Tip O’Neill, the famous Massachusetts congressman and former leader of the House of Representatives, coined the phrase “All politics are local,” a reference to minding your district and making sure you take care of your constituents and to represent the needs, concerns and issues of the district, or suffer the consequences at the polls. The concept makes for a neat metaphor on the power of partnerships and the importance of nurturing the ecosystem of alliances that help fuel growth of brand awareness, partner mind share, and ultimately, revenue sourced or influenced by partners. How personal are your alliance relationships? Are you developing the kinds of meaningful connections with key alliance and sales executives that will help your company get “re-elected” by your partner constituents?
I have worked on both sides of the partnership table, primarily as a practice leader at a global systems integrator and secondarily as a global alliance director for SaaS software vendors, a role I currently hold at Redpoint Global. From those experiences I have learned a few things about what makes a partnership successful, and a few “best practices” around personalizing the partnership experience to create a successful ecosystem of partnerships across our multiple sales and alliance channels. The following summarizes a select few of these practices:
- Align personal goals and partner organization goals – This may sound obvious, but goal alignment is where partnering success begins. You can’t manage expectations until you know what they are! Depending on where you are in the partner journey, it makes sense to lay out key performance indicators each year. In the SaaS world these are typically focused on Annual Contract Value (ACV), sourced and referral revenue, number of opportunities in the pipeline, number of certified staff, service revenue, etc. But, what about the personal goals of your Alliance Leader? Where is he or she in their career progression? Are they up for a promotion? What personal metrics drive their behavior to work more for your partnership vs. another? Success on these personal metrics should translate and align with success on the partner organization’s “greater good” goals. Incorporate these personal goals into your partnership plans as a key way to ensure you have goal alignment and the right incentives to drive and motivate success.
- Make sure you have the right people! One of the first orders of business is to make sure you are investing your partnering energies in the right individuals. I have worked with developing relationships in a lot of the large Global System Integrators (GSI) who typically have complex and matrixed organizations. These GSI’s typically do billions of dollars in services revenue with the likes of SAP, Oracle and others, and have vast resources dedicated to those partnerships. These organizations will typically align a smaller SaaS solution into their “emerging technology” ecosystems. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but make sure you also identify someone within the line practices, within either the horizontal service offering or a vertical industry, that can be your Alliance Leader as they will have greater access to the account gatekeepers, and they will typically have more gravitas within the organization. Sometimes this role might be a “side gig” for someone looking to advance their career, which is fine, as long as you think they will stick around and can be enabled to be successful.
- Understand the Partner’s competing interests – All software vendors think their solution is the greatest thing since sliced bread. We at Redpoint Global are a market leader and helped define the Customer Data Platform (CDP) category so we helped bake the bread. However, we recognize that GSI’s and other referral and channel partners may want to remain “solution agnostic” and hence, maintain relationships with multiple partners in the CDP space. So, how do we stand above the fray and help build a competitive mote around your Partner relationship? Here are a few tips on how to keep it personal:
- Jumpstart the relationship with a deal – Nothing breeds success more than a win. Identify a closed or near-closed deal you can use to boot strap your partner relationship and make sure you keep it personal by giving public kudos to your alliance leader in the market and within the partner organization.
- Get as many of them trained as possible – Offer free training to Partner teams and staff. If the Partner is willing to invest their time, they will have a greater motivation to recommend your product and deploy their trained staff on your solution. When the staff get certified or complete training, make it personal by recognizing their accomplishment with a quick email or send them some swag!
- Create a steady “drip campaign” of product news, success stories, social media, blogs, etc. in order to keep a steady stream of brand activity within the Partner rank and file. Keep it personal by acknowledging your Alliance Leader in as many of these communications as possible.
- Be generous with swag – Sounds trite, but swag is popular and helps extend the brand to the younger, up and coming partner staff. No matter title or level, everyone who comes in contact with your brand is a potential ambassador and ultimately may become a leader with influence and decision-making power.
At Redpoint Global, we want our partners to succeed and to help their clients achieve great outcomes and amazing customer experiences. We rely on our partners to be an extension of our sales and delivery capabilities and to bring their industry and technical expertise to our mutual clients in order to drive great outcomes. Toward that end, we take our partnerships personally: we want our partner counterparts to grow and succeed along with the partnering organization. Our alliances team has a proven track record of developing winning partnerships that drive personal and organization success and we always welcome hearing from new potential partners.
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