• Cass Polzin

Alliances vs. Channel vs. Partnerships: Is There a Difference?

Scrolling through LinkedIn, or even a list of our members, you’ll see that there’s a very broad variance in titles within the partnerships industry. Some partnership-focused individuals have titles in Sales and Marketing, while partnership-specific titles can include Partnerships, Alliances, and Channel.


According to LinkedIn, there are 142,000 individuals with Channel titles, 133,000 in Partnerships, and 23,000 in Alliances. With companies hiring and promoting internally hundreds of Channel/Partnerships/Alliances roles each month, we can’t help but wonder, Is there a difference between Partnerships, Alliances, and Channel roles? Partnerships enthusiast and member, Andrew McCraith, VP of Business and Corporate Development at Conversica, joins us to explore the differences between titles, results of a job posting experiment, and his efforts at Conversica.


Navigating an Industry Without Title Standardization

Andrew McCraith headshot

Andrew McCraith spent time in a variety of other functions, including Engineering, Product, Sales, Marketing and Business Development, before landing in his role today. At Conversica, Andrew is responsible for growing revenue generated through partners. His goal is to book more revenue and improve retention to drive overall ARR growth in a highly scalable way.


Andrew’s team started as two people back in October of 2020, and since then, he has hired about one new team member each month to reach a total of eight team members today. In building up his team and hiring great staff, Andrew has faced a few challenges. Hiring over the past few months means Andrew hasn’t been able to meet any of his new team members in person. Especially in such a social, relationship-based role, this is difficult — meeting in Zoom isn’t the same as in person.


His second challenge was driving relevant applicants for open positions. In an attempt to broaden his applicant spectrum, Andrew posted open roles with three different titles: a Senior Director for Alliances, a Director for Channels, and a Manager for Partnerships. On his results, Andrew shared, “I can’t say the resumes that came in aligned very well across the board. The applicants were all over the place.”


In the end, Andrew ended up shifting to a new role — the Partner Growth Executive (PGE). “We ultimately created the Partner Growth Executive and Senior Partner Growth Executive role. At other companies, this role could be analogous to a Partner Account Manager. I didn't want that title for two reasons. First, it tends to be passive — Account Manager tends to be a reactive role and it's really easy to just fall into that mode of farming, and we’re looking for the opposite -- people obsessed with growth with the passion and creativity to proactively drive that growth. Second, the ‘Partnership Account Manager’ is really a function that anyone in the company can fill. We are building a far more versatile team focused on the results of driving growth — not the activity of managing partners — so the Growth Executive title really enforces that better. I also felt the executive piece was more actionable than manager. We wanted that to be presented as a senior important role because it is an important and visible role delivering revenue.”


What's the difference between Partnerships, Channel, and Alliances?

Before addressing the differences between Partnerships, Channel, and Alliances roles, Andrew highlighted how Business Development roles are approached differently in and out of SaaS. “The biggest one I learned was in software, now primarily called SaaS, Business Development means pre-sales. Outside of SaaS, if you look at hardware, security, or outside of tech altogether, then Business Development starts to overlap with other areas like corporate development, depending on how they’re aligned. In fact, Business Development could encompass developing new product lines, expanding into new geographies, exploring new industries, or even facilitating mergers, acquisitions, and yes, partnerships.”


While it’s still a little fuzzy, Andrew provided a general overview of the key differences. “I still don't get a consistent answer from people when I ask about Partnerships vs. Alliances vs. Channel. Alliances are multi-faceted, complex partnerships. It's not partnering with a 10-person agency. It's partnering with a Global System Integrator (GSO) like Accenture or Deloitte, or a major platform like Microsoft or Salesforce— it's a big deal. Channel tends to mean you're selling through the partner in some fashion - as a distributor, VAR or pure reseller. The partner is responsible for selling and contracting themselves. And Partnerships tends to cover all the rest - referral partners, joint technology / co-solutioning, co-marketing, etc. -- and tends to mean co-sell — so we're going to work together to help both of them sell somehow.”


How Conversica is Driving Charmony

Conversica is invested in partnerships, going beyond their direct customer base to assist partners—and partners’ channel customers—to establish “channel harmony” or charmony.

To celebrate their recent success with partnerships, and invest further in existing partners, Conversica has declared June 25th Partner Day and will be hosting their first Partner Summit. In celebration of Partner Day, Conversica will be giving $10 to Wigs for Kids for every follower of #Charmony on LinkedIn.


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