What do you look for when you go looking for a Partner Program besides the specific App or Software?
Many of our readers may have just come back from a major conference in the last week or three that involved 100's of Vendors exhibiting their software and Apps. They were there for the most part to attract ProAdvisors (like the majority of our readers) who are always on the search for what works, what looks the best, what's new, or what will meet a specific need. But those Vendors are there to seek you out as a potential 'sales channel' by which they can market their products.
Well, all of know that we look for a specific Application or Software to accomplish a given task for a client in need of a solution, or to just add to our repertoire of offerings; but once we find two or three different options within the same category, our final selection often boils down to the Partner Program the particular software Vendor offers. Some Partner Programs, like many of those we have featured in the past in our Advisor Alliance column, are excellent, but other are seriously lacking. I know what I look for, and you probably do too. But here are 10 things I feel are important when making my own Partner Program selections.
1) Formal Partner Recognition – the Vendor has to offer a formal Partner Program (no matter what you call it), it can’t simply be ‘create an account’ and get your name on a list. I want a Partner Program that means something and some of the ways that Vendors do that is by publishing a list of their Partners, but even that is ‘minimal’ in my book. I like Partner Programs that offer actual referrals from the Vendor, I mean if they want me to ‘refer to them’, then turnabout is fair play, I want them to ‘refer to me.’ This formalizes the relationship and creates a mutually beneficial environment as part of the Partner Program.
2) Partner Training – just offering ‘formal recognition’ isn’t really the best offering, it’s the ‘minimal offering’. The next step up is to offer formal ‘training’ to their Partners and I don’t just mean access to some pre-recorded videos or PDF downloads. Nor do I want live webinars that are also ‘open to the public’, I want training that is specific to our Partnership. I expect to be better trained than ‘my clients’, I want to have deep-dives into not only how the product is used, but how it is supported, what I as a ProAdvisor Partner can do to resolve specific issues my client(s) may encounter.
I want troubleshooting education as well as specifics on how to market their program, what feature-set makes the difference to most buyers. I don’t need to be taught how to sell, just how to ‘market’ your product(s).
3) Partner Certification – obviously this is the next progressive step in the ‘partnership’. I not only want ‘basic’ certification centered on completion of the essential courses, but more advanced levels of competency recognized. Perhaps these higher levels are based upon training and examinations, but perhaps they are based upon successful installations of the software; this might be 10 installs, or 50 installs, depending upon the ‘commonness’ of the application. I mean you might see 10 for a major product that typically involves 40 or more hours to configure, but it might be 50 on software that can be implemented in 2 hours. User-feedback should also be figured into this equation, and that brings us to point 4 in the first place.
4) Partner Feedback – I want a formal mechanism whereby the Vendor gathers feedback from end users, it’s OK with me if it is optional on the part of my client(s), but I want it to be an integral part of what the Vendor is doing to help us determine how good a job we are doing as a Partner. But at the same time I want an 'open channel' whereby Partners can provide feedback to our Vendor Partners. You need to know that we 'have a voice' and we expect to be heard.
5) Free Software – most Vendors do this, but some offer ‘free trials’, or ‘limited working/demonstration’ copies. I don’t think that a working copy is going to do the trick for most ProAdvisors looking to become Vendor Partners. If we are going to truly learn the software and know it from the inside out, we need the full software/application with ALL the bells and whistles. If a Vendor wants to ‘tag’ my copy for a specific limited time that runs concurrent with partnership or certification that is OK by me. But I don’t want my Partner Vendors thinking that I am going to necessarily be using their product for ‘my own use’. I am going to be using the program or App as a working ‘real life’ demonstration, typically I configure and re-configure the software over and over into meaningful examples that my client(s) will find beneficial. I mean even if I am only dealing with a ‘time keeping’ App, my law firm clients don’t want to see an example that is based upon some plumber, nor do my plumber clients want to see an example of time keeping for some lawyer.
6) Free (Dedicated) Support both Sales and Technical Support – I want a phone number and email that takes me to a dedicated Sales Rep who is not going to ‘undercut’ me once I have given them the name of my prospective client(s).
I want them to know me by name, know the size of my practice, know the names of all of ‘my clients’ using ‘their software/App’, and know exactly who they are dealing with (that I am not some armature calling in for the first time, unless of course I really am). I want another phone number and email for my Technical Support Rep and I want them to have the exact same level of comprehension that my Sales Rep has. Furthermore I want a Sales Rep that is in fact ‘smarter about the product’ than I am, I don’t want to be talking to someone who has never encountered the problem I am calling-in about, I am expecting an expert that can actually help me out, when I can’t resolve the problem itself.
7) Super-duper Discounts – I expect to receive the best discounts for my clients that exist on the planet, I don’t want to hear about users who call in directly to sales to get a better deal than I can offer my clients. I want my clients to always find the ‘best price’ by contacting me, whether that is an ‘initial sign-up’ or an ‘add-on’ or ‘expansion of service.’ I am sorry Vendors, if you want Partners, don’t put us at a disadvantage to your own ‘internal sales people’.
8) “Give Me the Money” – that’s right I want my commission, residuals, pass-backs, or any other form of compensation you want to share as a reward for my hard work in selling your product(s) for you. Obviously I can’t dictate what the ‘funding formula’ is for every Vendor, but just make it fair and you will prevail. I don’t have a problem with a two-tier system either, if you want to have formal resellers who purchase the product from you and then sell it to their clients that is OK, just as long as you also offer a ‘referral program’.
9) “No Sales Quotas” – don’t think that I have time to do nothing but ‘sell’ your software/App, it has to fit into my practice as a whole, and a small portion of that. I can’t imagine any ProAdvisor who focuses on selling only one App, or even two or three. Presently I deal with more than 100 App Vendors, I have to stay ‘up’ on those Apps, and trained/certified on many. Some of them are way more valuable than others because of the consulting time they generate, if you think I am going to focus on selling your App that generates 2 hours of consulting time for me, as opposed to some software than generates 100 hours of consulting time, you are living in a dream world. But when the client is right, and your App is a match, you are going to get the attention you deserve, just as my client is.
10) “Don’t expect me to pay you to sell your software/App” – I don’t care what you offer in the way of 1 through 8 above, I am not going to ‘ever’ pay you for the opportunity to sell your software, I simply don’t believe in buy-in partner programs. I can’t help that someone in marketing 101 taught you 50 years ago in Jr. College that everything that involves revenue sharing should run like a ‘franchise’. We are not selling ‘fried chicken’, ‘pizza’ or ‘ice-cream’, and if you try to treat us like we are, you are going to find that your Partner Program is a Partner--less Program.
If you are a ProAdvisor, feel free to comment on my 10 points, or add a few of your own by posting a comment to this article.
If you are a Vendor with a Partner Program, or considering the implementation of a Partner Program, we wouldn’t mind hearing from you either, so go ahead and ‘make my day’ and post a comment below.