Women in Enterprise Sales Forum: The Secret Sauce to Partnerships Sales Success with Red Hat, Cisco & BigID
Oct 22, 2021
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Partnerships are a fast-growing and critical part of enterprise sales. Additionally, the dynamics behind Partnerships have evolved dramatically even in the last few years. That’s why our October 2021 Women in Enterprise Sales Forum was dedicated to best tactics and strategies for how to succeed in Channel, Alliances & Partnership Sales, and co-hosted alongside ecosystem management platform Pronto.
We had an all-star panel of women leaders in the space including Julia Fare (SVP of Alliances and Partnerships at BigID), Jennifer Craine (Operations Director, West Partner Sales Organization at Cisco), and Terri Hall (VP of Strategic Global Alliances at Red Hat).
We broke the conversation down into 3 stages of the journey — all equally important in building a strong and successful Channel, Alliances, and Partnerships framework. See a full recording of the panel here and the top tactics for each stage below:
Breaking Into Partnerships & Building a Team
According to our panelists, it’s not necessary to have a Partnership sales background to join and succeed in the role. Instead, the the most critical skill sets for success are:
Storytelling. Can you see the larger narrative around why a prospective Partner would be a good fit beyond revenue? Can you leverage that narrative to get it approved by stakeholders across the board?
Creative problem solving. Partnerships are wildly complex. Do you have the imagination to leverage new and creative ways to find value? Can you work across cross-functional teams?
Finding and identifying opportunities. Can you think outside the box to mine new opportunities?
Building a Partnerships Playbook
There was one common phrase when discussing how to find and work with Partners:
First, understand your own company’s priorities and goals in finding a Partner. At the end of the day, all teams are in some way anchored to these sets of priorities. From there, the remaining sales and partnering motion is in support or service to that. In many ways, this is parallel to how direct sales teams would identify an ideal customer profile (ICP) or buyer person, then target them. The nuance with Partnership sales is that you have to develop a strategy specially designed for mutual value proposition beyond just revenue.
Terri gave an example from her time at a semiconductor company, launching a new chip. At the time, there was no software ecosystem, operating system or database able to take advantage of their chip’s architecture. In seeking out Partners, Terri’s company was able to find that use case and the Partners were able to improve their performance — it was a win-win.
How do you know what’s beneficial to prospective Partners? It’s simple — ask them upfront. Create an open dialogue about what motivates them. These motivates might change and evolve as the world does, but an open dialogue will catch that before it’s too late.
But what happens when the goal alignment isn’t so clear cut? So many people see Partnerships as a meaningless press release. But behind the scenes there are dozens, maybe even hundreds of stakeholders involved in pushing a Partnership through and cultivating its success. As the goal alignment between Partners becomes less clear, it’s harder to rally those stakeholders to maximize that Partnership. Instead, look at the gap(s) in the goal alignment. What are they? Are they possible to close? How many resources and budget would need to be allocated to close them? Is the Partnership worth that allocation? While it’s not uncommon to move forward with a Partnership that may not be the best fit, remember to gut check yourself. Often you’ll know a Partnership isn’t going to work “before it even starts.”
And what happens when your prospective Partners are also competitors? It is possible to have successful Partners with companies with competing tech. To this, our panel recommends moving forward with the Partnership only if you can identify that mutual goal alignment. However, be extremely clear on each company’s swim lanes (ie. this is where we will compete and this is where we will collaborate).
Partnership measurement will always be an evolving area. While revenue may be a top contender as the most valuable metric, it’s not the perfect or only metric. These may be a little harder to pin down quantitatively, but a few others include:
Influence. While large enterprises tend to have a lot of influence, don’t discount smaller companies (ie. an early days startup) if they’re up and coming thought leaders in a particular space you’re looking to deepen your brand in.
Long-term stickiness. Partners investing in building services around your technology and enabling teams to be able to deliver that means they are committed to the Partnership long term.
Sandboxes. Sandbox environments give prospective Partners quick insights into the inner workings of a product. They allow a prospect to test the technology and experience the product’s value before committing to a purchase — or in this case committing to a partnership.
For the full recording, see below:
Huge shoutout to our co-host for this Women in Enterprise Sales Forum and Work-Bench portfolio company — Pronto.
Pronto helps enterprises unlock value from their partner ecosystems. Manage all of your partnerships in one unified platform, with constant visibility into essential information like KPIs, joint sales pipeline, and cross-team initiatives.