A partner-influenced deal is when a partner helps you advance or close an existing deal in your pipeline. Sounds simple, but the word “helps” means different things to different people. When you understand how partners can influence your deals, you’ll be better prepared to:
- Help your sales team accelerate those late-stage deals through the finish line so you can be a hero to your reps
- Tag and track partner-influenced opportunities in your CRM to ensure you get proper attribution for your role in the deal
- Understand which partners are impacting your business the most so you know who to spend time and energy on
To ensure you’re not leaving any partner-influenced revenue on the table, we’re breaking down the six types of partner influence and offering tips to help you drive more deals.
The 6 Types of Partner Influence
Exchange Notes and Intel About an Account with Your Partner
Ashley Hildreth, VP of Business Development and Partnerships at Clyde, an extended warranty platform, says to turn to your partners who have experience working with that account to get both tactical and strategic insights.
Hildreth recommends you ask your partners questions like:
- Which internal stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process at the account? What are their motivations and interests both professionally and personally? (Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing a buyer’s favorite wine or favorite sports team for future opportunities to send them gifts.)
- What’s the company’s current tech stack, and how is it evolving? For example: You might learn the prospect is getting ready to migrate to a new ecommerce platform. “In which case, maybe I know some agencies that can help them with that service, or maybe there are other technologies that need to be considered in that process,” says Hildreth.
- What is the budgeting process at the account? “Are we dealing with a quick contract execution or a six-month procurement process?” asks Hildreth. “If you know it’s a six-month procurement process, then you can adjust your deal forecast to reflect that,” she says.
- Does the key decision maker at the account have control over the budget and can they sign the contract? If not, who does that person have to work with internally to secure that budget? Hildreth says you can use that intel to send the stakeholder a targeted email sequence or target them with an account-based marketing campaign to raise awareness of your brand.
Tip for completing “The Insider”:
- Protect your source and keep their trust. Don’t disclose the intel you’ve received with other partners or even the prospect.
- Keep in mind, your partners can’t share everything with you. Don’t take it personally if they can’t share specifics. There might be other factors or sensitivities you’re not privy to.
Request an Introduction From Your Partner to a Specific Stakeholder at an Account
Your account executive is working an opportunity with a new business unit at a strategic account. They need buy-in from a c-suite executive who controls the budget, but they don’t have a direct connection to that person. Without the executive’s buy-in, the deal will fizzle out.
When Mandy Eyles, Senior Director of Partnerships for Australia and New Zealand at Tealium, a customer data hub and enterprise tag management company, was in a similar situation, she leveraged one of her partner’s connections with an agency to get a warm intro to the primary decision maker.
Here’s how it happened:
- Tealium’s sales team needed access to a marketing executive at a strategic account, so Eyles asked her go-to-market (GTM) partner if they had any connections there. Turns out, the GTM partner was connected to the media agency that was servicing the marketing org.
- The GTM partner set up a meeting for Tealium and the media agency to explore how they might work together and how Tealium’s product solves specific use cases for the media agency and its client.
- The media agency proposed Tealium’s solution to its client, and then introduced Tealium’s account executive to the marketing executive. That not only accelerated Tealium’s cross-sell opportunity further down the funnel, but it also sparked a new partnership between Tealium and the media agency.
Tips for completing “The Connection”:
- If you’re trying to expand your presence in an existing account or connect with a brand new buyer, research mutual connections you might share with that person via LinkedIn. Or, check your partner ecosystem platform to see if the account you’re pursuing is a customer of one of your partners. Even if your partner doesn’t have a direction connection to the person you’re trying to reach, we’re willing to bet they know someone who knows someone who does.
- Make it easy for your partner to help you. Highlight the specific information and value propositions you’d like them to include in their introduction, or draft the message on their behalf.
- Don’t be a taker. Partnerships are a delicate dance. You’ll want to be giving as much (if not more) value than you are asking for. Many partner professionals systemize this with regular meetings where they both exchange a set number of intros.
- Keep perspective. Size matters. A supernode with thousands of partners like Google or HubSpot may not have time to give you one-off introductions. Consider the size of the partner’s program relative to yours and align your expectations accordingly.
Ask Your Tech Partner to Provide Backup on an Opportunity
You have an integration with your marketing automation partner. Your prospect is asking how they can use the integration to solve a specific industry use case, but you know their question is better answered by your tech partner. Explain the scenario to your tech partner and see if they can get someone from their product/integrations team to speak with the prospect and answer their questions.
In turn, you can introduce your partner to an account they might not know as well as you. This might be an opportunity for them to convert a free trial user to a customer or even drive upsell opportunities within the account.
Tips for completing “The Subject Matter Expert”:
- If your prospect is grilling you with technical questions, see if your tech partner can join your next meeting to answer their questions, share specific use cases for the integration, or fulfill a specific technical requirement to help you push the deal forward.
- Prep your partner beforehand on the opportunity and key stakeholders involved. Strategize how you’d like to approach the conversation and define meeting outcomes. Also, discuss how you plan to overcome potential objections from the prospect.
Look to Your Partner to Bridge Gaps in Your Solution
Your sales team has agreed to submit a request for proposal (RFP) response for a multi-year-contract with one of your largest accounts to date, but unfortunately, you don’t meet a specific technology requirement in the RFP.
After searching your partner ecosystem platform and pinging a few folks in your network, you learn one of your partners has been servicing that account for a decade. Check with your partner if they’re willing and able to deliver the specific technical requirement and if you can include them in your RFP response.
Tips for completing “The Reinforcement”:
- Become an expert on your partner’s products and services. We know this is easier said than done, especially if you’re working with hundreds of partners. Our suggestion: Segment your top-tier partners by their business models, product offerings, regions, pricing, industries, and company size.
- If you’re collaborating with a partner on an RFP, reuse bits and pieces of your joint response for future co-selling or co-marketing collateral. Consider adding your joint responses to a shared knowledge repository or wiki.
Ask Your Partner to Be a Reference
Your team is navigating an arduous procurement process at a strategic account and you’ve been asked to provide references. A quick search in your partner ecosystem platform shows the account is a customer of one of your partners, and your partner has a few open opportunities with them.
Ask your partner if they’re willing to be a reference for you. Depending on the nature of their relationship with the procurement department, they might even offer to send an email to one of their contacts to advocate for your company and your product.
Tip for completing “The Reference”:
- Find out who your partners are working with and identify which customers they have long-standing relationships with. Use this information to build a list of potential partner references to lean on when navigating procurement processes.
Ask Your Partner to Vouch for You if Your Prospect is On the Fence
Your sales rep finally made it to the technical evaluation stage with an enterprise prospect, but they’re sensing some hesitancy from the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) that could jeopardize the deal.
Through a quick search in your partner ecosystem platform, you learn that one of your strategic partners is servicing that same account and you notice a few friendly exchanges between the partner manager and the CRO on LinkedIn. A simple request for your partner to put in a good word about your product might help alleviate the CRO’s concerns and win their confidence.
“You’re using the network effect of your partners to create more confidence for the prospect as they’re evaluating your solution,” says Ashley Hildreth, VP of Business Development and Partnerships at Clyde.
Tips for completing “The Advocate”:
- Social proof is real. Strengthen your credibility with a prospect simply by being associated with a partner they have a great relationship with. It’s no different than being the new kid at school and having one of the popular kids vouch for you in front of the other cool kids.
- Ask your partner to provide the prospect an objective third-party perspective on your product, your company, and their experience working with you. Make it easy for them and offer talking points so they’re fully prepared to go to bat for you. Sometimes all it takes is your partner making a quick phone call or sending an email to ease a prospect’s uncertainty.
When is the Right Time to Measure Partner-Influenced Revenue?
It’s a question we hear often, so we turned to our 2021 State of the Partner Ecosystem Report to give you answers.
Partner-influenced revenue KPIs begin to appear when companies cross the 50-employee mark with quarterly targets hovering slightly above $250,000. But it isn’t until companies hit the 250-employee mark that quarterly targets leap to more than $2.5 million. This tells us that as companies grow in headcount, their focus shifts from network growth (i.e. signed partners) to revenue growth (i.e. partner-influenced and partner-sourced revenue).
In fact, the second most common KPI for partnership professionals is partner-influenced revenue (the first being partner-sourced revenue).
If you’re curious about how you stack up against your peers when it comes to KPIs and compensation, sign up for the 2022 State of the Partner Ecosystem Report (coming soon) 👇.