You have completed the heavy lifting of having a partnership strategy, recruiting partners and developing joint propositions. Now it’s time to address an easily to overlooked activity; partner enablement.

What is Partner Enablement?

Partner Enablement is the “creation and delivery of the information, materials and processes that allow you to sell solutions effectively to both partners and end-customers”. It’s been the missing link in many companies’ marketing strategies and has only recently started to have a high profile.

Partner Enablement is often used to describe the software applications that deliver information to partners and their sales teams. At Expertek we’ve found that the key area to focus on is the content for the salespeople.

Developing the partner solution and propositions will generate documentation for internal use by product management, product marketing and marketing. You need to convert this into materials suitable for use by all those engaging with customers. And especially those responsible for sales. Taking the proposition and messaging as a starting point, you need to add knowledge of the market, of competitors, of the sales cycle, and of real customer engagement. You can then produce content and tools for salespeople to use in real sales situations. The materials describe the problem and solution, as well as how to target the right prospects. They also provide the supporting information needed to pursue a sale (competitive comparisons, proof points, case studies, etc.)

Why do you need it?

Most commercial partnerships are formed with the objective of selling something. So, it’s important to ensure that the partners’ salespeople are enabled to sell the solution. Traditionally, Marketing tried to do this by providing technical information and customer materials (e.g. brochures). But this approach leaves a gap in terms of information about ‘how to sell’ the solution. If you don’t provide this, you may need to provide more technical support, suffer longer sales cycles and fail to win sales. Sales leaders now see Partner Enablement as a priority for technology companies. But it remains a real challenge that requires cross-company working.

Can’t we just get Marketing to do it?

Marketing are often tasked with filling the gap. However, they rarely have the resources or the ability to mediate strong views, focus resources and engage deeply with Sales; the latter being essential to making the process a success.

You need to deliver Partner Enablement materials in the format and via the channels that create most value and engagement. By the time you’re ready for Partner Enablement you have invested a lot in creating the partner relationship, so it makes sense to maximise its effectiveness. We use a process-orientated approach and workshops to capture the key information about the joint proposition and how it should be sold. This ensures you fully engage your product, marketing and sales teams. It also avoids the ‘over the wall’ approach where you fail to get Sales engaged. You can involve a partner in the process, and produce the output with a specific partner or type of partner in mind.

What are the key activities?

Partner Enablement Diagram

Partner Sales Guide: Creation of a sales guide for a specific solution, which contains all the information for all customer-facing personnel to position the solution and progress sales to closure.

Customer Business Case: The development of a quantitative assessment tool which salespeople can use to present the end-customer value of the solution. You can build this for a specific solution, with the level of complexity appropriate to the product/market, for use by your partners’ salespeople.

Slide Set: Typically, you create an end-customer value-based presentation of the solution for the salesforce to use with prospects. Most people still use PowerPoint, but you can use whatever format suitable for the target market and decision makers. The presentation must have notes; these enable the presenter to communicate the messages and use the slides to support the communication. Without notes, the salesperson adds no value or may forget some key messages.

Market Readiness Assessment: Once you’ve nearly completed all the Partner Enablement activities, we recommend that you use a pre-launch checklist to assess each partner’s readiness prior to implementing the GTM plan and prior to customer engagement. The objective for you to check that everything is in place, and that you have fully engaged the partner.

In future posts I’ll delve into other parts of the Partnership Framework. For an introduction, read the Introducing the Partnership Framework post.