Influencing Partners Through Persistent Engagement

Don’t ask partners to change all by themselves; ask them to evolve with your support and guidance.

By Larry Walsh

Managed services and cloud computing share something in common: If the provider doesn’t remain persistently and consistently engaged with the customer, the customer’s perceived value of services will decline over time.

Vendors and channel evangelists (including me) are quite vocal about the need for partners to remain actively engaged with their accounts. The talking points call for giving customers face time so they get to know their providers, activity reporting so they know their money is paying for something tangible, and planning reviews so they know the provider’s current and future capabilities.

Persistent engagement is the key to ensuring customer satisfaction and retention in the services-based technology economy. So why is it that vendors don’t practice what they preach when it comes to partner engagement, enablement, and management?

Vendors try to automate as much of their channel management as possible. The scale of many vendors’ channel is simply too much for vendors to assign management resources to every partner. Influencing partner performance is left to the “carrot and stick methodology” of meritocracy. If you perform well, you get rewarded. If you perform poorly, you don’t get rewards.

Some channel managers may say the channel meritocracy works, but the evidence suggests otherwise. The channel typically operates at a 90/10 ratio, with 90 percent of the channel revenue being generated by 10 percent of the partners. Many channel programs evaluated by The 2112 Group operate at 95/5, a ratio that reflects vendors being extraordinarily exposed to just a handful of partners.

The legacy reward systems designed to encourage and incent partner performance have done little to drive evolution. This meritocracy approach is valid, but it needs tweaking. Vendor management and channel program structures need redefining to encourage partners to better themselves, their productivity, and their return on channel investment for vendors.

At 2112, we call this approach influencing micro-behaviors to create better macro-outcomes.

Establishing annual sales and revenue thresholds and operating requirements, such as required training completion and having a certain number of certified technicians on staff, works against vendors. Partners know how to manipulate the system, throw warm bodies at training requirements, and turn on and off resources for hitting vendor goals.

Instead, vendors need to construct a system of micro-behavioral influences that happen continuously and are measured more frequently. Requiring business plans that are reviewed each quarter, setting sales thresholds on a quarterly basis rather than annually, and mandating marketing activities on a quarterly or biannual basis will compel partners to act with more regularity and consistency. And if these requirements produce results, they may condition the partners to plan more and exercise governance over their operations without a heavy hand.

When we ask partners to change, we’re asking them to assume risk without a guarantee of a positive outcome. Rather than pushing for big changes measured over longer periods, we should seek small changes continuously measured and rewarded.

2112 has prepared a new report, “Micro-Behaviors to Macro-Returns” to help vendors understand the approach of influences as a means for continuous engagement that leads to greater productivity and positive results. Click here to download your complimentary copy.


Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.

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