With the current wave of job cuts and layoffs, I have been meeting with many people that want advice on how to get into partnerships.
Many of these conversations center around the same types of questions:
What job roles convert into the best partnership professionals?
Closely followed by:
If I don’t have experience in partnerships what are the soft skills that are needed in order to succeed in the role?
One trait that I bring up that confuses people and doesn't always make sense to them, is being able to navigate the politics of an organization.
Simply put, the ability to be a politician.
Yes. It's the greatest skill a partnership professional can have.
If you really think about it, partnerships are one of the only roles at a company that interfaces with virtually every department in order to get things done.
Lets break down the departments that you need to interface with and get “onside” as a partnerships professional, the way that these relationships should go in an ideal world, and then the reality and how you as the politician can navigate these tricky waters.
Sales can be your best friends as a partnership professional.
In an ideal world, they understand that you are creating relationships in order to get them warm, qualified leads.
In an ideal world, they have no issue working with their counterparts at your partner's organization and care deeply about the relationships you have taken so much time cultivating.
What it can look like if not navigated correctly is a disinterested, distrustful sales team that view partners as their competitors.
“We could have found and sold that deal without that partner”, is often the response if you have not navigated these tricky waters.
Sales teams if not bought in to partnerships can torpedo deals, be standoffish and uncommunicative with your partners, and be unwilling to account map.
If you are an expert politician, you educate the sales team, you enable them correctly through learning and education, and you ensure that they understand the value that partners bring.
In order to get to this level of connection, get the VP of Sales and CRO on board by showing them a few quick wins and signs of success and have them be your lobbyists when explaining the value to the sales team.
The people that can drive partnerships to the next level.
In an ideal world, marketing are fully bought in to the partnership program, they are ready to work on blog posts, battlecards, and webinars in collaboration with your partners, and promote them just as hard as your own company.
What it can look like if not navigated correctly is a marketing organization that de-prioritizes partnership activities, does not understand the need to promote the “you + partner = better experience for you customer story”, and will only create the occasional blog post on “special occasions”.
As a politician, your job is again to show that the cross promotion of both partner and your company leads to a network effect of brand amplification which is impossible on your own.
Collect statistics on impressions, followers and other high level stats on partnership marketing campaigns so the CMO understands the value that marketing activities can bring to the partnership team.
The team that can create new integrations, better your product, and open up new avenues to drive revenue.
In an ideal world, the product team understands the value of a technology partner-first strategy. Instead of building every feature imaginable they rely on you as the partnership team to help identify, recruit and initiate partnerships with best in breed solutions.
What it can look like if not navigated correctly is a product team that views technology partners as inferior, and treats other solutions as potentially taking away the limelight of them building a bespoke solution for your product.
They become mistrustful and hesitant in working with potential technology partners.
As a politician, your job is to bring data and feedback to the product team that shows the need for integrations from your customers.
Surveys, tags in call intelligence software (like Gong and Chorus) and communication with your sales and customer success teams can surface this information and make your case easy when presenting to the CPO or Head of Product.
To conclude, people will tell you that the following skills are really important in partnerships:
- Project management
- Strategic thinking
But a large part of your role is garnering support internally and lobbying for resources to grow the impact of your team.
You are constantly asking, cajoling and teaching internal departments about the potential of partnerships and what it can do to transform your organization.
Like being the President of the USA, partnerships aren't easy. But it's extremely rewarding when things come to fruition.