Partnerships can be a powerful driver of business success, providing access to new markets, technologies, and resources. By working with other organizations, you can leverage complementary skills, expertise and assets to achieve shared goals and create value for all parties involved.
However, for partnership programs to be successful, it’s important to engage and involve key internal teams and stakeholders.
These individuals play a crucial role in supporting the development and execution of partnership programs. Their buy-in and support is essential for driving results.
But how do you get internal teams and stakeholders on board with your partner programs?
How do you ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal?
In this article, we’ll explore the best practices for engaging internal teams and stakeholders in your partner programs.
We’ll look at identifying the key stakeholders in your organization that you need to earn support from, how to go about actually earning that support from them, and ultimately the benefits that this will bring to your partner program.
Let’s dig in!
How to Identify Key Stakeholders
If you are fresh in your role as a partner manager, the first thing to do is get to know other department heads across your organization.
During your onboarding, make it your goal to go out and meet with these individuals and start to piece together who the key players are and what they care about.
Remember: these are the individuals who will be responsible for supporting the development and execution of your partnerships, and whose buy-in and support is essential for driving results.
To assess the influence and impact of different stakeholders, consider their role, level of authority, expertise, and resources. You may also want to consider the potential benefits and risks of involving different stakeholders, and how they might impact the success of your partner programs.
By identifying key internal stakeholders and assessing their influence and impact, you’ll be better equipped with actionable ideas as you start to build your program – you’ll know who might need some extra convincing and who has already fully brought into the idea of a partner program.
To help you identify who the key players in your organization are, let’s assess into the most important teams that need to be influenced at any given organization and how to handle each one individually to ensure the maximum amount of success for your partner program.
The most important group of stakeholders you need to influence is the executive team.
If you have been brought in as a new partner head, chances are the executive team has made the decision that an investment in a partnership program is the right one.
Find out why that is!
Take time to meet with each member of the executive team if possible, and dive into the reasons behind the decision.
Is it because your competitors have a robust partner program and they feel you are losing market share?
Is it because they have had inbound interest from potential partners and want to explore this further?
Have they had prior experiences with partner programs in other roles and want to replicate the success?
It’s important to understand the motivations and objectives of the executive team when it comes to partnership programs. This will help you tailor your approach and messaging to align with their priorities and concerns.
For example, if the executive team is concerned about losing market share to competitors with strong partner programs, you may want to focus on sharing how your partnerships can help the company stay competitive and capture new market opportunities.
If they have had inbound interest from potential partners, you can highlight the potential benefits and opportunities of these partners-to-be.
And if they have had prior experience with partner programs and want to replicate past successes, you can draw on their insights and learnings to develop a plan that is most likely to succeed.
By taking the time to understand the motivations of the executive team, you’ll be better equipped to not only build a partner program that meets their expectations, but also have the support of the most influential people at your organization.
Lets face it, a sales team that believes in and understands the value of partnerships is worth its weight in gold.
Your company’s sales team speaks with potential customers on a regular basis and are therefore in the perfect position to recommend partners during the sales cycle.
They are also involved in activities like co-selling, whereby they “tag-team” sales opportunities with partner sales teams.
Therefore, it becomes absolutely imperative to get them onboard and supportive of your partner program.
A good starting point for earning their trust and support is to get in front of the sales leader who oversees the sales team, and understand what are their OKRs or objectives for the upcoming quarter / financial year.
This tactic is a great way to show that you care, and are genuinely interested in how you can help them achieve those goals.
You can also involve the sales team in the planning and execution of your partner programs.
What information do they appreciate receiving ahead of a demo?
Are they open to partners co-selling with them on calls?
Allow them to provide input and feedback on strategy and tactics.
By working closely with the sales team and supporting their efforts, you’ll be able to build strong, productive partnerships that drive business growth and revenue.
An additional tactic to help the sales team truly believe in the power of partnerships is to introduce tools that will help them with partner opportunities and alleviate any stress they might feel with learning an entirely new way of selling.
Tools such as WorkSpan that introduce the ability to co-sell effectively with partners, with the ability to sync data between partner CRMs and drive effective cross company collaboration will show the sales team how easy things could be when working with partners.
The next internal team you need to build alignment with your grand partnership plan is marketing.
The value marketing can bring you and your partners is immense.
One of the quickest ways to drive demand is to run co-marketing initiatives in the form of joint blog posts, webinars and events.
As a new partnership team, chances are you don’t have dedicated partner marketing resources available to enhance the above activities. Even if you do have some dedicated resources to start, those will be ever evolving needs. Either way, you will need support from your internal marketing team.
In a similar way that you need to understand your sales team OKRs, marketing will have a different set of OKRs that you need to be aware of.
Marketing will most likely have goals that aren’t purely revenue based.
These could be brand awareness goals.
These could be appearances on more podcasts.
For experienced marketing leaders and teams, it is likely that they already understand the value partners can bring to their organization and will have ideas on both how they can support you as a partner manager, and also what benefit they are hoping to see from a partner program.
For newer marketing teams, it’s up to you to paint this picture for them.
Taking time to meet with the entire team, and running a session on the “Art of the Possible” is a great way to create excitement and buy-in for your partnership programs.
Share examples of successful partnerships and the impact they’ve had on other organizations or industries. Use data and case studies to demonstrate the benefits of partnerships for marketing initiatives.
In the same meeting, also take time to break down what types of activities are going to be critical to partner marketing, and ask questions to gauge the capacity your internal teams have.
To avoid potential anxiety and doubt when being faced with brand new initiatives and workflows, you can again show them tools that might help with this.
Technology partners represent some of the most impactful partner types for your program. The product team can help with the support and development of a robust technology partner program.
Simply put, a good technology partner can help create the famous partner equation of 1+1=3.
To use a real life example, imagine a tool like Microsoft Teams, which is the most popular collaboration tool in the world.
They have a popular integration with DocuSign, which notifies people through Teams once a contract or document has been signed.
Two standalone solutions brought together to make a solution which is a net benefit to both of their customers.
This is the value of integrations, and as a byproduct the product team can bring to your partner program.
Seems obvious right?
There is however a chance that your product team is not actively prioritizing integrations as part of their development roadmap.
They could instead be heads down on building your core products. It’s up to you to convince them otherwise.
In order to do this, you will need to clearly articulate the benefits that integrations will bring to the product. This could include increased adoption, higher customer satisfaction, and the ability to differentiate your product in the market.
You will also need to present a strong case for why these integrations are necessary and how they fit into the overall product strategy.
By presenting a well-thought-out plan and demonstrating the value that integrations will bring, you can convince the product team to prioritize them and get them on your good side.
The final team that you need to to influence is the customer success team.
The customer success team is the team that speaks with your customers most often. They are the “front lines”.
They know when your customers are in the market for a new tool.
They know when they are looking for a new agency or service provider.
They are the ones that are able to send leads to your partners, which can be the lifeblood of a successful program.
It is therefore imperative to get them bought into the vision of why partners matter.
Similarly to the above sections, it is most important to understand what the customer success team cares about.
Most commonly, their top metrics are renewals and net retention.
Partners can help with that.
It’s helpful to run through scenarios with them on how partner relationships can come to their aid if a customer looks like churning.
Let’s take an example of one of your customers who was acquired through co-selling with a cloud partner like Microsoft.
In this scenario, a partner assisted in bringing you the initial deal, which means they have influence and relationships at the customer account.
Therefore if a renewal for this particular customer crops up, and the customer is on the fence about signing, you could bring the partner back into the deal and they can help get the renewal over the line.
This not only helps to retain the customer, but also strengthens the relationship between the customer and the partner, which can lead to more opportunities for co-selling and co-marketing in the future.
By demonstrating how partnerships can have a positive impact on net retention and customer success, you can convince the customer success team to prioritize partnerships and work with you to make them a success.
How WorkSpan can help
WorkSpan was created to automate and streamline what previously has been cumbersome cross-company partnering processes – keeping all of your key stakeholders engaged, contributing, and informed.
This can help you plan, manage, and execute partner activities and drive more revenue for you and your partners. For the influencers we’ve been talking about in this blog, WorkSpan helps with:
Co-Selling: WorkSpan’s Co-Sell solution is a single place for you to manage your co-sell planning, opportunity collaboration, and workflows with partners.
Co-Marketing: Drive effective collaboration with WorkSpan Co-Marketing from proposed joint campaigns through execution with dashboards for full visibility
Co-Innovation: With WorkSpan Co-Innovation, companies are able to bring joint solutions from idea to launch with their partners up to 6X faster
Partnerships can be a key driver of business success if they are properly managed and supported by internal teams and stakeholders. Identifying key stakeholders and understanding their priorities and concerns is crucial for gaining their support and buy-in for partnership programs.
Engaging and involving these stakeholders throughout the development and execution of your partnership program will ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal.
In order to thrive as a partner manager you need to master the art of persuasion and learn how to influence others and drive meaningful value for teams outside of the partnership department.
In the current economic climate, where organizations are looking to cut costs, your job as a partner manager is to position yourself as valuable to every department head, and have every key stakeholder become a champion for you and your team.
Learning this core skill will drive revenue for your program, and create job security for you and your employees.