The number one question every partner enablement program should be looking to answer is: What is the story that we want our sellers to tell about our partners?
Partner selling isn’t easy. It requires a high level of skill and trust for sellers within each partner to make mutual value propositions to customers. Co-selling doesn’t always happen in the same room or at the same time. Sellers need to be able to position partners within their ecosystem in a compelling way on their own. In other words, they need to have a great story to tell.
Sales leaders rely on partner enablement to equip their sellers to do just that - help their sellers tell a great story. But most partner enablement is not focused on the story sellers should tell.
Instead, most enablement content is informational. Facts and figures often appear in the form of a one-pager, battle card or PowerPoint presentation. All of which are painted in mind-numbing feature lists and ROI estimates. Speeds and feeds or fancy finance do not help sellers to tell a compelling story.
Many sales leaders are under the impression that their sellers have the skills to take facts and figures and weave a compelling partner story on their own. They may think that since sellers know their customers better than anyone, then they know what will resonate with them. In fact many leaders argue that it’s the role of the seller to craft the right story for their customers in the first place.
Sellers should be focused on their story delivery. That part is true.
However, it’s unrealistic for them to be able to piece together a message on their own, even with all the facts and figures laid out, if they haven’t been taught how. From a bigger picture stance - do you want your sellers crafting their own individual messages to their customers without any guidance?
The brand can start to get lost if there isn’t some sort of process and calibration.
This is especially true in partner ecosystems where the solution complexities are multiplied.
Customers care about the end result more than all of the components involved in complex solutions. The feature-benefit listing style, which is pervasive in so many enablement materials, are not the right building blocks for a compelling message which is why so many presentations come across like Charlie Brown’s inaudible teacher.
And sellers know when they sound this way. They know when a message is falling flat. They also know it doesn’t help a sale move forward. The worst part is how deflating and demotivating it can be to the seller if they feel that this is what they are being asked to do.
This maybe part of the reason why sellers can become hesitant to present a partner offering in the first place - even if they know and like the partner. Most sellers may not communicate to their leaders that they need a better story to tell. Instead it maybe communicated as needing MORE marketing materials that focus on specific use-cases. Or they may say they need BETTER PowerPoint presentations with images of a particular industry. The result is that more ineffective materials get created, making enablement even noisier.
What sellers are really saying is they need an inspiring message - some sort of a compelling perspective or thought-provoking insight that can move their customers’ hearts and minds. This is the essence of story.
In fact a great story not only helps customers to better understand an idea or solution, but a great story can also be highly motivating for sellers. Think of it as “stor-retelling” because a great story is one that is easy to learn and retell to others - and most importantly, it’s one that sellers want to tell.
Stories also help to establish and deepen relationships because they are the currency of human contact. If a seller shares a great story with their customer, one with insights that is structured in a re-tellable way - that story will get retold internally and externally.
There is no better selling approach than storytelling in partner ecosystems because a seller’s story about a partner can become part of the ecosystem ethos. If it's a great story, every partner in the ecosystem benefits.
Jessie Shipman is the CEO and Co-Founder of Fluincy, a Sales Enablement Software for Partnerships. She has a background in education and learning theory and spent 4 years building and delivering partner enablement strategy for Apple's top partnerships before building Fluincy.