Organizations engaging with partners of any kind (alliance partners, resellers, VARs, distributors, etc.) must have a basic online repository or gateway to information for proper partner enablement and engagement. This repository is often called a Partner Portal and at a minimum must include:
1. Resource Library
A resource library will house a myriad of information such as datasheets, presentations, competitive information, and other sales tools to help the partner correctly position and sell the vendor’s solution.
2. Deal registration system
For those organizations that are collaborating on opportunities with their partners, a deal registration system of some kind should be included in the portal to allow partners to provide information on joint prospects and request sales support from the vendor.
Beyond a simple resource library and deal registration system, the following are key pieces of functionality that should be considered when evaluating a partner portal solution:
A comprehensive partner management component to the portal will enable the vendor to properly manage who the signed and prospective partners are, maintain contracts, key points of contact, partner profiles and scorecards, as well as recruitment efforts. By managing these key points of information on your partners you can effectively determine recruitment strategies and have the knowledge of your partner ecosystem at the touch of your fingertips.
Templated business plans will help to accurately and quickly plan go-to-market strategies including key objectives and milestones for both the vendor and their partners. By including it as part of your overall partner portal, that business plan does not simply reside on a hard-drive somewhere, but in a convenient place within the portal by which both the partner and vendor can track their progress toward various goals and determine quickly when a different direction is needed.
When employing MDF as a component of a partner program, providing an accurate account of available funds, what has been requested or rejected, and what has resulted from those activities is key to ensuring this benefit of the partner program is properly utilized and communicated at all times. By having this in place as part of the portal, partners will have a correct understanding of what marketing programs and funds they have available to work with throughout the year without needing to rely on the specific communication from the vendor for that information.
To accurately represent what leads have been passed to which partners, when they were passed as well as the activities that the partners have taken on those leads is essential to understanding which partners the vendor can rely on for proper follow up. Without this in place, vendors are required to pass leads on an individual basis without proper recording thereby introducing potential channel conflict issues and a lack of a closed loop process on those leads.
Collaboration / Communication features
A key component to any partner program is to keep at the “top of mind” of the channel partner. By having a partner portal that has a variety of communication features, some of the communications from the vendor (and from the partner) can be automated thereby making face-to-face time with the partner focused on strategic issues or concerns rather than day to day issues.
A vendor’s sales team is constantly in a CRM system (i.e. Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics.) By integrating the partner portal at the deal registration and lead distribution levels, for instance, the vendor can properly manage their ever-changing pipeline seamlessly in both locations, ensuring the accuracy of their channel activities.
Additional items to consider include integration with marketing automation systems or other marketing resources to market with and through your partners, chat functionality, learning management systems, quoting support, etc., all aimed at making your portal the one-stop shop for all supporting materials for your partners.
By properly understanding the various requirements the partner program demands for the partner portal, you can evaluate the best solutions available and make the right choice for the business.