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Platform Partnering is Selling

November 10, 2015

There’s a lot the partnering/alliances world can learn from a well-run sales and marketing team. The pitch, the focus on results, and the need for a predictable, repeatable funnel-conversion system are all hallmarks of an efficient sales machine.

These should be the hallmarks of an efficient alliances machine as well, especially if the machine is focused on building and maintaining large ecosystem integration and go-to-market partnerships.

Here’s what I mean:

Partner to the Problem

Remember that scene at the end of “Wolf of Wall Street” when Leonardo DiCaprio is asking people to sell him a pen? In reply, his audience members talk about the virtues of the pen rather than the customer problem the pen solves. His point in the movie was that to sell, you needed to see the pen from the eyes of the customer and understand what problem the customer is facing.

The same is true in partnerships. Too often companies sell the virtue of their technology and why the whole litany of features on offer makes the company such an attractive integration partner.

What is lost is that partners, like customers, have problems too. If you’re encouraging a company to integrate their application with yours, then you need a solid business case that goes beyond the technology benefits and addresses real partner problems. How does integrating with your technology address a partner’s needs or, even better, the needs of a partner’s customers.

Do Sales and Marketing

The systems developed for sales to fill the top of a funnel and then move a prospect along to that final sale are all relevant for partner organizations. To build an extensive ecosystem, you want to have a strong marketing component to pique the interest of a potential partner and get them to interact with your company in some way (attend an event, download a whitepaper, etc.).

Once engaged, then there should be a process by which that lead can be passed along to an equivalent to an SDR who can qualify the partner and send them down the right track; ie: is this partner a high potential one who needs special care, or could they simply avail themselves of self-service modules?

If the partner is deemed to be high potential, then they need to be placed in the care of a more senior alliance professional who can ensure the partner get the sales, marketing and technical support appropriate.

The same process for passing along a customer from marketing to SDRs to a sales professional holds true in the partnering world as well; especially if the goal is to build a large partner ecosystem.

Grow and Tier the Partnership

A sales team will tend to have an account plan for a high-value customer. A sales rep will check in, understand what the customer is up to, and figure out how to upsell, cross-sell or just plain sell, sell, sell to keep happy the customer and grow the business. This is only achieved via an intimate knowledge of the customer’s business and business imperatives.

The same can be said for managing partners, especially for high-value partners. An intimate knowledge of the partner’s business will help you understand which of your offerings would be of most use to further build and expand their partnership.

Of course, you won’t be able to do this for all your partners but rather for the highest value ones. But if a partner is deemed highly strategic, then it makes sense to have a dedicated partner manager who is executing against a dedicated partner plan.

There should be a plan as well for partners that don’t merit a dedicated resource. There should be an automated or light-touch way to continue to develop those partnerships and find the ones that can move up the ranks and provide more value to your company.

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