By Doug Baer, bswift
Whether your software business is in start-up mode or well established, the decision to sell through resellers can be a difficult — but potentially game-changing — business strategy. Execution of your reseller distribution model is critical, and extensive thought and planning are required. This article will focus on considerations that will contribute not only to a successful reseller onboarding program, but also more productive reseller partners and increased top line revenue for your business.
You have made the decision to launch a reseller program to sell through indirect partners and have invested in sales and marketing resources to promote the program. Does your software business have adequate staffing in place to not only onboard your new partners, but also to train and provide ongoing support for your partners? Do you understand the proper ratio of reseller partners who can be managed and supported by each client success manager? Have you considered how many reseller partners can be onboarded simultaneously and how long the onboarding process should take? These are just some of the topics that will be explored in the following section.
Sales To Training Hand-Off
Closing that first reseller partner contract is a milestone accomplishment and justification that your message and value proposition is on target. Your new partner’s first impression with your organization is critical to building trust, long-term loyalty, referrals, and overall goodwill in the marketplace.
One of the best approaches to minimize the risk associated with the post-sales handoff is to develop a transition process to document roles and responsibilities. For example, one or two days after the new contract is sold, schedule a kick-off meeting with your sales representative, training manager, and client success manager to review key next steps, including: terms of the contract, the products and services that will be offered, the time frame for which training will take place, the accountable party to coordinate and schedule partner training, the accountable party to bill and collect any associated training fees, etc.?
Consider including the initial training program fees as a line item in your sales contract to expedite the sales process. This way, your partner has an expectation up-front that training will be provided to their staff, the cost and value associated with the training, as well as the length of time required for the training. This will provide additional reassurance that your new partner won’t be signing a contract and then be left on their own once the ink dries.
The proper staffing ratio needed to onboard, train, and manage your reseller partners will vary for every software business. If you are operating a start-up, you may not have the luxury of a dedicated resource to onboard, train and support your new partners. This is ok in the beginning; however, training, ongoing client account management, and customer success duties should be separated for a sustainable and successful reseller program.
Furthermore, the skillsets of quality trainers are different from customer success and client service managers. From my 10 years of experience leading client service teams supporting reseller partners, I have found most software companies can get by with a dedicated training resource and a single customer success manager during the first year. If your new partner sales volume is higher than one partner per month, you may want to hire a second training resource, and you may find you need to hire an additional customer success manager. The complexity of your reseller partner program and the length of time required to get your partners self-sufficient are important considerations to make when determining the proper ratio of partners to customer success managers.
The sophistication of your software and the degree to which your software can be configured by the end user and your reseller partners will determine the amount of time required to properly train your new partners.
The initial reseller training is most effective when conducted in-person, if the training agenda does not consume more than one week worth of material. In-person training also provides for the opportunity to introduce your partners to other members of your organization, evaluate the aptitude of each reseller being trained, and understand overall engagement.
If your training program takes more than one week, you may want to consider revamping your agenda so only the most crucial topics are included in-person. After the in-person training is completed, the additional training topics can be delivered during weekly 1-to-2-hour blocks of time. Your partners are more likely to retain the information and will appreciate the flexibility of returning home after an intense week away from their office.
Continuous reinforcement of the training material, via a client success team, a learning management system, or a combination of the two is critical to a more rapid ROI for your partners. If an online learning management system is not within budget, a portal or other secure website where recorded webinars, training, sales, marketing, and other useful information for your partners is available and accessible to your partners 24x7 is more than acceptable.
Investing in a reseller distribution program is an effective strategy to grow your business more quickly and efficiently, however, careful thought, planning, preparation and resourcing is needed to ensure the success of your partner program is not overshadowed by poor execution and insufficient operational processes. Make sure you have a framework in place and have identified the resources within your own organization who are most qualified to lead these new roles.
About The Author
Doug Baer is a skilled technology industry leader with over 20 years of experience driving revenue growth, managing client service operations, software implementations, and achieving consistently high levels of customer retention. Doug has spent the past ten years at bswift, a wholly owned subsidiary of CVS Health and leading provider of benefits administration software and services. His focus has been on channel partner operations, growth and development; educating and training regional insurance brokers, HR technology consultants, and other reseller partners how to effectively sell, implement and support the bswift technology.