You Only Get One Shot At A First Impression: How To Ace Partner Onboarding

You Only Get One Shot At A First Impression: How To Ace Partner Onboarding

Rob Rebholz 7 min

Better onboarding and enablement are two of the key use cases companies use Superglue for. And over the last year or so, we’ve learned a lot about the crucial role they both play in driving partner-led revenue. In this post, I’d like to share some of what we’ve discovered.


It might seem obvious that partner onboarding is something to be taken seriously. And personally, I think that many companies do take it very seriously. But even so, many of them still don’t take it seriously enough.


Why?


Because you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression–and onboarding is where you make or break your partner’s perception of you.


Your onboarding process sets the stage for everything that comes afterward, and if you ace it, that will open plenty of doors.



Onboarding call + looong follow-up email + access to PRM: Not a winning recipe

All too often, onboarding isn’t much more than a call, a looong follow-up email, and access to a PRM - if the company has one. But just because that’s the most common way it’s done, doesn’t mean it’s the right way. What if, rather than dumping all this stuff on our partners, we took them on a journey? What if we could design that journey to actually build trust, foster understanding, and get them excited to be there?


Well, we can. And that’s what I want to explore here.


Now, I have a background in B2C marketing and CRM, so I always think about the best loyalty programs, and how they turn customers into fans within days or weeks. And I believe we should see onboarding less as a process of (technical) enablement, and more as the start of a journey that turns our partners and us into close allies.


There’s definitely an art to all of this. But even more so, it’s a science. So let’s think about outputs first and then get into the details. Here are some of the KPIs that many of our customers strive to improve:



  1. Onboarding time - how long it takes to onboard a partner
  2. Onboarding success rate (churn) - the percentage of onboarded partners that remain active and engaged over time
  3. Effort or time to onboard - the amount of time and resources your team spends onboarding partners
  4. Average time to first lead - the time it takes for a partner to generate a lead after onboarding
  5. Share of onboarded new partners that drive revenue - the percentage of partners that generate revenue within the 3-6 months of onboarding



What the onboarding journey should look like: The bare minimum…

To create a great onboarding experience, we first need to think about the journey we want to take our partners on. We start out by getting them excited. From there, we move towards enablement.


Next, we need to know where they stand, so we can create transparency and automate basic tasks. For that, we need to think about what triggers them (in the best way possible).


Here’s an overview of what many of our customers track in Salesforce and then use to trigger onboarding interactions:


  • Partner contact created
  • Partner contact created [...] days ago
  • Partner account state change (e.g. partner approved)
  • NDA signed
  • Partner agreement signed
  • Kick-off call completed
  • Sandbox account set up (tech/integration partners)
  • Portal access granted
  • First portal login
  • Crossbeam or Reveal invite sent
  • Crossbeam or Reveal invite accepted
  • Partner manager assigned
  • Certification completed (some companies track training completion in SFDC)
  • First, lead submitted (some companies don’t consider a partner onboarded / active until they sent a lead)
  • Also: No activity in [...] days (to follow up with contacts that are "stuck" in certain stages of the onboarding process - this one is crucial to prevent "forgetting" about anyone and letting an opportunity go stale)



…And then, the bells and whistles

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s consider what sets a great onboarding journey apart. These are the things we see companies that create great onboarding experiences do really well.



Be proactive

Don’t wait for partners to reach out. Actively check in, guide them through the process, and offer assistance when needed. Remember, re-engaging partners early on keeps the relationship fresh and exciting.


After all, when it comes to onboarding, velocity matters. The longer you wait to connect, the more stale the relationship will get. A partner you haven’t talked to for two weeks is much easier to re-engage than one you haven’t been in touch with for two months.




Meet partners where they are

Use their preferred communication channels, be it email or Slack. For an even stronger connection, consider meeting them in person, if that’s feasible. Set clear expectations for response times to ensure they feel supported.




Minimize friction

Focus on making the onboarding experience as smooth as possible. Replace demands with offers of assistance and resources to simplify the process: less “here’s what we expect of you” and more “here’s how we make this ridiculously easy for you.”




Break it down

Replace long, overwhelming emails with bite-sized pieces of information shared over time. This approach reduces frustration and maintains engagement.




Time PRM invitations wisely

Introduce partners to your PRM only when its value is clear to them. It’s not enough to simply send details and invite partners to discover it on their own. Partners who actually know what’s in it for them are more likely to actually log in and engage.




Build excitement first

Discuss certifications and tasks after partners understand the joint value proposition (JVP) and the impact your partnership can have on their business.




Offer help, and be genuine about it

Before discussing lead submission processes, ask partners how you can best support them. This shows that you’re thinking about their interests and not just your own.




Make everyone feel valued

Avoid tier-focused discussions that may alienate lower-tier partners. Treat everyone as special and valued, because partners who don’t feel this way will be less motivated to engage. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use tiers to prioritize partners. It just means you should not tell anyone they matter less.




Focus on excitement and support

Emphasize how you’ll help partners close more deals, rather than just discussing commissions. They want to know how you will help them close more deals of their own, rather than simply getting a cut of yours.




Leverage segmentation and personas

Tailor your onboarding approach to different partner types and personas. That way, you can address their unique needs and goals. For example, tech partners and SIs definitely require different messaging.

But that’s not where it ends. Think about personas next: AEs are not the same as CSMs. The first person wants to close more deals; the second wants to make their customers happier. Make sure you get that across.




Maintain the human touch

Even while automating, it’s possible to create personalized experiences. For example, partner managers can record welcome videos for new partners, or include personal notes in automated messages (this is a Superglue feature).




Let’s go!

In partnerships–like almost everywhere else–well begun is half done. The way partners are welcomed, onboarded, and enabled will determine almost everything that happens downstream. So don’t waste any time, especially if your goal is to drive more partner-led revenue this year.


This OpEd is from Superglue.io’s Co-founder and CEO, Rob Rebholz. Sign-up for Superglue.io’s newsletter to get more great content like this.


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Rob Rebholz 7 min

You Only Get One Shot At A First Impression: How To Ace Partner Onboarding


To create a great onboarding experience, we first need to think about the journey we want to take our partners on.


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