Do you have a Partner Operations Guide?

A Partner Operations Guide is a User Manual for your partners. It is separate to your partner agreements, reward and rebate programs, and is the place your partners should go to when needing to learn about how they should conduct business with your company.

In one vendor I worked for, our Channel Director used to have a little quiz in our weekly sales meetings where he used to present us with a scenario, and then we had to answer what was possible by utilising our own Operations Guide. This allowed us to become proficient certainly, but it also allowed us to be able to answer questions received from partners in a confident manner, and also allowed us to pick up areas for improvement in the guide itself!

Why have one?

An operations guide allows partners to help themselves, find information and conduct business without having to ring you, or others in your company seeking answers to basic questions. In short, its the set of rules on how to conduct business and is a time saver for you as a Channel Manager.

What's in one?

Certainly basics like contact phone numbers, addresses are required, but here are some other things you should have in it:

  • Company locations
  • Phone numbers
  • Key Contacts
  • What constitutes a valid purchase order
  • How to place a purchase order 
  • How to cancel an existing order, and when it's allowed
  • How to track orders
  • How to retrieve a list of orders not provisioned or shipped (backorders) 
  • Special pricing discounts and processes
  • Returns Process 
  • Banking details or methods of payment of invoices etc.
  • Disputes and Resolutions Process
  • Invoicing & Payment Terms
  • Risk of Loss Statement

Importantly, the guide should have an "Errors and Omissions" statement, and it should also state that is subject to change. An "Effective From" date should also be prominently displayed.

Who is it aimed at?

Your Operations Guide should be aimed at ANYONE in your partners who interacts with your company. It's not just a sales document. Determine your audience, and then write it for that audience. An Operations Guide will typically be referred to by:

  • Sales 
  • Sales Support
  • Order Management
  • Logistics & Operations
  • Accounts
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Legal

Make sure it doesn't read as just a sales or promotion document - that's not it's purpose.

Making Changes

Occasionally you will need to make changes to the guide. When you need to make a change to your Operations Guide, make the change effective at a future date; you can't make on-the-fly changes.

Best practice would be to release your operations guide once a quarter or once a half, with a covering letter to your partner principals at least 30 days before it comes into effect detailing any changes.

For example, if you are making changes to your guide for the 1st of July, send a communication to partners by the 1st of June detailing the changes, along with a copy of the new guide in case there are any comments or clarifications required.

Can't it just go in the Partner Agreement?

Partner agreements should only contain information and terms that do not change regularly, if at all. When a Partner Agreement needs to change, all of your partners will be required to either accept an Appendix, or resign a new agreement. This is a complex process that should be avoided if possible.

The Partner Agreement should refer to the Operations Guide and also mention that the guide is subject to change. In this way, by signing a partner agreement, the partner is agreeing to any changes that may become necessary in the Operations Guide.

Who's involved in making one?

Developing and maintaining an Operations Guide is a whole-of-company job that will need involvement from almost every part of your company. The whole point of the guide is to assist partners in dealing with all parts of your company, so if there is a part of your company that is touched by partners, they will need to contribute to the guide.

Lastly, before your guide is issued it will need to be approved for release by your company's legal team - don't forget this important step!

There should be a team that meets at least every month or two to review any changes required. This is also where suggestions from Channel Managers should be tabled. As the Channel Managers will be working directly with the partners, any concerns, suggestions, clarifications etc will bubble up from the partners through the Channel Managers. It's a good idea to have a central place where these comments may be sent for discussion when the "Guide" team meets. This will give a good idea of what changes need to be considered. Based on the questions that the Channel Managers are receiving, it may also provide an indication of new topics to be added to the guide.

So, where is your company up to?

Do you have an Operations Guide? If you do, is it being updated, or has it fallen by the wayside? Be a change agent in your company, take the initiative and get organised in your company. Your partners will appreciate it, and you will cut down on the number of phone calls and emails coming in to you and your co-workers.


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