Why and How to Embed Partnering into Core Business Functions

Why and How to Embed Partnering into Core Business Functions

December 14, 2021

In the blog TEMPO of the Ecosystem, we said the “E” in TEMPO stood for Embedded Partnering which meant baking partner roles into core partner engagement functions, especially product, marketing, sales, and customer success. This blog is a double click on Embedded Partnering best practices.

Best practices #1 is that instead of building big teams, partner leaders win by orchestrating optimal partnering engagement across their internal organizations. This means that, wherever possible, Partner leaders should align partner activities within the core partner engagement functions by:

-Showing Heads of Product, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success how partners uniquely deliver on the KPIs that matter to each group.

-Aligning with Heads to at least co-own the partner-specific KPI or partner-specific contribution to another core KPI.

-Hiring headcount to support these KPI outcomes to work within the core functions and not report directly into the partner organization.

Best practice #2 is to insure that partner leaders are bi-lateral BD executives – doing BD with partners is the obvious motion but aligning internally with department Heads is an equally important BD function. With this skill set, it’s no wonder that the next on-ramp role for CEOs will be Partner leaders. So how should Partner leaders approach this key alignment process – the same way we approach any BD function, by thoroughly understanding a constituent’s business context.  Partner leaders do this by answering the 5 questions:

-How do partners uniquely deliver on our company vision, mission, and OKRs?

-What are the top 3 priorities and KPIs for each of the core groups that are key contributors to partner success?

-How do partners (typically by partner segment vs. as a whole) uniquely contribute to these top 3 priorities?

-How can we measure partner contributions to these priorities?

-What are the unique or partner-influenced KPIs that we are hoping to get the Head of products, marketing, sales, or customer success to adopt as their own (or at a minimum share with you)?

Best practice #3 is to insure that partner leaders understand organizational change management. Partner leaders need to answer the 5 questions in a way that will drive the right level of meaningful engagement. The pathway lies in first understanding the department Heads; much as you might approach an ICP – starting with their orientation, experience, and openness to partnering. The common approach is to always have #1 (in the #1-5 list above) under your belt. Then your approach to #2-5 will vary:

-If you have open-minded, experienced peers, approach them at the outset and agree to workshop #2-5 together; you should go in with a strong point of view so that they know that you know what you are talking about and are ready to collaborate.

-If you have open minded but inexperienced peers, then you need to do more up-front homework and build a framework for the conversation, but definitely start by understanding #2 and then creating a POV on #3 and #4 before you meet with them.

-If you have close minded peers, it’s probably time to leverage #1 and a strong position on #2-4 and engage with your CEO to see if he/she might want to drive a top-down effort.

-If you have made traction with another department Head, leverage him/her to lobby the CEO to align with the Heads who are in resistance.

Your success in driving alignment is somewhat predicated on gathering a set of conclusions from incomplete proof points. The fact that your peers in these core functions need to be convinced of the value of partners means that their partner contributions to date have been less than stellar and the results less than compelling, so you’ll need to improvise. Here are some best practices:

-When all else fails, rely on pilots. Pick a few partners and get them up and running by cobbling the right resources to demonstrate early wins and by emphasizing and forecasting results off of leading indicators, e.g., EQLs vs. closed one business.

-Bring in case study successes from peer companies that your company trusts, if they are a prospective partner, even better. Reach out to fellow partner execs at Partnership Leaders or Cloud Software Association. Your peers will help you if you ask nicely, frame good questions, and endeavor to reciprocate.

-Close off with your CEO by leveraging influential analysts and researchers. The case for building partner ecosystems as a top-3 CEO growth driver is now virtually unassailable. It’s your job to convince your CEO, which is why question #1 on the alignment to-do list is always your best starting point.

If you are confused where to start, begin planning with best practice #1 in mind – your impact as a Partner leader is not a function of your team size, it’s a function of your company’s overall partnering contribution, even if other departments outside of the partnership LoB are contributing to your success. Working the Ecosystem, now more than even, is a team sport, ideally best championed by your CEO.