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Partnership (R)evolution: Leveraging AI for Next-Level Success in Channel

This week we discover how AI is reshaping the partnership landscape and learn strategies to outperform your competition in this new environment. We recently had an insightful conversation with Fabrice Talbot, VP of Products at Salesforce. As a leader in PRM product development, Fabrice shared his invaluable insights into how AI will transform managing, engaging, and collaborating with partners.

Let's dive into the evolution of partner management and AI-driven future of partnerships. Read on for key insights, and don't miss the full video for even more in-depth information.

The Evolution of Partner Management: Navigating the Changing Landscape

As the partnership landscape evolves, the types of partners and their roles across various industries are changing. Historically, PRM (partner relationship management) focused on partners who resell products, like resellers, VARs, MSPs, SIs, and ISVs. However, the channel is changing, and today many partners act as influencers or referrers in the deal process. This shift has led to the emergence of partners across diverse industries, such as healthcare, financial services, and telecommunications.

"The channel is changing, the type of partners is changing."

The role of partners varies, with some being more transactional and others focusing on influencing deals and promoting brands. Understanding this evolution and adapting to the changing landscape of partnerships is crucial for companies looking to leverage the power of partner relationships.

Power of Partnerships: A Strategic Growth Engine for Companies

"Many SaaS companies are rediscovering the power of channel"

Partnerships can be a misunderstood growth engine for many companies, with some focusing solely on direct sales and underestimating the potential of selling through partners. Channel sales can offer a more cost-effective and scalable approach, especially for companies operating in segregated markets or regions that rely heavily on channel sales.

Successful tech giants like Cisco, Google, and Apple have built massive partner networks, enabling them to scale and secure a seat at the table for crucial deals. Microsoft's success, for example, comes from building a vast network of partners that promote the brand and increase their chances of generating revenue. Recognizing the channel as a strategic growth initiative can lead to significant benefits for companies, despite the challenges involved in establishing and maintaining these partnerships.

Key ideas:

  1. Many companies underestimate the potential of selling through partners, focusing more on direct sales.

  2. Channel sales can offer a more cost-effective and scalable approach to growth, as demonstrated by tech giants like Cisco, Google, and Apple.

  3. Embracing the channel as a strategic growth initiative can help companies secure a seat at the table for crucial deals, increase brand promotion, and generate more revenue.

Mastering the Metrics of Partnership Success

Measuring partnerships can be difficult, but it is crucial to understand the success of partner programs. The process begins with defining an overall vision and strategy, designing a win-win partner program, and recruiting the right partners. To properly measure the success of a partnership, it is essential to monitor both leading and lagging indicators.

"You need to measure everything. You need to measure, in a sense, the leading indicators and the lagging indicators."

Leading indicators include partner engagement, logins, time spent on the site, and content consumed, while lagging indicators involve deals registered, training and certification completed, marketing funds used, and opportunities closed. Building dashboards for each business process is critical for monitoring success and fine-tuning the processes.

It is also essential to provide channel account managers (CAMs) with the proper dashboards to manage their accounts effectively, as they play a crucial role in managing partnerships. By giving CAMs the right tools and insights, they can focus on improving performance and growing partner relationships.

Key ideas:

  1. Measuring partnerships involves monitoring both leading and lagging indicators to understand partner program success.

  2. Building dashboards for each business process helps monitor success, fine-tune processes, and introduce new capabilities.

Navigating the Complexities of Revenue Attribution and Partner Engagement in the Age of Influencers

In the world of partnerships, understanding revenue attribution and keeping partners engaged can be challenging. However, addressing these trends is essential for maximizing the potential of partnerships.

"There are many pitfalls in that, I think, to have full attribution specifically on deals that are influenced."

For revenue attribution, partner-sourced revenue can be tracked through deal registrations and CRM systems, while influenced revenue can be attributed through referral deals or by creating affiliate links and co-branded landing pages. The challenge lies in tracking social media influencers and ensuring proper revenue attribution in those cases.

Engaging partners through software involves creating helpful and user-friendly portals that encourage partners to consume information and register deals. By focusing on partner engagement, companies can continue to foster successful partner relationships.

Key ideas:

  1. Tracking revenue attribution is straightforward for partner-sourced revenue but can be more complex for influenced revenue.

  2. To attribute influenced revenue, consider using referral deals, affiliate links, or co-branded landing pages.

  3. Engaging partners through software requires user-friendly portals and a focus on partner engagement for successful relationships.

Emerging Best Practices in Partner Programs: Personalization, Omnichannel, and Harnessing the Channel Data Cloud

As companies evolve their partner programs, best practices are shifting to accommodate both transactional and non-transactional partners. To create high-performing partner experiences, businesses must become enablers and focus on modern digital experiences.

"Your job today as a vendor when you think about the different types of partners is more as an enabler."

Key best practices include:

  1. Moving beyond transactional partners: Companies are now focusing on both transactional and non-transactional partners, serving influencers who promote their brand and refer their products. This transition requires vendors to act as enablers rather than simply driving transactions.

  2. Digital and personalized experiences: Companies must provide modern, B2C-like experiences for their partners, offering personalized experiences and well-defined partner journeys. This ensures that each partner, whether a reseller or an influencer, feels valued and supported.

  3. Omnichannel approach: Businesses need to expand their presence beyond desktop websites, embracing mobile capabilities and embedding collaboration apps like Slack and WhatsApp to facilitate engagement with partners.

  4. High touch win-win models: By developing detailed partner profiles, companies can create co-branded assets and engage in high-touch go-to-market approaches with select partners, ultimately fostering stronger collaboration and targeted growth.

  5. Tapping into the channel data cloud: The untapped potential of channel data offers a significant opportunity to grow partner relationships and revolutionize the rules of engagement, thanks in large part to the transformative power of AI.

By incorporating these best practices into your partner programs, you can create more valuable and successful relationships with your partners.

AI in Partnerships: Unlocking New Possibilities and Transforming Engagement

The rise of artificial intelligence, particularly with ChatGPT, is destined to change the landscape of partnerships and channels, making interactions with AI more efficient and human-like and enabling a wide array of its applications to partnerships.

Key opportunities and insights for AI in partnerships include:

  1. Integration of public and private data models: AI can access public data models and combine them with company-specific data from ERP, CRM, CDP, and more, resulting in more powerful applications.

  2. AI can be used to respond to emails, follow up on leads, close support cases, and even create knowledge articles, making sales and support agents more efficient.

  3. Data analysis and marketing: Data analysts can use AI to derive insights from data, create targeted audiences for marketing campaigns, and even execute those campaigns.

  4. AI-generated content: AI can be used to create landing pages, write ad copy, and generate banner images for marketing campaigns.

  5. AI-assisted collaboration: Platforms like Partner Insight's AI Co-pilot enable streamlined communication and collaboration with partners, e.g. through AI-assisted Q&A exchanges.

The early stages of AI: Despite its growing impact, AI technology is still in its infancy, and users should be cautious not to over-rely on it, as it may not always provide accurate results. As AI technology continues to develop and mature, businesses can expect even more opportunities to integrate AI into their partnership strategies and channel management, ultimately leading to better outcomes and increased success.

Revolutionizing Channel Management and Business Growth with AI

"AI is transformative and will change the way channel managers run the channel and engage with the partners."

As AI continues to evolve, channel managers and organizations can expect significant changes in the way they engage with partners, build channels, and grow their businesses. AI-driven partnerships offer several key advantages and insights:

  1. Channel management: AI can assist in partner recruitment, onboarding journeys, and identifying new opportunities based on data analysis. By automating tasks and facilitating better communication, AI can increase efficiency and allow channel managers to focus on higher-value tasks.

  2. Incentives and marketing development funds (MDF): AI can streamline the MDF process, automating approvals and providing more intelligent allocation of funds based on trust and performance metrics.

  3. Sales and lead distribution: AI can optimize lead distribution by identifying the right partners for each lead and suggesting next best actions to increase conversion rates. Additionally, AI can assist in upselling, applying discounts, and facilitating collaboration during the quote-to-cash process.

  4. Support and customer satisfaction: By providing AI assistance to partners acting as tier one support, organizations can improve customer satisfaction and reduce case escalations.

AI-driven partnerships are poised to revolutionize channel management, sales, and support. Early adopters who embrace AI technology and build in-house expertise will have a competitive edge in the market.

The Transformative Power of AI in Channel Management: Unlocking New Levels of Growth and Efficiency

The adoption of AI in channel management and partnerships is poised to revolutionize the way businesses engage with partners, streamline processes, and grow.

Here are some key insights into how companies can approach using AI in partnerships:

  1. Embrace early adoption: Organizations that adopt AI early, focusing on specific wins like onboarding or marketing funds, can develop in-house expertise and gain a competitive edge in the market.

  2. Build an AI practice: As AI becomes more integrated into channel management, organizations will need to create AI practices, including the role of channel data scientists, to leverage data and build more effective models.

  3. Undergo a multi-year transformation: Successful AI integration requires a long-term commitment to embed AI in every aspect of channel management, from recruitment to onboarding, marketing, sales, and support.

By embracing AI-driven partnerships, organizations can revolutionize channel management, incentives, sales, and support, unlocking new levels of growth and efficiency.

AI: The Iron Man Suit of Collaboration for Elevated Performance

The integration of AI in partnerships and channel management has the potential to redefine collaboration, pushing teams to achieve higher levels of performance.

Here are some key insights on how AI might change the nature of collaboration:

  1. Individual assistance: AI can assist individuals in one-to-one collaborations, streamlining processes and enabling more efficient decision-making.

  2. The impact on human collaboration: The role of AI in human collaboration remains unclear, but it could lead to more focused and efficient brainstorming sessions, as AI provides valuable insights and suggestions.

  3. Prompting improvement: The integration of AI might nudge those who resist change to keep improving, leading to an overall elevation of performance across organizations.

  4. Collaboration among competitors: As AI-driven technologies emerge, businesses may be more inclined to collaborate, even with competitors, to navigate transformative moments together and improve the overall business environment.

In conclusion, the integration of AI in partnerships and channel management presents an optimistic outlook for the future of collaboration, driving improvement and elevating performance across the board. Companies that leverage this trend early will have more chances to emerge as winners.

We recently had a deep dive on this topic with Fabrice Talbot, VP of Products at Salesforce, who is leading development of its PRM solutions and has a front row view in how AI will revolutionize partnerships.


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