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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 21

How to Jumpstart Your Career in Partnerships & Create a Personal Brand

Show Synopsis

For our Wednesday episode this week, host Tori Barlow sits down with Will Taylor, Head of Partnerships at PartnerHacker. They discuss the baseline for breaking into partnerships and the steps you can take to develop your brand.

Highlights:

  • Why you should get into the habit of creating content
  • Which characteristics you need to be a partnership leader
  • What growth opportunities to take part in if you’re looking to make a transition into partnerships or grow in their current role

Subscribe to the Partner Channel Podcast

The Script

Tori Barlow:  Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, the voice of the Channel. I’m Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound. Excited to be here with Will Taylor, Head of Partnerships at Partner Hacker. Welcome, Will. We’re excited to have you.

Will Taylor: Thank you. Yeah, I’m excited to dive in, especially for the topics that we’ve talked about. Passionate about all of them. So I’m going to deliver that today.

Tori Barlow: Partner Hacker came out of nowhere. You have a really fun, interesting background, which we’ll get into, but a few things about you. You built the enablement program at Vidyard as the first enablement hire. You completely flipped the program on its head for revenue and partner performance, and you built the partnership program at Mail Shake from the ground up. And now you’re over at Partner Hacker evangelizing partnerships through partnerships. We’re talking to the right person today, so I’m excited.

Will Taylor: Yeah, it’s kind of surreal and we’ll get into how I got into partnerships, but the space is blowing up very quickly. And so the fact that I get to play a role, I’m very honored in that and it’s close to my heart as well and legitimately passionate about partnerships and I think it’s the best way to go about business. So yeah, very thankful for my position today.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. And Partner Hacker is kind of one of its kind. You guys have a lot of cool things going on, but for folks that have been living under a rock, do you mind explaining what Partner Hacker is?

Will Taylor: Yeah, for sure. So Partner Hacker is a media company and we are covering the era of the ecosystem and partnerships has been getting more and more popular. Of course, this podcast exists and there’s more and more listeners because more and more people are thinking, “Hey, what’s this partnerships thing?” And so Partner Hacker releases the news, the journalism and the interesting information, stories and events all about partnerships so that everyone can get engaged and consume all of that information through a very engaging way of presenting that information. We don’t aim to define things. We want to just cover the information and cover those stories. And that’s how we want to get the information out, because that’s how people are compelled to hear the interesting stories.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, we look at Partner Hacker Daily, so for those of you who have not checked it out, definitely do to stay up to speed on everything going on in partner worlds. Yeah. So today we’re all about journeys of growing in the partnership space. When I think about partner roles within different organizations, it’s definitely matured, but it’s still pretty immature industry. And I think folks are either transitioning from different roles within organizations, whether that’s an SE role, CS role or a marketing role and coming into the partnerships industry and really owning that within an organization. And then you have the folks that are trying to grow within their manager roles into more of a VP or Chief Channel officer role. So I think this is a really important topic. You definitely have a colorful background to explain some of that within your own experience. So you have a really unique way you came into partnerships. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you got started in the industry?

Will Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. So I was a psychology student. I actually wanted to be a therapist, but I fell into doing sales, as you know, a lot of people do, and either they have a psych degree or if they just don’t know where they’re going to go in their career. So I started in sales and I started loving it. I really enjoyed the interaction and the focus that you need to have in a conversation and of course pushing the interaction forward. But there was something that felt kind of off about it and unnatural, and maybe it’s because I was a more junior sales person. But what happened was I was doing relatively well in sales and then I was let go due to COVID and my next position, I happened upon the partner enablement role. Now the piece that was intriguing about that was that I love enablement. I love empowering others to take action and of course become successful through that action. And enablement has always been a passion of mine. And so technically this partner piece was really just an interesting additional thing that I didn’t know much about, but it sounded pretty cool. So I figured I would, you know, dive into it. And what I quickly learned was that the partner experience, it has a massive impact on a business. And so for perspective of what I was stepping into, it was one third of the size of the sales team for our partner team, and we were generating the same amount of revenue.

Will Taylor: About 30% of the total company’s revenue is coming from partners, 30% from marketing, 30% directly from sales. And so a light bulb kind of flipped in my head at that point where I was like, okay, so this is extremely impactful for our business. But I was also realizing that the interactions were a lot more fun and I sold software to the government, specifically procurement departments. They are persona, they are the user. And maybe I’m biased and that I was selling to perhaps one of the hardest personas to sell to both in government and procurement. But I also had that profound effect of, you know, I’m collaborating with these partners and it’s generating revenue. I’m running these interesting programs and it’s generating revenue. And so I found fulfillment. But then there is also that business impact. And so that’s when I decided, hey, I should not only lean into this in my career, but I should start talking about it because I was so compelled to start sharing that with, you know, my sales peers and of course, my friends as well. So yeah, that’s what actually got me into content creation as well.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I also have a psych background and I spent one summer in a psych ward interning and I quickly realized this is not for me. So that’s a hard field to be in. But yeah, so you started out in sales and then found the partner enablement route. Can you talk a little bit more about the content piece and why you feel like that was so important within that role?

Will Taylor: Yeah. So by a stroke of luck and happenstance, we were working with Cross Beam at the time and they reached out to the team and they wanted, you know, a new and interesting perspective. And I was relatively new on the team, but I had some profound impacts that the enablement program was having on the partner program as a whole. And so I told that story with Cross Beam and we wrote a piece together and that article was very well received. I still have people referencing it today and it of course blew my mind because it was my first year in partnerships and I thought it was a very normal thing that I was building. But enablement, I quickly learned, was a struggle of a lot of people. And I made a post about six months ago or so where it was essentially a summary of 50 conversations that I had with partner professionals. And the most common theme was that partner enablement was a struggle. And so what I learned through that article and the reception of that article and all the conversations that I had from it, was that I am experiencing something and building something that a lot of organizations need help with. And I should have ate my own dog food because I actually talk about this pretty often where you can’t assume that your company knows everything or that the space that you’re in knows everything.

Will Taylor: They don’t have it all figured out. Not any industry does. And so the sharing of that content, the reception was so good, not just because it was interesting and it had such a profound effect, but because it was something that people were struggling with even today and I’m sure they struggled with for the last five years of how do we actually actually enable partners? And so that opened my eyes to the fact that, okay, so there’s even less content in the partnerships world than there is, say, the sales world. And so I should start creating content and documenting the journey because if I’m posting every single day talking about the journey that I’m experiencing day in and day out, there’s going to be someone else who’s curious about what that’s like or they have the same struggles. And in my mind it only pushes the industry forward when we are creating content and to fill those gaps, we need to collaborate, we need to share ideas. And so because I was passionate about partnerships, I am passionate about partnerships and there are these gaps. Then it was a perfect storm, so to speak, of the need for it, but then also the desire to fill that gap as well.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, you bring up a really interesting point and you kind of found that hole or that gap. And I’m curious, it kind of sounds like almost doing something on the side to not only help the industry, but maybe help your personal brand when you put content out. So what is your take on creating a personal brand? And specifically in this space, as folks are thinking about maturing their career within an organization or outside of their organization, it can be daunting, I think, to take on that entire persona, if you will. But how do people just bite something off quickly and what are your thoughts there?

Will Taylor: Yeah, so two things on the impact and the why and then I’ll get into kind of getting over the initial hump and the fear of it. So the first thing is that it will benefit your role if you are in a people facing role entirely. So if you’re in marketing, it will help you if you’re creating content. If you’re in sales, if you’re in partnerships, it will help you there as well. Even in success. If you’re creating content, it’ll help you. And the reason for this is because marketing is perhaps the easiest overlay of creating content where you know you’re out there in the world more. So if someone sees the brand that you work for, then you’re going to bring in more leads and opportunities. And that’s the dark social approach that people are talking about nowadays. And in sales you are seen as the subject matter expert. So there’s much more trust that’s developed when you’re writing about the content that you’re speaking about in sales conversations. And so it’s going to legitimately influence the ability to sell because not only are you continuing to practice your knowledge of the space that you sell to, but you’re also going to have this brand, this personal brand, and this backlog of all of this information where when someone connects with you, let’s say, on LinkedIn, and that’s where you’re creating content, they’re going to see you as that expert.

Will Taylor: So they’re going to trust you. And that increases the likelihood that they’re going to buy from you. So I can go through all the examples and how it’s going to help you, but in short, it’ll help your role directly creating content. So therefore you should because it affects the bottom line. Now the second piece is your career more broadly. So if you are showing up in the feed every single day or Monday to Friday for the companies that you collaborate with or want to work with, then you’re going to be much more top of mind when it comes to making a decision to hire someone. So the benefit here is if you do it for long enough and if you build a powerful enough brand, these companies will come to you to offer you opportunities. And that is an extremely powerful position to be in. Instead of you going to the company and applying and being in a resume system and all of that where you kind of get lost in the noise, you stand out in the noise when you are creating content because you’re creating an authentic signal that people can connect with and then they associate with you with the expertise that you’re sharing in that content as well. The other piece of the career side is it opens up doors, it opens up many more opportunities because you’re simply meeting more people. It’s effectively an inbound way of building your network where people are seeing your content, maybe they DM you, maybe they reach out.

Will Taylor: And a part of the content creation process is you’ll probably be compelled to engage with other people as well. And a personal example of that is through creating content, I met someone who lives just about an hour away and we meet almost every single day now and we’re building SOPs and processes and systems all related to creating content, but also business building as well. And this individual actually inspired me to incorporate my own business and figure out the way that I’m going to do contracts with companies. And it had a very profound effect on my career from one specific person. Now, if I’ve been creating content for three years, five years, if you extend it into time, even if I meet two other people like that, if I had that point in time with the one person that changed the trajectory of my career so profoundly, then imagine if I had another two people or another 100 people that I know it will accelerate your career because you’ll get so many different perspectives and opportunities that come to you. so it’ll help the bottom line in your role directly. It’ll help your career in a broader sense. And you’ll just know more people. You’ll have that that power. You’ll be seen as the asset and then operationalizing that we can get into as well.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, I was going to say these are all really great actionable takeaways that you’ve segmented out of how someone can not only help their career but also just help their individual company as well. And I think as I mentioned before, it’s kind of daunting to think about like, how do I create a personal brand? A lot of folks are introverts, too when they think about doing content or whatever that means. So what’s one quick take away that folks can just start doing or even look at to start this path?

Will Taylor: Yeah. So I’ll give some perspective and then I’ll get some actionable tips. So the first piece is I am an introvert and I can speak confidently about things, I can present information, but at the end of the day, the way I recharge my batteries is I like my alone time. I like to go for a walk, read a book, whatever. And I actually hated social media to the point where I was thinking, you know, oh, Facebook is filled with all of this stuff that doesn’t necessarily compel me to engage. And Instagram is very vain. And Twitter is, you know, lots of arguments. I was that person as well. And I think the exposure to modern social media gives us that perspective of, you know, it’s scary out there. If I put ideas out, then just like on Twitter, I’m going to argue and it’s not like that entirely on all of these platforms, but we at least get the perception of that, and I definitely had that as well. And it’s scary. You think if I share my ideas, then I’m going to look dumb and people are going to think I’m not the expert and and all of this. And the best part about creating content is if you post something, let’s say on LinkedIn, it’ll show up on the feed and maybe a hundred people see it and kind of read it and they don’t engage with it.

Will Taylor: And then the next day comes along and nobody else is looking at it and it’s kind of like just lost in the ether. And so even if you make a bad post, it’s not going to matter. No one’s going to see it ever again. And if you are consistently trying to improve the craft over time, then it’s going to get better and better and then more people will see it because you’ll be sharing more compelling ideas. And then even still, those good ideas will fall into the ether as well. So at the end of the day, what you should focus on is the practice itself. You want to go through the practice of actually writing down your thoughts. It’s almost like journaling and you can treat, let’s say, your LinkedIn feed as a personal journal of your professional learnings. And that practice is what a lot of the very successful people talk about is I keep a daily journal or a gratitude journal and you know, the best part about this is it helps you to organize your thoughts into a structured way, because if you sit down and you think about content, then you’re going to at least want to provide it in the most structured way as possible for anyone who’s reading it. And that practice alone allows you to organize your thoughts so that when you are talking about them on something like a podcast or presenting those ideas to your friends, it is in a much more structured fashion and that will make it even more compelling.

Will Taylor: So. How do you start? Well, the best way to start is just building the habit. I say you should always work in phases for starting to build content, and the first phase is build the habit post for 30 days or Monday to Friday and hold yourself accountable if you miss a day. That’s okay. I like the rule of never missing two days in a row, and even if it’s 9 p.m., you’re getting ready for bed. Try and throw a post out there again. If it sucks, it’s going to get lost in the ether and nobody’s going to care. And you shouldn’t do it to make people care. You should do it to build the habit. So if you want to start, just start summarizing your day. Start listening to a podcast and making a summary of it. Heck, if you’re listening to this and you’re like, “Oh, I’m fired up, I want to create content.” Make a summary of it, post it on LinkedIn, tag us in, it will engage, it’ll make us feel good. And then also you have your piece of content for that day. It really is that simple.

Will Taylor:  If it was compelling enough to have an effect on you, then simply summarize it, and that is content and that’s easy content. And so what you’ll eventually be able to do is get into phase two, where you can start refining the content that you’re creating. But I would say for anyone wanting to start as cheesy as it sounds, the answer is just start. Even if you’re on day one, there’s someone on day zero who is curious about what the most up to date version of day one looks like. And you have that perspective. So your perspective is valuable and you need to share it. If you, of course, want to tap into all those benefits and then of course build the practice as well. So in short, even if you’re worried, just start creating content, it won’t matter. You’ll build the muscle and then that will then cascade into making that content better, getting these connections and of course, building your your personal brand as well. And quickly, I’ll go through the ways that you can source ideas. So the best way that you can source ideas is taking existing ideas and summarizing them like I’ve covered. Another great one is think about when you started your career. Maybe it was, in my example when I got out of university and I started as a BDR at a company.

Will Taylor: I’ve made perhaps ten different posts about what that experience was like, and I can riff on those ideas over and over again. Think about when you started. What was it like? What was the perspective that you’d like to give to that person before? If you had a conversation in your day, you could do a summary of your day, Hey, here’s what I accomplished, here’s what I learned. And the best part about that is you’re living through each day and you’re having these experiences. You’ll have at least one learning. And even if it’s three sentences, you can share that, and that’s content. And so there’s three different ways that you can create content, one, being summarizing existing ideas and existing content, the second being thinking back to your own experiences in the past to reflect on that. It’ll be a good practice in general and you have a lot of context about it. And then the third one would be summarized your day talk about what happened to you in the most immediate fashion, and that is top of mind for you. So it’s easy to think about and it doesn’t need to be complex. Again, you can share three sentences and that’s content. So best thing, just start and use the information that’s easiest to write about, which is a lot of things in your life.

Tori Barlow: Wow. Well, you definitely just created a framework for creating your own personal brand, especially in partnerships.  Taking one more piece from the career perspective, what are some growth opportunities folks can really hone in on in order to make that transition from a different role into partnerships similar to how you did that?

Will Taylor: Yeah. So for the content side and transitioning that career, start talking to those people and the best way to you start talking to those people is you could even throw a host out on LinkedIn and say, who are the best partnership creators out there? You know, I might be tagged. There are some other people that might be tagged and then what you should do is you should reach out to those people. It will require some work to learn about the space. But the best part about partnerships, people, and I think the space is unique in this way is we love helping others. It is in our DNA to be the best partner person you generally have to give first. And so partner people are always thinking about How can I give to this other person? And the best part about it is that could turn into a partnership down the road because that’s exactly why they are so open. There’s so many opportunities to partner. Why would I ever limit myself to partnering? So the best way to learn about it and make that transition is start talking to those people. I personally offer office hours from 12 to 1:00 pm eastern on Fridays, and you can book time with me and you can talk to me for 30 minutes about whatever the heck you want, even if it’s about struggles of the B2B, BDR sales life. I went through it and so we can talk about it. So in short, if you want to start learning about it and start getting more connected in that community, then start reaching out to those people. Ask for their time. If you’re in sales and you’re used to doing outreach, then employ those tactics. And if you’re not, then being personable goes a long way. Just be a human. Don’t be too formal and always focus on trying to give to that other person and bring up relevant information. In short, just reach out to people in partnerships. If you create content and tag them, then they’re likely going to engage with you as well.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, you heard it here, folks. If you summarize this podcast, tag Will and I, we will engage and your first post as your brand persona will get a lot of traction from that. Thank you to our guest, Will, head of partnerships at Partner Hacker. And thank you to you, the listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast episodes wherever you like to listen to podcasts.