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3 Step Strategy Overview for Partnership Managers:

Step One: Partnerships Manager Method. Add metrics, Upgrade your tech stack, and educate your colleagues.  

Step Two: Onboard Partnerships at the C-Level. Make the C-Level want to provide Partnerships teams with resources they need.

Step Three: Connect with Account Executives. Let Partnerships be their best Sales Enablement resource. 




It is easy to assume if a company has a position of something like "VP of Partnerships" or "Strategic Alliances," they find value in them. Yet, CEOs often express disgruntlement over the speculation of a poor investment. It is not a question of whether the right person is filling the position, but more about the position itself and its lack of producing an ROI or, more appropriately, visible ROI. 

The word we want to introduce you to is "evangelize." No, we're not going rogue on the religious front. By evangelize, we mean fully integrating your role as a partnership manager into the fibers of each department of your company.  Only with full integration will you be able to produce visible and significant ROI. 

It is time for you to take charge and impress upon every department and person involved that the vitality of the company must include you. It not only needs to be impressed; it needs to be believed and adapted—the recommended method: working from the inside out. 

Step 1: Change Your Method.

"Don't think and assume that everybody knows actually what you're talking about. Take intentional steps and efforts to understand what's important to other internal stakeholders".

Partnership Managers experience the same challenges universally. They are misunderstood and undervalued by all. This claim is very similar to that of B2B Marketing professionals in the early 2000s. Marketing professionals were overlooked and deemed dispensable in most companies. C-levels often correlated Marketing with expenses rather than ROI. Marketers were “the group that creates fun visuals” just like Partnership Managers are still “the group that takes coffee with their counterparts”. Fast forward to 2020: there’s been a total shift in mindset. Marketers are now considered essential to most B2B businesses. They’re often among the first hires of a company, and manage significant budgets. Most importantly, their impact on revenue leaves no doubt, and consequently, they get respect and cooperation from their colleagues. The same shift is about to happen for Partnership Leaders, and it starts with you.

Partnership Leaders, the window for change is perceivably smaller than your predecessors. The world is more connected, and, consequently, the viability of any company relies heavily (if not entirely) on their ability to exist within their ecosystem. This is where your role becomes essential to the direction of the company. Perhaps, you already understand this. What you don't understand is why others do not. 

To get a clear perspective, take a step back. Look at yourself and your role from the outside; what do you see? The concept of building connections with other companies sounds smart, but to your colleagues it’s not tangible. It's no wonder your position is misunderstood. Obviously, the return on investment isn't visible, or as evident as it should be. It is with this that we can better define your course of action. Similar to when Marketers started to connect all their actions to revenue and got closer to sales teams, your role needs to be defined and interwoven into the functions of your colleagues. For that mixing to be effective, you need to be understood. 

Define your metrics. 

Provide data that not only measures your effectiveness but provides undeniable proof that the work you do is essential. Remember when Marketers stopped talking about slide decks and fun events, and started throwing expressions like “Marketing Qualified Leads”, and “Sales Qualified Leads”? That’s when executives started to listen. Especially when they understood it meant sales opportunities. Include Ecosystem Qualified Leads (EQL); new leads coming from your partner ecosystem, in the KPIs you track and communicate. Track your conversion rates from EQLs to partner-sourced and partner-influenced deals using tools like Sharework. Keep an eye on how partnerships are affecting Pipeline to Quota Ratio, Upsell / Cross-Sell rates, and Sales Velocity. Some of these metrics may appear more account executive focused. There's a reason for that. 

Upgrade your tool stack.

Consider Account Executives’ tools and processes. An AE tech stack should look very similar to your own because your effectiveness is measured by your ability to ensure their effectiveness. When you are not the bottleneck, partnerships become more impactful. To not be the bottleneck, you need to be on the same page as the team that you support and that supports you. Similarly to an AE who simply can’t function without a CRM, a Partnership Manager who doesn’t use an efficient account mapping tool that’s integrated with that CRM to optimize account mapping with their partners will soon be a thing of the past. Once you have identified partner-sourced opportunities through an account mapping platform like Sharework, only a small part of your job has been done. You need to use the same software for ecosystem lead management and sales enablement, to send these opportunities to your AEs, and track their impact on revenue. That’s when the link between the Ecosystem Qualified Leads you’re bringing, and the revenue generated, will become evident to all. That is when your contribution will become indispensable in the eyes of the C-levels. You also should incorporate your ecosystem management tools into your Account Executive's stack.

Become the teacher. 

Allison Kelly, Head of Growth Strategy at Attentive, gives a simple explanation of how to convey your role.

"Don't think and assume that everybody knows actually what you're talking about. Take intentional steps and efforts to understand what's important to other internal stakeholders".

Your ability to perform is reflected in your ability to rally extended teams around a common cause. Be beyond transparent with your intentions, and don't be afraid to schedule extra meetings to ensure that all the necessary players have their goals and timelines aligned. 

Step 2: Onboard Partnerships at the C-Level 

Partnerships become very efficient when reps can work together directly, and the partnership manager isn't the bottleneck. 

There is no consistent method for structuring Partnerships. The concept is new, and as a result, there are no best practices. Sufficit to say, a company must expect to reorganize as they evolve in understanding the functions of this role. Your role as a Partnerships Manager must be to facilitate the integration and collaboration of partnerships with all departments. This integration will ultimately lead to the transformative ROI that CEOs (and you) are so wanting. 

To be successful, your C-suite needs to instill two essential provisions into your company’s framework.

Access to resources. 

If partnerships managers cannot have the resources they require to succeed, they won't. The Partnership Manager can go to great lengths to foster relationships and make connections with potentially transformative alliances. Yet, the success of this ultimately falls back on to their company. Is the company willing to provide resources (the time, will, and management support ) to support a partner company's onboarding adequately? For this specific example - the sales teams. Partnerships become very efficient when reps can work together directly, and the partnership manager isn't the bottleneck. 

Internal Alliances. 

Partnerships are about integrating businesses. Yet, companies often neglect to take a look at their role from a holistic approach. If the position is not blended and championed within their own company, it is almost impossible for them to render impactful ROI. The company's responsibility is to enforce and reinforce the Partnership Managers value, which begins with structure and organization. 

To encourage the framework that you need to succeed, provide examples of successful companies that have made space for their Partnerships Managers for inspiration—what better proof of partnerships’ impact on growth, than that of Salesforce, Hubspot, Zapier and Qualtrics, some of the most successful B2B Tech companies that incidentally invest significant efforts in building strong partnerships. But growth isn’t the only benefit your company gets from the successful partnerships you’ve been building, look at Walmart and Microsoft's strategic alliance in 2018 to address their mutual competitor Amazon. Two heads are better than one. 

With these companies for inspiration, it becomes all too necessary that the C-level participate in addressing the issues that plague this position. 35% of B2B sales are channel-driven. This number will increase. The companies that are solving these problems, from a company framework perspective, will reap those benefits. 

To get some better insight into how other companies structure their Partnerships teams, here are a few examples: 

  • Attentive: The Partnerships team at Attentive meets every other week cross-departmentally. Every team is included in these meetings, including Product, Marketing, and Product Marketing. Through these integrated meetings, Attentive has effectively built a curated team that includes dedicated marketing and engineering resources. 
  • Chargebee: Chargebee wanted to develop their existing partnerships into active relationships to better serve and collaborate with them. To do so, they took six months to learn what their partners needed. They then structured a new technology program. That one program turned into four distinct programs with different approaches and different targets for each partner manager. 
  • Mailchimp: The Mailchimp Product Partnerships team currently reports to the Chief Product Officer and is composed of multiple departments. This includes Partner Management that handles Business Development and Account Management. It also includes Product Management, Partner Operations, a Developer Community, and a newly added Solution Engineers and Project Managers. 

Step 3: Connect With The Account Executive

A primary step included in the Quota Attainment Plan should consist of account mapping with existing partners.

It's easy to understand how an account executive could perceive partnerships as merely creating friction in their ability to hit quotas, make commissions, and hit bonuses. As we did with Partnership Managers, we encourage that the Account Executive takes a step back. They probably have been functioning linearly when it comes to account management and acquisition. Instead of leaning on the established partnerships to ease their processes, they probably go headfirst into the unknown, anticipating some elbow grease required to make headway. Present to them a new way of thinking. 

An AE's Quota Attainment Plan.


There are a hundred (or more) accounts to touch. A primary step included in the Quota Attainment Plan should consist of account mapping with existing partners. There is a far greater chance to be in communication with accounts' key decision-makers. Actually, according to the research at Sharework, a 39% greater chance of closing a deal with them. The partners already know the projects, and they know the key decision-makers. Leveraging that is the one method that hasn't been used by AEs. This sales enablement lies within an ecosystem management platform like Sharework.

Lead generation and Sales Development Representatives.

Lead Gen & SDR have the potential to provide a tremendous amount of value. Yet, they spend countless hours cold calling and emailing leads. Furthermore, they are potentially turning off future customers from aggravation. A better alternative for these SDRs is spending a quarter of the time communicating directly with partners. Why not? The SDRs are more than skilled in speaking on behalf of the company to prospective clients. If they can do that, they are more than qualified to talk to partners who already have relationships and investments. In doing so, they will be far more likely to produce successful results. 

Integration 


If a partnerships program is to succeed, then revolutionizing a company's structure and mindset internally is essential. More so, it is vital to the success of a company that they exist prominently within its ecosystem.

In the examples given, we have only skimmed the surface of what it looks like to internally evangelize a company. The expression "all hands on deck" is an understatement. If a partnerships program is to succeed, then revolutionizing a company's structure and mindset internally is essential. Moreso, it is vital to the success of a company that they exist prominently within its ecosystem. The primary action to be taken is to bridge the gap internally between partnership managers and their counterparts. It is only by reinforcing the necessity of their collaboration that a company will progress at the rate and revenue that they desire. 




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