In the Ecosystem Cloud economy, alliances drive an average of 30% and an upwards of 80% of a company’s revenue. The alliance managers, however, have to address a set of numerous challenges for successful execution. These challenges can be mitigated by bringing in some of the best practices to light.

Here are some of the challenges and best practices on the path to a successful alliance partnership.

1. Lack of Visibility

The alliance managers often catalyze the opportunity but do not have a clear line of sight to what happened to the opportunity.

Typically, alliance managers find out later that the opportunity was closed with no connection to the alliance manager who created it. The sales teams get the credit for the deal, and the alliance manager’s efforts remain invisible.

The alliance managers initiate pre-pipeline activities such as customer seminars, field sales activities, and co-host events with their alliance partners. But there is a lack of visibility and tracking on the leads generated and opportunities created from those events.

Addressing the Challenge:

As an alliance manager, you should adopt an overall pipeline management tool that tracks opportunities connected to the events, and connects them with the end to end sales process. Such a platform will enable you to manage all the pre-pipeline activities and track leads as they go through the sales phases. You will able to gain visibility for the opportunities and track them through to the entire sales process.

2. Lack of Influence Over Marketing

The alliance managers can be in marketing, sales or product management teams depending the company structure. When alliance managers are part of the marketing team, they have a clear view of the company’s marketing strategy and execution. If they are in sales or product management teams, the influence on marketing is loosely defined.

It becomes an ongoing challenge to be included as a part of the marketing plan since alliances get viewed as an afterthought and not as a critical part of the marketing plan.

Addressing the Challenge:

The alliance managers can address this challenge by integrating into a cross-functional plan to influence the marketing organization within the company. And by attaching marketing initiatives specifically tailored for partnerships to achieve greater success.

You should also integrate into a joint marketing plan with partners that amplify the overall company marketing strategy with alliances as a key driver. A platform that enables a cross-company collaboration in the planning and execution stages, integrated with a company’s marketing strategy will help you address this challenge.

3. Lack of Influence Over The Sales team

The alliance managers not only lack the influence over marketing but in some instances, they lack influence over the sales teams as well.

Far too often, alliance managers are unable to influence the sales team to pursue an opportunity with their alliance sales counterparts. The sales teams lack the visibility and knowledge of the successful contributions of the alliance manager and are not committed to taking proactive action on new opportunities brought in by them.

By gaining more visibility and influence with the partners, you can drive more value with sales teams and reduce time to market for new solutions.

Addressing the Challenge:

You should work with your alliance partners and create an opportunity management process that proactively identifies pre-pipeline opportunities. It can be supported by the customer’s success to influence sales team alignment between partners and accelerate deal management and closure.

4. Not a Part of the Field Execution Team

The alliance manager does most of the formulation work by creating a joint solution with an alliance partner to pursue new customers and develop new markets.

But often, as the sales team pursues the joint solution at a customer, the alliance managers are not proactively included in the implementation and execution of the solution program they initiated.

It becomes challenging for an alliance manager to have the ownership for the new business opportunity they created since they are unable to have a clear view of the execution.

Addressing the Challenge:

To address this challenge, create a plan that includes the alliance partner manager and links to the field execution. Institute this by including field resources in the solution to scope the opportunity and the implementation of the solution with joint sales management and field team commitment.

Then, you can track the opportunities created by the solution with opportunities pre-pipeline and link it to the CRM systems of record. It will enable you to establish an end to end tracking as the leads go thru the sales motions.

5. Getting Funding is an Uphill Battle

Since there is a lack of visibility and a lack of tracking for all the successful deals that were brought in by the alliance managers, they often have to struggle for funding for new initiatives.

The lack of funds limits their ability to host events, create marketing collateral, webinars, etc. with their alliance partners.

If the alliance managers can influence the budget in the planning stage by showcasing the success of their previous efforts, they can increase their chances of getting funds.

Addressing the Challenge:

The alliance managers can create a joint marketing plan that is attached to field initiatives. As the campaign progresses, it can be traced back to the number of closed deals. Therefore, giving the alliance managers more visibility & making it relatively easier for them to get funding in the next round.

6. Inability to Influence Product Direction

Often companies will align with new partners to enhance their product offerings and capture new markets.

There are several instances where an alliance manager forms a partnership to create a joint solution for a customer to compensate for the lack of feature within their product. But later on, they find out that the product feature is in the company’s product roadmap. It results in the joint solution as being competitive, and often gets canceled.

E.g., A few years back, two technology companies were looking into creating a joint partnership, and each had complementary offerings. The alliance manager was unaware that one of the company’s product roadmap contained integrating a competitive offering in their product. The other company ’s roadmap had plans of working with other competitive partners, and it leads to friction in the alliance partnership.

If the alliance managers had the visibility into the product roadmaps at their respective companies, it would have saved them time and effort and the ability to redirect as needed to continue to grow the business.

Addressing the Challenge:

As an alliance manager, create a joint solution plan that is aligned with the alliance partner’s strategies and synchronizes the plan with product development before instituting solution development and field execution. And then follow it up with one year plans so that investment is realized and committed to before entering into competitive situations that could marginalize the investment and create friction.

7. Inability to Quantify Results

Last but not least is the inability to “quantify” their efforts by showcasing the data highlighting the revenue generated by the alliance partnerships. It leads to a lack of visibility, therefore, making it difficult to get funding and ongoing resources.

Addressing the Challenge:

You can mitigate the challenge by instituting the processes to empower the alliance managers to quantify & track the results of their efforts and build credibility & visibility for them within their organization.

Summary

By raising awareness and driving value within the marketing, sales, and product teams about the contributions and importance of alliances we can address these challenges. Here are a few best practices that alliance managers can adapt to operationalize the process.

  1. Manage and record Pre-pipeline activitiesFor every account log & track all the pre-pipeline activities and invite your partners to add value.
  2. Create and manage joint marketing plansGet aligned with your partners for joint marketing and create awareness with sales enablement to ensure the marketing activities achieve ROI and drive pipeline.
  3. Track closed opportunities to respective solutionsTrack, record, and tag each of the closed opportunities to the respective solutions, so you can keep track of the successes and communicate the value back to the sales.
  4. Institute proactive solution developmentEngage with your alliance partner and sales channel to ensure the joint solutions brought to market are aligned with company priorities and drive customer value with a disciplined milestone process.
  5. Explore and tap into joint funding with your partner ecosystemMany companies have access to market development funds outside their company that can be used to amplify alliance involvement and funding in joint activities and events. You should tap into these funds with your partners.
  6. Develop awareness of the product roadmapEvery six months – product teams can bring alliance professionals in and make them aware of the product flow and what is upcoming so their efforts get aligned with company upcoming product offerings.
  7. Jointly manage plans and quarterly business reviewsCreate and manage joint marketing plans, joint sales plans, joint solution development, and joint opportunity management in real-time with visual graphics and keep a record of their status.Use business reviews with your alliance partners that track plans, activities, opportunities, revenue, and successes to ensure the alliance partnership is on track and meeting quarterly joint business goals.

A shared cloud-based platform such as WorkSpan enables alliance managers in different companies to plan and execute an end to end process. It includes joint market planning, joint sales planning, managing pre-pipeline activities, and tracking opportunity status and flow. It enables alliance managers to operationalize the ecosystem process and mitigate the challenges for a successful alliance partnership.