Want to Meet Quota? Befriend Your Partner Team

Want to Meet Quota? Befriend Your Partner Team

Zoe Kelly 8 min
By Zoe Kelly

Working with partners can be a secret weapon for AEs looking to hit their quotas, outperform their peers, and shave time off of their sales cycle:

In 2023 State of the Partner Ecosystem report, we found that:

In a market where 61% of salespeople think selling is harder than it was five years ago, 31% of companies reduced their budget for SaaS tools in 2022, and tech layoffs are up 649% from 2022, creating streams of leads with a high probability of success is extra valuable. 

For sales professionals who haven’t already worked with partners, it can be hard to know how to get the ball rolling on generating ecosystem qualified leads. Consequently, partner managers have difficulty getting buy-in from sales reps, many of whom aren’t aware that partnerships can be a powerful selling tool.

Dok Seong, an Account Executive at global HR company Deel says that small, initiative relationship building practices have helped him build a reputation as his partnerships team’s go-to sales rep. According to Seong, this relationship with his partner managers was a large factor in his promotion from a small-to-medium business (SMB) rep to a mid-market Account Executive.

“Internal stakeholder management is a deeply underrated tool for successful sellers,” he told us. “I attribute a lot of my success [needed for my promotion] to the partnerships team.” 

Sellers, Seong explained, often focus their attention on external stakeholders. “Most of the salespeople I know focus on the close, [instead of] taking a step to help someone internally when it might not immediately benefit them” he told us. 

Alternatively, Seong focuses on small actions in his day-to-day that have established himself as a pleasure to work with amongst his partnerships team. As a result, he: 

  • Gets priority and is specially requested when partner managers assign out particularly big partner leads. 
  • Has filled his sales pipeline with 30% partner sourced leads that close at a 55% percent rate versus a 30% rate for non-partner deals.
  • Has developed direct relationships with partners who help pitch to prospects on his behalf.
  • Closed three of his five biggest deals with the help of partners.

The best part according to Seong? “You’re genuinely helping them. It’s helping yourself while helping others.” 

Here are three simple steps that have helped Seong win over the hearts of his partnerships team:

#1: Be a willing collaborator with your partner managers

As the favorite child of any family can tell, lending a hand when you’re asked (or even better, proactively offering) is a great way to earn more TV time, better snacks, and that cool new bike you’ve been wanting. In other words, when you build a reputation as a helpful person, people are naturally inclined to help you in return. 

As Seong explained, it’s not that sellers don’t understand and implement this strategy, it’s that relationships with internal stakeholders (specifically partnerships teams) are often not seen as mutually beneficial. 

This oversight can lead sellers to miss out on creating valuable internal advocates. “When you have strong relationships internally, you have more support when selling externally,” he told us. “I’m deeply considerate of the other functions of the business and focused on aligning my goals with theirs…[when you do this] you’re more willing to get a bone thrown if you really need support in the future.”

Sure, helping a partner manager write a one-pager on a shared prospect for a partner doesn’t immediately equate to commission. But down the line, that partner manager might have an important lead from a partner and you’re the one who comes to mind. The more Seong has invested in building relationships with his partnerships team, the more high-quality partner leads he’s gotten.

“Now, if [partner managers] have a VIP partner who has a pressing need, they are a lot more comfortable going to [me] because [I’ve] demonstrated willingness to help. Be reliable to be called upon.”

And as Seong told us, this reliability hasn’t been proven by grand gestures or an extensive amount of extra work for himself. 

Instead, small, consistent shows of effort work. 

Try being hyper-responsive when a partner manager needs a favor 

How often you show up on Slack (or your company’s communication platform of choice) Seong says, is a simple but impactful way to prove your eagerness to work with internal stakeholders.

While it can feel tempting to mute your notifications or ignore channels that aren’t relevant to your immediate day-to-day, paying close attention and being the first to respond to a question or favor is something most people will make a note of. 

“If a partnerships manager is like, ‘Hey, I have a pretty general question from a client, can you help me draft a response?’ I’m more than willing to do that,” Seong shared. “Because even if that lead isn’t coming to me, I know they hold the keys to future leads.”

To start: Figure out where and how your partner managers ask for help. Then establish your helpful presence in that space.

#2. Understand your partner manager’s KPIs

In sales, KPIs like closed ARR primarily begin and end within the seller’s control. Partnership KPIs are a little different; the most popular ones require work from other internal teams in order to be hit. 

As we found in our 2023 State of the Partner Ecosystem Report, the most popular partnership KPI is partner-sourced revenue. Partner-sourced revenue is direct revenue from a partner. This means it comes from ecosystem qualified leads for your sales team and usually include a warm intro via your partner between the prospect and the seller. 

In other words, partnership managers rely on sellers to hit their goals.

Try asking your partner manager to keep you updated on their KPIs

Seong pays careful attention to what his partner managers are being measured in an effort to create continued alignment between their goals. “I noticed that our partnership team’s KPIs were changing a lot. With changing revenue targets and changing KPIs over the last six months, [my partner manager] has had two different KPIs that she’s been measured on,” he told us. “So I always check in and ask, ‘Hey, how does this affect you? How can I help you? What deadlines do you need to meet in order to get attributed for this deal?” 

Help them hit their goals, Seong says, and they will trust you with the more valuable, important ecosystem-qualified leads because you’ve demonstrated your understanding of how important they are.

To start: Familiarize yourself with your partnerships team’s attribution methods. Then, set a reminder to yourself to correctly attribute all of your partner-sourced deals. 

#3. Ask to be connected with partners, then backchannel on your own

As any partner manager will tell you:

  • The more crossover there is between partners and sales reps, the better. 
  • Partner managers are busy and juggle many different tasks within an organization. 

Therefore, the more you can build your own relationships with partners and backchannel about deals, the better. 

“It helps get a deep level of trust with the partner. I’ve got really close to a couple of our partners and they would come directly to me and not our partnership manager with questions about a deal or a client,” Seong says.

Not only does this save time for your partner manager, but it also is a great way for sellers to make external champions out of partners. In fact, Seong says that some partners pitch to leads on his behalf because of their working relationship. 

By familiarizing yourself with your company’s partners, you can begin to decide for yourself when you want to ask for a warm intro or intel on a lead without needing to add a task to your partner manager’s plate. 

Try asking your partner manager for: 

  • A list of your company’s big partners and a description of what services they offer
  • A short blurb for each of the partners about the what type of your partnership y’all have 
  • A name and email of a good contact at partner
  • Instructions on how to make sure you always have an updated partner list (partner data can change quickly) 

You can also look up your company on partnerbase.com.

To start: Schedule weekly check-ins with a member of your partner team to stay up-to-date on your company’s partner list.

Check out our 2023 State of the Partner Ecosystem report

Zoe Kelly 8 min

Want to Meet Quota? Befriend Your Partner Team

Partner leads close at almost 100X rate of cold leads, deals close 46% faster when a partner is involved, and sales reps who embrace ecosystem-led sales earn promotions via quota efficiency. In this post, we look at how sellers can build the relationships necessary to utilize partnerships as a tool.

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