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Question

What are the first things you would recommend a partner manager do when building out a new program from zero to one?

Answer
All of the biggest partner programs out there started with a single partner, and every partnership starts with going from zero to one and getting your first win or first customer win. And unless you are the famous Canadian Rapper Drake, you won't be going zero to one hundred overnight. When you are setting up a program in the initial phase or the scouting and discovery phase, you need to be looking for the right partners, looking at a lot of data and companies to determine the right partner fit for your customers and your target market. At this phase, focus on setting up at least 10 introduction meetings with potential partners, and work to qualify them in or out of the program you are building. I also recommend being up front with your new potential partners as to the state of the program and your goal to help them go zero to one and get agreement that the timing is right.
Question

How do you approach motivating partners to engage in your partner program? What do they want and how do you give it to them?

Answer
Partner motivation is critical to getting sponsorship and a partnership kicked off, and personally I find this easy as long as you are working with the right partner, and you can understand their goals, objectives and where your partnership fits into their business. I think too many partner leaders focus on things that are important to them, but may not be important to partners. Take the time to learn about your partner, their mission, vision and values and their goals as an organization and their goals as a company, business, and team level. The better you can understand their goals, the better you will be able to articulate how your program and your company can help make them successful. Maybe they need customer introductions or MDF funds or a listing on your website - take the time to do discovery and ask questions to find out what is important to THAT partner.
Question

What metrics should we be tying partner manager commissions to and why?

Answer
Let's start with the structure: Partner manager commissions I find work well on a split plan of 60-70% base, and 30-40% variables based on the goals of the organization and your customers. I've also setup plans as a straight sales commission and quota plan for more channel managers and partner sales managers and used MBO / bonus programs for tech partner managers, partner solution engineers and partner success managers. For specific metrics, I favor metrics that target LEADING and LAGGING indicators of success. On the leading side, goals like partner sourced and influenced pipeline, and partner sourced and influenced revenue are easy goals to measure and valuable to grow. For lagging indicators, track customer adoption and engagement with your partners and products, and net retention and customer satisfaction.
Question

What is your go-to playbook for activating newly recruited partners?

Answer
I love working with new partners, when the excitement is high, and possibilities are endless. But you must have a plan to get partners to a predictable level of success, and that requires both plans and planning. I am a strong advocate of setting up joint success plans with partners, and creating a joint action plan that tracks your goals and the actions needed to achieve them. A joint success plan aka JSP can be part of partner software, or tracked on Box note so don't worry about the technical details, it's more important to connect and document both your partner goals, and your goals and the activities needed to achieve them. For example, if a partner wants to achieve 100K installs of your integrated solution, or driving $1M in revenue, document those goals and start to peel back the actions that each party will need to take to start to work towards achieving those goals.
Question

What marketing do you do in order to reach partners that are not in your program, so that you can get more partners?

Answer
Recruiting more partners is like finding a good place to catch fish - go fish where the fish are, and recruit partners where they are. One of the simplest ways to meet new partners and recruit new partners is to go where they are in person and online. Personally, I think having a good brand as a company and partner leader on social media is key to help to attract the right partners, and you should physically go in person to events where you can meet with partners and potential partners in person. In my world of enterprise sofware as a service, this is events like Dreamforce or Gartner. One other key thing to point out is that many times, the best partners are already listed in other ecosystems and just need to go find them. One example I love is Zapier, https://zapier.com/experts , powered by PartnerPage. This makes it so easy for you to find new partners in adjacent ecosystems.
Question

How do you demonstrate value and get prospective partners to the table (Outside of leveraging relationships) to kick off partnership discussions?

Answer
One of my favorite tactics is the BUDDY SYSTEM - where you bring a buddy from a customer or a key prospect to make an introduction, or to join a meeting with a potential partner. Just last week I was on a call with a sales leader at a key ISV partner, and he made four key GSI introductions for me, just by asking! I also loving bringing top customers and customers, or their POV to meetings to help get a door open.
Question

How do you recommend getting started with setting goals for how many new partners to recruit on a monthly/quarterly basis?

Answer
I don't ever recommend signing up partners without having a plan to make them successful, and I am not a fan of signing up partners as an arbitrary goal. Why recruit 10 partners vs 100 or 1,000 at all? What I do like are goals tied to things like # of new partners certified, or # of new partners who refer a lead or that get above a certain engagement threshold for an integration. If you start with those goals in mind, you can work backwards into the # of new partners, or new teams or divisions at a larger company as you expand and deepen existing partner relationships.
Question

How do I scale my partner recruitment & onboarding motion?

Answer
Get a bigger scale! Seriously though, once you are growing your business and understand how to enable and scale up partner success, you can "save as" what is working with particular partners and use that to recruit and onboard more partners who look alike the successful partners that you already have. Tactically, make sure you have a polished partner pitch deck, a clear message on how partners get value from working with you and how your mutual customers benefit, and have a clear checklist or onboarding guide that shows the process from going from your first meeting to getting signed up officially.
Question

Is there such a thing as recruiting too many partners? Should recruitment be limited?

Answer
There absolutely is a thing as recruiting too many partners, and so many partner programs can get scaled up prematurely especially in high growth companies. I would encourage you to split your time let's say 80/20 on working with existing vs new partners and allocate and dedicate some time and resources to working with new partners. And if you are watching that funnel and setting up joint success plans and you have a good understanding of how to make partners successful, then you need to invest in scaling that up. But be mindful of going too big too fast.
Question

How do you know when a partner is NOT a good fit for your program?

Answer
If you've heard of the 4 C's of buying diamonds (cut, color, clarity, carat), then let me share with you the 4 C's of picking the right partner. If you don't have a good stone or a good partner it's not the end of the world, but you should know going in that you may not have the best fit. Here are the 4 things I look for, and how I score new potential partners: 1. Culture - do you have strong alignment with the mission, vision and values of your organizations and of your teams? Do you feel good about putting this partner in front of your customers and vice versa? 2. Capacity - what capacity and resources do you have on each side to commit to partner? This could be in the form of sales, engineering, marketing, exec sponsorship and more. 3. Commitment - What is the desire and interest to work together driven by? Is this a single deal, or a chance to do 100 or 1000 deals or projects together? 4. Competencies - what do they know about your company, customers, technologies and platform? If they don't score highly then maybe the right answer is that you have to say no now or know when you would like to get back together as business and priorities and programs can change.