You’re Getting in the Way. How Modern Partner Managers Empower Sales Teams to Co-Sell (Without the Bureaucracy)

You’re Getting in the Way. How Modern Partner Managers Empower Sales Teams to Co-Sell (Without the Bureaucracy)

Olivia Ramirez 15 min

By Olivia Ramirez

October 24, 2023


The go-to-market (GTM) world is changing. Are you? 


Thanks to a ton of stats, innovation, and thought leaders sharing their secrets, the way that SaaS companies and revenue leaders drive revenue today is drastically different than it was a decade ago. 


Ecosystem-Led Growth (ELG) is the #1 strategy that sales leaders are investing more in in 2024. And looking ahead, Canalys forecasts the channel software space to reach $11.8 Billion by the end of 2023


It’s been: 

So, how have you kept up with the change? 


John Smit Siteimprove


We spoke with John Smit, Partner Account Manager, EMEA, at Siteimprove, about what it was like when he first stepped into a partnerships role in 2019 compared to what it’s like today. 


In the early days, Smit mapped accounts with partners manually using spreadsheets. He spent much of his time scheduling recurring meetings with partners and internal sales reps to get intel and share data — a task that modern partner tech now does for him. 


“Nothing really got done quickly,” says Smit. 


Without a partner ecosystem platform (PEP) like Crossbeam to protect his customer relationship management (CRM) data, Smit had a hard limit on the amount of data he could share with partners. He often could only share publicly available data, like only revealing customers they had already included in case studies and testimonials. This led to key partners walking away from the conversation and Smit’s team losing out on potential revenue.  


After adopting Crossbeam and a partner partner relationship management (PRM) system, Smit was able to share data in real time with partners, vet the best opportunities, and onboard them quickly so they could start co-selling – without needing a meeting for every step.   


Skip ahead to today, and Smit is able to focus on the big picture strategy of his partner program while his sales team manages the day-to-day co-selling with partners. 


We’ve spoken to hundreds of partnership leaders, and Smit’s journey is reflective of all of their stories. We’ve broken the journey down into three phases: 

  • Phase #1: The Manual Mindset

  • Phase #2: The Data Mindset

  • Phase #3: The Conductor Mindset   


the mindsets of the partner manager
The “manual mindset”, the “data mindset”, and the “conductor mindset”


Since advancing from a “manual mindset” to a “conductor mindset”, Smit has observed the following benefits: 

  • Partners influence 4x the number of deals than they had influenced previously to adopting the “conductor mindset”, and deals with partners close at a more than 40% higher rate than non-partner-influenced deals.

  • Smit’s sales team has accessed accounts with significantly bigger deal sizes with the help of partners. 

  • Smit no longer needs to liaise between his sales team and his partners; he can empower them to reach out to partners directly and to accelerate their deals without the unintentional friction of a middleman. 

  • Smit finally has time to focus on the big picture strategy, rather than spending time on small tasks that don’t impact revenue growth. 


Read on to learn how you can advance from the “manual mindset” and “data mindset” phases to the “conductor mindset” phase, and get 👏 your 👏 time 👏 back 👏 to focus on impacting revenue growth. 

Phase #1: The Manual Mindset  

Time spent on: 

  • Video calls with potential partners convincing them to partner, presenting product demos, and continuously checking in on each partner’s responsibilities   

  • Emails with potential partners and internal sales reps to gather intel  

  • Tracking bits and pieces of partner influence in a spreadsheet


the mindsets of the partner manager - the manual mindset
The “manual mindset”


During the “manual phase”, Smit says he spent the majority of his time scheduling meetings and gathering information. It was time-consuming and sometimes impossible to determine if he had mutual accounts with a partner. 

Tracking down sales intel


At the time, Smit’s sales team didn’t track many details about their target accounts in Salesforce, so he would spend time getting the intel from his sales team. This resulted in a many back and forth emails between Smit and his sales reps.   


In order to track a partner’s influence in Salesforce during this phase, Smit’s sales team needed to write “Sourced by [partner]” in the opportunity name. If the account was still in the “prospect” phase, there was no way of tracking the influence. So, Smit spun up a spreadsheet and committed time to tracking each partner’s influence on each sales cycle.


“Everything was tracked in an Excel spreadsheet,” says Smit.  

A lack of data-sharing


Since Smit was mapping accounts with partners manually, he was only able to share a limited amount of data. Without proper data security in place, Smit was only able to share publicly-available data. And without visibility into account-level data, potential partners were unable to strategize around co-selling and co-marketing and often walked away from the conversation. 


Smit recalls a time when he had found the perfect partner that fit his company’s ideal partner profile (IPP) “like a hand in glove”. The potential partner was excited to connect their sales reps to co-sell. When the partner realized that they wouldn’t be able to discuss their mutual prospects and opportunities, they moved on. 


“I wasn’t being set up to succeed,” says Smit. “I genuinely believe if I had known about Crossbeam at that point, that would have been a very different conversation because I could have said, ‘It’s SOC 2 compliant. Here’s what you can control within it.’” 


Read on to learn how you can identify the number of mutual opportunities you have with a partner in Crossbeam before sharing any account-level data. You can also determine the Revenue Potential you have with a particular potential partner. 


Smit adds that partnering with key strategic players today at Siteimprove has allowed his sales team to access bigger accounts with larger deal sizes. 


“By partnering up, it’s allowing us to have those bigger conversations at a much earlier stage,” says Smit. “For larger deals, having a partner associated has proven to be far more successful, and we’ve got the data to back it up.”

PHASE 2: The Data Mindset 

Time spent on: 

  • Learning partner tech and integrating it with other tools in the GTM tech stack 

  • Collaborating with partner ops to automate processes and provide data visibility to GTM teams

  • Tracking Ecosystem impact 


the mindsets of a partner manager - the data mindset
The “data mindset”


Phase two requires a bit of an investment in learning new tools and building out the foundation of your partner program in order to scale. Smit says that when he first began exploring the world of automation and dashboards, there was a steep learning curve. 


And he’s not alone in this thought! 


A LinkedIn post by Rob Rebholz, Co-Founder & CEO of


A step forward for the GTM tech stack 


In the “manual mindset” phase, convincing a key partner to get on board was extremely difficult. Smit wasn’t able to share data manually due to security concerns, and it was challenging to determine whether his company had any customers or prospects in common with their potential partners.


“We’ve got [thousands] of customers. I’m not going to be able to list them off,” says Smit. 


When scoping a new partnership, Smit felt frustrated by the idea of putting together a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before knowing whether the partnership was a good investment. When Smit began using Crossbeam to map accounts securely and in real time with partners, it opened doors that didn’t exist before. 


“It honestly was a game changer for me for just looking at potential partners,” says Smit. “To be able to quickly validate if there was even a conversation to be had without having to share any data is incredible.”



account mapping in Crossbeam
Overlap counts with partners in Crossbeam, before sharing account-level data 


“It’s pointless getting an NDA until we know [the partnership’s potential], and then you drop Crossbeam into the middle of it and it’s like, ‘Oh, we’ll tell you this without you having to share anything.’” says Smit. “It genuinely is like magic.”


In the “data mindset” phase, when Smit had a hunch that he had mutual customers with a potential partner, he mapped accounts with them in seconds. When he discovered that there were mutual customers, he said “yes” to the partnership and then used the data to develop a game plan. He collaborated with his sales and marketing teams to roll out their initial co-selling and co-marketing motions for a subset of mutual customers, and then they would replicate their success for other mutual customers, opportunities, and prospects.  


Using Crossbeam, Smit was able to identify: 

  • Which partners fit his company’s IPP

  • How many mutual customers, prospects, or opportunities he had with his potential partner. This could help him make the case for launching a tech, channel, or strategic partnership. 

  • Understanding if a partner with a large presence in a particular industry actually overlapped with their customer base, or if the partnership would be a dead end

  • Ensuring the partnerships team was spending time developing NDAs only for partners with high revenue potential 


Once Smit knows he has mutual opportunities with a partner, he shares account level data with the partner. This enables him to see which prospects, opportunities, or customers they have in common and which AEs own the accounts. He then approaches his AEs to share which partners could help accelerate their deals and how. During the “data mindset” phase, he would join each AE on their calls with partners to discuss next steps.  


Partner managers in the “data mindset” phase who use Crossbeam also tend to adopt features like: 

  • Crossbeam’s Slack AppSet up notifications to learn when new overlaps occur. Then, collaborate with your account executives (AEs) and partners in Slack for co-selling. You can also collaborate with partners directly in Crossbeam using the new Collaboration Features. Learn more at Connector Summit, a free virtual user conference on October 25th.

  • The Crossbeam Full Salesforce Widget. Get partner data directly in your account dashboards in Salesforce so your sales reps can strategize next steps and engage the right partners (or you) to help accelerate the deal.  


the Crossbeam Slack App
The Crossbeam Slack App


The Crossbeam Full Salesforce Widget
The Crossbeam Full Salesforce Widget


The Crossbeam Full Salesforce Widget
The Crossbeam Full Salesforce Widget


Smit also began using a PRM, like Allbound, to store and organize content for onboarding and training new partners. This meant he:

  • No longer had to schedule a call to provide a product demo. The demo video was already in the PRM. 

  • Didn’t have to track down the most up-to-date contract for each partner and spend time determining what each partner had promised. 

  • Didn’t need to spend time asking the partner for information during their first call. He could identify a lead that the partner registered in the PRM and come to the call ready to talk about how to engage the partner’s sales team with the lead.

“I wasn’t burying my head in stacks of Excel spreadsheets or wasting time to get diaries pulled together to get a single demo in for their team,” says Smit. 

More insight into attribution 


During the “data mindset” phase, Smit got a clearer picture of how his partner ecosystem was impacting the sales cycle. It wasn’t perfect, but visibility into the metrics and the right positive signals helped him get more of an investment in partner tech and buy-in from his sales team. 


“It was exciting,” says Smit. “Though there was a bit of me that mourned the Excel spreadsheet and the formulae that I pulled together.”


Although Smit continued to track every deal in a spreadsheet out of habit, he also invested in making attribution easier in Salesforce. 


Smit and his partner ops team created a dedicated field in Salesforce to enable the sales team to check a box when a partner influenced the deal. They also added fields for the sales reps to provide information around how the partner influenced the deal. For example, the sales reps could select options like: 

  • Technical fit

  • Provided credibility 

  • Reduced timeline

  • Shorter route to procurement 


With better visibility into his partners’ influence, Smit observed that deals with partners have a more than 40% higher likelihood of closing than deals with no partners involved. 


During this phase, Smit and his team had a feeling, considering the limited data they had, that partners influenced 25-30% of their deals. However, in the “conductor mindset” phase, Smit later determined that partners influence an even higher percentage of their deals.     


PHASE 3: The Conductor Mindset 

Time spent on: 

  • Building the big picture strategy to scale their Ecosystem’s influence on revenue 

  • Empowering the sales and marketing teams to co-sell and co-market using relevant data and insights 

  • Supporting the sales team when they encounter challenges working with their partners 


the mindsets of a partner manager - the conductor mindset
The “conductor mindset”


After Smit had spent time building out his partner tech stack, getting the data in the right places, and building out processes to track attribution, a magical thing happened. The sales team began coming to Smit to ask for direct intros to partners. 


Sales reps excited to co-sell

A top performer on Smit’s sales team approached him and told him that a customer had mentioned that they were working with a particular partner. He asked Smit for an intro to the partner and explained how he wanted to involve the partner in his prospect’s deal cycle. This is when it clicked for Smit that he could give the power back to the sales team to help them co-sell with partners without his direct oversight. He no longer needed to play the role of the middleman. 


“[The sales rep] pitched at me which partner he wanted to bring in, how he thought that partner would provide additional value,” says Smit.  


spiderman gif - partners are awesome
The sales team and the partnerships team in sweet, sweet agreement



Once the top performer began winning more deals with partners, other members of the sales team began to catch on. They began shadowing the top performer and asking about his process co-selling with partners to replicate it on their own.


In response to these events, Smit has decided to give more autonomy to his sales team. He no longer needs to serve as a liaison and, at times, a bottleneck. Instead, he can provide his sales team and his partners with the context they need and give them the freedom to reach out to one another. This speeds up the process and frees up his team to work with partners more often. And co-selling with partners more often has led to more closed-won deals.    


“‘These are the people you should talk to. If you can’t get through to them, give me a shout,’” says Smit, on his approach to encouraging his sales reps to co-sell. 


More data on their Ecosystem’s impact on revenue  

Handing off the reins to his sales team has enabled Smit’s team to work faster and to better track the impact of partners on every sales cycle. Smit and his partner ops team created dashboards in Salesforce and determined that partners influence a higher percentage of the deals in pipeline than they had originally realized. This is in part due to more visibility into each partner’s influence and also to the sales team’s freedom to co-sell with partners at scale. 


In the “data mindset” phase, Smit would bring his AE into the conversation with his partner and join the call to liaise between them. In the “conductor mindset” phase, Smit empowers his sales team to engage their partners directly, which has sped up the co-selling process, attached more partners to ongoing deal cycles, and attached sales reps to bigger target accounts. 


“As much as I want to wear a marketer’s hat, I’m not a marketer. As much as I want to wear a sales hat, I’m not employed as a sales person. My job isn’t to do those jobs for them and be that rock in the middle,” says Smit. “My job is to connect them all together and look at the bigger picture.”


“My old way of working was, ‘We’ll have regular cadence meetings.’ There was a lot of I, I, I,” says Smit. “It just meant that nothing really got done quickly.”


The second he sees a worthwhile opportunity to co-sell or co-market with a partner, Smit loops relevant stakeholders from his sales and marketing teams in with their partner counterparts. Adopting the “conductor mindset” mindset has revolutionized Smit’s day-to-day and has led to trackable, scalable business growth that the entire GTM org is excited about. 


“It’s a total game changer,” says Smit. 


“It has made me a much better partner manager,” says Smit. 

Olivia Ramirez 15 min

You’re Getting in the Way. How Modern Partner Managers Empower Sales Teams to Co-Sell (Without the Bureaucracy)

Modern-day partner managers are giving the power back to their sales teams to co-sell with partners. Learn how to advance from a “manual mindset” to a “conductor mindset”, where you can focus on the big picture strategy and drive repeatable, scalable revenue growth.

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