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January 7, 2021 | 5 Min Read

Onboarding: The Forgotten Step of Partner Management

Posted By
Emily Neier

Whenever you add a new partner to your existing distribution network things move quickly, and it's common for certain elements to slip through the cracks and become forgotten - with onboarding unfortunately being at the top of that list. Sometimes it's because you as the manufacturer haven't provided enough materials to get the job done properly, or because the materials themselves are so extensive and drawn out that the partner can’t realistically absorb all that information. Or maybe it’s because you’re too focused on the end goal than the beginning steps.

Regardless, the end result is the same: both parties aren't operating quite as in sync as they need to be, which can only lead to bigger and more fundamental problems if left unchecked.
Thankfully, all hope is not lost. It is entirely possible to create engaging onboarding materials that help partners hit the ground running in all of the ways that you need. You'll just need to keep a few things in mind along the way.

Onboarding: Getting a Critical Relationship Off on the Right Foot

By far the most important thing you need to understand in terms of partner onboarding is that you need to assign ownership of this process to someone as soon as you can. Far too many organizations make the mistake of essentially handing over the partner onboarding process to multiple people without a specific leader. You may think that this means work will get done faster and that there will be a certain level of accountability. However, what you're really doing is creating a confusing situation where nobody can be quite certain what collateral needs to go where and when, thus complicating something that should be inherently straightforward.

At a bare minimum, you should have an internal person who is responsible for making sure that processes are well-documented. If you want to bring together people from different departments (like sales, marketing, and operations) you're more than welcome to do so, but everyone's role within that team needs to be defined as clearly as possible and one person among them should be the leader, and thus ultimately responsible for the entire partner onboarding process.

Along the same lines, you'll want to reach out and engage proactively with your new partners during the onboarding process to create a warm and welcoming environment right out the gate. Don't just drop a lot of documentation in someone's hands and leave them to fend for themselves. Engage with them via regular partner meetings and participate in demand creation activities whenever you can. The importance of clearly and consistently communicating with channel partners is something that absolutely cannot be overstated.

The Power of Training Your Partners

It's critical for you to understand that in terms of training, your job is NOT done as soon as you're finished offering insight on the technical specifications of your product. Far from it. Partners don't just need to know what your solution does in a literal sense. They need to know what it does better than every other product on the market. They need to fully understand and buy into that special quality that makes you so unique - that's how they're going to be able to sell your solution to the masses.

This means that you need to provide effective training on an ongoing basis that is focused on solutions first and foremost. One of the three major areas that you'll need to focus on is sales. Your partner will need to know who their target market is, what their ideal customer looks like, how the solution should be positioned, what they can do to overcome objectives, and more.

They will also need to know the technical side of the solution to be confident that your product can deliver exactly as it was promised. In other words, this means you'll need to provide them with enough training to the point where they are equipped to demonstrate, configure, and support the solution moving forward.
Lastly, their marketing collateral will need to encompass engagement tools, messaging, and other materials that they can use to craft the type of campaigns and events needed to sell that product moving forward. This means not only digital methods, but in-person traditional methods as well. It's true that we're still in the middle of a global pandemic and in-person engagements are off the table for now, but that won't always be the case. You want to make sure your partners are prepared for that inevitability when it arrives.

If you're able to master these parts of the partner onboarding process, you'll have done more than just bring someone new into the fold successfully. You'll enhance productivity and collaborative efforts in a way that also enhances revenue at the same time.

Empower Your Onboarding Process Today

At ManoByte, we understand exactly what an important role onboarding plays whenever you begin a new relationship with a partner - both in terms of the work you need them to do in the short-term, and the long-term benefits that this will all bring with it. That's why we want to help you create more engaging partner onboarding collateral as quickly as possible - so that you can enjoy all of the benefits of this new addition to your network with as few of the potential downsides as possible.

You can download our Ultimate Guide to Channel Marketing Guide for additional tips and manufacturer specific channel management recommendations:

Could Your Business Benefit From Channel Marketing? Download Now

Topics: Distributor Marketing

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