Cory Snyder, VP of Partnerships at Sendoso, came into the company a year ago with one goal in mind: to enhance Sendoso’s partner program and give each of his partners the first-class experience they’d been promised.
I've been in partnerships for a long time. You say a lot of things and after a while, partners get skeptical. Action is super important.
If you don't treat your partners right – they’ll find someone else who will.
As a partner pro, you need to make good on your promises.
This is how Cory took Sendoso’s partner program from lacking to stronger than ever in 5 months.
Getting a lay of the land
Before starting at Sendoso, Cory had spent 10+ years driving revenue for agencies and their partners. And he knew he could supercharge Sendoso's partner program once he got the lay of the land.
Sendoso had both an agency program and a tech program when Cory joined. He was hired to pinpoint opportunities and identify room for improvement, maximizing strengths and improving weaknesses.
He got started right away.
First, he needed to understand the company he was working for. He attended every meeting he could, aiming to familiarize himself with the team dynamics, roles, and internal partnership sentiment.
Then, he focused on the partner program itself.
The state of their partner program
He asked himself,
What are the problems we’re solving? And how can I bucket those into categories?
By starting from first principles, two categories emerged: tech partners and agency partners.
At the time, Sendoso’s agency partners were struggling due to misaligned incentives and processes.
To address this, Cory began creating a collaborative program. Instead of solely relying on agencies as a referral source, he wanted to foster brand building for both parties.
Sendoso’s tech partners were in a much better position than their agency partners.
Cory used account mapping, and ICP overlaps to enhance their tech partners and build a joint GTM strategy.
Enhancing the program
Officially, it took Cory 5 months to build out the new program.
He spent his first 30 days understanding Sendoso’s ICP.
- Asked the CX team what they were hearing.
- Set up Gong tracking for specific keywords like “integration.”
Then he talked with all of his partners, asking them,
- What are you feeling?
- What do you need?
- What problems are you facing?
- What are you frustrated with?
Cory spent the next 60 days making sure partners knew that improvements were coming.
He acknowledged that his partners, particularly his agency partners, were frustrated, and he took responsibility for the state of the partner program.
He told me,
I threw myself on a sword. And I said, ‘Look, we have not done the best job engaging our agency partners. And part of that is the way we interact and engage with you. I'd love to share some directional stuff that we're doing, some of the fixes that we're making.'
Those conversations invited partners to help shape the program's direction.
He also asked his partners,
What does success look like for you? Who else are you partnered with? What are they doing well that you like and that keeps you engaged and gets you bought in?
Cory was busy collecting data, but he knew he had to follow through as well. Once he made these promises, his partners would be paying attention to whether he followed through.
While Cory was implementing changes and getting his partners excited, he was careful not to overpromise.
When partners would come up with new ideas, he’d say,
That's a great idea, I'm going to put it on the list and see if we can do it. Would you be willing to work with us on that?
He'd take immediate action if it was an easy add and they were willing to help.
For example, if a partner wanted more blog content and was willing to help, he’d pull in Sendoso’s marketing team to get the ball rolling.
As he listened, he realized that most of their wishes were reasonable and easily deliverable.
A lot of it's like, ‘You guys asked me for referrals, but what about passing me stuff?’
Cory would acknowledge his partner's desires, and if possible, he’d give them a win that showed the program was moving in the right direction.
After gathering data and ideas, he started building a new partner methodology.
Building the partner methodology
Often, companies opt to build their methodology outward-in. Cory decided to do it differently.
By involving both his team and his partners in deciding the direction of the partner program, the methodology became a collaborative effort.
Ideas, conversations, and possibilities started flowing in from every direction. Though it started chaotically, all the new ideas made it possible to create the best methodology for the partner program.
I prefer to not leave it chaotic, but I like to have some fluidity. I build partner programs that can evolve with us.
A partner program is never a set-it-and-forget-it process.
You identify the pillars, build them, and allow the rest of the program to be molded by your partners and the industry’s needs.
Managing the scale of a fast-growing partner program
Methodology sets the foundation for scale. And scale is all about repeated, day-to-day actions.
But you can’t treat every partner the same. Cory broke his partners into 3 stages that informed how he’d nurture the relationships:
- Needs you! You need them!
- They can’t do much without you
- 6 months in, beginning to crawl
- 1 year in, they are walking!
- FAST GROWTH
- You start to tweak your approach
- They have opinions about how you run your program
- They’ll likely have suggestions to run your program better
- You will make mistakes, and they will call you out for it!
- You both understand each other
- You can ask them for help
- Normally partnered with other solutions/competitors.
- Adoption across the company
Five main areas when managing scale
For every stage, Cory insists, you need to be thinking about five main areas:
- Systems – Leverage technology!
- Automated processes – Create automated processes until you can get headcount or get data to back your ideas
- Alignment – Create alignment and involvement!
- Employees – Use data to drive the positions you need, and if possible, don’t put the headcount on your team!
- Marketing efforts – Create and track repeatable marketing initiatives
Of those five, the most important to get right is your systems.
If you get your systems right, you can remove yourself (the partner person) as a bottleneck to everyone else's success.
Building partner systems
As a general rule of thumb,
80% of your program should give partners (and internal teammates) access to what they need so they don’t have to come to you. – Cory Synder
And to do that, you need a minimum viable tech stack to build a minimum viable set of systems.
For Cory, that looked meant:
- Partner Relationship Management (PRM)
- Account Mapping – Crossbeam / Reveal
- Marketplace Software (not immediately)
- Slack (preferably)
- Team workspace – Confluence or similar Solution
- Google Docs, Sheets, and Pages
- Gong (or similar)
Systems set both partners and your internal team up for success.
Cory was kind enough to share some of his systems…
His advice to build your partner program
If you look at Cory’s story and think, “Maybe it’s time we enhanced our program,” here’s his advice:
- Leverage your network.
- Lean into your CX teams – Your CX teams know a TON about your customers. Ultimately, your program should be solving a pain point for someone in the organization.
- Ask a crap ton of questions.
Want to hear more about Cory's story? Check out his interview with Logan Lyles on the Marketing Together Podcast.
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