What to Know About Bad Channel Partners — And How to Handle Them

Here’s our guide to cleansing your PRM of ineffective channel partners.

When running a channel sales program, success largely depends on the quality of your partners. If you have many bad channel partners, chances are they’ll kill your program faster than a box of chocolates melts under the sun. As such, you can’t afford to be careless during partner recruitment because the results can be disastrous.

We spoke with  Arash Akhiani from PartnerStack’s RevOps team to answer a few questions about bad partners, including:

  • Why do some channel partners underperform?
  • How do you prevent them from getting into your program in the first place?
  • What do you do with bad partners if you already have them?

Who is a bad channel partner?

A channel partnership should mutually benefit both parties. It should be a classic give-and-take situation. But when the other party can’t or doesn’t fulfill their end of the deal, it ceases to be a symbiotic relationship.

Akhiani defines a bad partner as one “that does not fit your ideal partner profile.” He goes on to explain a partner who doesn’t match an IPP, “They don’t sell in your industry, want a different compensation structure than what you’re offering or have low authority in the space.” If a prospective or current partner displays any of these characteristics, chances are they’ll fall short of expectations, which is where we classify them as a bad fit.

Related: Partner payout tasks to do now for smoother payroll.

In contrast, a prospective good channel partner matches your IPP. They have a track record of succeeding in your vertical, agree to your compensation model and have a great web traffic score (especially if they are an affiliate partner). These partners are more likely to bring in qualified leads and increase your revenue via channel sales.

To create an IPP, look at your data if you have an existing program. Check which partners have performed best and the attributes they have in common. Also, look at your product. What industry are you in? What verticals are you trying to target? Combine these insights to discover your ideal partner.

What causes channel conflict and bad partners?

There are a few reasons why a program may attract bad fit partners.

Insufficient information on the program landing page

Your landing page should contain details like who you’re targeting, what partners should expect and how they can benefit from it. “Not providing enough information on your partner program before someone even applies is a downside,” says Akhiani. It can attract the wrong people and without a proper qualification system.

A channel partner application form with check marks to indicate good fit

Poor qualification process

This reason accounts for the majority of bad channel partners. Ideally, you should have a form for prospects to fill out to join your program. If you’re not asking the right or sufficient questions in your application form, it’s hard to determine if the prospective partner is a good match. 

“It is the most important thing you can do when running a partnership program because it will allow you to set it up to filter as much junk as possible.” Furthermore, Akhiani adds, “If your application process is good, you should potentially be eliminating a lot of bad partners.”

You might be nervous about asking too many questions because you’re afraid it’ll scare away the prospect. That’s understandable. However, according to Akhiani, “The philosophy to keep in mind is that if you’re interested in something, you’ll fill the form out even if it’s too many questions. If you really want to do something, you’ll do it. Asking too many questions will filter [out] a lot of people you probably didn’t want to work with anyways.”

In essence, don’t be afraid to have a detailed form. It’ll help attract the right people who will bring results for you while keeping the wrong ones away.

Lack of enablement 

Sometimes, you have someone who fits your ideal partner profile perfectly on paper but underperforms once in the program. This can be because they don’t have enough enablement on your side. They lack the resources, training, tools and information to promote your product or service. 

So, you must ensure you’re both on the same page regarding your messaging, product and target audience. Share relevant happenings they should know about, like new features or product updates. 

In summary, Akhiani says, “Make sure partners have all they need in order to do the best possible job. They have to know everything about your tool and who your target audience is.”

You can store enablement materials on your portal in PartnerStack so they can easily access them. We also integrate with a learning management system (LMS), which you can connect to deliver training and resources to partners.

See more: How these partner pros enable their partner programs for success.

How to support bad fit or underperforming partners

After identifying inactive partners by checking their activity and performance, what’s next? There are a few steps you can take to support them.

If possible, communicate with the defaulting partner to understand why they’re underperforming and how you can help. Maybe they need more resources or educational materials. However, this option is not always possible because it depends on how many partners you have, how many are inactive and how important they are to your program. 

If the first option is not feasible, try to provide a sales incentive to motivate them to improve their performance. This can include bonuses for achieving specific targets, commission increases for reaching certain milestones and discounts on your products or services.

An image showing a repellent spraying with the words bad partners in a large red X

If all else fails, you might find it tempting to remove them entirely from your program. Akhiani doesn’t recommend this alternative because, he reveals,  there’s no real  benefit in doing so. “It doesn’t cost you anything or make a difference to leave them there,” he explains. Instead, ensure you know exactly who the underperforming partners are, then re-categorize them. 

“Removing only makes sense if there’s fraud and a lot of times, Partnerstack handles that automatically,” he says. With a fraud protection feature, Partnerstack detects fraudulent activities, flags them, blocks the transaction and alerts you. You  can then review and remove them as needed.

Focus on preventing bad partners rather than handling them

Prevention, they say, is better than cure. The bulk of your efforts should go towards preventing bad partners from getting into your system by focusing on attracting qualified partners like through PartnerStack’s Network, the world’s largest B2B Marketplace that’s home to over 80,000 active partners. This includes designing your program well from the start, qualifying prospects properly and giving them sufficient enablement materials. That, plus a good commission structure with appealing rewards and regular communication with top performers is the key to high-performing channel partnerships.

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