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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 40

You’re NOT Partner-Ready…Now What?

Show Synopsis

This week, it’s another familiar face returning to the Partner Channel Podcast! Martin Scholz, Co-Founder of PXP, is back again to join host Tori Barlow. This time, they’re talking about what to do when you’re NOT ready for parners. The two cover setting expectations and the three steps to take to ensure your company IS partner-ready.


  • What to expect when deciding to do partnerships
  • What constitutes as not partner-ready
  • How to set expectations and master buy-in

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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 Martin Scholz, Co-Founder, Partner, Experience. Welcome. Martin. I’m pumped to have you on this podcast again. Thanks for joining.

Martin Scholz: Thank you so much for having me a second time.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, we’re going to talk about something a bit different, but before we get into that, a little bit about what you’ve been up to for the partner world is you’ve not only established your Berlin Partnership Meetup series, but you’ve also successfully run your first partner manager certification in Berlin. And based on the demand that you got, you’re going to launch it as a virtual course as well, which is so exciting. So thank you for doing that for the industry. And then if you want to give a little bit of a background around what that is and what people could learn there.

Martin Scholz: Yeah. So basically when we had a conversation with a lot of our peers and even on our partner Meetup series, one question which came up more repeatedly was like, Hey, is there any part, anything, offer more formal education, anything I can give my junior partner people or people who just joined or even for myself just being thrown in that role? You know, you wake up in the morning and all of a sudden you find yourself an apartment manager role. And as we discussed last time, there is no blueprint. So the change was a bit okay. There is literally no book you can read and limited information on data is getting better, thanks to Allbound and others who share a lot of good stuff. But ultimately we felt like, hey, let’s try to summarize what we did in the last 15 years when we build up our teams and try to put it into one curriculum for one day. What do you need to become successful in a role of partner manager? And the focus really on what is your daily doing? How can you be better in what you do and really deliver the results?

Tori Barlow: Yeah, it’s so crucial because I know so many folks that have come on to specifically say they don’t have a background in partnerships. They were kind of thrown into this, whether that’s from marketing or sales or whatever, and they’re having to figure this out on their own. So if you want more information on the course, go to partner experience dot com forward slash courses. Let’s get right into it. Today we’re talking about how to build a partner program when your company is actually not partner ready. So you’ve had a lot of experience with this with your clients and just in the past and what are you supposed to do during this time? Last time we talked about building a partnerships blueprint and surprise, there isn’t one. Check out our other episodes. Season two Episode 12 if you haven’t already. But now we’re all about buying and being partner ready, and I think that it’s tossed around so much within the industry. So let’s start with what isn’t partnership ready in your opinion?

Martin Scholz: I think the one which we came across a lot is that either the CEO, the founder or the CFO comes to you and says, hey, let’s do something in partnerships. And that’s maybe because they’re read some articles or some studies from McKinsey or Censure or some other guys who are all pushing for the power of ecosystems and the power of partnerships. I only had the final circle talk about that. There’s no clear idea of what it’s all about. And we always say partnership is not a team, right? It’s more like a strategy. Go to market. It’s really like the company can accelerate their growth goals or retention goals. But ultimately, you need somebody owning it and you need maybe a team sooner or later to somebody who’s driving it. But ultimately, it’s really, really a mindset thing and a strategic approach to go to market approach. And you need all the other teams as well.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. Do you think I guess because I’ve seen several instances, one is where you’re forecasting for the next year and all of a sudden the company or the board says, Hey, partnerships are less expensive than direct sales. Let’s hire a partnerships person and build out this engine. There’s that model for, I think, what we’re talking about. Do you recommend something like that, like hiring someone from scratch to build it out, or do you recommend the internal team’s kind of already picking up the pieces they need help and then the partnerships person kind of comes in and and really takes when like what? How should people think about this if they are asked to build a program?

Martin Scholz: We got recently, a few times the feedback from founders or CEOs which talk to us or, you know, joined a master class on an event. We then came afterwards, said to me, “Well, you know, I was about to launch something, a partnership, but I think I have to redo my approach and rethink how I’m doing it.” Basically, what we discussed with them and what we tell them is that there is a big difference between building a partnership program and doing all the necessary things like go to market plan in detail, which is a lot about processes, roles and responsibilities, alignment with other departments and really creating the value proposition, making sure that we find the right idea, partner profiles, etc., etc.. So really getting like the plan out. And then another one is to executing it. So it’s absolutely cool and needed to have a partner manager who is executing against that plan. But plan needs to be there. And the big question is, does the company have somebody internally who have the knowledge and knows how to do it? If not, you know, maybe you should just hire somebody externally. And this is for us, kind of a time box. Project. Where you can lay out the plan and then you, the team and the dedicated partner person who’s probably leading this initiative is making sure that the rubber hits the road. But you need to understand where you need to go and how you want to go.

Tori Barlow: I guess that leads me to my next question. What happens when leadership says let’s do partnerships and do partnerships is in parentheses, so let’s do partnerships as a company, But no one knows what to actually expect. Like I have heard some partner managers get on board and they have a revenue target on their on their shoulders and they have to hit it by a certain amount of time. Like, you know, how do you set expectations clearly? What does that look like?

Martin Scholz: That example is something I’m came across a lot, right? Let’s do something. Partnerships and yeah, it’s a revenue goal, but it’s absolutely not clear how the revenue should come in and set or reselling. So the co selling notion should be referrals which are generated should the partnership thrive lead generation, then it shouldn’t be a revenue goal at all because ultimately the direct sales probably would close the deals. So revenue is what you say. The revenue is not a goal, it’s a result of what you do and the goal should be much more specific. Hey, I want partnerships to help me generating more leads from my direct sales team so I can have more opportunities in the pipeline or I want. I would love to have partners who drive partner sales opportunities, which would mean that they take more ownership on the opportunity qualification. So it’s not just, Hey, here’s a lead or hey, this is a warm intro, but it’s really like, hey, I spoke to the guy, They are interested. I think it’s worth your time to really work through them on the terms of the deal. If that’s not really clearly defined, then you don’t know, hey, who’s doing what? And also, you know, is that even realistic, what we want to do? One thing we would like to learn or one comparison, which we sometimes pull, is if you come to a product and tell, Hey, I want this feature you may heard from a product owner, Don’t tell me which feature you want.

Martin Scholz: Tell me what you would choose. Case do you want to solve? And let me figure out how to do it. I would laugh that leaders and founders would also come to the person and say, “Hey, I would like to figure out whether or not you could help me with partnerships to generate more leads, increase retention, return our implementation efforts,” you know, whatever is on the company goal, and then the partner person could think about, “Okay, is there a partner type who could help us with that? If so, what would be the requirements, you know, and what is our value proposition? Why would they even care?” And come back to the to the leadership team and say, “hey, this is my plan, this is the time we need, This is the resources we need. These are the the commitments from other teams. We probably would need to to achieve this. And by the way, it takes 6 to 9 months to see results.”

Tori Barlow: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s almost like what is the overall company goal or goals? And then how do you align the partner strategy along those lines? But being realistic with expectations there and not just saying, Hey, this is your revenue target, go get it. But like there needs to be a strategy. And then to your point earlier, with multiple departments, so like the team is involved marketing sales, everyone’s involved in the strategy. It’s not just one person doing it, but I guess how do you set expectations the right way and then get buy in? Because I think we can talk about it all day, but how do you actually do it and master that?

Martin Scholz: Yeah, I think. And it’s easy to say and hard to do, but ask. Clarify. Ask again. Verify that you understand it. Be clear about what you need. Or what are the challenges which come with that goal setting? We figure out that too many times partner managers are in a pretty rough spot because the company is not really partner ready and they have this, Hey, use the goal. You need to hit this one number of revenue. And my first question is how do you get to that number? Right? I mean, is there any kind of assumptions behind it? My background is controlling. I can plan anything, Right. The question is, what are the assumptions behind it and whether or not the assumptions are true. And if you are in that position and you have that unrealistic goal and you feel like, hey, there’s not a clear path to success or success is not even defined, right, Well, you can’t be successful. So in our partner manager certification where we said, like, you know, we try to teach you everything you need to be successful. One of the first chapters was, is the company partner ready? Because if the company is not ready and success and failure is not defined, you can never be successful, right? Because you don’t even know where to run to. And if you find yourself in that position, in my opinion, like three options. Number one, you just endure it. Not my point. Number two, you try to manage upwards, which is pretty tough, right? Trying to educate your leaders and what you need and why. Maybe it’s not so cool just to say, here’s your revenue number. Go and hit it. One. Number three, you probably may want to look for another opportunity because ultimately, in 6 to 12 months time, people will look at you and say, you’re not a successful. Why? Because success was never defined or was defined in a very. Not appropriate way by saying hit this 1 million MRR target, but not defined how or what support you would get.

Tori Barlow: And so if people could wrap it up in a bow with three things, they could take away as an example to ensure that their company is partner ready, or if they’re interviewing for a new role, for a partner role, how do they ask these questions and build a foundation like what are three steps people can really look at?

Martin Scholz: One of the first one was really double check who wants to run the part of initiative? Is it just the CEO or maybe just the zero? Or is there a broader alignment within the leadership team? Because as you mentioned a few times, you need the support of all departments later. You mentioned customer success, marketing directors. These are the obvious ones, but in my experience, you sooner or later also need product because there might be one or two things you need to adjust to really be accommodating partner needs, but you also need accounting. Can your company even issue a a bill for partners, which is feasible for them? Or do you send a partner with 20 clients, 20 invoices out, which is absolutely not the nice experience. Or the legal team because somebody has to check out the partner contracts and probably work on the red lines. So really make sure that the whole company understands that ideally there was kind of a palette policy that maybe on a company all hands there is a slight, “Hey, we do partnerships. This is the goal. If you know, if Tori comes to you and ask for help, please be kind and support her because this is a strategic initiative for our company.” And also really double check that they mean the same thing. I think we talked last time about it that partnerships is very, very challenging because people use the same term. I mean, complete different things. My favorite is technology partnerships. I think if you ask five people what technology partnerships are, you get six answers. So really very fine that they are aligned, that they do mean the same thing and ask one time more if needed.

Martin Scholz: The second thing comes very hand in hand with the first one; If the leadership team is aligned on that they really want to do partnerships, they should also tell you the why. Why do we want to do partnerships? Is it new generation? Is it opportunities that they want to get sourced? Is it reselling revenue or is it something more like can we explore technology partnerships to have a faster time to market? Can we work together with product partners to help us promote into your ICP? Really like understanding the why? So what are the clear goals? And you mentioned they need to be aligned with the company goals because that will be crucial later on. If you’re running a partner initiative and you have that company goal alignment, then it’s much easier to go to the marketing team and ask for their support. Because if your initiative plays into the company goals they are also trying to achieve, then it should be a win win situation. If your goals are not aligned with their goals, it might be tough to convince the VP of marketing to spend money on your initiative because they are measured on other goals. So really making sure that they understand what are the goals and making sure that they are aligned with the company goals so you can get support from the other departments. And last one. Last but not least. And this this is probably the most critical one. If you’re tasked to do this, do you have somebody who helps you with creating this program? Do you have your own experience or can you brainstorm with some of your leadership? Or if not, really try to get input from from your peers, from the community, from experienced people who can help you to build the program. What’s not going to work is just copy what HubSpot did or, you know, sometimes you hear this, “Oh yeah, I had this webinar. This is how HubSpot does it. Yeah.” Chances are that your company is not yet HubSpot. You may would like to understand what HubSpot did 15 years ago, but even then the market has changed quite dramatically, so even that may not be applicable. So really making sure that there is a clear, consider it like literally like a business plan for launching a new like a new business, literally a business within the business. What is the timeline? Who’s doing it? What resources do you need? And not only money like support from team you mentioned a few times to support from marketing some hours from the legal so you can draw the legal aspects. And not just try to ask somebody to share their partner contract because again, it might as well be that’s not being applicable for your company, even though there are some things you could certainly take as a base, you will need to have your own lawyers to make sure that it suits for you. So really making sure that you have a go to market plan and if you find yourself in a tough spot to do it alone, it’s generally good to have at least four eyes on anything, right? So make sure that you have this expertise on creating this.

Tori Barlow: I love that. Who doesn’t want to copy what HubSpot did and all facets. And from a marketing perspective, I definitely do. I think this is crucial. You have to be partner ready. And if you’re not, how do you get there? One double check: Who’s bought into it? Is it the entire leadership team or just one person telling you to go after and do one thing. Verify you have goals? What are the company goals and what are the partner goals that bubble up to that? I think if you ask your CEO or whoever, what are the company goals and they don’t have any, I think that’s a red flag. And if you’re interviewing for a partner manager role and you ask what the company goals are for next year, the following year, whatever they are and there aren’t isn’t an answer, you know, dig in more or maybe question mark that one. And then finally, make sure there’s someone who knows how to do a go to market plan and is your partner on this entire process. This is pertinent for any sort of partner strategy to be successful. It’s really laying that foundation. Thank you to our guest, Martin Co-founder of partner experience 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.