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Channel Matters Blog > February 2014 > Herding Cats: Setting Partner KPIs

Herding Cats: Setting Partner KPIs

by Geoff Wright
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You’ve probably heard the saying that managing partners is “like herding cats.” There’s some truth to that, but contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained. I know a woman who makes her cats sit quietly before she feeds them. Her cats know what the reward is, and they know what they need to do to get it. If cats can be trained to sit quietly, surely partner performance can be managed.

In my last post, Setting Channel KPIs, I talked about setting KPIs for your channel account managers (CAMs). If you haven’t read that post lately, go back and review it. Many of the concepts I covered there will be useful in a discussion about channel KPIs.
Now, on to setting KPIs for partners. I’m going to address this topic the way I often do with my Channel Enablers clients – by answering some of the most common questions I get.
Can I hold Partners accountable?
Let’s just get this question out of the way up front. Yes, you can hold partners accountable! I realize that channel partners are independent business people, and they have their own business objectives. Nevertheless, being a channel partner is a privilege, not a right. Like salespeople, underperforming partners must be “managed up or managed out” before they suck the profit right out of your business.
Should I set revenue targets for partners?
As with setting KPIs for your CAMs, revenue targets are inescapable. However, it is a mistake to concentrate solely on revenue targets. In complex markets with long sales cycles, it might be six months or longer before a new partner brings in their first dollar of revenue. Individual KPIs should be set based on the channel partner’s stage of development. While an established partner’s goals might be revenue-oriented, a new partner should focus more on checking off items on the enablement checklist. These are the activities and behaviors that lead to future revenues.
Do I need to set KPIs for every partner?
It’s a waste of time to set goals with partners that have no intention of reaching for them. For a refresher on partner segmentation, go back and review our post Should You Assign Your Best CAMs to Your Best Partners? It makes sense to set targets with achievers, but you probably don’t need to spend a great deal of time convincing them. Most achievers will tell you what they plan to accomplish.
There is one advantage to setting goals with deceivers – it removes any doubt that they are what you think they are. Just be sure they agree to their goals. That way, when they don’t achieve them, they can’t say they never agreed to them. If they won’t agree to setting goals, end your meeting quickly, and move on to a believer.
Believers are where you spend most of your time, however, don’t just hand them a canned set of goals. Work with them to develop mutually agreeable targets that are achievable and fit into their business plans. Setting behavioral or activity goals is especially important with believers. They’re serious about their commitment, but there’s a missing link in their strategy that’s keeping them from turning in the kind of numbers you’re seeing from your achievers. Help them identify that missing ingredient, and you can graduate your believers to achievers.
How do I reward Partners for achieving their targets?
If the business opportunity is viable, success should be its own reward. Nevertheless, partners are human and recognition for accomplishments can often be highly motivating. This might include informal recognition or celebration events at the partner’s site. Or, it might be a more formal achievement of a partner certification or “level” within your partner programs. It might also be ad hoc such as the chance to participate in big opportunities with the direct sales team, additional marketing support or authorization for a new product line.
One final tip – make sure the KPIs for your CAMs and their partners are in synch. If your CAMs only have revenue-based goals, it will discourage them from working with those partners who are still in the early stages of development.  You will always need a strong, healthy “bench” to replace those partners who reach the end of their lifecycle.
If you have questions or comments about setting goals for channel partners, I’d love to hear them. You can add your comments below or reach out to me at
Last modified on 2/19/2014 8:47:31 PM
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