BARS Partner Suitability and Stack Ranking: Process and Tools Background and Overview Pt. 3

Implementing the BARS exercise

The BARS process ranks each partner on a scale of 1-5, across 3 objective and 1 subjective ranking weighted measurements. The average of these four categories informs the final analysis.

If you’ve not read Parts 1 and 2, I invite you to do that first. These two sections discuss the background of the exercise, and also provide some details as to why you’d want to consider implementing the BARS process with your channel management team in the first place.

The CAMs/AAMs and their partners will thank you for doing this – because the right partners will receive the most/best attention from your CAMs/AAMs. This will in term result in closer partnership with your business partners, which will grow sales for both organizations, and make for happier customers.

targetThe upshot is, the CAM/AAM will know their business partner population better, so they will communicate with them more effectively. There will lead to a lot more of “just-in-time, just-for-me” discussion going on, and less general, “shotgun-type” communications. In other words, your team won’t waste the valuable time of the partner, and will therefore have earned their appreciation, which strengthens the relationship overall.

To reiterate the process discussion, “BARS” stands for:

B: Bandwidth

A: Advocacy

R: Revenue history

S: Subjectivity

The Bandwidth ranking is fairly simple to derive. During conversations with partner’s executive management team, we need to ask whether they are in a position to take on new customers. If the answer is “yes,” we ask how many. The answer will certainly be different for the 1-person company versus mid-sized organizations and of course different again for larger reseller/partner/alliance companies. question-marks

Some of the questions to help you figure out your partners’ business profile, leading to their Bandwidth ranking, are (choose appropriate questions here, based on your product lineup):

1)    What is the competitive landscape regarding our product in your MSA?

2)    How long have you been in business? How long with us?

3)    How is your business broken down, percentage-wise:

a.    hardware sales

b.    software sales

c.     consulting sales

d.    break/fix activity

4)    If you carry hardware – which brands?

a.    Which do you focus on?

b.    Which do you prefer?

c.     Why?

5)    What competing products do you carry, if any?

a.    Product 1:

b.    Product 2:

c.     Product 3:

d.    Product 4:

6)    Regarding staffing:

a.    How many salespeople do you have on-staff?

b.    How many consulting resources?

c.     Break/fix technicians?

d.    Post-sales tech support resources (help desk)?

e.    Marketing resources?

f.     External contractor relationships?

g.    Outsourcing partnerships?

7)    How many offices/locations do you have today? What are your plans for growth?

8)    How many customers do you have today?

9)    How long have you had your customers, on average?

10)  What is the demographic profile of your best and worst customers?

a.    Why is that your best customer?

b.    Why is that your worst customer?

11)  Do you offer (and successfully sell) service contracts?

12)  Do you focus on a niche market, or are they generalists?

13)  How much of your business do we represent?

14)  Are you interested in growing their business overall, or are you happy with your current revenue and activity levels?

15)  What is your sales “approach?”

a.    Do you “do” proactive marketing?

b.    Referral-only?

c.     Outbound sales?

d.    Inbound sales efforts only?

e.    How do you advertise, if at all?

Marry this discussion with our knowledge of their level of advocacy for our products versus other competing products they may carry, and we can see how to best balance these two main points of suitability judgment.

The Advocacy discussion point attempts to provide an objective view of their subjective preferences for our product in the markets in which we participate. Some of the related questions may be:

1)    How do you speak of us, both with us, and to our customers?

2)    Do you run your business on our technology?

a.    If not, why not?

3)    Do you take our tests?

4)    Do you read our emails?

5)    Do you attend training days?

a.    Multiple training days?

b.    Does that lead to sales?

6)    Do you read our newsletters?

7)    Do you participate in beta programs?

8)    Do you participate in our forums?

9)    Do you participate/take advantage of MDF with your other vendors?

a.    What do those activities look like?

b.    What type(s) of activity(ies) are more successful than others?

c.     Are you interested in our MDF program?

10)  Do you engage with marketing for case study/PR activity?

a.    If not, are you willing to be?

11)  Do you call us back when we call them?

12)  Do you take our meetings?

13)  Do you have our logo on their website, and is it the right one?

14)  Do you lead with our products when in customer discussions?

15)  How many of our products do you proactively sell today?

a.    Are you willing to add our other products to your efforts?

b.    Will you even entertain the possibility?

c.     Do/did you represent a competing product that you’d consider replacing with our product?

16)  What other products do you champion, outside of ours? Advocacy – at large – do you focus on other products:

a.    Do you run (or participate in) a user group of any kind?

b.    Do you attend vendor/technology conferences?

c.    If so: which ones _____________________________________

d.     Are you a member of any professional VAR group?

e.    What product certifications do you or your staff members hold?

17)  What distribution relationships do you have?

The Revenue data point is the most-objective data point in the exercise. Depending on how long they’ve been a partner of ours, we can look back at – and graph – the last 3 years, if possible, of their revenue attainment. Is it growing? Staying the same? Declining? Do they know why there were those inflection points?

1)    What target markets do you approach?

a.    Commercial

i.    Architecture/engineering/Aeronautics

ii.    Arts/sports/entertainment

iii.    Traditional entrepreneurial

iv.    Public affairs

v.    Financial/insurance

vi.    Legal

vii.    Marketing/PR/Advertising

viii.    Medical/health care

ix.    Real estate

x.    Technology/Aeronautics

xi.    Retail/merchandising

xii.    OGAS

xiii.    Manufacturing

b.    Government (SLG or other “non-profits”)?

c.     Educational

i.    K-12

ii.    HiEd

iii.    Private

2)    Ideal customer size for your organization?

3)    What is your retention rate for your customer base:

a.    How many do you gain over the course of a year?

b.    How many do you lose over the course of a year?

4)    How has your customer demographic (size) changed over the years in other ways?

a.    Are you taking on larger customers, based on employee adds?

5)    Are you renewal-based, or new-product (new sales) based?

6)    How often do you contact Tech Support?

7)    Do your customers contact our tech support directly?

8)    How often do you refresh your customers’ technology?

a.    Based on your recommendation?

b.    What do your customers do as a result of your recommendation(s)?

9)    What is your average number of our product sales per quarter per product?

a.    Product 1

b.    Product 2

c.     Product 3

d.    Product 4

Finally, the Subjectivity rating is just that – it is our subjective ranking on a scale of 1-5, based on our own professional experience. It is our own “gut reaction” to the partner and his or her staff members. It also has the lightest weighting of all 4 points in the BARS matrix for the obvious reasons (with the exception of white-space coverage partners).

1)    Do we feel that they have the “right stuff” to carry our products, based on our time


2)    Do we enjoy spending time with them?

3)    Are the conversations we have positive in nature, or do they challenge us unnecessarily?

The final analysis

By gathering and considering the information derived from the answers to these and other questions, the Channel Manager can assign a ranking from 1-5 for each of the 4 categories. The available spreadsheet will automatically average each partner’s score, and shade the cell containing their final average in an appropriate color – green, yellow, or red.

1)    Green of course if “great partner,” and one that objectively deserves our time, attention, MDF dollars and so on

2)    Yellow denotes an organization that is either on the way up, or on the way down – keep watch over the next couple of quarters

3)    Red, or course, is a partner that is probably not appropriate to retain in the Focus Account Program, or is too new to the program to rank effectively

Other related tools

There are also spreadsheet tools to help rate existing partners that can be used for this exercise. Please contact me for availability. (The names in this graphic have all been BARS spreadsheet.jpgchanged – they do not represent any company – at least not intentionally.)

There is also a Profile Spreadsheet for new partners or recruits available as well. This can be used to assist the CAM/AAM in deciding whether to promote new partners to the next level, or to recruit this partner, as well.

The end of the series

Thank you for reviewing these thoughts – I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any ideas concerning BARS or Channel/Alliance Management in general, please leave a comment!

Happy partnering.

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