Lesson four
15 minutes

How to Build a Partner Program in 7 Steps | Part 2

In this section of the course, we’ll look at the final stages of the partnership lifecycle. Including:

  • What happens after account mapping when you’ve shortlisted accounts to collaborate on
  • My top tips for sales enablement
  • The all important business review
Lesson four
15 minutes

How to Build a Partner Program in 7 Steps | Part 2

In this section of the course, we’ll look at the final stages of the partnership lifecycle. Including:

  • What happens after account mapping when you’ve shortlisted accounts to collaborate on
  • My top tips for sales enablement
  • The all important business review

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Stage 5: Build a pipeline

Once you have your initial account mapping completed with your partner, you should have identified a few interesting accounts to collaborate and focus on. Congrats! The next step is to have a process to track and manage the opportunities on these shortlisted accounts.

Managing Your Partner Pipeline

Tracking these opportunities can either be done (you guessed it) via a spreadsheet again, through your CRM, or through a purpose-built platform.

As an example: When I use Reveal, the accounts that I’ve shortlisted with partners show up in my Pipeline view. I can attach my CRM opportunities on here, and tag them as either partner-sourced or partner-influenced. These tagged opportunities can all roll up to summary stats for reporting.

I can manage my CRM linked opportunities all in one place, and if it makes sense I can also share my Pipeline with partners so they get visibility of their impact on our bottom line. Find out more.

Stage 6: Co-selling

Sales, Partnerships, and your CRM

You’ve spotted accounts and opportunities where partners can help your sales teams. Thing is, your sales teams work in your CRM. So how do you integrate your partner activities into the CRM to meet the sales team where they like to work?

Many companies add custom partner fields into their CRM to their Account/Company/Opportunity records so that Sales people know where Partners are involved in the sales process. A few Trailblazers also embed ecosystem insights directly in the CRM so sales reps can directly see which partners can provide help.

For example, on an Opportunity page you would be able to see the name of strategic partners who are mapped into your strategic account list, and understand things like shared contacts and technologies.

Even with these processes and additions to your CRM, co-selling won’t succeed without the buy-in of your sales reps, and an understanding of how to use this valuable information to help your customers. This is where Sales Enablement is key.

Sales Enablement

What is Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content and tools that help salespeople sell more effectively. This is an ongoing process, not a one time exercise. Also note that the scope of enablement is not limited to a sales organization and will likely need to extend to other functions like customer success and services as your partner program grows.

Why is Sales Enablement important for partnerships?

As mentioned at the beginning of the course, a high-impact Partner program is one that drives revenue growth and customer outcomes for the company and for your partners. But your sales teams might not understand this immediately, or how to work with partners overall. So to get them bought in to co-selling with partners, you will need to speak to them in terms they care about.

The Sales Enablement challenge for Partnership Managers

The biggest challenge with sales teams is that they have information filters, and sometimes information overload. Specifically they will filter out information that doesn’t touch grow one of their three key leading indicators of success: Leads, Opportunities, and Deals. If you need a handy acronym—sales people care about LOD. If you want to be a great partner to your sales team, help them with LOD.

Now some sales leaders out there may disagree, and being interlocked with the goals of your sales team can be challenging, but you can leverage this trait about your sales teams in your favor.

How can you break through the Sales filter?

Wait a minute—You as a partner leader care about LOD too! So it should be easy right? But if you care about the same things, you may be wondering where the disconnect is. Just like hot pizza or the timing of a joke—It's all in the delivery.

Here are a few tips that can help you resonate better with your sales counterparts.

It might take a bit of proactiveness from your side at the very beginning, but in time by demonstrating value in a way they can understand, you’ll soon see your Sales reps come to you without any prompting.

  • Understand what matters to your Sales Team and help them win. Attend the Sales team meetings and listen in. Hear them talk about target accounts with Account Executives which could give you steer on where making partner connections can be most beneficial. As a Partner Leader, I prioritize attending meetings like the Global Sales Forecast call, Sales QBRs, and regional Pod calls so that my partners can stay well aligned into the overall sales and company strategy.
  • Do Account Mapping together with them. Take the account list that you received from the Sales team, open your account mapping tool, look at the accounts that the sales team needs help with, identify the partners that can help you.

When you present the information you discovered from doing the account mapping with them, here are three things to communicate effectively.

  • Everyone loves an incentive: If you’re struggling to get sales reps to tag their partner-attached opportunities in the CRM or to work with partners, you could consider an incentive program. For example, you could work with a sales leader(s) to host a competition to reward sales reps who close the most deals with partners. One Sales Manager I worked with hosted a Partner Prosecco hour with their team where everyone got a $15 gift card to order a bottle of Prosecco, and then they spent the hour tagging partners and reaching out to partners.
  • Make their lives easier: Consider ways to help sales reps easily get relevant insights from Partners. Send a Slack message if you hear an update from a partner about a key account on a separate call, and add in information that partners share with you directly back to your sales team. For example, Reveal sends automated weekly digests to sales reps that show partner updates on important and strategic accounts in that sales rep’s territory so you don’t have to.
  • Don't be the bottleneck: Connect your sales reps with your partner’s sales reps directly so that they can collaborate and communicate together. You own the higher level relationship with the partner’s organisation and executives, but that doesn’t mean you can have to always be the middleman or involved in every conversation, especially as your partner program scales. You might feel this is the only way to keep track of partner sourced/influenced deals and to get recognition on your work, but by enabling your sales teams and empowering your partners you will be able to scale your efforts and impact through others.

Stage 7: Reporting and reviews

The QBR or ABR is where you can look back, evaluate your progress and goals, and set the next steps for your partnership. To find out more we have a whole section in our Measuring Partnerships Success course dedicated to what you need to cover in these. But here are some of the top things.

There are two types of business reviews that matter:

  • Internal business reviews—with your stakeholdersFocus on the growth and sales performance KPIs but you can also highlight wins in other areas such as improved customer retention and customer satisfaction.
  • External business reviews—with your partners‍Recap what went well / what didn’t go so well this quarter, refer to aligned initial partnership goals, and propose next best actions.

Where should you report in the organization?

In a partner program that is just getting its legs, it is vital to keep in mind that this department will evolve as your programs scale up. Because of its inevitable evolution, partnerships should initially be driven by the C-level who directly corresponds with the goals of the partner program. Typically, this grows and changes as the partner program matures.

The evolution of who to report to can often look something like this:

  • Beginning phases: CMO or CEO
  • Established and scaling: BD or CRO
  • Robust and expanding: CPO

So far these 7 steps have given you a plan to start up your program and get you to 10 partners.

What happens beyond that?

What’s Next? Renewals and Expansion

What’s important to note is that the partner relationship doesn’t stop your first closed deal. In fact, that’s just the end of the first chapter. You don’t want just a transactional relationship, or one off partnerships - that’s why it’s called a partnership  right? It’s not just working with a vendor.

As a reminder, Customer + Partner = Faster Speed to Value.

So when you’ve recruited and established a rhythm with your partners to get the engine running smoothly for the Partnership Lifecycle, the next development phase is to wrap in the Customer Lifecycle.

This is important because with the right partnerships, companies often report much higher rental and retention, if they are smart to track it. The Customer Success department will be your internal ally as they will have a vested interest to see these metrics improved thanks to the impact of partnerships.

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