Increasing Ease-of-Doing-Business and Partner-Facing Staffing May Go Hand in Hand

June 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

by Beth Vanni, Vice President

Given the complexity of today’s channel programs, especially among larger vendors, partners are looking for resources (people, portals) to help navigate their way.  Combine this dynamic with rapidly changing solution provider business models and we see a real need for vendor field reps to have a dedicated and responsive support system within their organizations to offload day-to-day program and transactional complexity in order to focus on critical activities such as business planning, and co-selling.

Despite the recent years of partner-facing staff streamlining and cut-backs, vendors who are invested in building their channel productivity are also willing to make the necessary high-touch investments in the staff necessary to properly profile, plan and provide local support to partners through the addition of inside sales staff and help desk functions. They are realizing that while EODB is a key initiative and partners want to eliminate as much complexity (read “cost”) as possible, in order to garner partner trust, loyalty and investment during major market transitions they have to provide high-touch people based support. Helping partners make a business model transition or invest more deeply in specialization or technical certifications requires trusting, local, hands-on relationships – and always has. The ‘next generation” partner account manager (substitute your title) requires a level of business savvy that can be better addressed by dedicated partner facing staff who are adept at anticipating business model changes, measuring loyalty, and navigating the strategic aspects of the relationship.

In our 5th Annual 2011 State of Partnering Study, vendors expressed a high degree of intent to invest in partner-facing staff, of varying types.  When asked what changes they were planning to make in 2011 to their partner coverage model, the top two responses centered around increasing the number of partner-facing field sales reps (48%), and adding business development reps to work with partners on business planning and enablement (42%). Recognizing that the only way these activities can be successful is if their partner-facing staff were free to focus on their tasks at hand, over 20% of vendors also indicated they would be adding a phone-based help desk function to off-load basic program and operations questions from field reps. While this number could be higher, it is certainly a step in the right direction in getting closer to solution providers, ensuring commitment and understanding resource needs.

Program help desks and partner portals are the table-stakes of most good channel programs today.  However, vendors with dedicated help desks or portal resources to ease partners’ administrative burdens achieve two goals. On one hand, these resources reinforce partner perceptions that they are valued, and that the vendor has the staffing in place to anticipate their contributions and meet their ongoing support needs. On the other, they enable a vendor’s business development or technical teams to be more effective in acting as a catalyst to partner growth and profitability – namely, applying sales, technical and marketing resources to help the partners’ profitable growth while eliminating business process drains that add cost.

Vendor-to-partner EODB may not be achieved exclusively by putting a more effective staffing model in place. But putting the right people in the right roles while continuing to focus on ease-of-doing business helps to elevate the role of the traditional Channel Sales Manager and allow them to take their partners to the next level of success for both parties.

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Entry filed under: Industry Perspective. Tags: , , , , , , .

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