The partner portal is built for two related purposes. The first is as a sales aid for organizations trying to impress potential partners. Showing the partner portal to a prospective partner immediately puts you in a different category. It shows that you know what you are doing and will work to make the partnering relationship work. This can be especially effective if you are an earlier stage company looking to partner with a more-established partner or even if you are a larger company looking to differentiate yourself versus another company. The partner portal will definitely help you get the partner to a finished contract and help you negotiate the best terms.
The second use is to help the partner (and you) succeed. When working with potential partners, it is critical to understand that this is a three-level sale. You need to sell to the partner organization; the partner organization needs to sell the value of the partnership to their sales organization (never easy); and then the partner sales organization needs to sell your product to the ultimate customer. What can go wrong, right? Well, the key to this is properly training and on-boarding the partner sales organization and arming them with the right knowledge and motivation to sell your product. The partner portal is where this begins. Putting all of your sales, marketing and services assets in one place and making it easier for the sales person is essential.
Now, how do you use the partner portal. The first answer is “don’t toss it over the wall and hope for the best.” It is critical for you to take the time to walk your partner organization through the portal and show them what you would build for them if they become a partner. This is essential in the first concept above. This also gives you an opportunity to understand what the partner might like to have. It shows the comprehensive nature of your partner support program. Next, it is critical to do the exact same thing with the head of sales, the head of sales operations, the head of marketing and the head of client services in the partner organization. These are the people who have the direct relationship with the sales, marketing and support team that will make or break your relationship. Getting them to understand what is in the portal and how their team should use it is essential. Once an overall partnership deal has been signed with the partner organization, it is also critical to schedule a webinar for the partner sales, marketing and services personnel to walk them through the portal, solicit feedback and answer questions. You want these people motivated and educated. If they are not motivated, they will not try to sell your product. If they are not properly educated, they will mis-represent your product in the market or stumble in their sales efforts. There is nothing worse than a sales person having a bad first experience trying to sell your product and then communicating that to the other sales people in the organization. That is disaster. The partner portal is your best effort and preventing that disaster.
Having a tool and knowing how to use the tool are different. The partner portal needs to be properly sold to multiple levels in the partner organization. If you don’t use it properly, it simply will not help you.