Build Street Cred: Partner Recruitment Tactics That Work
Maybe you've already started contacting potential partners, or you're building a strategy to do so. You've made a few calls, sent a few emails, and signed up for a partner program, but you still can't seem to get off the ground.
It's possible that your business isn't ready for a partnership, but it's more likely that you haven't prepared the right strategy for presenting the value of your program to potential partners.
In this post, we will explain the basics you should know when approaching partner outreach. Not only that, we will mention a few mistakes to avoid as you navigate recruitment.
A Little Background
Filip started as an SDR at NextSales, which is generally the focus of the company. After that, he was the de facto Customer Success Manager. Initially, NextSales didn't actively recruit for this position. To fill that gap, the best SDRs from our internal team took on those roles. Then, of course, as we hired new employees, he was promoted to Director of Customer Success.
In this role, he incorporated aspects of sales and customer success. This allowed him to approach customers who wanted a white-label solution with their logo on it so they could service their customers and use us as their workforce. We exchanged ideas with them on a weekly basis to come up with new ideas on how our business could work and discuss the expectations of both sides
This worked very well, but our business model isn't designed for white labeling. We thought it best to focus on sales development, the core of our company. Earlier this year, Filip was appointed to Head of Partnerships, which is what he’s currently involved with.
Filip’s experience in each of these roles has allowed him to see a micro and macro perspective of the needs, goals, and struggles partners face—and ultimately why they will or won’t join a partner program. The wins and losses along the way helped him to understand not just the tactical strategies needed in partner outreach, but also the outlook partner professionals must possess to be successful.
Maria joined NextSales in the summer of 2021 through a referral from a very close friend of hers (partnership much? haha) and quickly established herself as one of the most recognizable people in the community. Being new to the SDR role meant she had much to learn about the processes, sequencing, and dealing with rejection on a daily basis.
However, having worked on people-first jobs during her entire professional career, she had an aptitude for building strong relationships. This resulted in prospects and potential partners engaging in long conversations with her, several minutes after receiving a cold call from her. She would be, and still is, the person who jokes and laughs the most out of anyone and in the end get the best results and receives shout-outs from her manager. This meant she got the opportunity to work on the best and most promising accounts and help them grow their partner programs and sales.
The Biggest Mistakes Made in Partner Recruitment
But first, let’s start with the losses.
You can't have a thriving channel program without excellent partners. However, far too often recruitment is sloppy and many mistakes are made (believe me, we know). In general, you should have a well-thought-out, proactive, and regular plan.
With the right recruitment tactics, you can interact with potential partners who share the goals of your brand and channel, increasing your overall sign-up rate. To do that, you'll need to avoid a few all-too-common recruitment mistakes:
Putting Your Needs First
One of the biggest mistakes people make in recruiting is putting their own needs and wants first. Many companies use their partners as a means to an end without considering the needs of the other party.
When companies or individuals work together to develop new solutions, things can only stay on track if both parties share a common goal and put the needs of the other first.
If one party is only interested in serving a self-interest, the joint effort will be one-sided. There must be a genuine mutual interest in seeing the partnership flourish.
Having No Partner Enablement Strategy
Partner enablement is critical, but we often make the mistake of not implementing an effective enablement plan. Ad-lib programs rarely produce the desired results. Why? Forrester's SiriusDecisions Research concludes that a lack of structure leads to a lack of consistency and relevance, both of which are critical to successful and lasting partner enablement.
You can't just hand out your one-pagers and marketing materials and expect them to sell for you. Ask yourself why they should sell for you when they can just focus on selling their own product.
At the end of the day, it's a numbers game. You need to talk to a lot of people to find a few who are interested in doing business with you. It's fine to engage one partner out of 30, but also think about how you can engage one partner out of ten or 15 to increase efficiency. That's something that companies aren't focusing on.
As Lauryn Spence, BigCommerce’s Senior Manager of Agency Partnerships stated in her Greatest Minds in Partnerships interview with Kiflo:
“There is no denying that enablement is key to running a successful partner program. That said, just having lots of enablement sessions is not enough. So, don’t do enablement just for the sake of it. You must ensure that it adds value to them and the program. Your interests should be genuine, you must be helping your partners in one way or another, and you should be adding value for the long term.”
Best Practices for Partner Recruitment Strategies
As we mentioned earlier, one of the most important aspects of any great partnership is finding qualified and effective new channel partners. However, the best practices and processes are rarely understood, resulting in unsuitable partners being taken on, time wasted, and attention diverted from more productive partners.
We’ve outlined some best practices to help you get started.
Know What Your Partners Want (& How to Give it to Them)
If you know your partner's goals, you can figure out how your partnership can help them achieve them. Make sure those goals are measurable so you can track their progress and adjust your plan as needed.
Further, it's easy for partners to feel they're chasing their tails. How can teams ensure they're headed in the right direction for the long haul? The solution is to recognize, leverage, and celebrate small wins. Your partners will understand that this is how you add value and that working together is worthwhile.
Speak Their Language
Messaging is very important. You should always provide good copy and you need to tailor it to the people you want to reach. Make sure your content also speaks to your target audience in the language they speak in their industry.
At NextSales, we work with companies in a variety of industries. I've seen that communicating with partners in the manufacturing industry is different than communicating with partners in the cybersecurity industry. Understanding industry language can boost partner engagement.
To drive your communication efforts, you also need to figure out which channel your partners are most comfortable with. Different people prefer different communication channels. Some like email, and some like the phone. Some prefer LinkedIn. That should be part of your strategy; you need to observe which channel resonates best with different partners.
Clean Up Your Data
In today's digital economy, businesses have more access to data than ever before. The information that this data provides can be used to support important business decisions. Problems arise, however, when companies lack data management capabilities.
90% of the time, customers buy data from a vendor that's only useful for a moment. But what about the decisions you need to make in the long term? That's why it’s always beneficial to have a data manager to manage, cleanse, and enrich the data.
Understand Your IPP (& Don’t be Afraid to Adjust it)
You need to understand your Ideal Partner Profile (IPP) in terms of the job titles, the company sizes, and the industry. You also need to understand that sometimes deviating from your IPP works. For example, you might be reaching out to mid-market companies, though the data shows you have more success with small businesses.
We see this all the time with our clients at NextSales. Many will have a certain IPP, but when we go out and do our outreach, we find out that companies that aren't even on their radar are a better fit. For example, recently we had a cybersecurity client whose deal size we increased from 15K annually to 25K just by targeting different sizes of companies.
Measure the Return
The ultimate metric is always revenue. It is also important to remember that certain IPPs generate revenue more quickly, for example, within the first 30 to 60 days. These are IPPs that are also involved in more thorough discussions about how to co-market and co-sell with other partners. They may even suggest co-hosting a webinar or appearing as a guest blogger to express their interest in working together.
In contrast, partners who are not interested do not even open emails. Such behavior is a sign that these potential partners are really not interested in collaboration.
How to Execute Your Partner Recruitment Strategy
The key to successfully implementing your recruitment strategy is to create a solid ecosystem of channel partners and to have a clear understanding of what success looks like. Here’s how we do it at Nextsales:
Build Team Synergy
When it comes to having actual conversations with new partners, our alignment priority is always finding out what services they offer and if they are synergistic with what we can bring to the table to supplement them.
One particular example in cybersecurity is asking companies if they provide penetration testing, red team, or purple team services. If they answer yes on two of those, we continue explaining the reason for the call and that we’d like to help them upsell their customers and provide better coverage on their IT infrastructure.
At the end of the day, there has to be synergy between both goals and capabilities.
Be Willing to Pivot
When we don’t see engagement in the pipeline, we try to add more strategic tasks to daily workflows such as following up with people who opened prior emails, people who viewed our LinkedIn profiles, dialing phone picker-upper lists (verified phone numbers in our database) to start having conversations again.
Usual signs that show us when we need to adjust things are when the daily/weekly connection rates are low, we have fewer people weekly/monthly who like to receive more information (IQLs) about our services and how we can complement theirs, and lower amount of meetings scheduled compared to previous weeks and months.
Your own pivot signs will be unique to your program and company, but understanding them can be a game changer.
Creating an Attractive Recruitment Strategy in a Booming Partner Market
The partnership landscape is booming. This fundamental shift means vendors are working hard to have the right channel model and partners on board to drive their business and beat the competition. This includes creating solid recruitment strategies to survive the ever-growing partner market.
Bring Partners Value
Be willing to give your partners something of value, such as an incentive, solution, or certification.
Share things that might interest them when they read the news or scroll through your newsfeed. Let them know about things you think they will find interesting. Invite them to gatherings so they can network with others who can help them grow their businesses. By offering something of value, you will strengthen the relationship.
Align Your Teams
Partner alignment promotes the co-creation of value and ensures that everyone is aware of how the relationship leads to "wins" for both organizations, which in turn leads to a long-term strategic advantage.
We communicate with internal teams, partners, with customers, and try to find the best fit between these people at all times. It can sometimes take a while to get information from teams, so get in touch in advance so they have the time to focus on their own tasks as well.
It is critical that you remain consistent and keep your word regarding the commitments you have made to your partner.
Nothing ruins a partnership faster than breaking promises you have already made. Make sure you check in with your partner regularly to see where you both stand. This can include regular meetings or a conversation over lunch. Check-in regularly to make sure you are on the same page and that your goals are being met.
Build Up Your Street Cred
One of the most important factors that separate successful partnerships from those that fail is a good reputation in the community. Even if your product is superior, your business will suffer if you are perceived as having little credibility. This is especially true in today's world where news travels fast.
A few weeks ago, we had a conversation with a potential partner, and even before we got on the phone to see if the partnership would work, they sent us a lead. This came from a conversation they had with our former CEO a couple of years ago. That chat is a great example of what sets NextSales apart; we’ve worked hard to build good relationships with companies, even those who weren’t maybe a good fit for our program at the time we initially met.
A successful partner recruitment plan will ultimately help your company's income to increase.
But that shouldn’t be your only goal.
Giving your partners value and building your street credibility is what will truly set you apart.
Find out where current and prospective partners are spending their online time, and make a solid plan to implement that will keep partners interested and motivated. Successful businesses recognize that their partners are similar to their clients in that they respond favorably to the development of long-term relationships that are tailored to their objectives.