Channel partners have long been critical to the growth and success of high-tech companies, driving scale and innovation in taking solutions to market. Also vital, by extension, is the experience high-tech companies deliver for their partners. If this experience enables partners to effectively build solutions, innovate, sell, and support their customers, it provides valuable competitive advantage. Of course, the converse is also true: a clunky, inferior partner experience can be an impediment to scale and growth—and could even drive partners to develop stronger relationships with competitors that are easier to do business with. And such competitors are more plentiful than ever: In an Accenture study of high-tech channel partners, 77% of partners said they have more provider choices today than they did three years ago.
More than ever, high-tech companies are required to improve the experience they deliver across the partner journey: streamlining and simplifying the ways in which partners build and take solutions to market and get support when they need it. And artificial intelligence (AI) is fast becoming a key tool to power a superior partner experience. AI can help reduce friction for partners from onboarding through support to help provide more personalized and guided experiences; help improve partner satisfaction through ease of doing business; and help drive revenue growth by expanding the scope of partner relationships. AI and automation can bring together context and content to help generate meaningful insights that are key to a collaborative, mutually beneficial provider-partnership relationship. Partners recognize the value AI can bring to the table. In our partner research, digital experiences that improve the ease of doing business was cited by 75% of partners as an important factor in their decision to work with a provider. Furthermore, 80% of partners said that, without AI, they will be unable to scale.
Two areas in which AI especially shines are improving partner support and building personalization and transparency in the sales process.
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Providing Better Partner Support
In our research and client work, support continues to be the top pain point in the partner journey. In fact, partner dissatisfaction with support is only growing, as offerings become more complex and providers aren’t giving partners enough of the help they need, when they need it, to understand and effectively sell these offerings to their customers.
AI-powered experiences can help provide the intelligence and self-serve support to help partners manage the increase in solution complexity and volume—and be responsive to their customers. For instance, AI can help deliver the right content to partners to more easily address customer issues, which is especially critical when as-a-service models are involved. If customers are held up in onboarding or aren’t using the solution as much as they should be because they haven’t been fully trained on it, consumption—and, consequently, revenue for both the partner and provider—will be affected. A high-tech company can use AI-powered support to help partners take new offers to market—answering partner questions and supporting configuration and solutioning for customers, resulting in improved channel sales growth of 2-8%, depending on use case.1
Improving partner support with AI also helps enable partners to confidently focus more strongly on innovation with their customers, as they have quick and easy access via AI to the content and guidance they require to help them create innovative solutions. Indeed, such innovation is a key concern for partners. In our partner research, 83% of partners said the future of their business depends on a provider-partner ecosystem that fosters innovation, and 45% of partners said their primary business objective is to expand their business by bringing more consistent innovation to their products and services. AI can help support innovation through intelligent collaboration, an example of which is the creation of collaborative communities. AI can help enhance collaboration to a point where partners can be recommended to collaborate with other partners on complementary solutions and services.
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Scaling through intelligent guidance and personalization
Partners want to work with companies that know them, understand them and their customers, and understand the work they do. Providers need to offer the information and assets that are most relevant to each partner’s business so partners, in turn, can be more relevant to their customers. For example, a partner that focuses on selling to schools expects its provider to personalize solutions and recommendations to that segment’s needs and constraints. AI can help do just that by using a wide range of customer and market data to build suggestions for partners that are tailored to specific customers or groups of customers with similar requirements.
AI can also provide prescriptive guidance to partners on how to grow their business—from suggesting other certifications and enablement or training that could help upskill their practice to alerting partners to other incentives they could be eligible for if they sell more of a certain product. And, AI can help automate new partners’ onboarding to a company’s platform by providing a set of prescriptive and tailored set of onboarding steps specific for the solutions they’re selling.
Increasing Transparency in the Sales Process
Transparency builds trust with partners by giving partners visibility into their likelihood to win deals and the success factors associated with winning, as well as an explicit, data-driven rationale for why they won (or lost) a deal. AI can help provide such visibility and intelligence to help partners understand the deals they should prioritize so they don’t waste their time going after deals they have little chance of ultimately winning. AI also can foster a more rapid turnaround of approvals by helping automate approvals and guiding partners through deal processes, improving deal velocity. Intelligent systems or agents can help reduce friction and manual transactions in the sales process, freeing up partners to focus on the efforts that are most valuable, and reduce admin costs for partner support by up to 40%.1
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Making it easy for partners to provide the best solutions and experience to their customers
High-tech companies need more than the best product around to distinguish themselves from competitors. Differentiation now hinges on working closely with partners to help them craft compelling value propositions to co-innovate and orchestrate outcome-based solutions for customers. The ability to execute at scale requires AI-driven experiences that not only help reduce friction, but also help/can provide intelligence and support that help partners deliver innovation and value to customers—in turn, enabling both partners and providers to seek their ambitious growth objectives.
1 Source: Accenture benchmarks
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