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A Primer: 3 Things to Lookout for as a Partnership Leader

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Who wants to be a passenger in a car with a driver who’s unable to spot and navigate around potholes? Anyone?    

A partnership leader who’s unable to identify and anticipate upcoming roadblocks can inspire a similar lack of confidence in their abilities. So how can current and future partnership leaders stand out as well-prepared and ready to tackle issues that might arise?

The best way to prepare for your future endeavors as a partner leader is by learning from a well-seasoned veteran. Francois Grenier is the Head of Partnerships at Sendoso, his sixth partnership organization since 2014. 

Grenier has encountered and triumphed over roadblocks and watched his peers do the same. Now he’s using what he’s learned at Sendoso where partner-impacted revenue averages on 35% of total quarterly revenue. 

He has highlighted three constant pain points that every current and aspiring partner leader should look out for: 

Pain Point #1: Friction with the sales team

Co-selling is a cornerstone of Grenier’s partner program. This makes bumping “get my sales team on my side” to the top of his to-do list. “Friction between the partner and sales team is the most common issue I’ve seen in the partnerships world,” says Grenier.

Savvy partnerships leaders that have the enthusiastic support of their sales teams will have an easier time expanding and executing their co-selling efforts. Grenier suggests: 

Showing how partnerships can help sales 

Grenier’s team has regular check-ins with their sales colleagues, a tactic that builds facetime between partnerships and sales into everyone’s calendars. “We want them to think of us as a resource in the same way they think of product marketing,” he says. 

As you begin to build trust between partnerships and sales, take time out of your sales/partnerships check-ins to share insight such as:

Understand and address their apprehensions 

It’s equally important to listen carefully and critically to any pain points that the sales team might raise. 

Grenier notes that sales professionals can sometimes get protective over their work. He shared the example of “partner-influenced revenue”. Some sales professionals who don’t understand what partner-influenced revenue is might get worried that a partner will be coming in to interfere with a deal. A misunderstanding in terminology can result in a sales professional with an unnecessary aversion to working with the partnerships team.  

To avoid this kind of miscommunication, try using language that your sales counterparts understand. Create a system for feedback from the sales team to catch and address any issues as they arise. 

Identifying your allies

As anyone who’s been in middle school knows, trends take off much quicker if there is a visible group of cool kids participating. Sometimes, working with a small group of sales professionals who are excited about partnerships can have this same effect. 

Grenier recommends identifying and investing in those sales professionals who seem the most bought into partnerships right away. They will most likely be the most willing to try out new co-selling motions, give constructive feedback, and be a champion for partnerships amongst their peers. Doing this can also yield some immediate success stories that you can highlight in your sales/partnerships check-ins. 

Pain Point #2: Shoddy attribution models

Not accurately tracking attribution for partnerships-impacted revenue is an issue that can stunt the growth of your partner program. Partnerships leaders who are able to implement an attribution model that works for, not against them, set their programs up for recognition and more buy-in. 

Grenier has faced this issue several times over, most recently at Sendoso. He recommends: 

Being assertive when advocating for an attribution model that works for you 

Most companies have optimized attribution flows in place before they started their partner program. As a result, the partner team is put in a position of trying to blend into a framework that wasn’t built with them in mind.

Additionally, it’s not uncommon for the partner team to report to various departments. When this occurs any standing attribution model for the partner team most likely needs tweaking. 

Greniers advice: “Don’t be afraid to ruffle some feathers.” He recommends forcing a conversation about breaking down and re-building the attribution model in a way that accurately reflects the impact of your partner program: 

  • Start by gathering your own attribution data to record the impactful actions your team is taking versus their output. If you don’t have automated reporting capabilities just yet, start manually tagging deals with partner sourced or influenced revenue. 
  • Once you have enough insight to paint a picture of the partner program’s impact on company revenue, set a meeting with your higher-ups. 
  • Show them your data with the intention of proving that your team’s impact is high enough that it’s worth accurately tracking. Remember, a lack of attribution doesn’t just hurt partner professionals. When revenue is incorrectly tracked, opportunities for growth can be lost, hurting the company as a whole. 

Switching from manual to automated attribution  

Ultimately, Grenier encourages partner teams to automate their attribution tracking. “Not only does manual tracking open the door for human error, but it also just takes up way too much time.”  

One way to do this is by using a PEP. PEPs can assist with tracking, analysis, and reporting on attribution markers such as sourced and influenced revenue and lead generation from partners. When PEPs are fully integrated into your workflow, you can track your team’s impact at every stage of your pipeline.  

Pain Point #3: Lack of reciprocity in partnerships

It’s relatively easy to identify what a partner can offer you. Can you say the same for what you can offer them? According to Grenier, focusing on the reciprocal aspect of partnerships is key: “If you can make sure reciprocity with your partners is bi-directional, you’ve dug yourself a well that will never dry.” 

In other words, if you provide value to your partners, they will keep working with you. Chances are, the word might even get out that you’re a valuable partner and bring in new partners as well. 

 Try:

  • Building out your repertoire of value adds for your partners. Different partners will inevitably need different things from you, so make sure your array of offerings is diverse. Try asking your current partners for “wish lists” of ways you can support them. If a potential partnership falls through, ask them what you could have offered to seal the deal. 
  • Staying in contact with partners on the “back burner”. Don’t cut off contact with a partner just because you don’t have anything to offer them at that particular moment. Keep them updated on what you’re working on through periodic check-ins to show that you’re building value for them. This will make them feel top of mind while also priming them for a partnership once the time is right. 

To hear more advice from Grenier, listen to him

Recap his past roles and dive deep into his role at Sendoso:

Talk about the shift from co-selling to pipeline generation:

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