How to Do a Partner Program Audit

The best way to start the new year off on the right foot? An audit of your partner program.

As you know, reseller channels can be an invaluable lifeline in tough economic environments, and a solid bonus in bull markets, sending you warm leads, and promoting your product and content.

But those benefits aren’t a guarantee. Disorganized and disjointed processes limit partner engagement and may even turn partners away. Partners are the most active in your program when expectations are clear, PRMs are intuitive, and the partnership is a win-win for everyone. And the only way to know you’re nailing it is to do a comprehensive audit.

Below, we’ll walk you through several core components of an excellent partner program and provide tips on how to audit your partner program for sustained growth.

Partner Program Audit Categories

Audit Your Partner Performance

The success of your partner program relies on the strength of your partnerships. Now is the time to pull a full list of your partners and score them based on the:

  • Quality of their leads
  • Number of closed-won deals they brought in
  • Size of closed-won deals they brought in
  • Visibility and exposure they are providing 
  • PRM participation of their team
  • The team within the partner (Are they motivated? Are they new to the industry?)
  • Ability to hit goals in joint business plans
  • Synergy of your products and services

Although you probably have a good sense of who comes out on top, you might surprise yourself during your partner program audit — some partners you thought were performing well may just be middle-of-the-road.

Partner Program Audit Podium

But ranking your partners is just a starting point. The real value of this exercise is deciding how to take action. Next to each partner, add a column for “Action Step.” Ideas include:

  • Double-down on marketing activity – what you’re doing is working, and you should keep it up!
  • Move a partner to a lower tier – they haven’t been pulling their weight, so don’t need as much of your time and attention.
  • Re-examine partnership – your goals are no longer aligned with theirs, and either they need to be adjusted, or you part ways.
  • Strategize to maximize – these partners are top of the pack, and you want them to stay that way. Consider earmarking these for later brainstorming sessions.

Hint: To avoid noise, don’t make everyone do this ranking exercise at the same time. Share a separate spreadsheet with each partner manager with their assigned partners listed. Ask them to rank their partners and suggest action items by a certain date.

Then, to conclude this step of your partner program audit, schedule a meeting for partner managers to request feedback for handling tricky or unclear next steps.

Do a Partner Recruiting Audit

Bringing in new partners can be a huge value-add to your partner program. They can introduce you to a whole new network of potential customers who you may not even know belong in your current ideal customer profile. New partners may also have a complementary product, introducing more opportunities for joint deals.

But your “Interested in Our Partner Program?” landing page may not reel in the highest quality partners. Even if prospective partners check some boxes, evaluating all the questionable ones takes time and effort.

So, take stock of how you’re doing today. Combine the results of your partner performance audit with answers to questions like:

  • Does our partner application collect the right information?
  • Is there an industry we aren’t exploring?
  • Are there complementary products or services that we don’t have partners for? 
  • Are the partners we’ve been bringing in actually aligned with our business goals?
  • Are our partners’ sales and marketing models compatible with ours?
  • Are the partners mature in their industry?
  • Are our partners selling in the same regions?

Turn Your Audit Into an Ideal Partner Profile

Answers to these questions should help you form an ideal partner profile and refine your partner recruitment process. For example, maybe your partners need to be B2B, $XM in revenue, in North America, in the manufacturing industry, and willing and able to bring in $X in deal flow annually. Some of these features may be nice to have, others might be required.

As part of your partner program audit, you can use required characteristics to:

  1. Adjust your partner program application (add or remove fields)
  2. Create a “holding” queue of partners who may not be a 100% fit, but have potential
  3. Design a process and cadence for reviewing the holding queue
  4. Evaluate your current list of partners to ensure they all fit these criteria

You should also be thinking about:

  • How you keep track of partner candidates
  • Who engages with partner candidates and if you can auto-assign partner managers by region
  • How you collect information on partner targets
  • What recruitment metrics you’ll track

Hint: It can be tough brainstorming new places to look for partners. Try looking at your competitors’ partner directories or partners’ partner directories for inspiration.

Run a PRM Solution Audit

Your PRM platform should be your partners’ key to onboarding and enablement. But often, a partner program audit will show that partner teams aren’t leveraging these platforms to the fullest extent.

We recommend analyzing four aspects of your PRM: onboarding, enablement, usage, and data flow. Below, we share questions to ask to help you create a better partner experience.

Onboarding

Our biggest tip for this section is to go through your own onboarding process.

  • Are there any places you feel stuck?
  • Do you have a “partner welcome” package or process?
  • Can you sign partnership agreements and NDAs straight from the tool?
  • Does the portal have tooltips upon first login?
  • Is creating a joint business plan a required step?
  • Is there a way to reach out to someone with questions?

The best PRMs are designed with self-service in mind, making onboarding easy on you and your partners.

Enablement

Partners should know your product well enough to sell it. However, they need your guidance. In your partner program audit, ask yourself:

  • Am I sending reminders to explore certain parts of the portal?
  • How many partners are participating in our training programs?
  • Are they passing our certifications?
  • How often is the resource library updated?
  • Are there sales or GTM playbooks in your on-demand resource library?
  • Can my partners create their own co-branded materials?

Streamline your efforts by using a PRM with a built-in LMS and to-partner email module. Both of those features can help you remind and encourage partners to participate in your program.

Usage

Partners have to use the portal to get value from it. Your partner program audit should delve into:

  • The features are they using the most
  • The features are they using the least
    • And how to increase that usage (particularly if you see a lag in Deal Registration or MDF module activity)
  • The features you have NOT implemented that would be worth configuring
  • The areas of the tool people always ask questions about

Make a list of improvements for all three areas and set goals for implementing them.

Data

Partner data should flow between your PRM and other systems with the least possible manual intervention. In this stage of your partner program audit, ask:

  • Is your PRM creating duplicate leads or opportunities in your CRM?
  • Do you have to work with your IT team or PRM provider to remove conflicts?
  • Are there any manual steps that could be automated?
  • Does your PRM accommodate custom integrations with tools like Zapier?
  • Does your PRM have an open API so you can share partner data with other relevant apps?

Hints: 

  1. Review best practices with your PRM solution provider. Their support team should be happy to help you get the most out of your platform.
  2. Look at how your own sales enablement or customer success teams approach enablement. Steal materials or, if they have time, ask them for advice.
  3. Ask your partners for feedback! Send a quarterly survey and remind partner managers to ask about PRM usage in their meetings with partners.

Co-Marketing Audit Steps

Co-marketing campaigns and events are only worthwhile if they are producing high-quality leads for you and your partners.

Figuring out what types of marketing activities work best can take a while, especially if you’ve recently launched your partner program. Yet there are some things to track in your partner program audit that will help you once you’ve gathered enough data:

  • What activities got the most likes, comments, attendees, views?
  • What channels (email, webinar, live events, social media) got the most attention?
  • What activities brought in the most leads?
    • And which partners sponsored them?
  • Are people using MDFs?
  • Are people using co-branding modules?

Another thing to consider is that you can’t market to everyone. Your co-marketing must be relevant to the audience you’re targeting. Make sure your partners understand that campaigns need to be tailored to prospects’ roles, main challenges, and regions.

Audit Your Partner Program Deal and Lead Flow

Deals are the most critical KPI for your partner program, and channel teams are always looking for ways to beef up those numbers.

Deal Flow

For this section of your partner program audit, start by analyzing how easy it is for partners to register a deal

  • Do they know where to do it in your portal? 
  • Are there too many fields on your form? 
  • Is it clear who is doing what if you’re adopting a co-selling motion?

You should be conscious of how easy it is to provide a referral as well.

  • Is the referral module easy to find?
  • Is there enough room for them to provide extra insights that could help your sales team or another partner close the deal?
  • Can partners track their referral progress?

Lead Flow

From there, take a look at your commission structure and lead distribution process. Are your partners and internal sales teams incentivized fairly? Are you sending the right number of leads to each partner? Do partners jump on leads quickly enough?

Partner Program Audit

Maybe you need different referral plans for different partner tiers, or you need to remind your sales team how valuable (and easy to win!) partner-sourced deals are.

Business Plans

Next, pull up all of your joint business plans. If there aren’t any, that’s an immediate red flag — consider creating those plans for every high-priority partner. These business plans should include:

  • Timelines that line up with your and your partners’ fiscal calendars
  • Systems that they use so you can optimize and automate deal and lead flow 
  • Goals that you and your partner can reasonably achieve

If you have business plans to review, determine if the goals are too lofty or if you’re not checking in on them often enough.

Lastly, find ways to automate. Make sure your PRM sends new deals straight to your CRM for reps to work, and send reminders to partners to submit their registrations.

Hint: Ask your top-tier partners the best partner programs they participate in. Do some research to find out what those companies are doing to set their program apart and source more deals.

Make a Partner Program Audit Easy on Yourself

Partner program audits aren’t a piece of cake. But doing them is worth every minute. Gaining a realistic perspective on where your program is currently at will help you pave the way to a more prosperous future.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to do all of this by hand. With a cloud-based PRM like Channeltivity, you can create customized reports and dashboards to measure usage, deal flow, MDF activity, and more — in real-time. Plus, Channeltivity has helpful engagement tools like to-partner marketing, automatic notifications, co-branded collateral, and training modules out of the box.

Curious about how Channeltivity can streamline your partner program? Sign up for a demo today.