I had the pleasure of interviewing five partnership leaders to understand their approach to account mapping, as well as best practices and pitfalls. I’ll be posting one conversation per week for the next five weeks in the hopes of elevating partnerships in the minds of sales organizations, if not to just make everyone’s lives a little easier.
Head of Partnerships, productboard
Background and Context: “I just joined productboard as our first business development hire to figure out how we can accelerate growth and create a defensive moat through partnerships. We have integrations with a handful of partners, but we’re still building our partnership foundations. Prior to my current role, I was Director of Business Development at Zendesk.”
Know Your Account Mapping Goals: “Account mapping was done largely through spreadsheets at Zendesk. But more important than the tooling is what we’re looking for in sharing accounts. Partners who were most successful at Zendesk didn’t necessarily bring in net-new revenue, but they increased the win rate by making the customer support experience better. Knowing this, we could build a more concrete integration story and enable sales teams on joint pitches.”
Document and Communicating Partnership Wins: “Make sure you document partner wins internally, whether it be an internal email, customer story, or a blog post. If it’s a more official write-up by the marketing team, make sure any tidbits about partner involvement is included — it’s always better for people outside of the partner organization talking about partners. And don’t forget to look for smaller wins you can highlight, like how partner involvement helped a potential churn risk account come around.”
Increase Internal Partner Mindshare and Salience: “What you’re really trying to do as a partner organization is to remove barriers between your team and theirs. For example, we ran monthly enablement sessions with AMER sales leadership at Zendesk. This involved bringing in an AE every month who had won a deal because of partner contributions, which allowed us to show partner development progress through deal-based story telling. In addition, this was a way for us to get feedback from sales leaders on how partners were performing, and where they needed new partners to help win more deals. This created an environment where we built goodwill by being open to feedback and taking a solutions approach to filtering, prioritizing and recruiting net-new partners.
We also had 20 partners with access to shared Slack channels so that reps on both sides could talk directly rather than the partnership organization being the middleman or bottleneck.”
On Building Trust: “Relationships between partners and you, as well as your AEs are critical, and you just can’t get away from that. Sometimes sales reps on both sides work against one another for whatever reason — if this turns out to be a sustained trend rather than a one-off miscommunication issue, you’ll want to have built a good relationship with the partner executive champion to give and get critical feedback. If you’re working with larger, strategic partners, bring in a leader from sales, marketing, and customer success from both sides to partner QBRs to provide more skin in the game, and to put a face to the partnership”
Always Vet Partner Fit: “There were a few partners where there was more internal executive interest than an actual opportunity to partner, and we ended up spinning our wheels without much coming out of it. Even if your SVP of Sales, CRO, or other sales executive is making the ask, make sure to qualify before jumping onto it.”
Partnership Leaders is an organization of partnership professionals that share partnership management tips, tricks, and best practices from strategic alliances leaders from around the world.