This post is the first in a series exploring the 23 criteria of Crossbeam’s Tech Ecosystem Maturity Framework. The Tech Ecosystem Maturity Framework helps you understand how your partner program stacks up against others in the B2B SaaS industry, what you’re doing right, and what you should improve to advance to the next level of maturity. To learn more and take the tech ecosystem maturity quiz click here, and to see every post in the series click here.
A telling sign of your tech ecosystem maturity? Your co-selling workflow.
Do all of your sales reps inform their sales strategy through the lens of co-selling — with wholly understood processes for communicating with partners and the proper partner attribution tracking tools and tactics in place? Or do you get sideswiped by passive aggressive messages like, Ralph has notifications turned off, the second you Slack Ralph asking him to co-sell with a partner?
The way you co-sell is just one criteria of many that contributes to your tech ecosystem’s maturity. In order to progress from the “Explorer” level of maturity to “Supernode” status, you’ll need to make co-selling an intrinsic part of your organization’s daily workflows and long-term strategy.
We broke down the characteristics of co-selling according to each level of tech ecosystem maturity and how to advance from one level to the next by improving your workflows and processes.
What to expect:
- Level #1: Explorer – Your sales team is non-cooperative, regardless of partner status.
- Level #2: Producer – Co-selling is done sporadically and manually by a small number of evangelists.
- Level 3: Connector – You’re beginning to implement scalable workflows internally and across partner companies.
- Level 4: Supernode – Automated processes are instilled and mandated across the majority of the sales organization.
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Tech Ecosystem Maturity Level #1: Explorer
Explorers are like pioneers for building or relaunching an organization’s tech ecosystem. It’s only natural that at the “Explorer” level you’re:
Navigating murky waters. You’re taking the time to get buy-in from every member of your sales team and gather intel about their target accounts, what’s proven successful and unsuccessful in accelerating deals, and how they envision partnerships helping them succeed. Simultaneously, you’re educating your sales team about partnerships and co-selling.
Experimenting. What worked at your previous company may not work at your new company, and what works for one tech partner may not be as successful for the next. In the beginning stages of your partner program, you have the freedom to try new strategies, learn how your sales team works best with particular partners, and take note of your wins and losses.
Observing. Now’s the time to observe what gaps you need to fill fastest to drive early successes. For example: if your sales reps seem disheartened because none of their co-selling opportunities are closing, evaluate the quality of the opportunities you’re providing them with and if the particular partners are the right partners to help close the deal. It’s likely you’ll have accounts that overlap with a variety of partners, so you’ll need to hone in on the strengths and needs of each partner and your sales team.
Adopting ad hoc tactics. Perhaps you have a strategic partner that you whip up a co-selling contract with to ensure their reps and your reps are meeting twice a month. Or maybe your partner’s sales team needs more information about your product, so you and your marketing team develop custom sales enablement materials. Creating collateral and implementing ad hoc tactics per partner works fine for now, but as your ecosystem grows, standardization will be your best friend.
How to Advance to the “Producer” Level
Stop using spreadsheets to map accounts with partners. Adopt a partner ecosystem platform (PEP) like Crossbeam (it’s free) to surface co-selling opportunities in real-time and never miss an opportunity due to outdated account list swaps. You’ll be using your partner data to accelerate deals, increase deal size, drive retention through integration adoption, and influence upsells and account expansions — so you’ll want all the data to stay fresh. Here’s how to account map without giant, cumbersome spreadsheets.
Try incentivizing your sales reps to influence a behavioral change among your team. Offer sales accelerators that offer a greater commission for partnerships-related deals closed after sales reps hit their quotas, offer sales program incentive funds (SPIFs) for working with partners, or management by objective (MBO) bonuses for closing a particular number of deals with partners. In the future, after your sales team just gets it, slowly phase some or all of the incentives out.
Provide your sales reps with resources they can use on the fly. Your sales reps are accustomed to selling competitively, less so to selling collaboratively with your partners. For many sales reps, this may be their first co-selling motion. Provide your sales reps with a go-to list of co-selling questions to help them get the information they need from partners, accelerate deals, and generate more ecosystem qualified leads. Your sales reps will need to get up to speed on a lot of SaaS products as your tech ecosystem grows, so provide them with relevant sales enablement resources (without overwhelming them) so they can grow their tech stack expertise and master the co-selling motion.
Brag about the real-time impact of partnerships. It’s unlikely you have a lot of data on the success of your partnerships thus far (their impact on sales, which partners have the most influence, their impact on retention). Use what you got! Share partnership success stories in Slack, gather analytics from the marketplaces you participate in, track partnerships-related keywords in sales calls, and start pulling together clues that can provide partnerships insights over time.
Tech Ecosystem Maturity Level #2: Producer
At the “Producer” level, you’ve got some level of buy-in from cross-functional teams, like marketing and sales, and have established buy-in at the leadership level. In fact, your sales leaders have helped you identify partnerships evangelists among your sales team. At this stage, your co-selling process is:
Irregular co-selling and engagement with sales reps. You likely have one or a few partnership evangelists working with partners to accelerate deals, but there’s no system for when, how, and exactly who to reach out to for all of the partners in your program. Thus, there’s a lot of room for error and missed opportunities (for example: if your sales rep reaches out their partner about a particular account but doesn’t know they should also swap additional leads, track the partner’s influence, and develop a cadence for meeting with the sales rep to close the deal).
Manual co-selling. If you’re using a PEP at the “Producer” level of maturity, you’re likely the one identifying overlapping opportunities with partners and passing the information along to your sales team. Then, you’re connecting the rep with the partner’s rep, gathering more information from your rep about the target account, or allowing your rep to steer the co-selling motion with the partner directly. In any case, you should streamline the process by integrating your PEP with your CRM, Slack, and other tools in your tech stack — which can enable your sales team to access partner data and send notifications about new overlaps to you and your reps.
There’s also still an element of experimenting! But now, you’re running with what works and setting the systems and processes in place for growing your partner program.
How to Advance to the “Connector” Level
Make partnerships part of the normal work conversation. Guide your sales reps and your partner’s sales reps on calls to normalize the co-selling motion for your sales reps. Celebrate your partnership wins regularly through your internal communication tools (like Slack) and at the top of your standups, department-wide meetings, All Hands, and sales kick-offs (SKOs). If you don’t have a partner directory yet, develop one and point your sales reps to your partner directory as a supplemental resource.
Establish lines of communication between your sales team and your partner’s sales team. Greg Unruh, Director of Partner Strategy and Channel Sales at Shipware, implements role-based partner pairing to match his sales reps with partner reps for regular co-selling syncs. If the partner reps are unengaged in the co-selling relationship, Unruh’s reps have the opportunity to score the partner’s rep poorly and get rematched — giving his sales reps a valuable say in the success of Shipware’s partner program.
Expand your co-selling strategy org-wide. You should be account mapping at every stage of the customer lifecycle — from driving sales, to increasing value through integration adoption at onboarding, to extending the customer lifecycle through customer success. Expand the breadth of your account mapping to influence the entire funnel and get all of your internal teams working with partner data to improve results — whether those results include driving sales or improving time to first value (TTFV).
Tech Ecosystem Maturity Level #3: Connector
At the “Connector” level, there’s no doubt that partnerships are informing your business strategies. Your team leads co-selling motions regularly, and the impact of your partners’ influence throughout the sales funnel and customer lifecycle is obvious.
The impact on retention and renewals is clear. Your sales team understands the impact partnerships have on driving sales and improving retention and renewals. Your sales leader champions the power of partnerships throughout their team, and that might even include partnerships-related KPIs for your entire sales team. You’ve established frameworks for account mapping and identifying the most strategic opportunities with each partner, a standardized structure around your co-selling workflows, and step-by-step processes for enabling and working with partners.
You’ve invested in partner attribution tracking and have observed the data thus far to identify trends, inform your partner and co-selling strategies, and calculate your partners’ influence on sales, retention, and renewals.
Partnerships are informing the future of your business. Up until now, internal team feedback and customer feedback informed your partner strategy, but now you’ve collected data about which partnerships have been most successful and why. This data informs your entire business strategy and leads the expansion to new markets and verticals.
How to Advance to the “Supernode” Level
Offer a quota relief. The success of your partners is your success, too. Try driving more sales with and for your partners by giving your sales team quota relief for opportunities they help partners close. By offering a quota relief, your sales reps will be excited to support more of your partners. The better your partner’s customer acquisition is, the more opportunities there will be to sell into their accounts, expand on your existing integrations, and drive stickiness.
Push partner data into your entire tech stack. Use your PEP to push partner data into your data warehouses, unlocking insights about partner attribution, product led growth (PLG) analytics, and customer success metrics. Push partner data into your customer relationship management (CRM) system, like Salesforce, so your sales reps can access partner data in their account dashboards, and advance your partner attribution tracking. This list goes on.
Set your sales team (and your partner’s sales team) up for success with opportunities that have a high likelihood of closing. Forest Yule, Senior Director of Partner Development at Airship, developed a 9-step partner impact score methodology to identify the most strategic co-selling opportunities with each of Airship’s partners. This framework ensures Airship’s sales team and its partner’s sales team are dedicating their time to only the best co-selling opportunities. Adopting this framework has increased the number of qualified opportunities Airship receives per partner, and now Airship is using the framework with more of its partners.
Tech Ecosystem Maturity Level #4: Supernode
You’ve advanced to “Supernode” status — your partnerships are part of your company’s DNA and their benefits affect every business unit. Well done! Your tech partnerships lead your business strategy, and your partners not only build integrations with you but also specifically on your platform. Maybe you’ve even acquired a partner or two.
Co-selling is just one of many factors at play in your tech ecosystem’s maturity. See how your partner program stacks up according to 13 criteria. Sign up for our newsletter below to get the tech ecosystem maturity quiz the day it goes live.