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Who Should Run the Channel?

When an organization first decides to implement a partner program, there are a few critical decisions to make off the bat. Determining your ideal partner profile and goals for the program are essential, but deciding who should run the channel is likely the most important.

The most straightforward answer is that channel sales should be its own department. Partnerships should get access to the same resources sales and marketing teams do — and should be included in corporate objectives in the same way. However, what if you’re first implementing a partner program, or still vying for additional resources, you may not be ready to make channel its own dedicated department?

If your organization only has a few dozen employees, you likely won’t have a CBO or CRO. Larger organizations that are just getting started with partnerships may want to prove the ROI before building out an entire team. As a result, partnerships fall somewhere else in your organization — most likely Sales or Marketing, and occasionally Customer Success.

While there’s no “best” reporting structure outside of making Channel its own department, there are clear benefits to each. Which is more appealing depends on your goals specific for partnerships. Before deciding who should run the channel, start by defining your objectives for engaging partners.

Benefits of Alliances as a Function of Marketing

For some organizations, partnerships and marketing couldn’t go better together. Co-marketing and co-branding are effective strategies for broadening your audience and building social proof. Reporting to Marketing enables close collaboration for go-to-market strategies and co-marketing efforts. 

In all scenarios, developing strong joint value propositions is essential to successful alliances. Marketing teams will be skilled at defining target markets, developing tailored value propositions, and implementing strategic go-to-market efforts to match. 

If your organization’s main goal for channel is to generate leads, Marketing is the best department for it to fall under.

Benefits of Partnerships Reporting to Sales

A sales mindset is essential to effective alliances. From defining the ideal client profile to making targeted outreach, nurturing the relationship all the way to finding the best fit solution, partnerships are a lot like sales. From this perspective, reporting to Sales sounds like a perfect fit.

Sales teams will likely have a good sense of adjacent tools in the market, as well as competitors based on prospect conversations. This insight makes it easier to target potential partners. It’s also important to consider how close collaboration makes it easier to bring partners into active deals or move partner-sourced deals forward.

If your organization’s main goal for Channel is net-new revenue, Sales is the best department for it to fall under.

When Would Partnerships Report to Customer Success?

For some organizations, Channel is an integration-centric effort, wherein partnerships are developed to enhance the customer or user experience. In those scenarios, Customer Success teams will be more in tune with user needs and wants in order to create a partner strategy to support those.

With partnership management under Customer Success, teams will want to take extra care to engage with Sales and Marketing to enable cross-department success. Sales and Marketing alike will benefit from learning about new integrations and the features your users love most.

If your organization’s main goal for Channel is enhancing the user experience, Customer Success is the best department for it to fall under.

Determining Who Should Run Your Channel

When deciding who will run your channel initially, consider the purpose behind your partner program and the corporate initiatives you’re hoping to support. If your program is already underway, audit your sales funnel to determine its existing strengths and weaknesses. Programs struggling to generate leads should fall under Marketing. Meanwhile, a program aiming to increase conversion rates likely fits best under Sales. In scenarios where partnerships are an integration-driven effort, it’s ideal for the function to report to Customer Success. 

To reiterate, the best reporting structure is one where channel is its own department. Partnerships is a broad function and should be able to target a variety of goals and initiatives to contribute to overarching company objectives. No matter where in the organization alliances reports, the department must be able to collaborate with other functions. 

Collaborating Cross-Departmentally

A partner portal makes it easy to house all partner information across your entire team. Perfect for collaborating on alliances cross-departmentally, with accessible content, streamlined onboarding, and more. 

Request a demo to learn how Allbound can support your channel, no matter where it falls in your organization.

Ali Spiric