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Ensure Your Partner Application Process Runs Smoothly

This month’s message is about making it as simple as possible for prospective partners to apply to your partner program. Because your application process is one of the first operational connections your potential partners have with you, you want that experience to be a favorable one, or minimally, without pain.

Ask yourself the following questions to test whether your application process might need a little care and feeding:

• WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU APPLIED TO YOUR OWN PROGRAM? As a starting point, it’s a good idea to apply to your program, at least, every six months. Putting yourself in the shoes of your partner will quickly reveal which parts of the application remain relevant as your products and services change.  Minimally, you’re likely to discover a couple things that are annoying and easily remedied before becoming a drag on your prospective partner’s perception of you.

• FROM START TO FINISH, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A PARTNER TO APPLY TO YOUR PROGRAM?  While there are no hard and fast rules here, generally, the less time a partner has to spend on your application, the better. If it takes more than an hour, make sure that it’s easy for a partner to save their work-in-process to complete another time.  Nice touches include indicating how long the application should take to complete, so the partner budgets accordingly, and a visible way for the partner to gauge how far along they are in the process, like “50 percent done.”  Another handy time saver is to indicate upfront what the partner will need by way of information before they get started.

• ARE ALL THE QUESTIONS ON YOUR APPLICATION RELEVANT TO THE SELECTION PROCESS? For each application question, make sure you know for what purpose that information will be used in helping you qualify the prospective partner.  For example, questions about vertical market focus makes sense, but maybe you don’t need a detailed account at the SIC code level just yet.  If you do, however, be sure to use a pull-down menu with clear definitions.

• HOW LONG WILL APPROVAL TAKE? High school students applying to colleges have specific deadlines and they’re told exactly when they will learn whether they’ve been accepted.  Your prospective partners deserve the same consideration.  A published schedule might look like this:

Published Schedule

Is your approval process mechanized enough to be able to commit to and deliver against a timeline for notification?

• IS THE APPROVAL PROCESS CLEAR AND TRANSPARENT? Future partners like to know where they are in the approval process and what happens next. It’s best if this can be automated, of course. Some companies want field involvement in new partner decisions.  This is fine, but don’t let it delay the process. If the decision makers along the approval process cannot respond within a reasonable amount of time, have an escalation plan so that applicants aren’t left hanging one way or another.

In as much as we never get a second chance to make a first impression, may your partner application and approval process present an advantageous impression.  If it does not, which suggestions above can you implement?

October 18, 2013  ·  

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