How can automation help solve your problems and make it easier for your partners to do business with you?

The channel is more complex and accelerating at a faster rate than ever before. To address and learn the critical challenges, opportunities, and top trends impacting the Channel of Tomorrow, we invited an intimate group of senior channel executive leaders to a virtual roundtable series, The Channel of Tomorrow. In our inaugural virtual session, we listened, learned, and uncovered how automation will impact future vendor/partner relationships and generate mutual value. Topics included:

1. Programs of the Future – How can traditional programs use automation to accelerate partner and vendor success?

2. Evaluating Metrics – How can automation measure partner experience? How can automation drive partner experience? Where should our focus be?

3. Competencies of CAMS – As we invest in automation, what skill requirements should we look for and train in our CAMs?

Three Big Trends around Automation from AchieveUnite

Everything starts with the program. From the program perspective, here are a few trends happening across the industry:

1. Program Simplification: Programs are simplifying and evolving toward more competency-based programs. From a data perspective, it is no longer necessary to capture a large number of data points to determine the status of a partner. Modernized data insights and predictive analytics allow you to capture, share, and manage fewer data points in less time while providing more information.

2. B-LAER Model: Everyone is talking about the LAER model – Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew – and its relation to the partner journey and experience. At AchieveUnite, we add a B for Build. Before the LAER model begins and you start to automate and capture data around this model, it’s essential to BUILD a framework that defines partner proficiency and customer success. For the LAER model to be successful, the vendor must understand where their partners and customers are in relation to this model.

3. The Data-Driven Channel: Many vendors across the industry understand how to help their partners drive growth and be successful but face messy data that is slowing down their business and creating confusion across efforts. Automation has the potential to help solve this problem for many vendors.

Topic #1: Programs of the Future

Four principles to guide partner program automation and communication:

1. Simplicity: You and your tools of engagement need to be easy to work with and navigate. The challenge to address is – how do we continue with simplification when everything around us is increasingly more complex?

2. Consistency: In a recent roundtable, the partners said, “You vendors love change. We partners, we hate change. Can you please leave it in place so we can internalize it?”

3. Predictability: Partners need to know where their money is coming from and what the vendor is doing to help them. 

4. Profitability: The process must make you and the partner money. 

Other key takeaways: 

1. Complexities of Automation and System Integration: Many vendors have automation but don’t have the right processes in place. It takes time and money to build out these automation processes – and don’t forget vendors have the added responsibility of looking at and building these processes through their partner’s perspectives. This process will continue to change over the next five years, so consider today how you can future-proof your process designs.

2. Harmonization: IT teams are trying to simplify or harmonize by picking 2-3 tools to use organization-wide, but this is ineffective, and you wind up losing business. As the channel and business become more and more complex, simplicity must come from within. Ask – How can your team work across multiple platforms simply and efficiently?

3. Change Management: It’s not only about linking tools or creating new processes. It’s about building up confidence and trust in these tools across your team.

4. Maximize the Capabilities of Automation: Ask yourself – are there things you are currently capturing that are manual but could be automated? Are you or members of your team still spending hours entering information into a spreadsheet? Empower your account managers to be more sales-focused and less consumed by operations and spreadsheets through automation.

5. Disconnect Between Internal and External Management Systems: Does your external message align with your internal goals and values? Are you compensating your internal team based on what you’re saying external?

Topic #2: Metrics

1. Quantitative vs. Qualitative: There is a lot of good, clean data out there, but this data is quantitative, and CAMs and partners are voicing a need for qualitative data that makes sense to them. How can you begin to measure qualitative data? How can you quantify the qualitative?

2. Longtail: Vendors are using metrics to track their longtail, or 80% of partners who are falling off, and what their purchasing patterns look like over time.   

3. Traditional Revenue vs. SaaS Revenue: This is an up-and-coming metric for a majority of vendors.

4. RFM Model: Recency, Frequency, and Monetary Value Model. This model examines a partner’s purchasing history and their value (revenue or profit). This is the foundation for predictive analytics.

5. Metric Tracking by Partner Type: Partner journeys based on partner type are relative. If you segment data by partner type, you can track which partner accelerated revenue the fastest and then map out a path of success for other partners of this type.

Big Opportunity: The most innovative companies are helping their partners’ businesses grow through predictive analytics and capabilities assessments. 

Topic #3: CAM Competencies

1. Mindshare: CAMs are exceptional at building relationships with partners, but they need to understand the importance of internal and external systems and data tracking. When there is a new initiative, CAMs are the frontline workers, and you need them to get into the habit of recording their partner interactions so that your data becomes stronger and cleaner. 

2. The Challenge of Loyalty: CAMs are very loyal to their partners, which is a highly sought-after skill, but at the end of the day, CAMs need to remember that they do not work for the partner.

3. Skillset Remains Traditional: Today, a CAMs skillset remains traditional where relationship management is the main focus. As new individuals enter the channel, there should be a transformation in the values and skillset of CAMs as data and automation continue to take hold.  

An Opportunity for Today

Vendors are currently consumed by supply shortages, and yet there is a big opportunity to think strategically about the future of your programs. There are so many vendors with overly complex business plans that their partners cannot absorb. Take this time to focus on creating a one-page, value-based business plan that is simple and gets everyone operating differently and more efficiently.

A Glimpse into the Future

Partner Led Services is a big growth area in the coming months and years. The more we shift toward the SaaS model, the more compressed the compensation becomes at the front-end, and compensation is spread out across the LAER model. Having a partner who can bolster some of your services revenue is going to be critical. Front-end margins are shrinking, and partners have to rely on their self-sufficiencies to generate revenue. For Google partners, 70% of their compensation is driven by their own professional services, and only 30% is from the reselling of Google infrastructure.

A huge thank you to Channel Mechanics for co-hosting this event with us and to the senior channel executives who we sat down with to discuss how to use automation to help solve your problems and make it easier for your partners to do business with you.