Partnership Advice & Best Practices in Times of Uncertainty
While it seems like it’s been a lifetime at this point, the reality is it was just a couple of weeks ago that most of the tech world was planning for events season, working towards their 2020 goals and projections, and generally operating in a business as usual fashion.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and here we are, in the middle of a global pandemic where everyone’s locked inside their homes, the stock market’s cratered in a way not seen since the Great Depression, and the only thing keeping most people sane is documentary about a mullet-wielding, tiger-training, oddball from Oklahoma…yes, these are strange times indeed.
But as the saying goes, “the show must go on!” and go on it will, one way or another. When the signs of this collapse first appeared, I wrote a piece discussing why this is a perfect opportunity for SaaS partnership teams to rise up and help lead our companies through this present quagmire. You’re welcome to read the whole article, but the bottom line is this: we’re better, more effective, and more innovative together than we are apart. This is true for people, and true for corporations as well. Your partnerships team is uniquely positioned to help bring companies together in ways that will create opportunity, inspire innovation, and help sustain — and even grow — your company through this time of uncertainty and relative chaos.
To that end, I tapped a half-dozen partner leaders in SaaS and asked them for their advice and best practices on how to help lead their respective partner orgs through times of ambiguity, economic depression, and isolation. Here’s what they had to say…
Gilad Zubery: VP, Global Business Development & Partnerships at Contentsquare: In times like these, generating pipeline and closing new business is a challenging task. This is the time for your partnership org to shine. The concept of “stronger together” has never been more accurate. This is also the time to rethink your partner strategy with these five steps:
1. Set expectations internally. Adjust your pipeline generation target to the new situation.
2. Map out your company’s current opportunities and identify ones where you can use your partners to push them down the funnel.
3. Business is slowing down, invest time in building new partnerships, and new mutual action plans.
4. Create joint offerings with your partners to support your joint customers and prospects from industries that are struggling.
5. Be a reliable partner. Some of your partners are struggling. Be considerate, and ask what you can do to help them.
Jake Makler: Director of Technology Alliances at Quantum Metric: The most helpful thing for me has been this: “Walk” the proverbial halls of your Partners. Building meaningful partnerships is often a block-and-tackle process of chance meetings and connections with field teams that often happen in conference rooms or over steak dinners — during times like this, it’s essential to have a virtual “presence” within your partner org — find ways to meet with a wide range of roles such as executives, account managers, technical/product experts and use this time to build connections you can reinforce in person at a later date.
Jim Misuraca: VP, Strategic Partnerships at Decibel: Two main themes: 1) Focus on what you can control; and 2) Double-down on your strengths.
- Partner Management — People ‘buy’ based on experience. They also ‘partner’ the same way. Are you easy to partner with? Are you better than your competitors at partnering? Do you provide your partners with all of the necessary materials, resources, etc. to partner effectively? From a recruitment perspective, focus on partnerships that provide the strongest “better together” stories.
- Partner Marketing — Similar feedback here, too. What partners will support your newfound virtual event strategy the most? Are their partner marketing best practices you can “borrow” from some of your partners?
- Partner Sales — While account alignment is always essential in partnerships, the post-alignment messaging from a partner’s sales rep or CSM to a prospect becomes even more critical. Your customers and prospects are going to get bombarded with e-mail offers — if they haven’t already — on how to “thrive in a COVID-19 world.” Aligning on accounts with partners that come with a recommendation from that partner (with crisp messaging) to a prospect to meet will mean that much more.
- Sales Enablement — Now is a great time to set up those enablement sessions you’ve been putting off. Look at the first few weeks of both your own and your partners’ next quarter as a good time for internal and external enablement sessions, respectively.
- Tech Enablement — Until the economy gets back into full swing, most ISVs can expect decreased usage of their product. One unintended benefit is fewer service tickets, which SHOULD provide additional time for Product, Engineering, Dev, etc. to work on new partner integrations. Get as much integration, API, and tech documentation work completed as possible before things start to ramp back up.
Shohei Narron: Technology Partner Manager at Looker (Google): Now’s a great time to shift your focus from direct GTM to content that you’ve been putting off for a while. Short demo videos, solution briefs, white papers — these are great resources not only for external awareness and engagement but also internal enablement, which will help accelerate your partner relationships when things return to business as usual. These outputs require minimal internal cross-team collaboration as well, making it easier for partnership professionals on both sides to push drafts forward without having to coordinate across multiple teams, unlike deep product integrations and onsite field team enablement.
Asher Mathew: VP of Revenue & Operations at DemandMatrix: Many times partnership leaders take a hypothesis for a partnership that is based on gut feel or product synergy. In a world where resources are scarce and efficient growth trumps all, partnership teams will need to be extremely data-driven. Whether it is sales & marketing partnerships, services partnerships or technology partnerships, data about the customers they currently serve or markets they jointly want to enter is now readily available. This data-driven approach coupled with philosophical (many times called “cultural”) alignment will lead to a decrease in the time to monetization (the period right after the contractual agreement is in place, and the first two deals take place) and increased revenue contribution.
Truman So: Head of Partnerships at Clearbit: Quick thoughts about being in a role like ours during this time….It’s less about figuring out the perfect solution in this uncharted and uncertain time, but more about maintaining perspective. At the end of the day it comes down to remembering that no matter how hard it is for you right now, it’s just as hard for whoever you’re talking to. Be kind, be patient, and be honest about your priorities. And on calls, make sure your dog barks first so that they know it’s okay if their toddler has a meltdown too.