No Pressure, No Diamonds: Creating Inspiring Partnerships
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 had the pleasure of speaking with Rasheité Calhoun, Channels & Alliance Program Manager at Paylocity.
Paylocity is the only all-in-one HR and payroll solution designed for the employee experience. Their flexible solution is tailored to help you tackle your unique HR and payroll challenges today so you can focus on tomorrow.
As the partner ecosystem grows, discussions about the importance of creating innovative strategies for boosting revenue, partner engagement, and team alignment are becoming more and more prevalent. Rasheité has discovered this to be one of her many duties as a Channels & Alliance Program Manager.
However, her authentic and unique strategies for doing so—from creating mantras to starting from the ground up with a grassroots approach—are what have helped her find true success in the world of partnerships.
Read the following interview to discover and take advantage of the advice coming from Rasheité herself.
The Story Behind the Mantras
“No Pressure, no diamonds.”
"To the moon" is the mantra that first described Rasheité’s journey as a partnership leader, working with a team that had limited experience in partnerships.
This mantra was meant to encourage the team to move quickly, ramp up, and drive revenue with partners, as well as to inform the larger organization about what they were doing as a team in partnerships.
Additionally, the mantra was also used to get the team excited about work in a simple way, and tie it to what the team's focus was. Until… it failed, and they fell just shy of their team goal that year.
So, how did Rasheité re-encourage her team?
She found a new mantra: "No pressure, no diamonds.”
“As a leader, I wanted to apply more pressure on my team, not because I wanted to be a tough leader, but because I wanted my team to see and achieve their full potential.”
The mantra also reflected the constant pressure faced in the partnership world on a daily basis.
The constant pressure to figure out what the partner's role is, what the best partner strategy is, and who the ideal partners are. The pressure to get them onboarded, to figure out as a team how to convince sales, marketing, products, service, and support teams to believe in them. And, of course, the pressure of not driving enough leads.
Not to mention the pressure to meet individual goals, because the aim is to look back at the end of the year and see that targets were met. But, in reality, there are many moving parts, many factors, and many unknowns.
Basically, partnership folks have a ton on their plates.
But Rasheité finds that by aligning her teams behind a mantra like “no pressure, no diamonds,” partnerships teams and individuals can strive to get up every day and make the best out of it. And maybe, just maybe, have a little fun in the process.
Leading With Heart & Authenticity
“I'm not just saying this to rally you behind me or to get everyone in the room to cheer; I'm saying it so that when we leave the room, you'll be driven and motivated, and you'll know that I've got your back, and I hope you have mine.”
Rasheité’s mantra sounds exciting, but the real difficulty is getting your team to use it and make it a regular practice.
We've all been to sales meetings where sales or partnership teams are motivated to hit targets and get pumped for the year. But that energy can only be sustained by the action that follows those sessions. Rasheité believes that the only way to keep teams motivated is to live by example.
“The real question then becomes, what is the foundation that comes after motivation? What is the repeatable behavior that you as an individual know you can personally model, where people can see that you are living the mantra, that you believe in it, and that you are seeing it pay off?”
There are those who will loyally follow your leadership to the end of the earth, which is fantastic. But more likely than not, there is those present who are eager to see whether your results succeed or fail.
So, what is the strategy Rasheité uses to ensure that her team ends up with diamonds?
A Grass Roots Approach to Partnerships
“All it takes is one win, no matter how big or small.”
Rasheité is a huge grassroots fan, as anyone who knows her will attest. This approach, according to her, is what produces the most fruit from a partnership.
When people form partnerships, they usually rely on the executive level, which has the most influence. This is critical because it is simple to create a go-to-market strategy and a compelling narrative. Unfortunately, after getting initial buy-in from execs, their support and communication usually vanish into the abyss.
Why? Because, in reality, everyone now has partners. The partnership world is growing, the marketplaces are growing, referral partners are growing, resellers are growing…every aspect of the partnership community is expanding at an unprecedented rate.
This is where Rasheité’s grassroots approach comes into play.
In order for the partner to consistently drive leads, revenue, and, ultimately, desired behavior, partnership leaders need to make connections not just with execs, but with folks at every level of the organization. By working with reps from every level, Rasheité is able to increase partner development and activation.
“Say you have the support of the executive or top management. You have the product on board and the go-ahead. The next step is to advance to the rep level. Find reps at the partner's business and make a pitch to them about how your product and their service can help them achieve their goal. Convince just one rep that you have something that will make their lives easier or get them to their goals faster.”
To successfully build out a grassroots approach, you must first understand what the reps' individual goals are.
Everyone has a revenue quota, but one must truly understand the challenges and problems they are attempting to solve. Once you understand that, you can return to your solution and see where and how it fits.
Rasheité believes that this should be communicated quickly and concisely to partners. For example,
“We've got this partnership in place. Here’s how it helps you win. There's no reason that you can't leverage it. Let's play.”
Once you have them interested, all it takes is one win, no matter how big or small.
"Pick up the phone, start sending emails, or get on LinkedIn because the truth is that, out of the ten or twelve calls you make a day, once you hook those one or two reps, get your pitch in, and go to market together, you win. Because then, you ask for an introduction to another partner rep and use the grassroots approach to work your way through the organization, and eventually, you look up and realize you have teams of reps selling your solution and your solution only.”
Testing Data vs. Testing Your Gut
“Your gut's going to fail you.”
One very important lesson Rasheité has learned throughout her career is that it is very easy to get caught up in the cycle of trying to get everything perfect.
However, it's important for people to realize that in the world of partnerships, the numbers will never be perfect. It is a balance between intuition, the quality of the partnership, and the data.
Again, even if everything inside of you is contradicting the data, it should never be overlooked.
What should be done is leverage data in the best way possible. It can be challenging to model data or compare apples to apples in the same way that one would for sales and marketing.
Rasheité, on the other hand, is excited to see how partnerships are better defined in the coming years, including metrics for how to assess what is a good partnership versus what is a bad one, and what they should be pursuing.
"I don't think we've nailed the metrics yet. I believe we have some good puzzle pieces, but it is far from complete."
Until these metrics are defined, however, the question becomes, how do you compare one partner or partnership to the other using a delicate balance of data and intuition to make the right moves?
Rasheité recalls a time when she and her mentor, Irene McGuinness, were looking at a pivot table and she was so focused on going with her instincts, relying on her knowledge, and telling her story uniquely that she failed to notice what was right in front of her.
McGuinness told her:
"Your gut is going to fail you. Your gut is good, but until you can test it with data, you're going to fail—and you're going to fail big."
McGuinness then continued:
"I want you to tell me the story that you see in the data using these Pivot tables. Don't just describe what you see to me based on what you have heard or felt from other customers and clients. Tell me the story behind the data.”
"I'll never forget that"
Because much to Rasheité’s surprise, when she looked more closely, she realized that there were so many stories in the data, some of which contradicted each other. She was able to use the data, finally recognize its power, and strengthen her gut.
It’s a practice she’s used since.
“Failure is inevitable, but it will always be a small and brief failure because you will be aware that you selected the incorrect story from the data and will be able to select the right one next time. This practice develops your intuition.”
Key Takeaways: Rasheité’s Advice for Building Inspiring Partnerships
“Get your story down.”
“When launching a partner program, many people take the pitch they give to clients and give it to partners as well. That is incorrect. It's completely incorrect. It will not work. Particularly since the market has become exaggerated with people saying, ‘Let's be partners.’
Your story is about how what you bring to market makes your partner's service, or product more meaningful, easier, or stickier. You have to really get your story down to do this. You must repeat it several times before it becomes solid.”
“Make it believable.”
"The more you tell your story the easier it is to tell. As a result, it flows off your tongue and you become believable. When I was running the team at my last job, I'd randomly ask them to say their partner pitch, on a team call or in a one-on-one. And it wasn't because I was trying to test their knowledge, it was because the more you tell the story, the easier it is to tell to partners.”
“You need some form of measurement.”
“It's so hard to measure the performance of partnerships, but you still do need some form of measurement. You can't just say it's difficult to measure and then freestyle it later.
Find and measure the data that makes sense for you to measure your success.
Remember that you must measure your success in two ways. First, what does your daily success look like? Is it going out in the field? What are the daily tasks that I must complete in order to win? Then how do I scale that up?
The second is how do I measure that on a larger scale? Maybe it's more than just leads. Maybe it's something different than revenue.
Figure it out and then stick to it. Don't make constant changes because things don't look good. Once you've established your goals and measurements, stick to them and give yourself the space and grace to figure out why it's working or not. Then after a while, if you need to, you pivot.”
Make it Happen for You: How to Grow Your Partner Program
If you want to grow a partner program, 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
- Trace leads
- 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