This article is a part of a compelling series that will give you practical tips on how to grow a successful partner program. By leveraging the advice of the greatest minds in partnerships, you will learn how to effectively create, structure, and build a partner program that scales revenue. If you are a startup or SMB in the B2B tech industry, this series is for you.
For this article, we interviewed Chris Samila, Crossbeam’s VP of Partnerships. Crossbeam has developed the world’s first partner ecosystem platform that helps businesses build effective partnerships by leveraging the power of data. They allow companies to map accounts to identify overlapping business and cross-share data for a more impactful sales process. Crossbeam is growing rapidly with over +7500 customers across the world.
As the VP of Partnerships, Chris leads the partner program at Crossbeam and is in charge of the team that develops and executes strategies for onboarding, managing, and engaging partners. Read the following interview to discover how Crossbeam built such a successful partner program. Take advantage of the advice coming from Chris Samila himself:
- 1. How Crossbeam Started the Partner Program
- 2. How Crossbeam Selects Tech Partners
- 3. How Crossbeam Ensures Partner Engagement and Productivity
- 4. How Crossbeam Measures and Improves Their Partner Program
- 4.1. Sourced Revenue
- 4.2. Influenced Revenue
- 5. Key Takeaways: Chris’ Advice to Companies and Partnership Professionals
- 5.1. “Give yourself enough time to figure out the focus of your partner program.”
- 5.2. “Get good at co-selling.”
- 5.3. “If you are in a partnership role, you have chosen an awesome career.”
- 6. Make it Happen for you: How to Grow a Partner Program Like Crossbeam
- 7. Ready to Scale Your Partnership Revenue?
Table of contents
What did it take for Crossbeam to build such an outstanding partner program? Intelligent thinking, structured approaches, and high levels of collaboration—that’s what the story of Crossbeam, one of the largest partner ecosystem platforms in the world, has to tell us.
They began their partner program by selecting tech partners that would be valuable to add to their Partner Cloud. Since Crossbeam is in the business of facilitating partnerships themselves, many of their customers, comprised of big and small tech companies, served as an ideal partner pool. They did, however, perform outbound campaigns to find other companies that would bring value. Such a partner-building strategy worked to the advantage of Crossbeam as it facilitated high levels of synergy within their own business.
Furthermore, as a SaaS company that offers tech-led tools and solutions, Crossbeam wanted to drive the paid version of their platform through partnerships. The best way to do this was through partnerships that had a technology integration associated with it. Needless to say, the company designed the program focusing heavily on integrations.
So, how does a company like Crossbeam (with a vast and growing customer base) select the most strategic partners to integrate with? According to Chris, the method of partner selection at Crossbeam has been evolving over the past couple of years.
In the beginning, the company wanted to understand and assess the market response, so they aggressively went out and created integrations with different categories of tech partnerships. This approach, however, has changed as they started developing a confident understanding of which tech categories have valuable integration use cases that would deliver the most impact.
Currently, Crossbeam prioritizes partners based on the following key criterion:
Do they have the APIs for integration and are they the right APIs to ingest data from a solution like Crossbeam?
Do they have a partner team available to collaborate with?
Do they have the bandwidth right now to invest in a partnership?
What is the value exchange behind the partnership and how does this relate to which team invests in building the actual integration?
Are there signs of executive alignment/culture fit from an overall GTM strategy?
Is there already market feedback that customers want the tech integration?
Executive alignment is particularly important. Chris shared that building a partnership involves a lot of effort from both parties—they have to spend hours and hours in preparation for the go-to-market strategy, sales enablement, marketing campaigns for co-selling, etc. Having alignment at the executive level is key to having the needed support from all teams.
“These are the questions we ask ourselves—do we have alignment with the company at the executive level? Is the business as a whole excited about the partnership? This is crucial because if their partner team does not have the support of the sales, marketing, and other teams from the co-selling perspective, it hinders the pace of the partnership.”
To ensure the highest levels of engagement and productivity, Crossbeam follows a well-defined process for onboarding and managing their partners. It involves the expertise and interventions of many teams and roles at different stages of the process. Typically, the process involves the following:
Managing partners through a Tech Partner Manager (TPM)
Crossbeam has a dedicated tech manager to oversee partner relations. Once a partner reaches a stage where integrations are in development and Crossbeam has a timeline of its release, the tech manager takes over the process and starts managing the partner from an ongoing perspective.
Deploying product managers to guide building integrations
If a partner is building the solution, Crossbeam deploys a product manager from their Ecosystems team to help them in the whole process. The Ecosystem Product Manager guides partners on how to use the APIs correctly, shares feedback on the scoping approach for the integration, and is the bridge between the partner’s engineering team building the integration and Crossbeam’s engineering team since each integration is tested before release.
Adding the partner marketing managers when the integration is launch-ready
Once the integration goes into the beta status, the partner marketing managers come into the scene. They develop a timeline with the partner, help the partner prepare the marketplace listing for the integration, support the development of any enablement collateral about the integration and partnership, and attend to other marketing-related aspects to ensure both internal teams and the general public understand why Crossbeam is partnering with this company and what value the integration creates.
Connecting the sales leadership for extra support
A week or two from the integration going into beta, Crossbeam starts to get the sales leadership connected so they can align on go-to-market strategy together from a sales perspective and start building a relationship. The sales team acts as extra support with the partner team to push the integration to customers and prospects.
Conducting tech partner training to drive stronger collaboration
In addition to having all the teams working in collaboration, Crossbeam sometimes conducts training sessions for their tech partners. Partners sometimes lack experience doing a broad-based campaign to bring a tech partnership and integration to market, so having a structured approach is beneficial to both parties. Crossbeam shares guidance around the proposed process so that the partner can perform with optimal efficiency when the integration is launched. Crossbeam also learns from their partners as well; this is still such a new field that everyone can learn from each other.
As you can see, the defining principle of Crossbeam’s partner engagement strategy is collaboration—all the teams in the company know what is going on. Such a collaborative approach helps increase the effectiveness of the partner program as opposed to working in silos. Chris explains:
“The more teams you involve in the process, the more leverage you have to keep things moving and keep the awareness high. On the contrary, if you are siloed, it is much less productive.”
When it comes to assessing the success and effectiveness of the partner program, Crossbeam uses a pretty straightforward criterion—whether or not their integrations are being used. They also track how many times an integration impacts the deal cycle. This is measured by two key metrics—sourced revenue and influenced revenue.
This refers to the direct revenue generated by a deal attributed to a partner, where the partner is 100% responsible for sourcing the deal to the sales pipeline. Though tech partnerships generate much less sourced revenue today compared to other kinds of partnerships (such as a channel partner program), Crossbeam measures this metric to assess the overall effectiveness of their partners and they anticipate this metric will increase over time.
In a partnership model based on integrations, influenced revenue is one of the most crucial metrics to track. It refers to the indirect revenue a partner generates by supporting an open sales opportunity. Integrations are a crucial lever for Crossbeam—often, what helps the company close a deal is a great integration that brings new scale and efficiency to the partner team. Thus, by measuring influenced revenue, they identify integrations with a higher hit rate and promote such integrations more effectively, which helps them know where to invest more.
Don’t have over-aggressive expectations of how quickly your partner teams can start generating revenue. Building the right go-to-market strategy takes time and you will need time to figure out the program—i.e., whether you should focus on resellers, tech partnerships, channel partnerships, affiliates, and the like. Sometimes, you won’t even know which one is right for your business until perhaps a quarter or two of effort. It is vital to ensure the executive team at your company understands the overall value of moving towards an ecosystem go-to-market approach so the partnership team can build the right program and structure to drive ongoing success, not just a handful of immediate sales opportunities.
Co-selling can be challenging. It requires change management for the sales team and deep buy-ins from the sales leadership. As a result, many partner teams and sales teams are still beginners at perfecting the skill. When you co-sell, some Account Executives might struggle to execute well, which creates a lot of pain for both partner teams. That’s why it’s essential to work closely with sales teams and keep the value proposition of the integration at the top of their minds. Having sales leadership support from both sides reinforcing that this is a necessary skill for experienced sales professionals gives the partner team air cover to get this business process rolled out.
Careers in partnerships are very promising, to say the least. There are over 180,000 SaaS companies globally, and this number is expected to cross a million by 2030. Since ecosystems are a go-to-market strategy for SaaS companies, you can expect an exponential rise in the number of partner programs. If you commit to being a great partnership professional, you have the ability to rise quickly in this fast-growing industry. The best way to scale your knowledge of partnerships is to learn from peers. Share your experiences and be open to meeting fellow partnership professionals.
If you want to grow a partner program like Crossbeam, it is essential that you have the proper tools to structure, automate, and scale your program.
A Partner Relation Management (PRM) platform allows you to:
Organize your program with tiers
Coordinate training, onboarding, and certification processes
Build a knowledge base to provide instant answers
Collaborate with partners on a shared pipeline
Get full visibility over partner activity
Measure partner performance
Track commission and payouts
Discover Kiflo, the most affordable PRM on the market, specifically designed to help SMBs build, scale, manage and grow partner revenue.