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Questions to Ask in Your Next Partner Manager Interview

As you scale your partner program, you’ll need to grow your team accordingly. Making the right hiring decisions early on is essential, especially while your department is small. The Partner Manager is one of the first hires on a partner team. Do you know where to find the best new hire for your team? Or what to ask in each interview stage? 

Discover everything you need to know about hiring a partner manager, including over 25 interview questions you can add directly to interview scorecards.

 What Does a Partner Manager Do?

Depending on the size of your partner program, a partner manager’s responsibilities will vary. A Partner Manager will likely steer more of the program strategy for smaller programs, support new partner efforts, and coordinate between departments. Partner Managers typically specialize in a specific vertical in larger partner programs. For example, partner managers at those organizations may focus on a geographic region, type of partner, or partner size.

For guidance further shaping the role, we encourage you to read Channel Sales Manager Job Description – Changes to Make.

Where Can You Find Partner Managers?

When you’re looking to grow your team, there are a few places to find top talent. Spend time networking with experienced industry professionals on LinkedIn. Your next partner manager doesn’t have to be a previous channel professional. Partner managers get into the position from all different functions and industries. Try not to be too exclusive in your early searches. 

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an excellent tool for finding ideal candidates to join your team. Explore their job history, any recommendations, and posts that potential hirees have made. You can also post your opening on LinkedIn, and interested individuals can easily apply.

Recently Laid-off Teams
Recently, finding any candidates for open partner roles was highly challenging. Unfortunately, many organizations have gone through layoffs recently. Now, layoffs have increased access to top talent.

Browse LinkedIn and Twitter to find partner professionals who may have been laid off and are looking for a new opportunity.

Which Questions Should You Ask in a Partner Manager Interview?

When interviewing your next partner manager, aim to have your partner team (perhaps one interviewer and one note-taker) ask 80% of the questions in the first interview. The members of your sales, marketing, and product teams ask questions in subsequent interviews, ideally focusing on skills required for effective collaboration.

How would your previous partners describe you?

Ask this interview question to understand how the candidate interacts with partners and how they feel others perceive them.

Possible Responses

Great descriptors include

  • Responsible
  • Dependable
  • Consistent
  • Friendly
  • Caring
  • Impactful
  • Effective

It’s also good if a candidate shares something they’ve struggled with in the past and how they’re working to improve. 

Red Flags

  • If a candidate can’t provide specific examples or only says that their partners liked them without further elaboration, they may not be very well-versed in working with partners.

Follow-up Interview Questions

  • How have you established this kind of relationship with your partner?
  • Can you share an example of how you demonstrate responsibility/consistency/efficacy with partners?

Can you describe how you typically work with partners?

It’s a good idea to hear how your candidate typically works with partners. Ideally, the interviewee should dig into strategies for several aspects of partnerships.

Possible Responses

The candidate may mention specific strategies for:

  • Onboarding
  • Enablement
  • Partner engagement

Red Flags

  • Vague descriptions
  • No specific scenarios

Follow-up Interview Questions

  • What aspects of working with a partner are you working on improving?
  • What’s your strongest area of engagement?

 

Who’s your favorite partner you’ve worked with, and why?

Understand which types of partners your candidate enjoys working with and if they align with your partner profile.

Possible Responses

Your interviewee should describe their favorite partner, and what they enjoyed most about the engagement, such as:

  • Running a specific campaign together
  • Launching an integration
  • Reaching an exciting goal

Red Flags

  • Candidate can’t name a positive partner engagement
  • “The best part about working with a partner was they didn’t need much attention.”

Follow-up Interview Question

  • Who was your most challenging partner to work with? How did you make the relationship work for both parties?

 

What’s your strongest area of expertise when it comes to partnerships?

This interview question will help you understand your prospective partner manager’s perceived strengths and gives them an opportunity to brag.

Possible Responses

Your candidate should list 2-3 areas and be able to back each up with a specific example. These areas could include:

  • Onboarding & enabling partners
  • Partner strategy
  • Setting up co-marketing campaigns
  • Interacting with partners
  • Interfacing with different functional departments

Red Flags

  • Candidate can’t share specific examples

Follow-up Interview Question

  • What’s one partnership you were particularly proud of?

 

Which teams have you interfaced most frequently with in past roles? How do you ensure those internal relationships are strong?

It’s important for a Partner Manager to interact with other functional departments in an organization. Your candidate should be able to explain past experiences engaging with other departments and specific tips for strengthening those relationships.

Possible Responses

  • “In the past, I’ve worked with Sales, Marketing, Product, and Customer Success teams to support partner efforts. In order to keep those relationships strong, I work to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands our shared goals.”
  • “In order to get buy-in from other teams, I explore how I can help them meet their goals with partnerships efforts. Just like external partnerships are about serving others, I take the same approach to interacting with internal teams.”

Red Flags

  • “Partnerships were siloed in past organizations. So I really only worked with the partner team and my partners.”
  • “Sometimes I worked with marketing on campaigns, but typically I would just let them know what assets I needed, and they would send them to me.”

Follow-up Interview Question

  • Can you tell me about a time when other departments didn’t want to work with partnerships and how you solved that problem?

When do you approach sales, marketing, product, and engineering during a partnership?

It’s essential to bring different functional areas of the team together at specific times in partnership. Your candidate should understand the value of involving colleagues from other departments and have examples of past interactions with different functions.

Possible Responses

  • “I try to keep everyone aware of partnerships happenings as things arise. Whenever a partner enters the pipeline, I make internal teams aware. Especially if I know we’ll have a large Marketing lift for a co-marketing campaign or heavy involvement from Product for an integration, I try to give the other teams as much notice as possible.”

Red Flags

  • “I only really worked with the partner team and my partners in my past role.”
  • “The product team helps when I need an integration built with a partner, but that’s about it.”
  • Candidate can’t share specific examples

Follow-up Interview Question

  • Has there been a time when you brought another department into a partnership, and it made things more challenging? How did you solve that problem?

 

How do you approach a situation where an AE or sales lead doesn’t want to collaborate with channel partners?

Sometimes, AEs or sales leaders aren’t ready to collaborate with channel partners. While hopefully, your organization understands the value of partners, it’s important that your Partner Manager is ready to engage with sales stakeholders.

Possible Responses

  • “I try to ensure everyone in our organization understands the value of partnerships so we can collaborate effectively. If this were to happen, I would establish the value channel partners can bring to the table and highlight increased deal size and stickiness for partner-engaged deals.”
  • Candidate shares a specific example where they were able to engage a sales leader who didn’t want to collaborate

Red Flags

  • “I don’t work with AEs or sales leads when supporting channel partners.”
  • Candidate can’t share specific examples

Follow-up Interview Question

  • How has working with AEs and sales leads helped you in the past?

 

How many partners have you managed in the past? How did you prioritize who to work with?

Depending on how many partners you anticipate this Partner Manager will handle, it’s a good idea to understand how they’ve managed partners in the past. Meanwhile, if your Partner Manager will only be responsible for a few larger accounts, tailor your interview question to understand how they would prioritize their workload in that situation.

Possible Responses

  • “I managed 25 partners in the EMEA region most recently. I prioritized where I spent my time based on which partners helped us drive the most results.”
  • “I managed over two dozen agency partners in my last role. I used a PRM to create automations to scale up my engagement so I could serve more partners without sacrificing engagement. When prioritizing, I consider which partners have the most direct impact on our KPIs.”

Red Flags

  • Candidate prioritizes partners based on when a request comes in
  • Candidate can’t share how they prioritized work

Follow-up Interview Question

  • Do you have any tools or strategies that help you prioritize your tasks and partners?

 

How do you stay organized and keep other departments on track?

As a Partner Manager, it’s important to stay on track of your tasks with various partners, including work the Product, Marketing, or Sales teams might be doing.

Possible Responses

  • “I leverage to-do lists and a project management tool to keep track of all my tasks. Then, I revisit my list daily and adjust priorities with my team as needed.”
  • “I send weekly updates via Slack to my team, letting them know what I’m working on that week, wins from the last week, and any outstanding needs from other departments.”

Red Flags

  • Candidate can’t share specific examples

Follow-up Interview Question

  • How have you handled a situation where colleagues in other departments weren’t prioritizing the tasks you sent them?

 

How do you decide when to give more resources to a partner?

It’s vital that a Partner Manager effectively balances support across various partners. The partners who drive the most results should receive the most resources.

Possible Responses

  • “I use partner tiers to determine when a partner is qualified for the next level of resources.”
  • “I create specific metrics and milestones partners must hit in order to get more resources.

Red Flags

  • “I scale up engagement when it seems like things are going well.”
  • Candidate can’t share specific examples

Follow-up Interview Question

Which partner platforms or tools have you used in the past? Where have they made your job easier? Which roadblocks have you run into?

Partner platforms and solutions have become a mainstay in the industry. Partner Managers (and all partner professionals) need to be well-versed in using these solutions and ready to adapt to new tools.

Possible Responses

  • “I’ve used Allbound in the past to automate partner engagement and house partner marketing resources. I also use Reveal to identify new opportunities, Salesforce to log interactions, and LinkedIn to reach out to potential partners.”
  • “Leveraging a PRM makes it easier to interact with partners at a higher scale. I had to take some time to learn how to balance automation and personalized engagement, but I found a sweet spot that works.”
  • “Crossbeam is helpful for identifying new opportunities, but when I started using it, the partners I reached out to weren’t the right fit. So now, I make sure to reference our IPP when leveraging Crossbeam to optimize my outreach efforts.”

Red Flags

  • “My organization implemented a solution before I started, but I never saw a benefit to it.”
  • “I implemented a PRM at my organization. I uploaded all of our partner resources to the portal so partners could ask them without bothering our team.”

Follow-up Interview Question

Where do you feel you need the most support as a Partner Manager?

Everyone is growing. A candidate needs to be able to identify their weaknesses and demonstrate how they can rectify them.

Possible Responses

  • “I don’t have much experience in co-marketing, and would love to work with partners to run campaigns.”
  • “I haven’t worked with SIs in the past, but have worked with other colleagues who have. When working with these kinds of partners for the first time, it will be helpful to have other experts on the team I can turn to.

Red Flags

  • “I feel confident in all my abilities and don’t need any support.”

Follow-up Interview Question

  • What resources would be the most beneficial to you?

 

What does an ideal partner relationship look like to you? How do you maintain a healthy working relationship with your partners?

As a Partner Manager, this individual will need to interface with partners directly every single day. Thus, it’s essential that they be able to identify a healthy working relationship.

Possible Responses

  • “An ideal partner relationship is one where we both understand each other’s goals and are prepared to support one another. I maintain healthy relationships by communicating transparently with my partners, being personable, and anticipating their needs.”

Red Flags

  • “I don’t interact much with partners after onboarding.”
  • “I hold quarterly meetings with my partners where we discuss their pipeline. If they have questions, they know they can email me in between meetings.”

Follow-up Interview Questions

  • How can you strengthen a relationship that was weak from the start?
  • What are signs that a partnership needs more attention?

Let’s say you recently onboarded a partner. What’s your first step toward moving them to enabled? What qualifies a partner as enabled?

Enablement is an important step after onboarding, but is often overlooked. Therefore, it’s vital that a Partner Manager understands the value of enablement and is familiar with potential strategies to implement.

Possible Responses

  • “After a partner is onboarded, I have an enablement checklist I walk them through. A partner has to meet all of the requirements in order to be considered enabled. The requirements include tasks like viewing training, using a product feature, and accessing resources via our PRM.”
  • “Training is a big part of enablement. During onboarding, I conduct org mapping so that we can connect with the right people on partner teams during enablement. I work with each team — Sales, Marketing, and Product — to enable partners. The first step toward enablement is training on our tool, which we conduct jointly with Sales and Product.”

Red Flags

  • “After onboarding, partners have to be trained, so I ensure they have access to our tool and a phone number to call with any questions.”
  • Candidate can’t share specific examples

Follow-up Interview Question

  • How do you approach a situation where a partner still isn’t enabled months after onboarding?

 

A few months after onboarding, each check-in you have with a partner goes about the same. They share that they don’t have any roadblocks and there are a few deals in the pipeline, but nothing has come to fruition. So how do you work together to create the next step?

It’s common for partnerships to go stale if there isn’t adequate engagement. As a result, your Partner Manager must be prepared to overcome this challenge before it arises.

Possible Responses

  • “If I was in this situation, I would take some time to meet over video to revisit our initial goals for the partnership. It’s possible that we’ve lost touch since onboarding, so I want to make sure we’re both aligned on what we’re working toward. If we are aligned, we can discuss potential next steps and opportunities. If not, we can discuss other ways to move forward or dissolve the partnership.”
  • “I had this happen a lot before I started implementing more frequent follow-ups. I spent time building a series of automated workflows that would send emails after a period of dormancy. From there, I was able to weed out inactive partners and re-engage stale opportunities.

Red Flags

  • “In this situation, I would send my partner some one-pagers they can use to generate more deals.”
  • Candidate can’t share specific strategies

Follow-up Interview Question

  • What creative strategies have you implemented to re-engage a stale partnership?

Imagine you’re about to have a partner check in with a partner who was recently disqualified from their previous partner tier. How do you go about having that conversation?

A Partner Manager gets to build a relationship with their partners, but they also have to conduct challenging conversations. 

Possible Responses

  • “I would start the call by explaining that they’ve dropped a tier and what that means for the resources we can provide them. From there, I would explore how we could work together to get the partner back in their previous tier. I would also remind them of the benefits they experienced before and how those were tied to reaching their goals.”
  • “I would be transparent and up-front with my partner. We would discuss that they dropped a tier and explore why that happened. However, I typically check in on partner tier standing during every meeting, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise to the partner. Instead, we would have already been discussing opportunities to stay on track. If they still dropped a tier after we talked about ways they could stay at a higher level, I would conduct a deeper conversation about the goals of our partnership. Perhaps the partner is investing more deeply in other areas of their business.”

Red Flags

  • “I would cancel the check-in and send an email. I can’t keep giving them resources if they can’t maintain their partnership tier.”
  • Any answer that doesn’t include a conversation about how to get back in good standing for their previous tier

Follow-up Interview Question

  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to conduct a difficult conversation with a partner? How did you handle it?

 

Asking the Right Interview Questions Empowers Your Next Partner Manager

Asking the right questions early on in the process will save you and potential candidates tons of time down the line. Typically, a strong interview process will include a few rounds of interviews so individuals from other teams get a chance to talk to the candidate. Ideally, you should weed out any bad-fit candidates before other departments interview them.

Leverage online resources to hire ideal candidates for all of your channel roles. Your partner team is only as strong as your team members combined with the power of your technology. Tools like PRMs can exponentially increase the power of your team to support more partners, drive additional revenue, and interface effectively with other departments.

Looking for additional resources to help develop your partner relationship management strategy? Check out other in-demand templates from Allbound.

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