Whether you are a new startup looking to build out a partner program or an established company looking to accelerate growth, recruiting the right partners is an essential component of a successful partner program.
To validate this further, according to Jay McBain
86% of the 577 channel chiefs on the CRN list say they are recruiting actively at the moment
Chief Analyst – Channels, Partnerships & Ecosystems at Canalys
However, recruiting partners is not an easy task and can be one that is time consuming and complicated, which further reinforces the need for a robust partner recruitment strategy.
In this blog post we will explore best practices for partner recruitment, including how to build an ideal partner profile, how to identify specific partners to recruit, how to conduct outreach and pitch new partners, before finally touching on what needs to be included in your overarching partnership agreement.
Chapters in this Ebook
Ideal Partner Profile
An ideal partner profile, or IPP, is the description of what a good partner looks like for your organization and is the underpinning of a good partner recruitment strategy.
Director of Partnerships at Improvado
So how do you build out this profile?
If your competitors have partners, they most likely have a public-facing app marketplace or directory that lists their current partners.
A good example can be seen by looking at Zendesk’s partner marketplace
An additional best practice at this stage is to also interrogate whether there are ratings associated with any of the partners included in the marketplace to help you gauge the “most popular” partners that exist in their ecosystem.
Engage with your Operations team (or, if you are lucky, your partner ops team) and ask them for a data pull on the following:
- Any email that exist inside your CRM that do not match up to paying customer domains
When returned, these emails can represent consultants that are managing your software on behalf of your customers. Bonus: If you utilize an account type field, it can make it even easier to narrow the list down to consultants.
Not only will they have experience using your software, but typically they will also have similar clients that may get value from your solution.
Create an email sequence with all emails that fall into this bucket and jump on calls with any interested parties.
Support Ticket Check
These requests are typically about product-related issues; however, it can also be a place where prospective partners reach out to ask about the potential of partnering with you.
If you are just starting out a partner program, these tickets may have previously been largely ignored or turned away and, therefore, can represent a gold mine of information for your ideal partner profile.
When looking through your support queue at inbound requests to partner, pull the names of all interested parties into a spreadsheet, and spend time researching each one to figure out what type of company they represent.
This is another data point that can be used in refining your ICP, as these are partners that have actively shown an interest in partnering in the past and are likely to be receptive if you reach out to let them know about your new partner program.
Current Customer Profiles
The final strategy that goes into refining what your ideal partner profile looks like is to look at your current customer base.
One of the strategies that you can take based on your current customers is to interview or survey them and understand whether they do things such as outsourcing, whether they hire consultants, and what other solutions they use alongside yours to create a complete solution.
An example of this can be seen when looking at the partnership between Allbound and Reveal.
At Allbound, we provide an industry-leading PRM solution; we don’t, however, have account mapping, which is a core part of an optimal partner program. We, therefore, partner with Reveal to produce this complete solution for our customers.
Through interviewing current customers, you will quickly find additional partner profiles that will again contribute to the building of an ideal partner profile.
Okay, Now What?
At this point, you should have a wealth of information and data that you have collated using the methods above.
Now is the time to pull it all together and build the profile that you are going to initially recruit for.
At this point, you also need to remember to loop in other key stakeholders in your organization to get the green light on the profile you have built out.
This is an important final step as there may exist knowledge you have otherwise not had access to that might further influence this profile build.
For example, your marketing lead may have had inbound requests from potential partners previously around co-marketing initiatives which they will be able to pass on.
Once this final hurdle has been crossed and everyone has approved, you can now begin to recruit against this ideal partner profile which we will discuss in the following section.
However, there is still a need to formulate some type of outreach plan in order to sign new partners.
Here are a couple of effective methods:
Using tools like Apollo.io, ZoomInfo, or Seamless.ai (tools that sales teams should have access to), pull a contact list for relevant people at the organization you are trying to target.
In most cases, your target contacts will be “Head of Partnership” type roles. However, for organizations that lack a true partnership function, you can reach out to leaders in either marketing or sales.
When writing your email, be sure to cover a couple of things:
- Who you are and what your company does
- The value statement (what is the value for your partner in deciding to partner with you)
- Next steps
For example, let’s say I was Head of Partnerships at a company like Gong, and I was reaching out to ABC Group, a consultancy company that specializes in sales effectiveness to partners; my email may look something like this:
My name is (X), and I am the Head of Partnerships at Gong. Gong is the leading revenue intelligence platform with 15,000 customers worldwide.
Took a look ABC Group, and see that you have an impressive list of clients that you help become better sellers.
With Gong, sellers are able to get real-time deal intelligence to help close more deals, something that your clients would get a great deal of value from.
In return, we would add you to our partner marketplace and expose your consultancy to 15,000 potential customers.
Worth a chat?
With platforms like LinkedIn, you get unprecedented access to your potential partners.
A few strategies to get your partners’ attention is, first, to announce your partner program widely across social platforms.
Writing posts that highlight newly signed partners and builds hype and excitement around your program is likely to attract organic interest from partners to your program.
Additionally, once you have identified partners according to your ideal partner profile above, connect with them, and start to engage in their content.
The central theme of social selling is to provide value to people before pitching them, so adding commentary to their posts will provide a “softer” landing for when you do reach out with a potential partnership offer.
As an additional tip, Dan Lancioni, Director of Partnerships at Deel, suggests using something called the CAP framework to help with outbound efforts. He says:
When outbounding prospective partners on a platform like LinkedIn, make your message have:
C- Context, why you are reaching out.
A- Ask, What do you want from your partner
P- Whats in it for the partner
Director of Partnerships at Deel
Your website is a prime piece of real estate for recruiting partners.
Although not a pure “outreach” method, your website provides a way for passive generation of new partners.
Advertising the fact you have a partner program and the benefits that your partners get as a result of joining your program can attract partners that otherwise would not be on your radar.
An example of this can be seen by looking at Qualios partner page on their website:
Your website is a great lead capture mechanism for new partners; ensure you have it set up correctly.
Your website is a great lead capture mechanism for new partners; ensure you have it set up correctly.
Interest is one thing, but a signed partner is what you are aiming for.
There are three component parts of signing a partner, which we will discuss below.
They will have their own value proposition, cater to their own verticals, and provide and care about different things.
Therefore before jumping on a call with a prospective new partner, take time to understand their business, so you are fully prepared to explain to them the benefits that partnering with your organization will bring to their business.
Without completing this pre-work, you run the risk of presenting a “vanilla” partnership offering; which is unlikely to move the needle.
Partner pitch deck
The information you have gleaned from your pre-call research should now be entered into a partner pitch deck which should be used as the template for your call.
There should be the following sections included in our deck:
- Introduction: Introduce yourself and the purpose of the call, and briefly explain the potential partnership you’re interested in exploring.
- Partner Overview: Provide an overview of your organization’s partnership program and the types of partnerships you typically pursue. Ask your potential partner to provide a similar overview of their organization and partnership goals.
- Fit Assessment: Discuss the potential synergies and alignment between your two organizations and how a partnership could benefit both parties. Ask the potential partner for their thoughts on the fit and if they see any potential challenges or concerns.
- Partnership Details: Share more specific details about the potential partnership, such as the scope of work, timeline, and resources required. Ask the potential partner for their input on these details and any adjustments or modifications they might suggest.
- Next Steps: Summarize the key points discussed in the call and outline the next steps in the partnership recruitment process, such as scheduling a follow-up call or meeting, or requesting additional information from the potential partner.
An agenda not only shows the partner that you are ready for the call but provides a framework to ensure the call is productive for both parties and should replicate the sections mentioned above.
This decision should be made jointly between the parties, as the only way a partnership succeeds is if both parties realize the benefits and are brought into the relationship.
Although a no decision can be painful, it is best to figure this out at an early stage, instead of putting time and effort into the partnership, only to realize that its probably not a good fit.
However, if both parties leave the call, and are pumped about the potential of the partnership, now is the time to get things made official.
Once the excitement of the initial recruitment call has subsided, it is now time to begin the process of officially partnering.
There are traditionally two agreements that are signed as part of this process.
- Partnership Agreement
An NDA (or Non-Disclosure Agreement) is used to prevent sharing of confidential information that may come up during your partnership efforts. An NDA is used to ensure that both parties feel fine with sharing information that will ultimately help the partnership but, at the same time, have the protection that this information won’t be shared more broadly.
Depending on the type of partnership you are signing, these may differ slightly between re-sell, referral, and technology partners.
The basics of a partnership agreement are:
- Partnership Purpose: This section outlines the nature of the partnership, including what type of partnership you are signing.
- Contributions: This section usually specifies what each party is going to contribute to the partnership, such as marketing resources and personnel.
- Deal Registration / Payment Terms: This section outlines how partners will send over potential leads, in addition to how they will be paid if these leads close. If using a platform like Allbound, this process can all be managed using our partner deal registration functionality.
- Term and Termination: This section outlines the duration of the partnership and the circumstances under which the partnership may be terminated.
What Happens Next?
Well, in order to get your partner’s off and running and starting to generate revenue, you need to house them in a platform that will give them training, enablement, and a way to register all those leads that they are going to generate.
Signing partners is the first step in your partnership relationship, so it’s imperative that you follow up with additional resources to get them moving in the right direction.
A PRM, like Allbound, is a perfect solution to add structure to these next steps.
With Allbound, your newly recruited partners are able to onboard seamlessly with an intuitive, structured training environment.
Additionally, add sales enablement playbooks to your Allbound instance, giving partners instant access to different sales plays based on various buying stages, products, industries, and geographies within your organization.
The access to a robust PRM solution ensures that the momentum keeps moving in the right direction with your newly signed partners, and they aren’t left with nothing after signing a partnership agreement.
Continually Reassess Your Partnership Recruitment Strategy
However, the work doesn’t stop there.
As with any process, you constantly need to assess and iterate in order to ensure that your partner recruitment strategy is working.
At 6-month intervals, take a look at the partners you have signed, and see if any tweaks need to be made.
VP of Alliances and Business Development at Caspio on “The Partner Channel Podcast”
Additionally, your core business may have shifted in a 6 month period into a new market or even a new target ICP, which will directly impact who you want to target as potential partners.
Having a defined partner recruitment strategy can make or break a partnership program.
If not done well, it can lead to lots of time spent pursuing partners that aren’t a good fit and stall your program completely.
In this article, we have explored all the key pieces needed to create a successful partnership strategy, including how to build an ideal partners profile, how to contact potential partners and the messaging you should use, and finally, touching on the steps of pitching and finally signing new partners.
In a world where partner teams are unresourced, following the steps above can add clarity and structure to your partnership program and ensure that you are set up for success in the long run.
- Hootsuite’s Blueprint: How to Formalize Your Partner Program - November 28, 2023
- Economic adjustment toolkit – The key to building a resilient partnership strategy - November 26, 2023
- How to select the right partners for your program - November 8, 2023
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