Design the perfect partner programme for your software company

Ly Nguyen

24/4/2024 Loyalty Incentives How-to Channel management

Today, we're diving into the world of indirect sales and the tremendous benefits they offer through a well-crafted partner ecosystem.

Indirect sales, achieved through a robust partner ecosystem, can be a game-changer for your software business. By leveraging the strengths of three key partner types — affiliates, referral partners, and resellers — you open the door to expanded market reach and accelerate growth.

*Remember! Successful partner programmes are about building relationships and empowering partners for mutual success. We recommended, in addition to the below, providing comprehensive support through training, forums, and documentation.

Three kinds of partner:


Affiliates are a great resource for expanding your sales reach. An affiliate could be someone conducting software reviews on a blog, a social media influencer, or an industry expert with an online following. In any case, they’re showcasing your product to the online public and sharing unique purchase links.

Rewards for the affiliate will be something easy to manage and with obvious value - often in the form of a gift card or something similar. You’ll need software which lets you track affiliate referrals from the initial link through to the sale, so you can provide the reward - and, preferably, is integrated with gift card providers to make payout easy.

Similarly, you’ll want a platform that includes robust fraud detection measures to prevent abuse. The exact rules and what risk is acceptable will vary from one situation to another, so make sure this is flexible.

Referral partners

Referral partners are typically organisations with which your business has a stronger relationship. These partners serve the role of introducing potential customers to your software, but leaving the actual sales process to you and your team (although a good referral partner will often go beyond just making introductions, actively engaging in the sales process, especially if they have a close relationship with the customer). Utilizing partner relationship management software can help manage and nurture these relationships effectively.

Referral partners commonly expect an ongoing annuity payment, usually for a limited period such as 12 months.

The structure of these payments requires careful consideration. For example, you might want a fairly high payment for initial sales to encourage partners to get started, since there is some effort in learning about your product. From there, a tiered payment structure based on reaching sales volume targets can further motivate partners to actively promote your software and bring in more customers.

Again, you’ll need software that supports referral partnerships - specifically deal registration and the ability to create tiered payout systems that align with sales performance.


Resellers find and close deals independently, so you really want to support them!

A great place to start is by supplying presentations and other sales and marketing assets tailored to your software. Use co-branded materials to make it easy and efficient for your partners to use your documents in their sales efforts.

Encourage resellers to register each deal with your team and provide updates as the deal progresses. This is important for tracking sales and ensuring transparency in the partnership, so you’ll encourage your reseller partners to use a shared Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to facilitate easy communication and collaboration.

Note: many businesses that work with resellers will need to provide quotes to potential customers. If that’s you, be sure to include quoting as part of the deal registration process.

The importance of training

There is a real risk in having partners representing your brand if they don't have a thorough and accurate understanding of your products.

To mitigate this risk, consider making partner training modules a prerequisite for all referral methods. These training sessions should cover key selling points of your software, providing insights into different customer types, the ideal solutions for various needs, and responses to common questions.

By equipping partners with comprehensive product knowledge, you’re enhancing their effectiveness in promoting and selling your software.

Click here to learn more about channel and partner training. [Link to new training blog]

Community building

Creating a strong sense of community among your partners and your own team is a great tool to encourage cooperation and collaboration.

A forum where partners can ask questions and share insights will not only help them achieve their sales goals, but also helps foster a sense of community support, encouraging continued engagement.

Additionally, recognizing excellence within partner communities can further motivate partners. Awarding badges for achievements - such as receiving a five-star review from a customer - is a great way to publicly acknowledge their efforts.

Similarly, setting up level-based rewards for reaching milestones - such as achieving a certain number of sales - incentivises continued engagement and success within the partner ecosystem. These community-building initiatives not only foster a sense of camaraderie but also drive motivation and performance among your partners.

Building meaningful partner relationships

Fundamentally, the perfect partner programme seeks to shift things from a strictly transactional relationship to a close, knowledge-based partnership. It's not just about closing deals; it's about fostering engagement and mutual understanding. It’s the difference between your partners being simply aware of your product, and your partner being genuinely engaged with your brand.

Put another way, it’s about looking beyond training and incentives to create a genuine partner experience (PX) that leaves a positive impression. Yes, the bottom line is sales. But overarching that is the imperative to cultivate a partner experience where they walk away feeling positive about your company.

This is where the specific blend of elements in your partner programme makes a difference: the knowledge sharing, the incentives, and how you genuinely engage with the people representing your brand.

Remember, a successful partner programme isn't just a series of transactions - it's a journey of collaboration, engagement, and growth.


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