If you work in partnerships, we know one of the fastest ways to your heart is with data. Showing the impact of partnerships is nearly as poetic as a poem by Langston Hughes — Okay, maybe not. But we do know the best ecosystem data can make any go-to-market (GTM) team, C-suite executive, and hiring manager swoon.
With the volatile market that 2023 brings, acing your next partnerships interview comes with its own set of unprecedented challenges. But the right data can help.
To help alleviate the stress of interviewing, we’ve compiled some of the most compelling findings from our 2023 State of the Partner Ecosystem Report. These insights will help you prepare for the hard-hitting questions and help you stand out with the most up-to-date stats around Ecosystem Ops, getting buy-in, and proof that future-ready companies rely on ecosystem-led growth. Get ready to negotiate your compensation, make the case for the right reporting lines that match your objectives, and land your next job.
For your reference, the questions below follow this general order:
- Questions the hiring manager might ask you, with insights that can help inform your answer.
- Questions you should ask the hiring manager, with insights that can help you bring new ideas to the table and stand out.
Questions the hiring manager might ask you:
#1: What are your compensation range requirements?
A handful of standout stats, if we may: The average total compensation (including any bonuses and commission) for partnership roles is $166K. In the US, the average is higher at $195K. After five years of total partnerships experience, the average jumps from $148K to $188K — That’s a 27% increase. On average, partnership professionals have between 0-40% of their compensation tied to their KPIs.
Use this data to ensure you’re negotiating for the compensation you deserve, and find more detailed breakdowns by gender, geography, and seniority in the 2023 State of the Partner Ecosystem Report.
#2: How do you plan to get buy-in from the sales team?
More than 50% of sales reps co-sell. This is good news as an increasing number of partnership leaders embed ecosystem-led growth tactics among their sales and GTM teams (5% of all B2B SaaS companies practice ecosystem-led growth. Read more in our State of the Partner Ecosystem Report). 45% of partnership professionals use no incentives to get their sales team bought into co-selling.
If a hiring manager asks you how you plan to incentivize your sales team, you can feel confident telling them you plan to build trust and skip the monetary incentives. Or, if you prefer SPIFs or quota relief to help get the sales team on your side, check in with the hiring manager to see if this is possible. Ultimately, you should plan to phase these incentives out as your sales team becomes more adept at co-selling.
Of partnership professionals who push partner data into other tools in their GTM team’s tech stacks, 76% push the data to their customer relationship management (CRM) system. The runner up: 8% push partner data into their data visualization tools. Suggest adopting the latter to get a more granular look at where partnerships have the biggest impact and to be able to share the data with your GTM teams in a way that’s easy to communicate.
Speak with the hiring manager about pushing partner data into your CRM to enable your sales team to see in real time which partners can help accelerate a deal. Friendbuy uses the Crossbeam widget to do just that. They also attend their sales team’s pipeline meetings to suggest integration messaging for their sales team to use to push specific opportunities across the finish line. They discover their prospects’ tech stack insights using Crossbeam’s Opportunity-to-Customer overlap with partners.
If the hiring manager says they don’t want to empower other teams using partner data, this is an opportunity to ask them why. This could be a red flag, especially if they prefer the partnerships team works in a silo. If it’s a budgeting issue, this presents an opportunity to discuss the budget and resources available and how you plan to use them.
#3: How do you typically work with the marketing, product, and customer success team?
To facilitate the biggest business impact from partnerships, your entire organization must become ecosystem-led. Use this opportunity to express how you would align your partnerships objectives with the objectives of your other GTM teams.
For example: By knowing which prospects use your partner’s products, you can help your marketing team create targeted messaging that improves open rates, traffic, and lead generation. Alex Richards, a former account executive (AE) turned partnerships leader reported that his ecosystem-qualified leads (EQLs) were nearly 100X more likely to close than cold leads and in just 34% of the time.
You’ll need to bake the partnerships verbiage, processes, and overall sentiment into the other GTM orgs — and you’ll also need to learn the verbiage and processes of your sales and CS orgs. Another example: Mike Stocker and Erez Suissa trained their onboarding customer success managers (CSMs) to identify which integrations their new customers were using and to drive the adoption of the most impactful integrations at onboarding. This helped their team see a 16% faster time-to-first-value (TTFV) for new customers, a 17% increase in customers with one additional integration, and 30% higher renewal rates.
More examples for empowering your GTM teams via partnerships:
#4: How do you plan to adapt your strategy for the state of the market in 2023?
At the closing of 2022, partner leaders and sales leaders alike had lower revenue targets than previous years. However, lead targets for many partnership professionals rose (Read more in the State of the Partner Ecosystem Report).
Our hunch: partnership leaders are doubling down on high quality leads from partners that are more likely to convert and grow their accounts in the future.
In a volatile economy when 31% of B2B SaaS companies are cutting spending on SaaS tools, focusing on lead generation and integration adoption is key. High quality leads can turn into high-value accounts that grow in the future via account expansions and upselling. In fact, Census has seen 34% higher annual contract values (ACVs) when working with partners.
Additionally, integration users are 58% less likely to churn, on average. Making your product “stickier” will help safeguard net revenue retention by helping your customers see more value from your product and ensuring your product remains a nonnegotiable in your customers’ tech stacks.
Anecdotally, speak about the level of trust your partners can help instill in your customers and how your partners’ guidance and good word can help your prospects and customers favor your product.
You can also reference how Andreessen Horowitz’s Sarah Wang said they’re much more likely to bet on companies that co-sell with partners than on ones that rely on direct sales.
Sarah Wang at Supernode 2022 (Join us June 5-7 in San Diego!)
#5: We need to prove impact quickly. How do you plan to do that?
To help get initial buy-in from your GTM teams, your leadership team, and the board to launch your partner motions, reference the below industry-wide stats from our State of the Partner Ecosystem Report:
- Integration users are 58% less likely to churn, on average.
- Deals close 46% faster when a partner’s involved, on average.
- Deals are 53% more likely to close when a partner’s involved, on average.
(Or check out these other stats.)
Then, discuss how you’ll work closely with one CSM to facilitate a win and replicate the success among other members of your CS and sales team (Read: the steps for rolling out co-selling motions with new tech partners in #6 and #7).
Thomas Ränke at Spectrm worked closely with his partner’s CSM to facilitate an account expansion. He then turned the win into a case study, which led to the CSM getting promoted and other CSMs and sales reps asking to replicate their co-selling plays. You can use a similar process to show the impact of a single co-selling play and launch similar motions at scale.
Molly Staats at Lucky Orange likes to track a handful of metrics and give them a score of “good”, “fair”, or “poor”. She uses this system to show the impact of individual integrations and get more of an investment from the dev team to build and expand their integrations.
At Supernode, Cristina Flaschen, CEO of Pandium, shared tips for tracking attribution using partner and integration tags, Gong, and Crossbeam, to name a few.
Cristina Flaschen at Supernode 2022
Barbara Treviño, Senior Partner Operations Manager at Seismic, shared their dashboards for communicating and visualizing the value of partnerships to the rest of the org.
Barbara Treviño at Supernode 2022
Depending on the maturity of your tech partner program, you may not be able to track churn right away. Speak with the hiring manager about working with your growth/analytics team to calculate these metrics if possible. When you have enough data, calculate your tech ecosystem’s impact on churn. If you do, you’re 3.6x more likely to get dedicated budget for building integrations.
Questions you should ask the hiring manager:
#6: Where does the partnerships org/person report to?
More than half of partnership teams report to sales, and the most common KPI is partner-sourced revenue. If you report into sales, you likely will be held accountable for revenue first and foremost.
However, you need to set expectations for the most appropriate and timely results from your channel and tech partnerships among your leadership team. For example: When co-selling with new tech partners, you’ll need to drive integration adoption for the first three months or so. When you have proof that your customers value your integration, you can then use that proof (think: case studies, value statements) to educate your account executives (AEs) about your joint value proposition. Only then should you connect your AEs with your partner’s AEs to close mutual opportunities.
If your sales leader expects you to connect your sales development representatives (SDRs) with your partner’s SDRs right away, they don’t have the right expectations and will be disappointed. Instead, share your plan for rolling out your co-selling motions in a manner that educates your sales team about how to work with the partner most effectively and builds trust among your teams. In the end, a thoughtful process will glean the best results.
If your sales leader expects revenue from day one, then there’s a disconnect, and it may be reflected in your inability to hit your KPIs.
Alternatively, if you prefer to report to the CEO, use these arguments to make your case. If you prefer to report to marketing, use these arguments to make your case.
#7: How do you see the partnerships team growing?
For company sizes 50-499, the most common team size is 2-5. At the 500-employee mark, the most common team size is 10+. If the hiring manager expects you to be a team of one well into the hundreds, this could be a red flag.
As your GTM teams grow, it will be more difficult to enable the various sales, marketing, and product teams to leverage partnerships. Plus, things tend to fall apart at the 100-employee mark. It’s at this time that you should be investing in additional and more strategic partnership roles to help your partner program scale and to grow its business impact.
Use this data to make the case for your hiring roadmap early on and ensure you can get the headcount you need to be successful. For inspiration: Check out how LeanData hired its second and third partnership roles to specialize in Ecosystem Ops and a strategic partner’s ecosystem. Plus, here are six partnerships team org charts for planning ahead.
#8: How does the partnerships org/person collaborate with other GTM teams? Is partnerships an org-wide initiative?
Asking this question in the interview process will help you get a sense of the potential roadblocks for getting buy-in and for getting your partner motions up and running. It’ll also give you the floor to suggest ideas for improving Ecosystem Ops org-wide.
To help foster alignment between partnerships and the entire org, you should use partner data to help inform the work of your GTM teams. For example: By identifying which partners your free users are a customer of, you can develop in-product messaging that promotes the adoption of your integration, help the users get more value, and ultimately encourages them to convert.
Additionally, you can collaborate with your CSMs to drive adoption among non-active users. The right integrations can help drive product usage up – thus, helping your CSMs and product team achieve their goals.
The team at Bynder prioritizes alignment between its partnerships and product team to partner with strategic partners like Salesforce that can help them break into new product categories. The partnerships team consults the product team whenever they’re considering a new integration, and the product team consults the partnerships team to see if there’s an opportunity to integrate.
#9: How is the sales team rewarded for working with partners?
Use this question to determine how the sales team is co-selling right now and to suggest ideas for implementing or improving the co-selling process. For example: You can implement Crossbeam for Slack to connect your sales reps with your partners’ sales reps. Chris Lavoie did just that and boosted his team’s tech partner program revenue by 30%.
Creating a shared Slack channel will help your sales team see when other sales reps close deals with partners. Additionally, you should celebrate their wins in org-wide Slack channels, and enable your sales reps to share their processes at sales pipeline meetings or All Hands.
Work with your sales leader to ensure SDRs receive compensation for opportunities sourced with partners. If your SDRs don’t receive compensation for working with partners, they’ll be incentivized to work alone and your lead generation and the quality of those leads will suffer.
If your hiring manager says the sales team relies heavily on SPIFs, you may want to phase that out to make ecosystem-led sales a more organic process in the organization. The sales reps who work with partners close deals faster and more often. They also get promoted.
#10: What resources/budget are allocated to partnerships?
The most common number of internal employees responsible for building integrations is 2-5 people. You should communicate your plans for building or expanding your API and documentation and your expectations for working with the product and engineering teams. If your potential manager expects you to rely on your partners to build the integrations for you, it will be difficult to get bigger or more strategic partners on board and will prevent revenue growth.
Discuss how budget has been allocated to partnerships in the past and how you plan to move forward. Rather than investing in a large number of new integrations, suggest focusing on a small number of tech partners and how you plan to drive adoption and revenue. Rather than focusing on many co-marketing motions, share how you’ll plan a months or year-long campaign with a strategic partner, like ActiveCampaign or HubSpot did.
This is an opportunity to talk about how you’ll start small to build internal trust and then how you plan to scale. For example: Does your new potential partner program have the ability to help your company enter a new market?
#11: What existing partner programs do you have?
More than 70% of partnership professionals have a channel, strategic, and tech partner program, with channel being the most popular at 79%.
31% of partnership professionals have reported that their companies are cutting SaaS spending in light of the 2023 market (the second most common cut, after hiring freezes). Use this data to make the case that integrations are more important than ever right now. They improve “stickiness” and will help your product avoid being cut from your customers’ tech stacks. An industry-wide average: integrations reduce churn by 58%.
#12: What tools does your partner org use? And what tools does your sales org use?
Even as budgets shrunk in late 2022, the usage of partner ecosystem platforms (PEPs) like Crossbeam grew. 74% of partnership professionals use a PEP — with the majority of PEP users using Crossbeam (71%) and approximately a quarter using a combination of Crossbeam and another PEP.
By using Crossbeam, B2B SaaS companies have boosted partner-sourced revenue by 30%, achieved 34% higher annual contract values (ACV), shaved months off enterprise deal cycles. Make the case to adopt a PEP so that you can avoid using spreadsheets, protect your data, and grow revenue at scale.
Crossbeam and Sales Edge by Crossbeam enable you to send partner data into other tools in your tech stack — like Salesforce for identifying which partners can accelerate the sales cycle and tracking influence, the Sales Edge Chrome Extension for showing SDRs which partners can provide a warm intro to a prospect, HubSpot Outbound for targeting accounts in co-marketing campaigns, and more.
Enter into your interview with an idea of how the tools you adopt will inform the org-wide strategy.
- For finding the next partnerships role that’s right for you: A Hiring Manager’s Guide to Partnerships Roles and Job Titles
- For transitioning to a tech partner manager role and preparing for your interview: 20+ Interview Questions for Hiring Your First Tech Partner Manager
- For familiarizing yourself with common quarterly targets for various company sizes, so you can set accurate expectations early on: The Most Common Partnership KPIs and Quarterly Targets for 2023
- For showing the impact of ecosystem-qualified leads (EQLs): A Partner Lead Versus a Cold Lead
Curious to learn about the most common KPIs, reporting lines, and tech stacks in partnerships? Get your copy of the 2023 State of the Partner Ecosystem Report below.
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