The Secrets to Energizing and Enabling your Partner Sales Teams

Posted by Dan Kelly

What’s the secret to SaaS Success? In this blog, we share the key components required to energize and enable Partner Sales Teams to sell SaaS.

Babies, big ideas and ‘bouncebackability’! That has been the story of my summer and what a summer it has been so far! Certainly, different in more ways than one. It has been a strange time for business with the lucky ones seeing record breaking sales, others record lows, but I think for the majority of us working in and around the Tech Channel it has been one of peaks and troughs. It has been a great time to re-connect with friends, family and nature, but tough being locked up staring for hours on end at a laptop screen from a makeshift home office.

For the industry as a whole I think the good has been an acceleration in digital transformation across all industries driven by new work from home and flexible working requirements. This has led to a spike in consumables such as PC’s, laptops and printers and longer-term growth in cloud migration and increased storage and back up technology. The not so good…obviously the lack of inter-human connectivity. It is not bad, we have just had to adapt and find new ways to build rapport and connections.


One area that has seen huge growth over the past few years and that has driven much of the change in the way vendors and partners structure their commercial models and transact is ‘X-as-a-service’. Predominantly centered around SaaS. SaaS has benefitted from the seismic change in the way we work and live resulting in exponential growth for many providers. The ‘new normal’ is…lets’ face it, is just normal. If anything, we live in an ‘evolving normal’ world and we always have… things have just been accelerated. As humans we have an amazing ability to adapt to change quickly (if we didn’t, we would still be living in caves!) and with that the ability to ‘bounce back’ from adversity. A beautiful phrase that has always stuck with me over the years and seems more apt now than ever was coined by an English Football (soccer) Manager Ian Dowie in 2004 to describe his teams amazing achievement from coming from being relegated to a lower league the year before, to back into the top league the following year. Describing his team’s resilience, determination to succeed and to overcome adversity, he described them as having great ‘bouncebackability’. What a great use of language (a neologism) – it even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2005 which is true recognition of the relevance of the word in modern society.

Now more than ever all of us in the Tech Channel need to show a little bouncebackability!

Discover the secrets to energising and enabling your Partner Sales Teams, as discussed in the CR Worldwide breakout room

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Big ideas in the IT Tech Channel

The next key theme of the summer for me has been Big Ideas. Mainly brought together in the form of the virtual Channel Meet Up ‘On-Air’ series. As always, a culmination of great, passionate Channel people coming together to network, learn and share big ideas.

The key theme from the first CMU On-Air session was ‘Adaptability’ and the second was that ‘to create a great Partner Experience, start with focusing on creating a great People Experience’. Using tools such as gamification and creative communication to create frequent, relevant touch points with key people within partners, starting with the frontline salespeople, will keep your brand front of mind and engagement and sales performance high.

The third and final CMU On-Air session focused on the emergence of SaaS, and I think it was the best session yet. Some great authorities from the SaaS world once again formed an excellent panel session. You can read about the panelist discussions in Mike Ryan’s blog.

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The Secrets to Energizing and Enabling your Partner Sales Teams

Once again, I hosted a breakout discussion room on a topic relating to the overall event focus of ‘Let’s Get SaaSy’. We decided to run with ‘Ready Steady, SaaS. The Secrets to Energizing and Enabling your Partner Sales Teams’. Which proved a popular choice with companies attending such as Barracuda Networks, Dropbox for Business, Okta, Ping Identity and Zscaler.

At CR we always like to keep things fresh, so this time we changed up the format of the session and kicked things off with some insights and thoughts on the topic from our very own Mike Ryan (Business Development Director North America). Mike shared the secrets to success:

3 C’s to SaaS Success – Using a Channel Incentive Management (CIM) Platform

  1. Control
  • Built-in audit trails and reporting mechanisms
    • Ability to capture all required information and automate results / reporting
    • Information provided in real time, structured and ad-hoc reporting opportunities
    • Know exactly what’s happening and be able to react quickly
  1. Consistency
  • Actually consistency + flexibility, one in the same
    • Leverage common components, but adds flexibility and localization options
    • Ensure responsive design – Usability is consistent across all devices / platforms
  1. Compliance
  • Corporate, governmental, internal to partner, and brand
    • Considerations for local laws, taxation requirements, etc. – Requires high degree of transparency
    • Impacts program eligibility

What’s the secret? FUN!

  • Serious Fun – Lessons learned, new knowledge
  • Easy Fun – Exploration, roleplay, curiosity
  • Hard Fun – Overcoming challenges, solving riddles
  • People Fun – Build bonds with colleagues, work as a team

Successful partner engagement programs

We invited a relevant customer to participate in the session. I would like to say a special thank you to Kelly Harrison EMEA Channel Marketing Manager at Dropbox for agreeing to answer a few questions from me to help open the conversations up to the audience and to share her experiences with the rest of the group.

  • What are some engagement challenges you have faced recently? How are you approaching partners in this new world?
    Kelly Harrison, Dropbox

    • Partners have different needs, so focus on those differences and make sure you cater to them where possible
    • Have a solution that works right out of the box and requires little support – Bonus if it integrates well with other solutions
    • Provide partners as many learning opportunities as possible – They love badges, certifications, plaques for their office
    • Use AI and digital wherever possible, as these things are helping partners and customers move toward the cloud
    • Cut webinars and other content sharing sessions down to 20 minutes – Allow individuals to stay on and ask questions, but make the general content short and sweet
    • Invite participants one month ahead rather than a week or two out – Interact with them regularly until the webinar


  • What are some examples of fun?
    Lisa Dunn, Ping Identity
    • Gamification – Give partners chance to participate in game of chance / skill, acquire knowledge, keep it bite-sized
    • How do partners access these games? Via a partner portal or incentive portal that’s linked as a partner resource

           From Katie Dunn, Zscaler

    • Zscaler has started a monthly webinar that’s broadcasted and ‘hosted’ – They run fun commercials, trivia, other interactive opportunities. The broadcasts have received great feedback so far, as something ‘different’
    • Entire Zscaler engagement team will support on the call and engage partners
    • Using Cahoot (Dropbox using as well) which is a quiz platform to add in a fun element (with prizes) at the end of webinar
  • What sort of engagement programs have worked in your current and previous roles?

          Kelly Harrison, Dropbox

    • Recently – Top 50 partner incentive with a stretch goal for each of them. Top 5 won a trip to San Francisco for training / team activities – Very well-received
    • With NetApp – Champions program
      • Partners would nominate a sales rep and NetApp would offer in-depth training to that person, making them a NetApp evangelist and the go-to within their partner companies
    • With Dell – More standard points for prizes program
      • Earn points for sales, spend points in rewards catalog

Key take-ways to Energizing and Enabling your Partner Sales Teams

In summary, I would say the key take-ways around Energizing and Enabling your Partner Sales Teams are:

  • Build a program that is easy to implement, use and manage – if it is too complex people will not engage and use it
  • Utilize established technology and methods to execute incentive and enablement programs and to ensure Control, Consistency and Compliance of your program
  • Gamify the process and take participants on a journey.
  • Remember to keep it relevant to the target audience
  • Most of all have some FUN! We are all human and work hard. Now more than ever it is important to bring a little joy and happiness into people’s lives. Don’t be a faceless corporate organization, adapt, create great Partner Experiences and relationships and make it easy and inclusive for everyone.

Oh, and the final note. I mentioned joy and happiness just now and babies right at the start of this blog… well the third theme of the summer for me was the joy of welcoming our first baby into the world right at the beginning of lockdown in the UK in March. If nothing else, it has shown me that bringing new life into these challenging times means you have to adapt, have fun and embrace all that the evolving new world offers!

To discuss how we can help build and implement new channel sales and marketing initiatives within your business, contact us today. Or check out how we have successfully implemented reward solutions in these businesses.

As a founding partner of CR Worldwide in 2002, Dan helped develop the company from a start-up business into the multi-million global brand it is today.