• Cass Polzin

The Power of Your Network in Partnerships

Updated: Jul 9

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.

Alex Richards is the Director of Partnerships & Business Development at Medallia, where he’s been since September of 2020 when they acquired his previous company, Stella Connect. Today, Alex joins us to discuss his career in SaaS technology, ultimately leading to partnerships, the resources that helped him, and lessons learned along the way.

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.

Alex’s Path to Partnerships at Medallia

Alex Richards ended up in partnerships through his role at Stella Connect back in January of 2018. Alex explained, “I started at Stella Connect, and within the first month, realized that we had a lot of gaps where we could optimize integrations, create channels, and build an alliances team. The success we have seen within alliances at Stella Connect translated well when we got acquired by Medallia. I moved over to help elevate a lot of our contact center partnerships and to stand up new relationships.”

While his recent roles are the only official partnerships positions Alex has been in, collaborating with partners has been a mainstay throughout his career. “In pretty much every SaaS technology role I've been in for the last twelve years, I'd always end up speaking to vendors and building alliances with people in the same ecosystem. I found there's a really strong alignment in sales and having technical knowledge. It helps a lot to be able to identify who's a good partner, how to talk to them, how to navigate the partnership, and the ins and outs of a product. When I took the role at Stella Connect, I saw a significant opportunity to take a deeper dive into partnerships.”

Responsibilities of the Role

About the responsibilities of his role, Alex shared, “Today, it's all about the strategy, and refining process as there are different components that come into it. I’m primarily focused on defining the best partners to work with and ensuring those are aligned with the overall business strategy. From there, I work to develop relationships with those companies, build integrations, and get them to market to generate pipeline.”

Outside of strategy development, Alex plays a role directly with partners. “Go-to-market, business development, and scalable replicable processes have been critical. With every new partner I bring in, I'm involved in the execution. We want to create a lot of field activity, arming my SDR team, and aligning sales teams with accounts we know fit, this focus drives opportunities. Crossbeam has been extremely helpful to do this.”

As with most partner programs, Alex’s goals include driving revenue. "We want to make sure we are working with partners that are going to help us accomplish our goals as a business, and that the relationship translates well in the space. I've always found that enabling both parties in the field is a great place to start, making partners accessible, and ensuring they set up for success to guarantee we are driving business for both parties. This fosters organic collaboration, trust, and credibility for both parties.”

Resources and Advice for Success in Partnerships

Alex pointed to the resource that has been essential to his success in partnerships. “My network has been incredibly powerful. I really enjoy having relationships with real people, who care, understand what they're seeing and hearing, and are driven. When it comes to partnerships and alliances, things are changing for the better as it's historically been one of those roles that usually is a boys club, with little diversity, and people who just want to tick boxes. My drive and hustle come from working at a startup where you're focused on revenue, scale, inclusion, and sharing ideas. I love that Medallia has such a strong positive focus on diversity, inclusion, and talent.”

Alex had great advice to share with anyone looking to succeed in partnerships. “Don't just try and go after the biggest fish in the market, and be sure to manage your expectations. The thing that happens very quickly is everyone wants to partner with you, and you spend a lot of time just doing busy work. It’s a problem when people don't qualify using data on why you should be collaborating? Is there mutual interest? Is there possible pipeline? Do that discovery, don’t skip on doing that qualification.”

Next, Alex highlighted the value of diversifying your partner target mix. “It's important to have different types and tiers of partners in your portfolio. If you're working in enterprise and commercial, you need a mix of players. Your alliance with a large strategic company will take 6-12 months to execute whereas a company in the mid-market commercial space can move a lot quicker. Working both in parallel expedites the process so you can get some revenue coming into the pipeline, and get some early success under your belt to show value.”

Alex’s Next Career Steps

On the next step in his career, Alex shared, “I really enjoy leading a team and developing people. I've always believed that you are only as good as the people around you and always need that component to a role. Right now we have some really great things going on at Medallia so I’m excited for the future here, and where this goes. Either way, my goal is to head up a larger team in the customer experience SaaS space and help build successful partnership organizations.”

What Could Your Next Career Step Be?

Whether you’re looking to take the first step into a career in partnerships or are ready to take your second, third, and beyond, Partnership Leaders provides the resources you need to succeed. Connect with like-minded individuals facing similar challenges to your own to ask questions and bounce ideas off of. Apply now to join the group partnership professionals all over the world turn to.