Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast

04 - Are Your Channel Partners Getting the Attention They Need (and Deserve)?

November 18, 2021 Magentrix Season 1 Episode 4
Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast
04 - Are Your Channel Partners Getting the Attention They Need (and Deserve)?
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Our guest, Heather K. Margolis has been in the channel space for over 20 years. She helps channel organizations build smarter channel programs, manage channel relationships to find added value, and engage their communities through social and traditional media. Starting from positions such as Channel Marketing Executive and Director of Marketing and Alliances and later, going on to be founder and chairperson at Channel Maven Consulting and founder and CEO at Spark Your Channel (both now acquired by 360insights), she has carved quite the name for herself in the channel world.

Topic summary: 

At the heart of every channel program are your channel partners. They represent you, they are in direct contact with the customer and carry your reputation for you – which they can either elevate or tarnish, largely depending on the quality of training they get from the vendor they’re working with. 

So why is that so often they are left neglected? Why aren’t channel chiefs prioritizing support to channel partners? Why aren’t they paying more attention to developing better partner enablement tools, such as optimized training programs to better meet their needs or start even earlier with a comprehensive, dedicated partner onboarding process? 

Partner engagement is key to your channel success and the best recipe for ongoing engagement is ongoing attention and support from the vendor.  

Heather discusses a question all channel chiefs should be asking: are your channel partners getting the attention they need? And what can you do to give them the attention they deserve:  

  1. Channel partner training, support and feedback 
  2. Eliminate barriers – allow for better integration of partners into your channel 
  3. Be more present, mindful and inspire channel partner engagement 

Listen to the episode to hear all of Heather’s insights on partner engagement and support for channel success. 

Read the blog: https://www.magentrix.com/articles/blog/Are-Your-Channel-Partners-Getting-the-18-11-2021 

(0:00) Introduction 
(2:57) Heather K. Margolis’ channel sales background 
(5:13) Channel partners need ongoing attention from vendors 
(6:45) 1st Consideration: Channel partner training, support and feedback 
(22:11) 2nd Consideration: Eliminate barriers – allow for better integration of partners into your channel 
(29:13) 3rd Consideration: Be more present, mindful and inspire channel partner engagement 
(30:57) Will channel partners leave if you’re not paying mind to their needs? 
(34:08) Channel chiefs need to think differently about their partner programs 
(35:04) Conclusion 

Paul Bird 00:05  

This is Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast.

Welcome to another episode of The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast. I'm your host, Paul Bird.

At the heart of every channel program are your channel partners. They represent you, they are in direct contact with the customer and they carry your reputation. A reputation they can elevate or tarnish and that largely depends on the quality of training that they’re getting from the vendor they’re working with.

So why often are these partners left neglected? Why aren’t channel chiefs prioritizing support for channel partners? Why aren’t they paying more attention to better develop partner enablement tools, such as training programs. Or even start off earlier with a comprehensive and dedicated partner onboarding process?

Partner engagement is key to the success of your channel and the best recipe for ongoing engagement is ongoing attention and support from the vendor. 

So, are your channel partners being neglected? And what can you do to: allocate more time and resources to support them, alter your partner strategy to allow for better integration of channel partners within your program, and generally, pay attention to them? They need it and they deserve it.

Just remember, don’t neglect your channel partners’ needs, and they won’t neglect yours.

Our guest today has been in the channel space for over 20 years. Throughout this time, she has gone on to achieve a number of impressive feats such as embarking on not one but two entrepreneurial ventures.

She has led channel programs for companies like EMC, EqualLogic, and Dell. She helps channel organizations build smarter channel programs, manage channel relationships to find added value, and engage their communities through social media and traditional media.

She has been described as one of the most savvy channel marketing experts in the industry.

Starting from positions such as Channel Marketing Executive and Director of Marketing and Alliances and later to going on to be the founder of Channel Maven Consulting and Spark Your Channel, she has carved out quite a name for herself in the channel world.

She puts the maven in the appropriately named Channel Maven Consulting. This is a consulting firm that helps provide strategic channel and marketing consulting to IT channel organizations of all sizes.

And of course, she puts the spark in Spark Your Channel, an innovative demand-gen company that provides partners and sales people with automated customizable content, analytics, and modern prospecting best practices.

She’s here with us today to discuss a question all channel chiefs should be asking: Are Your Channel Partners Getting the Attention They Need (and Deserve)?

Please welcome Heather K. Margolis.

Welcome to the show Heather, it’s great to have you here!

Heather K. Margolis 02:55

Thanks so much for inviting me.

Paul Bird 02:57

So, maybe give us some highlights of your career in the channel so far and kind of what roles you've played to impact the position you're in today?

Heather K. Margolis 03:06

Sure. I always joke that I'm a recovering channel professional.

So, I started my career actually on the partner side. I was at an ISV and had to jump through all those hoops to get the demand-gen materials I wanted and to get the attention of my vendors.

Then, I moved on to the vendor side, and worked for some large organizations and a couple of small ones.

And in early 2009, I started Channel Maven, which is an agency really focused on communication to partners and making sure that they feel loved and taken care of, as well as demand-gen with partners.

And as part of that second piece, two years ago started a software platform that helps partners better drive demand leveraging video.

Paul Bird 03:53

Very cool, and is that the Spark Your Channel piece that we see on your, on your LinkedIn profile?

Heather K. Margolis 03:58

It is! Spark Your Channel is a through channel demand generation platform that allows partners to personalize their IT vendors' more complex content, like video, webinars, podcasts, as well as static content.

Paul Bird 04:11

Nice! I had it in reverse, I started in the channel early on in my career, kinda had no direction or channel strategy behind. So, my first half of my career was building channel.

And then I went to work for one of our clients and actually, now was working on the other side of the fence.

So, I guess I'm recovering from channel as well, just for the last 20 plus years now.

Heather K. Margolis 04:35

That’s great! And it’s amazing how much it's changed.

Paul Bird 04:38

Oh, Absolutely. You talk about sharing the love and giving the partners the attention they deserve.

One of the things I did to just understand what my channel was about, was to actually get in the car and visit every channel partner I had on the east coast, between Boston and South Florida. Which was 55-60 channel partners.

And I did that over the span of three weeks. Sitting in their office. And that has changed so much from today, where now - you're exactly right, the role of video, the role of how do you make your channel partners loved has really come to the forefront.

Heather K. Margolis 05:12

Definitely.

Paul Bird 05:13

So, as we get started in this discussion, let's kinda look at the basics.

You know, in a nutshell, why do you think it's so important for channel partners to have consistent attention from their vendors?

What role does the vendor play in the overall channel strategy? Or that attention that they have to give their partners, just from the basics, how do you see that playing out?

Heather K. Margolis 05:34

Sure. Well, when I started in the channel almost 20 years ago, there weren't as many options.

So I worked at EMC and if a customer was looking for storage, EMC was one of the few games in town.

And now that there are so many different options out there, partners have choices, and we need to make sure that, as a vendor, we're not just thinking about our business and our goals and what customers get from our solution.

We also need to make sure that the partner feels taken care of, that we’re easy to do business with, that our products and solutions are going to make them look like a hero.

So it's really incredibly important that the vendor is always saying to themselves: what's in it for my partners?

Paul Bird 06:20

For sure, and you're right, the proliferation of technology in the last 20 years.

When I was in the channel, I was selling Sun Microsystems before Oracle made a little bit of a mess of it. But, you're right, EMC was really the only real show in town when it came to storage.

So, now having that choice really means that you have to have more focus on the relationship that you build with partners.

But what about the lack of support? Like, do you see vendors that simply don't support their partners in a way that they should and the impact that has on just the overall dynamics of that partnership?

Heather K. Margolis 06:57

Of course. Unfortunately, I think there are several variables at play.

So if a company has an amazing solution that customers are clamoring for, that's pretty easy to support, that doesn't take a lot of handholding on the partner's part, then I think you can kind of get away with that.

I don't know many of those examples. Maybe Microsoft is pretty straightforward and their partners have been selling it for years.

But, if your solution takes any sort of education or you don't have a very distinct value proposition against your competition, then your value proposition needs to be that the partners are well supported and taken care of and your solution sells itself.

I think the lack of support, if I were a channel partner, when I was a channel partner - that would make me walk away.

That would make me say, ok, you don't value our relationship, you don't value my business. There are plenty of other companies out there that I could sell that will.

Paul Bird 07:58

Oh, for sure. And I was actually having a discussion with somebody just yesterday of the importance of that relationship between vendor and partner.

And the longer you have that relationship in place, you can almost start taking advantage of the good nature, or goodwill, because the partner’s kind of always been there.

And there have been times in my career where I've been working with a specific vendor, and they've crossed the line so to speak, and I ended up moving my book of business to somebody else.

So, yeah, that attention is really key.

Heather K. Margolis 08:31

I also feel like when it's a customer who's unhappy, you lose one customer. When it's a partner who's unhappy, you could lose 50 or 100 customers overnight.

Paul Bird 08:42

Oh absolutely, and that is a huge impact.

And it's so much more difficult to try and get a customer back after you've lost them, but what about a partner? I mean, what's the level of effort to try to get a partner to trust you again

Heather K. Margolis 08:56

Right. I think the dynamic there too is if the partner has gone out of their way to substitute your solution with something else, they're not switching back quickly.

That means they've taken time out of the field to train their salespeople. They’ve onboarded a whole different portfolio and pricing.

So I think if you've truly lost them, you're probably never getting them back.

Paul Bird 09:17

No. And unfortunately, it happens.

But in your line of work, when it comes to channel marketing and demand generation, what’s some of the things that companies can be doing to make sure that these failures aren't simply happening and that they are supporting those partner relationships?

Heather K. Margolis 09:35

Absolutely. It's been really wonderful to see how many IT companies out there are starting to think differently about partner demand generation and even partner tiering.

Not just tiering partners based on revenue, but tiering partners based on the level of marketing and sales know-how they have and where they need support.

So, I think it's important for IT companies to first take a step back and stop doing the things we were doing 20 years ago.

Just the other day I had a conversation with an IT vendor who was talking about webinars in a box.

And I was sort of like, ok, if you've been doing them for 20 years and maybe in 20 years you've had five successful executions of a webinar in a box because partners don't have a platform like Zoom or GoToMeeting where they could have 100 people on board and be able to talk to them and keep them as opposed to a GoToMeeting or a smaller Zoom account.

The other thing is, partners sell anywhere from 5 to 25 to 300 different technologies. They don't know enough about your one technology to be able to riff on it for 30 minutes.

We're sitting here having a conversation because you're talking to me about something I eat, sleep, and breathe every day. Your partners don't feel comfortable enough to have a conversation like that.

So, I think we all need to take a collective step back and a deep breath and think about, am I getting partners things that they need?

It's also, what came first, the chicken or the egg? What's more successful marketing or sales

We talk so much about through channel marketing, instead of overarching demand-gen including sales. And yet, 90% of partners per Jay McBain at Forrester - and maybe I'm misquoting him so Jay, I’m sorry, I forget the exact number - but something near 90% of partners don't truly have a marketing person.

And we're not talking about the: oh, yeah, we have a marketing person. They also serve as our receptionist and are the significant other of our business owner, but we have a marketing person.

A true marketing person who can execute on a multi-touch probably doesn't need one, because they already have one.

And all of the other partners out there need 2 or 3 perfectly aligned pieces of content that not just nurture a lead or an opportunity, but actually fill the funnel. And that's what we haven't been giving them.

Paul Bird 12:05

Exactly. I think more people are kind of focused purely on what can the partner give me? You know, the typical deal registration process. As opposed to doing demand-gen for partners. And that breeds the loyalty.

If I'm a member of your channel and you want to get my attention, start doing demand gen for me. Start doing that marketing like you're talking about and I guarantee you that that mindshare will be really easy to acquire.

Heather K. Margolis 12:30

Absolutely. I mean, we talk all the time about things that fill the funnel.

If you think about yourself as a customer, the things that make you say: oh, I didn't know that company, let me take a closer look are short videos, micro content on things like Instagram or Facebook or Twitter - if I'm on the consumer product side, or really interesting pieces of content I can consume quickly.

Again, micro content or a two minute video or a meme that hits hard that makes me want to look closer on LinkedIn.

Those are the things no one is giving partners. I mean, I don't want to generalize, but very few IT companies are giving partners that type of content.

But they're all giving them datasheets and e-books and 20 or 40 minute webinars.

Well, guess what?

That's what I look at when I've already decided that this company is in the running.

So, we're not giving our partners anything to help them fill the funnel. We're only giving them things to help them nurture that funnel.

Paul Bird 13:29

Do you think that the maturity of the channel, as it applies to marketing, seems to be behind the pace of technology today?

And the reason I ask that is that I work with a lot of companies that are working to nurture their channel through partner portals.

But what I'm seeing is a lot of people producing, like you say, e-books, white papers - and not the kind of easy to consume content that you're talking about.

The closest thing that I've seen is people that are putting together infographics.

So, do you think it's just the pace of channel marketing is not kind of staying at the same rate as maybe things in the consumer space?

Heather K. Margolis 14:06

I mean, certainly not in the consumer space.

My husband sells chocolate and whenever we have marketing conversations, I talk about things like e-books and infographics which, five years ago, were cool new things and now people are like, oh look, another infographic.

It's astounding how far behind the IT channel is. The fact that some of our partners still don't have a LinkedIn profile, is really shocking.

So yes, I like to be generous and say that we're 3 to 5 years behind. But in some cases, I think we're decades behind.

Paul Bird 14:41

So we're on the leading and sometimes bleeding edge of new technology, but from a marketing perspective, we're still dragging behind.

Heather K. Margolis 14:48

Exactly.

Paul Bird 14:49

So what about when a new partner signs up?

So, let's say a vendor has just onboarded a new partner. What are some of the things that they should consider in showing the partner how committed they will be to them, right from the start?

Heather K. Margolis 15:02

Sure, I think the partner wants to know that you understand their business.

So if you can clearly communicate things that are important to them, that means that when you're talking to a partner, first you're looking at where they're starting from.

So if you say to a partner, we're gonna give you all this great micro content, you're going to be able to post it on Instagram. And they say, what’s Instagram? I don't even have LinkedIn. It shows them that you did not research them at all.

P.S. if you have a partner that's not on LinkedIn, maybe you should try to find another partner in the same region or with the other same qualities.

But I think it's also really important that you have a set onboarding plan. That you can point to something and say first, you'll have a call with our onboarding team, and then you'll login to the portal, and these are all the great things you'll find in the portal, and this is how you manage your account, and all those good things.

I think they want a clear path. You know, we talk about the buyer's journey, this is really the partner's journey.

And then, turning them over to someone like a channel account manager or field marketing manager where you can set goals together that are attainable.

I always say I don't want to take a partner who's at a level 1 to a level 10. Their head will explode, they'll be very unhappy with the relationship, they'll feel like a failure at every step of the way.

So I think being able to look at a partner and assess where they are, based on the research that you can do online, and look at their website, and their social handles and their executives. Getting a 1 to a 3 is a success to me and getting a 5 to 7 is a success to me.

So really sort of scorecarding those partners and figuring out where they're starting from, will help you goal-set a little more efficiently and effectively.

Paul Bird 16:49

Yeah, that surprises me when I'm searching for somebody on LinkedIn and they don't even have a profile.

Now, I knew of these types of people working in the channel 15 years ago when LinkedIn was still coming up to being a normal tool that we all use.

But it still astounds me today when I can't find somebody on LinkedIn and they don't have a profile. It makes me wonder, how comfortable are they with technology and how long have they actually been in the industry?

So that definitely is good advice that if they're not on LinkedIn, it's probably a no-go from the start.

Heather K. Margolis 17:21

Hard pass.

Paul Bird 17:23

So, what about from a leadership perspective? I'm sure that you are interacting, talking with channel chiefs on a regular basis.

What can they do, at the top leadership end, to make sure that partners always feel like they are included and seen and are really feeling valued?

Heather K. Margolis 17:40

Right. Yeah, there are so many things.

I'll talk a little bit about things I've seen done wrong. So, no longer a client, but we had a client years ago who shall remain nameless, actually they're no longer a company they've since been acquired, who every year would relaunch their commitment to partners.

In the seven years that we worked together there were five different channel chiefs.

Every year that channel chief would get up and say no, really this time we're going to be much more committed to partners, we're going to ensure that there is no channel conflict, we're launching a new portal with new content for you and you're going to be able to do all these great things.

By the second or third time a partner hears that, they're sort of rolling their eyes. By the fifth or sixth time they hear it, they're running for the hills.

So I think it's really important that you're being honest, and that you can own your mistakes.

I mean, this is something new. I'm a huge fan of Simon Sinek. I’m a sponge when it comes to all of his content. And he would say the leader who says I'm sorry, I made a mistake, gains so much more goodwill from their audience than the one that either criticizes their competitors or says that they're the best.

So I think that's something we need to think about.

I also think, making sure that you're not matching your competitors exactly - then it just sounds like lip service. Getting feedback, making sure they feel like their voices are heard.

I love partner advisory councils and a regional or partner-type specific partner advisory council.

So let's say you work with MSPs and resellers and nationals. Having a partner advisory council for each of those partner types is super helpful.

But then also go out to the rest of your partners with a survey or having channel account managers give you feedback but letting the partners know that that feedback is getting back up to the channel chief is super helpful as well.

Paul Bird 19:42

Yeah, I think that I used to see that a lot, where I would see dealer advisory networks and things like that.

But do you find that there's more of a departure from gathering that feedback?

Because that really is super important when it comes to you know, just understanding where you are.

And you're right, you don't want to be in a sea of sameness by being the same as everyone else.

But I wonder how much those dealer advisory councils are being overlooked as kind of a core part of a channel strategy.

Heather K. Margolis 20:11

Yeah, I think some companies are still having them. I think potentially the point is being missed.

You know, it used to be that you did those to genuinely gain feedback and make a change from there.

And you miss the point of what the partners get out of it. That they're actually getting to speak to their peers and gain some knowledge from their experiences, their failures, what's worked, what hasn't.

And I think we need to go back to a place where that's just commonplace.

I do think, you know the past - where are we now, a year and a half/two years of the pandemic has made things like live events where we would get together and do these things live - I think virtual does make it a bit more challenging.

But if you can incent the partners to feel more comfortable, maybe get to know each other beforehand.

I actually spoke at a partner advisory council that one of our clients was doing for a full day and was so happy to see how first of all, that a lot of these partners knew each other or knew of each other, and secondly, that they were so willing to share some pretty critical feedback with this vendor.

Paul Bird 21:19

Oh, that's great. That is very nice to hear that you're getting that feedback because, you're right, in the age of covid, we basically have lost that kind of face-to-face communication, the sidebar conversations.

We have the meetings on Zoom and GoToMeeting and all the other tools, but it really is just on topic. There's no pre meeting conversation, or post meeting conversation, like you would see face-to-face.

Heather K. Margolis 21:44

Right. I was saying to someone recently that you don't get the, as you're walking into the room, oh hey, I have those shoes, or I see you're wearing a such and such shirt, I went to school there.

You know, you're missing that sort of banter, which makes people more comfortable to then share openly.

So, icebreaker games or some way to pair each other up so that the partners know each other beforehand, something like that.

Paul Bird 22:11

Well, let's also think about knocking down barriers for partners and getting them better integrated really into your channel.

So, I guess the important thing is, as you pay attention to partners before they need you, what also can channel chiefs be thinking about, to ensure that a partner really gets well-integrated into their channel program and they've got the best chance for success?

Heather K. Margolis 22:35

Yeah, I love this question and it's one of the easiest things and something we suggest all the time but never see companies doing.

The best way that you can endear yourself to your partners is following them on social, commenting on their content, reposting their content - whether it's from your executives, from your channel account managers, or from your logoed handles.

It makes the partners feel like you genuinely care about their business.

Now, certainly you don't want to repost or comment or like something where they're talking about one of your competitors that feels like you're then checking up on them.

But thinking more about giving them more exposure than necessarily liking content that's about you, is really going to show partners that you genuinely care about their business and that you're there for them.

Paul Bird 23:29

Absolutely. And that is something that I know that I don't see.

I don't see a lot of people that we have partnered with that are really following us and encouraging.

It's interesting, I am what you'd call a Salesforce enthusiast. So, I'm constantly on LinkedIn posting information that is specific to Salesforce and some of the initiatives that they're taking.

I get a great following from other people that work either as Salesforce developers or administrators. And we are a Salesforce partner, so I am connected with a number of people at Salesforce, but, again, I don't kind of see the love coming from the organization, but I do see it from all of their followers.

So, that is really great advice to really make your channel partners feel as part of the program if you are interacting with them, not only in the day-to-day kind of deal management side of things, but also outside of that as well, where you're supporting them in their initiatives outside of the actual day-to-day transactional side of things.

Heather K. Margolis 22:29

Right.

Paul Bird 24:30

But another thing is, part of building a program is everyone has to have terms and conditions for their channel program. And those should be really easy for them to understand.

Do you think it helps partners to better integrate with that program when it is as easy as possible, simple to understand, or do you think that the terms of engagement, the rules of engagement, should be pretty well defined, just to make sure that nobody steps out of bounds.

What side of the fence are you on? Do you feel that rigid channel structure or easy to understand is better for channel programs?

Heather K. Margolis 25:05

I would say, make your program as easy as serves your business.

So if you make it so easy that anybody could come in and sell your product once and get access to all of your proprietary content and knowledge sharing, that's probably not ideal.

But when we used to have - I'm thinking 15 years ago at this point - four tiers each with its own specialization each, to get that one specialization, you had to take 10 certifications.

That doesn't fly anymore. The partners don't have time for that. They're selling too many different solutions.

And I think it's important that their journey - again I'm going to use that term - the partner's journey is so outlined for them, first, they know how long everything's going to take, and what to expect. But then, as they're in it, they know that exact next step to take.

I had left EMC and gone to a startup that was eventually acquired by Dell.

I would sit near the partner enablement person who, anytime any partner joined, I would hear the onboarding. And I would hear: ok, so then you go over here and click there. No, no, no, over here. No, no, no, no, click… no… to the left… over there.

Like that’s not the experience you want your partner's having. Not only are they trying to manage themselves, but then they're actually on the phone with someone who does this 3 or 4 times a day.

So, you really want to ensure that your channel program serves whatever purpose you need without making them jump through unnecessary hoops.

Do you really care that they got that extra certification or that they put this other thing on their website? Or do you care that they speak highly of you when they're talking to a customer?

Paul Bird 26:48

For sure, I went through the technical sales certifications for vendors year over year over year just so we can maintain our partnership level high enough so we could get the additional marketing funds, the additional discount.

And you're right, making partners jump through hoops is really not a good way to retain their loyalty long term.

Heather K. Margolis 27:09

Of course.

Paul Bird 27:10

One thing that comes up, and this is something that I think everyone faces, is channel conflict.

So, when you start looking at how you're going to engage and give partners that white glove, sharing the love treatment. How do you do that when now you've got to deal with channel conflict?

What's the strategy that you would recommend when suggesting, well, if you're going to be nurturing these partners and giving them the attention, what happens when you have to have that hard conversation because a conflict has come up with an opportunity or something like that?

Heather K. Margolis 27:41

Right. I think, right out of the gate, having exactly as you said, rules of engagement, so that they know, if you didn't register that deal, if that wasn't a previous client of yours, then here are the steps that are then taken.

I have gotten into situations where the customer is requesting a change and I think you then, internally, need to have a plan or a committee that comes together of unbiased parties, right. You don't want the channel account manager for one of the partners involved in that conversation, necessarily.

But I think it's really important to have a plan for when something like that happens, because it will.

And then also, I think when there is competition from your inside sales team itself, partners are less trusting of you and your other partners.

So if you can breed a more trusting environment across the board, then partners are more likely to feel safe.

Paul Bird 28:44

For sure and early on in my channel career, where if we're a pure channel company, then we have a lot more confidence from the partner than if we're direct and channel focused. Because what happens, what's going to stop us from taking a deal direct? 

I remember having one of these conversations directly with one of my channel partners.

So, that really is good advice that you have to have kind of the rules of engagement established in order to be able to move that relationship along and help it grow.

So, what about inspiring partners? What kind of suggestions or recommendations would you have if you've onboarded, you've got a good nurtured relationship with them, but now you want to inspire them to grow.

Is there anything that you can suggest that people should consider when looking at trying to inspire partners to take on more potentially?

Heather K. Margolis 29:31

Sure, I think some of it is showing them what's possible.

So, having very successful partners join you on a webinar, at your events, or even just a partner spotlight in your newsletter so that other partners can see what's possible.

I also think you need to ask yourself, is this something that's important to partners?

We always talk about the lifestyle VAR. Back in the day, they had two homes, three cars, a boat, what more do they need?

So, it's also understanding where partners want to be.

I have a very good friend who owns a solution provider. He does incredibly well for himself.

And when his IT vendors come to him and try to push him into the demand-gen platforms that just don't make sense for his business, or are too complicated. He takes a step back and looks and says, I have a $10 million business, I'm in my mid-forties, I'm making a couple million dollars a year, personally. Why would I do that?

So I think inspiring partners to figure out what they want, and then also showing them that it isn't that hard.

If they feel like demand-gen is a 10-step multi-touch campaign and launching your own videos instead of leveraging your vendors or jumping through all these hoops, then that's going to feel overwhelming. They're not even going to try.

So just showing them how easy it could be would really inspire them.

Paul Bird 30:53

That is, again, sound, sage advice.

So, a couple of questions here, if you're not giving partners the attention they need, do you think that, eventually, they just leave the program completely?

Heather K. Margolis 31:05

I would flip that on its head and say, do you want them?

So if you have partners, we always talk about the 80/20 rule, right? 80% of your revenue is coming from 20% of your partners. Certainly those 20% feel taken care of.

The next rung down that I like to pay attention to are what I call the growth partners. So they're either super hungry, early in their business and need a little hand up, or they are selling your competitor.

So from your perspective, they're not pushing a ton of revenue, but maybe that's because they're really helping your competitors more.

So, I would take a step back and first decide if you want those partners or not. And then, if you find that you haven't been nurturing them as well as you should, think about, first of all, a check in.

Making sure that your channel account managers or if they're unmanaged, that they're feeling the love somewhere. Either in your portal or in your newsletter or as I said before, you're liking their content on social.

But then, also think about implementing some sort of rewards or an incentives program, as a way to light a little fire.

And don't just tie those rewards or incentives to a closed deal. Tie it to little things that they can do.

Not only does it build their habit, so every time they post about you, vendor XYZ, they're getting a point toward an incentive.

That builds the habit, that they'll do it more, but then they also are getting excited about what that next incentive would be.

Well, if I do an email campaign about that company, am I going to get even more incentives?

Paul Bird 32:44

And, I agree with that. I subscribe to it.

Now, one question I have, what's your thought on the idea of cleaning out the closet?

So, every year or two, taking maybe it's the bottom 20 or the bottom 10, and then just suggesting that you no longer want to have a business relationship with them.

Do you think that cleaning of the closet and keeping the channel fresh is critical?

Heather K. Margolis 33:05

I don't necessarily like to completely clean the closet.

I feel like, you never know when a partner is going to bring that huge deal. And your customers are somewhat tied to those partners.

So, like I said, when you lose a partner, you lose all the customers that came with them.

I would rather organize the closet so that I have partners that are managed, partners that are unmanaged, and then what we call referral partners - what everyone calls referral partners.

So they're still part of the program, they still have limited access to some content in your portal, they can still hear and see everything that you're doing, but they aren't getting access to demand generation, they don't get MDF, they're probably not part of the rewards and incentives program.

So you're not alienating them or ending that relationship, so to speak. But, you are sort of categorizing them so that you're not spending time, resources, bandwidth on them.

Paul Bird 34:06

For sure.

Any final thoughts when it comes to suggestions, recommendations that you'd make to channel chiefs just as far as adopting a lot of the things that we talked about today?

Heather K. Margolis 34:16

Sure. I think, we've sort of had this checklist in our mind for the past three decades of the channel, where we say, ok, I have a portal that's just fine, it's functional, it does what it needs to do - maybe. I have a through channel marketing automation tool that I think I'm probably spending too much money on and the content in there’s stale, but at least I have it.

And really think about, is my portal taking my partners along a path?

And thinking somewhat differently, is my through channel marketing, or through channel sales enablement tool giving partners the resources that people use today in marketing and sales and demand-gen overall?

So, really trying to think differently and not just sort of check a box would be my advice.

Paul Bird 35:04

Well, perfect. And if somebody wants to find a little bit more about Spark Your Channel and Channel Maven Consulting how can they find you, how can they get ahold of you?

Heather K. Margolis 35:12

Yeah, so our website is sparkyourchannel.com and channelmaven.com and then I can be found on LinkedIn. Just search Heather K. Margolis.

And I love having these conversations as you can tell, it's hard for me to stop talking about it so, always happy to chat!

Paul Bird 35:30

Well, thank you so much Heather. It's really been an honor to have you and we look forward to hopefully speaking again in the future.

Heather K. Margolis 35:36

Thanks, Paul.

Paul Bird 35:41

All right guys, thank you for listening to The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast and please don’t forget to join us next time where we’ll have Huba Rostonics on the show to discuss the 3 Top Considerations for An Exceptional Go-to-Market Channel Strategy. For more information, please visit channelsalespodcast.com.

If you haven't already, please like and subscribe to our podcast. And if you enjoyed this episode today, please leave us a five star rating. And don't forget to share with your friends or professional network. Anyone who would enjoy it. See you next time on The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast. 

Introduction
Heather K. Margolis’ channel sales background
Channel partners need ongoing attention from vendor
1st Consideration: Channel partner training, support and feedback
2nd Consideration: Eliminate barriers – allow for better integration of partners into your channel
3rd Consideration: Be more present, mindful and inspire channel partner engagement
Will channel partners leave if you’re not paying mind to their needs?
Channel chiefs need to think differently about their partner programs
Conclusion