally, that it’s flowing through the partner organization and getting out to the partners.”
How Sales Readiness Technology Supports Partner Enablement
Sales readiness tools like Brainshark can help businesses deliver more effective partner enablement and gain mindshare with their channel sellers – all while providing an easy way to monitor partner engagement.
If your company is rolling out a major product update to its channel sellers, for example, the sales enablement function could use Brainshark to:
- Easily create microlearning content covering all relevant information about the new product, including key differentiators, so that channel reps are up-to-date on your offerings and knowledgeable about what makes your product unique
- Roll out an engaging training curriculum that includes knowledge-checks and interactive quizzes, to validate that channel sales reps retain what they learn
- Create video coaching assessments that prompt channel reps to articulate your value proposition on video and then submit the recording for feedback, ensuring that partners can effectively pitch your product
- Track which partners have completed your training and passed assessments with dashboards, giving you better visibility into which partners are engaged with your messaging (and which ones are not)
Ultimately, the goal of partner enablement is simple: to ensure that your channel sellers are delivering results for your organization – and not the competition. By taking the right approach, powered by the right technology, you can make that happen.
Learn how Brainshark can help you achieve better sales enablement results with your channel sellers or your direct sales force: