Reporting at RollWorks & the Requirements of a Great Partnerships Role
This article is part of our Uncovering the Partnerships Career Path spotlight series. Each week, a different professional joins us to share their take on the partnerships career path, responsibilities at each stage, best practices for advancing professionally, and more. Learn more in the intro article.
Today we’re joined by Mike Stocker, the VP of Strategic Partnerships at RollWorks, to explore how he ended up in partnerships, best practices from his time in the industry, and what it’s like running partnerships at RollWorks.
Thanks to Allbound for sponsoring this quarter’s spotlight series!
Allbound is a SaaS Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform that gives its customers visibility into predictable channel revenue, indirect and direct pipeline, and insight into partner engagement and adoption. With Allbound, you have the ability to monitor, understand, and track partner behavior so you can measure, iterate, and improve.
Mike’s Path to Partnerships
Mike has managed partnerships at a number of large organizations. Before landing at RollWorks, he managed strategic martech partnerships at Facebook, such as with Salesforce, HubSpot, Zapier, Segment, and others. Before that, he was the VP of Partnerships at Vidyard. Prior to that, he was at Marketo for over four years managing their strategic technology partnerships.
However, at Marketo, Mike actually started doing Customer Success and managing some of Marketo’s most strategic customers, and then briefly managed the team of CSMs. Before that, he was the founder and CEO of a small SaaS email startup that he successfully sold.
The Value of Time Spent in Other Functions
All of those roles played into Mike’s success today. “Running your own company, even if it's small, you have to wear many hats, and think of many angles both tactical and strategic. That really allowed me to take on partnerships, with its own businesses, timelines, and stakeholders. By doing that and tying it in with marketing, you get to integrate with all these functions. I'm not an expert at any of these things. You kind of have to know just enough about many different areas.”
Mike’s time spent in marketing really helped him hone his positioning, demand generation, and co-marketing skills. “That's been invaluable. When you represent a partnership internally, you need to know enough to talk to each of these teams.”
Starting out in Customer Success at Marketo was also impactful. “I've seen it happen frequently where companies initiate a partnership, build something, and then it doesn't go anywhere because they didn't talk to end-users. With a customer success mindset, you can put yourself in the shoes of that customer to understand their needs and pain points.”
Responsibilities at RollWorks
At RollWorks, Mike is the VP of Partnerships and is responsible for all partnership areas. “We have strategic technology partnerships and we recently launched a technology partner ecosystem last October. Managing and growing those partnerships has been key. Additionally, working with marketing on partner marketing items, sales enablement on enabling our teams with knowledge of our partnerships, our sales, account management, and CSM teams to leverage partners to help them in their roles.”
The success of partnerships at RollWorks is measured by a few things:
Greater presence in the market via co-marketing with partners.
An improved and broader capability and solution set for our customers.
End customer success via case studies, etc.
Partner influence and partner sourced metrics.
Qualities of a Great Partnerships Professional
When building out his partnerships team, Mike shared that soft skills are often more important than having a ton of experience. “The qualities I’m looking for these days are a passion or hunger to learn and grow. I would much rather work with someone hungry for opportunity, who wants to learn and grow vs. someone who is maybe more experienced, but who is less open to learning.“
“I also look for an ever more important skill, empathy. Partnerships is often about thinking of joint use cases or joint value creation and a partnership often has 3 or more parties: Your company, the partner company, and the end joint customers. You need empathy to be able to put yourself in each side’s shoes and understand their goals and desires and truly develop a strong, mutually beneficial partnership.”
The final quality Mike looks for when hiring new resources for the partnerships team is flexibility. “In partnerships, you often move fast. There’s often great ambiguity and that is frequently coupled with limited resources, so great candidates need to show they are flexible, adaptable, scrappy, and able to make things happen in that environment.”
Advice for Others & Valuable Resources
There are a few things Mike shared that have helped him excel in his career and that he would recommend to others in the industry. “First is an entrepreneurial mindset. I take ownership of projects, teams, and initiatives that I work on and see them as my own business. I think it allows me to think both strategically and tactically to achieve goals. Treat each partnership as building a business. It has its own idea phase, and crawl, walk, run periods that tie into things like adoption and growth.”
Next, Mike recommended finding mentors. “I’ve been fortunate to have a few informal career mentors — people that are smarter, more experienced than you are that you can learn from, aspire to be, and who serve as role models. These are invaluable as you start to develop your own management style. Take the best parts of people you admire as you’re coming up through the ranks.”
Mike also highlighted how embracing new technologies has helped him drive more value at his organizations. “Don’t be afraid of new technologies. I’ve always been a champion of leveraging new technologies that drive efficiencies and innovation and make me better at performing my role. An example of this: in 2010, I was one of the first customers of Gainsight, and then again at Marketo, was one of the drivers of implementing Gainsight to better understand and service our customers. Another example of this is today, at RollWorks, implementing Crossbeam because I think it’s the future of partnerships. Embracing these technologies is not easy, it’s almost like adding a second job to get them set up and deployed and working, but they provide great learning and leadership opportunities.”
Mike feels fortunate to report directly to the President of RollWorks, who is also the CEO of NextRoll. “I highly recommend this reporting structure — partnerships are an independent thing — and if they report to sales, they’ll end up skewed towards channel/agency and focused mostly on partner sourced opportunities. If it reports to the CMO, which is rare, partnerships skew towards being extensions of the marketing team. And lastly, if it reports to product, it simply becomes the business executor for product development efforts and then neglects things like marketing, etc. So, it’s best to report directly to the President or CEO’s office.”
When considering a role in partnerships, Mike wants to make sure the function is a priority at the organization. “I have been at companies where partnerships are an afterthought — you can tell this pretty quickly at a company based on who is interviewing you. How important are partnerships? Is it part of their overall strategy? or is buried under another organization? Does the organization talk about partnerships as a priority - do they talk about it as an area for potential growth?”
Next Steps for Mike
When looking to the future of his career, Mike would like to broaden his footprint within partnerships. “Likely SVP, Partnerships and managing a broader portfolio. So as an example, adding in more agency, referral, and consultant partnerships and then the additional enablement efforts that come with that. So I could see an SVP Partnerships role that manages all types of partnerships — strategic tech, ecosystem tech/integrations, agency, referral, channel, etc.”
“I’d also like to continue sharing my learnings by mentoring and growing teams. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing people grow, learn, and flourish in their careers while knowing you helped in some small way. Lastly, I’ve done a few successful angel investments and advisory board roles, I think I’d like to do more of that work as well to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.”
Want to join Mike’s team? He’s currently hiring for a Strategic Partner Manager!
Take Your Partnerships Career to the Next Level
Mike highlighted the importance of leaning on industry members to excel and grow in your role. This quarter, we’re spotlighting partnership professionals who have been around the block and have advice to share. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to keep up with all the spotlights.
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