The B2B world is quickly understanding that a company’s role within its ecosystem of partners is essential to its relevance in the market. Not only that, but their ecosystem presence will also determine a company’s future success. Many companies are now establishing partnership programs to enable just that. As they define their Partnerships Managers’ roles, a key component to this position is its ability to drive revenue. In tandem with these efforts, there is also a frequent expression of disgruntlement by CEOs. They speculate that their investment in the partnerships program is low due to the lack of ROI reflected. More often than not, the source of this issue is the displacement of the Partnerships department.
There are many directions a partnerships program can take. The goals of the company will ultimately determine where the program goes. Types of programs include, but are not limited to, channel partners, service partners, and technology partners. In a partnership program that is just getting its legs, it is vital to keep in mind that this department will evolve. Because of its inevitable evolution, partnerships should initially be driven by the CEO to make sure that the program remains aligned with the goals of the company.
Often, the program is bundled into a particular department preemptively, typically marketing. This premature decision does not bode well for achieving the maximum desired ROI for partnerships. A widespread opinion is that the position should report to the CMO. This decision is made for obvious reasons. The components which contribute to marketing aid in the strategic alliance of two companies. Siloed, this rationale makes the combination of Partnerships and Marketing quite obvious. However, the evidence that lies beyond the surface should determine where partnerships should ultimately be.
Partnerships Manager Metrics
The deliverables established should be taken into account. If they are in sales and the pipeline, which they often are, it behooves the department to report to the CRO as a part of the sales department. Additionally, the metrics that Partnerships Managers use will be telling of where their department belongs. Often the metrics and KPIs of partnerships are the same if not very similar to that of their account executives. For example, tracking conversion rates from ecosystem qualified leads (leads that come from partners within your company’s ecosystem) or to partner-sourced and partner-influenced deals is a part of their metrics or monitoring how partnerships affect Pipeline to Quota Ratio. Upsell / Cross-Sell rates, and Sales Velocity - all of these metrics inarguably are sales measurements.
While the potential to contribute to every department is significant, it is inarguable that the most substantial and relevant contribution is sales. This is reflected in the statistic that 32% of all sales are channel-driven.
The Partnerships Team
There is a final component that reinforces the placement for Partnerships with sales - their direct counterparts. Without a doubt, partnerships are an extension of the sales force; they serve as the most powerful sales enablement tool available to account executives and SDRs within the company.
An Account Executive has a far greater chance to be in communication with accounts’ key decision-makers listed in their Quota Attainment Plan by utilizing the strength of partnerships. 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 this is the one method that successful AEs use. This sales enablement lies within an ecosystem management platform like Sharework. Not only do these platforms reveal partner account overlap, but, Sharework, in particular, identifies the account representatives of the partner easing the ability to access tier one accounts. This claim is expressed widely by Partnerships Managers who have integrated seamlessly with their company’s sales teams. According to a partnerships manager at Usertesting, this alignment’s effectiveness is driving a new school of thought for their account executives. Now, their sales process actively integrates partnerships. Partners' sales teams are an extension of their own, multiplying their customer base and their pipeline.
“Our reps are looking at partnerships, and they are doing a different thinking in how they go after their territory now.” - Kalen Kimm, UserTesting
It is this impact of this mindset shift with account executives that further establishes a sentimental value between partnerships and sales. Because attribution tracking can sometimes prove challenging, there must be a perceived value of impact that the Partnerships Managers provide to the department to which they report. While the potential to contribute to every department is significant, it is inarguable that the most substantial and relevant contribution is sales. This is reflected in the statistic that 32% of all sales are channel-driven.
As a company’s existence within its ecosystem becomes more prevalent to its success, the need for partnerships will continue to grow. For them to be effective, they must be given metrics and KPIs that reflect their ability to increase revenue, but they must also be placed within a department driven with an aligned way of thinking.