Successful Insights from a Partner Manager’s Playbook
Sumer Chawla is a Partnerships Manager at Vend, the world’s first retail cloud-based Point of Sale software with more than 20,000 customers located across the globe. A partnerships enthusiast, he is based out of Toronto, Canada, and has tons of experience in Channel, Account Management, and Business Development. In his current role at Vend, he has consistently over-achieved his targets. Today, he’s joining us to share some successful insights from his playbook that he has utilized in order to reach those goals.
The First Lead is Key
Sumer’s first piece of advice was about optimizing the first partner interaction for success. “The first lead that you receive from your partner is the most crucial one and can set the stage for a successful long-term relationship. The Partner Manager needs to ensure that white-glove treatment is given to the partner’s prospect or customer, right from Discovery, all the way through Implementation & Launch. At each stage, the Partner Manager needs to ensure that they are on top of everything, making time to be on calls even if that means qualifying the prospect themselves, being on the demo together with the Account Executive, and sometimes even jumping onto calls with the Launch Services team post-activation to ensure everything is running smoothly. Ensuring that the partner is kept in the loop and informed at all stages are hygiene factors and should never be ignored!”
That first lead won’t come right away — it’s typical to spend a few months ramping up before partner activation. Sumer shared, “On average, 6 months is a decent timeline to activate large tier organizations. The timing can be even shorter for smaller companies with less than 50 employees. A lot of effort goes into GTM and activities that respective teams from both sides work on before formally launching the partnership with kick-off webinars for the Sales Team.”
These GTM activities include formalizing hardware and technical requirement documentation, defining processes for escalations and lead referrals, ensuring that marketing collateral is ready and approved by both partners, piloting joint customers before kick-off, and more. Sumer explained that checking each activity off one at a time is good progress.
Sometimes, large tier partners, especially financial institutions restrict sharing monetary SPIFFs or revenue for the leads that result in SQLs/activations with the sales reps. Sumer doesn’t let those roadblocks hold back his efforts. He recommended, “Get creative, check with the partner if you can put those funds into a bucket for a contest with the sales reps. For example, at Vend, we successfully used this strategy with a specific partner to drive more leads from sales reps which resulted in incremental business for both parties. Win-Win!”
Utilize Pareto’s Principle
Managing so many double-digit partners is not an easy task and yet you need to ensure that no partner is ignored. Sumer follows Pareto’s Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule. “For your top Tier partners, have regular cadences set up (weekly, biweekly, and monthly) to ensure that you are on track to hit your SQL or MRR target. For tail-end partners, even though they are not sending you leads on a regular basis, ensuring you are top-of-mind is vital. Investing in a Sales Engagement Platform (For example, Outreach or SalesLoft) is worth it. You can utilize the platform to send messages including product updates or an upcoming webinar with a call to action directed to your calendar.”
Data is King
When reporting to partners, Sumer likes to use data to highlight their progress. “On regular cadence calls, apart from discussing important updates, tracking metrics like Lead to SQL%, SQL to Activation%, or the number of leads/activations month over month is vital. These are predictors of success and will offer the opportunity to adjust your direction back on course towards the goals that you have set with the partner.”
Keep Everyone Engaged with Win Wires
After handing over their first lead, you don’t want to leave your partner’s team in the dark. Instead, Sumer recommends keeping everyone excited and bought-in with win wires. “If a new customer has activated, especially if it is the first customer, sending a win wire to the partner sales team acknowledging the efforts of the individual sales rep, together with a short description of the solution that helped resolve the customer’s pain point will motivate other reps to not only send more leads but also understand the solution that can help similar customer profiles.”
Outside of notable events, keeping your partner in the loop with a monthly newsletter can be a great way to stay top-of-mind. Sumer recommended, “If possible, send regular custom monthly newsletters to your top tier partners announcing any product updates, that month’s performance as compared to previous months along with key highlights and top sales reps of the month/quarter.”
Put Sumer’s Advice to Work in Your Partner Program
Outside of the above advice, Sumer shared one resource in particular that has been pivotal to his success. “There aren’t a lot of books available out there on this function. The slack channel we have at Partnership Leaders has been absolutely helpful. It's such a great community. You have any questions, you send them out in Slack, there will be tons of people replying back to you with their experience. Getting a different perspective or experience from people from different worlds really helps. Partnership Leaders has been an absolutely amazing thing for me.”
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