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Start the New Year Making Your Partner Planning More Effective

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Good partner planning includes alignment, trust, smart decisions, and a dose of modern technology.

I’m amazed at how often I hear about partner business plans with vendors that simply die on the vine. More often than not, the revenue numbers the vendor was counting on from its partners perish, as well--not surprisingly, since those two go hand-in-hand.

There are many reasons for failed or faltering partner plans. The culprit isn’t necessarily poor planning. It could be unexpected market hiccups, lack of attention from the vendor’s team, over-inflated targets, unrealistic goals, lack of pipeline, or competition. Or maybe it’s lack of alignment between the partner's and vendor's business goals.

An Annual Ritual
As we kick off the New Year, vendors and their channel partners are in the midst of their annual partner planning. I think good partner planning includes alignment, trust, smart decisions, and a dose of modern technology. To make a plan succeed, the vendor and the partner need to be honest from the very beginning about what they can actually commit to in a joint strategy. What’s really achievable?

Just Say No
At its core, partner planning is a good road map that supports the vendor’s channel growth and guides the partner’s execution. A good business plan ensures the partner can deliver, but only when the plan is void of over-commitments or under-utilization.

Sometimes partners say "yes" to a revenue number or demand-generation activity when they should really say “no.”  To the partners reading this right now, you should not be afraid of dialing back any unrealistic expectations. I guarantee that any vendor would appreciate an honest “no” or a realistic projection much more than an over-promised commitment that can’t be delivered. It’s not bad to under-promise and over-deliver. It’s a healthy outlook for both sides and, ultimately, will grow the relationship.

The Trust Factor
The core of the partner’s plan is financial planning. This piece is the guidepost for determining the revenue commitment of the partner and a good list of the activities that are required to make the goal happen. However, good planning is not only agreeing on a revenue number. That is just the first step. The trust factor I’ve mentioned is vital to executing well on selling, marketing, implementation and building solutions.

Smart partner planning includes:

  • Analysis of the current landscape and market place
  • A shared vision and a plan pursue that vision
  • Vendor advice and support on ways to achieve the plan
  • Investment in new solutions, offerings and coverage
  • Measuring the partner’s business quarterly and annually

Modern Technology Helps, Too
Partner plans can vary, from very simple to painfully complex. I’ve seen a mix of planning tools (spreadsheets, PowerPoints, Adobe forms), and often these tools sit in multiple locations and are not easy for internal teams to manage. In this day in age, vendors can do better than this.

SAP for one, is bringing simplicity to the planning process. For 2017, partner planning at SAP will be done with a new online planning app we created that will significantly reduce complexity and redundancy.

The new planning platform integrates with our partner relationship management system so that partners can access it, adjust and amend it as necessary. The tool also combines the financial planning with the more dynamic activity planning for demand generation, marketing and enablement.

While I do think good technology makes partner planning easier to manage, trust is still the key element for a successful partner plan. Be honest with your numbers and your capacity. Without trust, the plan is a goner.

Ira Simon (follow me on Twitter - @IraASimon) is global vice president, Partner & SME Marketing at SAP. Learn more about partnership opportunities at: http://go.sap.com/partner.html.

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