BARS Partner Suitability and Stack Ranking: Process and Tools Background and Overview Part 1
The BARS Process – here’s the “why”
The job of an Alliance or Channel Manager is many-faceted. There are many tasks that need to be accomplished during the day/week/month for the CAM or AAM be truly successful. The AAM or CAM must find a balance that works for their population of partners, and for their employer.
BARS is an exercise whereby the CAM/AAM finds out that magic area of the 80/20 rule. Who are the 20% of my partners that will provide 80% of my revenue? I codified this process for my own use, many years ago, after experiencing many time-management challenges, and not having a balanced lifestyle.
BARS stands for:
R: Revenue history
To start with, first we must agree that some partners are better than others in their representation of the various products they carry. While this sounds judgmental – and to a great degree it is exactly that – this exercise should be undertaken by the Channel/Alliance Manager in the context of trying to remove as much emotion from the BARS Stack Ranking process as humanly possible. Allowing them to become the most effective Channel Manager possible with the roster of partners with whom they choose to work.
When the BARS exercise is complete, the process and tools generate objective data points by which we can prioritize strategic activity levels within our partner communities, to best position ourselves for the greatest possible levels of future success – we’ll be able to ride the fastest horses – if you will.
BARS is based on the concept that not all partners have the wherewithal – or some, the desire – to be successful and grow their sales with our product. Many of them represent several product lines; each of which have their own “ecosystem of ROI.” This means that, to reach a given profit level the partner must consider the amount of effort that they will need to expend to be successful with that product set.
Some products help them sell more consulting hours – these products provide them an effective platform of high-margin services delivery – while others are simply product sales to them, and that’s about it. These normally represent a smaller profit margin for them, but similarly also a smaller effort must be expended to achieve that profit, as well.
There are different discount levels relating to each product on their line cards, and candidly, there are different personal (religious? brand?) preferences as well. Some partners love our products, while others are enamored with some other widget, for instance.
Why did they choose to carry our products?
Know that there is no one “right” answer to many of these questions. The goal is to derive what appeals to – and subsequently drives – the partner on a daily basis.
The business goals of the partner must be fully understood by the Channel Manager to best motivate them to perform better with our products.
We need to understand that our partners have limited time as well – and they are being asked to participate in webinars, training days, product rollouts, and so on, by all of those other vendors as well. If they only get 2 emails per week from each of their vendors, and they carry 25 (or 50, or 100 or more) other products, that’s an extra 50 emails a week to process. If it takes only 5 minutes to process each email, that’s an extra 250 minutes per week – that’s over 4 hours a week – a half of a day each week, just to read and process emails from all of their vendors… And this does not include time they need to spend on their own sales meetings, training activities, their own bookkeeping projects; or anything else for that matter. Awareness and personal preference is key here.
But they got into the technology business for a reason, too. And they chose to pick up our products as well. Remember – they have mortgages, car payments, maybe college tuition bills, and so on. Because the market reality is, in most cases, we may or may not be their primary vendor. In that situation, we must figure out where in their priority list we fall, and then make as much of that reality as possible. We can do this in a number of ways – by increasing their profit level by working with them to increase their discount level, by being promoted (Authorized to Certified to Preferred), or by picking up other supporting products by spelling out the numerical advantage of doing that, or by other means.
Deep understanding of their business’ goals and profile will go a long way to helping you help them succeed better with our products. They may not have even asked many of these (SWOT-type) questions of themselves and their staffs – many smaller consulting firms got to where they are based on their own hard work and intrinsic interest in their field, and many got there without performing deep analyses at all.
In order to best improve their performance regarding our products, we need to provide them an excellent business proposition that provides them the highest ROI for their time invested – especially when considered against competing products they may already carry, know, and prefer.
An almost obvious statement is, “make it easy to sell our products, and that will go a long way to improving their performance. But in some cases, together you may find that our business proposition does not dovetail gracefully into their long-range plans, for a number of reasons. And that’s OK, too – but then spending your time with them will not be effective. No matter how helpful you are, they’ll never appreciate it, and their performance will not improve markedly.
Let the remain a reseller if that makes sense from a white-space perspective (discussed in the next section), or let them linger in the program, being reactive, and move on from there.
Given all of that, there are also considerations of territory areas that not covered effectively, or at all. This is called “white space” on a territory-coverage map. Also, note that the concept of “good enough” may be, well, good enough sometimes, as well. The BARS Tools and Process only provides you guidance to make those judgments.
Conclusion, and next steps
Note that there are no “right answers” to the questions that BARS presents – there are only clarifying perspectives that can be derived for the Channel Manager.
In summation, the BARS process and tools were designed to help the Channel/Alliance Manager achieve a higher level of objectivity in terms of deciding on possible return on time and activity-level investment spent with each of his or her partners, individually.
This knowledge will subsequently lead to a more effective story around a territory’s overall health, growth possibility, and future capacity. It can have a profound impact on recruitment activity and focus as well.