(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
Oh no, I just got word of yet another “big” change to another of the partner programs from a CRM vendor we work with. I’m not going to name the CRM vendor. But I can tell you this: you’ve heard of them. My company is a “partner” for a few CRM vendors.
And when it comes to partner programs we’ve seen it all. Over the past 25 years we’ve been introduced to “exciting” changes, “new” developments and “innovative” ideas. We’ve also been warned about our sales levels that don’t meet their arbitrarily defined minimums, buried in oftentimes useless certification requirements and subject to a revolving door of channel managers who arrive at their jobs all jacked up to change the world and then leave months later in a state of despair.
At this point, I’m ambivalent when it comes to “partner” programs. I don’t get worked up when changes are announced. I don’t get “excited” when new offers are introduced or when new channel managers come on board. It’s not exciting. It’s just another headache. So I just keep my head down and continue working. That’s because most CRM partner programs are terrible.
They’re terrible because the CRM vendor goes into it with the wrong expectation. Sorry, but your partners aren’t going to provide you with leads. We’re not the magic-silver-bullet-answer to your sales challenges. We can help in the sales process but let’s be real: we’re better utilized when we’re brought in to keep your customers happy and help you nurture new ones. You’re the big software vendor. You’ve got all the marketing money. You’ve got the sales resources. But we’re the guys with our feet on the ground that’s closest to the customer. It’s our job to service these people and we can do that job better than you because we’re closer to the project than you are.
So to that end stop paying us commissions on new sales. Instead, pay us commissions when our mutual customers renew their subscriptions. Make it easy for customers to align themselves with a partner and encourage each customer to have one. Also make it easy for a customer to change partners if they’re not happy with theirs. It’s up to us, the partners, to do what’s right for the customer and if we’re not doing the job then it’s on us if we lose them. But you, the software vendor, shouldn’t lose the customer because of our incompetence. Let a better, more competent partner do the work.