Note: this is the latest in our Partnerships 101 series. You can read the others below:
- Partnerships 101: ISVs, VARs, SIs, MSPs, and the Glue that Holds them Together
- Partnerships 101: What's a PRM and should I use one?
- Partnerships 101: How to Launch a Tech Partnership Program
- Partnerships 101: How to Execute a Co-Marketing Motion to the Right People, Every Time
Managing partnerships can seem like one of those problems from your high school math class. You have a list of your prospects, Johnny has a list of his customers, and Mary has a list of her opportunities. Each is kept in a different format, and no one wants to expose all of their information. How do you share these lists without wanting to take a hammer to your laptop?
This is where effective account mapping can help. But what is account mapping and how do you do it quickly, efficiently, and in a way that gets you the attribution you deserve?
In short, account mapping is taking a list of your pipeline and cross-referencing or “mapping” it with a partner’s list of current or potential customers. You can use this "account map" to learn more about the contacts in your CRM, accelerate deals in motion, or start to co-sell. A simple benefit matrix may look like:
The hard part, however, is that this process is usually cumbersome and not very secure. It used to be a lot of VLOOKUP in spreadsheets that were passed back and forth between two partners—which meant the data is out of date the moment it’s exported. Passing spreadsheets also has the nasty side effect of exposing all of your information to a partner. However, at Crossbeam we’ve seen enough of these workflows to learn some best practices and have even built some tools to help you complete this process efficiently—in some cases 20x faster.
If you’ve been tasked with account mapping and want to stay out of spreadsheet hell, this post is for you. In this short guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know to get started. We’ll cover:
- Knowing your terminology
- Why use partner account mapping?
- How to map your partner accounts
- What happens after there is a match?
- Account mapping examples
Knowing your terminology
Before we begin, it’s important to note: The phrase “account mapping” can sometimes describe two completely separate approaches.
Individual account mapping
The process of “mapping” a single prospect or customer. Let’s pretend the logistics division of Big Box Store, Inc is your dream customer. To better understand who are their decision makers or existing partners, you would “map” the account using a spreadsheet or chart.
The goal: To intimately understand a single account to advance them in your sales funnel or improve retention goals.
Partner account mapping
This post focuses on partner account mapping. This is taking a list of YOUR customers or potential customers and “mapping” them to a list of customers or potential customers of a partner. This is often useful but inefficient, usually consisting of manually comparing messy and unorganized spreadsheets. Later, we’ll explore how to avoid this uniquely terrible predicament.
Say you are a partnership manager for a data visualization company and one of your main partners is a data warehouse. You know anecdotally that you share many customers. You also know that some of your prospects are already customers of your partner and vice versa. But only through mapping accounts can you discover exactly where the overlaps are. You may discover that one of your partner’s customers is a target account for your sales team. This can help you avoid Tech Partner Conflict.
Or imagine that a company named “Bob’s Widgets” is a promising prospect of yours, but they stopped responding to your team’s emails three weeks ago. You could ping them again and again, standing outside of their window with a boombox and an emo haircut. Or you could see if Bob’s Widgets is a customer of one of your partners, and then ask their sales team to share some guidance. Maybe you’re not talking to the right person? Maybe Bob’s Widgets just went through a reorg and needs some time?
This mapping can go beyond just sharing rep contacts. You can “map” any contextual information you possess, though the more information you add, the more you’ll need specialized tools to stay on top of all the data points.
The goal: Better understand your customers and prospects so you can be more strategic.
For this guide, we’ll be focusing on partner account mapping. And for more guides like this, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, sent weekly.
Why use partner account mapping?
The best in any industry do lots of scouting and research before ever walking into a meeting or getting on the phone. A thorough account map can reveal all kinds of insights and enable new benefits to the partnership. Things like:
- Generating new leads. With more insight, you’ll be able to source “Ecosystem Qualified Leads” (EQLs) and get a warm introduction to a target account that is more likely to buy than if you were to do cold outreach. Lead generation is also one of the benefits that’s easiest to quantify, helping your partner program prove it’s driving revenue.
- Suggesting smart integrations to reduce churn. You’re much less likely to cancel a service you use every day. With partner account mapping, you can see the products your customers are using and then suggest integrations—this increases the chances your product becomes an invaluable part of their existing workflow.
Imagine your product is a brand new CRM platform. You see many of your clients use Trello religiously. With enough information, you can educate your customers and walk them through a Trello integration that makes your CRM essential to their existing workflow.
Companies are spending lots on SaaS. That means many possible integrations for partnerships. (Source)
- Making sure your team is talking to the right people. Ever watch someone on your sales team believe they had a likely prospect only to frustratingly hit a dead end? Chances are they weren’t speaking with the right person. With partner account mapping, you can compare your cold leads and stalled opportunities to your partner’s existing customers and ask for more context or even an intro to the right decision maker. This kind of account background can make the difference between a stalled opportunity and a sale.
- Being a better partner. Partnerships can easily become one-sided. One day, one of the participants is likely to wake up, ask themselves why they are going through all the trouble, and subsequently end the relationship. You could constantly ask your partner “how can I help?” over and over again like a house guest offering to wash dishes after dinner. Or, you can use partner account mapping. A good account map helps you give as much as you receive. With an account map, you can proactively seek out your customers that your partners are targeting, and then offer to make introductions.
“You want the give and take to be relatively even, especially if you are the same size and very compatible...This lays the foundation to do a whole slew of other marketing initiatives with the partner.” - James King, Strategic Alliances Manager @ Uberflip
- Getting credit (and more resources!) As a partnership manager, there are a several methods of measuring success. For new prospects, you’re probably asked to drive a certain number of sales or conversions through the partnerships you create (usually referred to as “Ecosystem Qualified Leads” (EQL) or “Ecosystem Referred Opportunities”). Alternatively you could be asked to use your partnerships to help warm or close existing prospects (usually referred to as “Ecosystem Influenced Opportunities”).
Both of these can be difficult to trace. Mapping your accounts allows you to be more precise in the accounts you are targeting, so if they convert, you can attribute those to the partnership (often referred to as “attribution tracking”). And when your work is more measurable, it’s easier to advocate for more resources.
How to map your partner accounts
Partnership workflows are tailored to aspects like industry, company size, and data security requirements. But one thing our successful customers share: Account Mapping is fully owned by a single person. If it’s something that’s “everyone’s job” it can slip through the gaps in your workflow, making it easy to miss less obvious opportunities.
After you have your directly responsible individual (and if you’re reading this, it’s probably you!) there are two approaches:
This is the old-school approach and, if we’re being honest, is quite time consuming. It works something like this:
- Decide which list you want to export. It could be prospects, customers, other partners, etc.
- Decide which data fields you’d like to share with your partner. Name, company, and some kind of sales rep contact info is typically the minimum.
- Export data as a CSV.
- Ask your partner to do the same. If possible, structure your data using the same fields and same column order.
- Load or import into cloud or file sharing service. Many partnership managers tell us they use several Google Sheets tabs.
- Search for matches. You can use VLOOKUP, but many partnership managers end up comparing both sheets manually.
The downside here: This technique exposes your entire dataset to your partner and is stale the moment you run the process.
And here’s the kicker: the above workflow? That’s for only TWO partners. When there are five, ten, twenty partners—each step can get exponentially more time consuming.
“You [usually] end up going line by line” - James King, Strategic Alliances Manager @ Uberflip
Account Mapping With Crossbeam
- Upload your lists into Crossbeam.
- Invite your partner to do the same.
- Choose which fields you'd like to share with your partner.
- Use the “Compare” tool to find overlaps
Crossbeam will only reveal where there are overlaps (not the entire list) and, when synced with a CRM, will always be up-to-date. You will also be able to choose which fields to share with your partner. Additionally, it's the same process whether you're comparing two or ten partners.
“I reached my goals in the first two weeks of the quarter [with Crossbeam]. Now, partnerships is a revenue growth channel.” - Carina Shahin, Partner Specialist @ Sendoso
Whichever approach you take, you’ll need to set up a repeatable workflow to capitalize on your matches. Just knowing there is a match isn’t enough. It’s what happens next that can drive partnership growth. Again, much can depend on your goals and org structure, but a general guide:
Step 1: Reach out to your partner
You wouldn't go into your friend’s house and start eating food from the refrigerator without asking first. So unless you have an agreement that says otherwise, ask for partner permission before reaching out to your partner’s accounts. It’s not only good etiquette, it’s smart business. Your partner has all of the context needed for your outreach to be successful. Here’s a simple email that we’ve seen work.
“Hey, I saw that [X company] is one of your customers. One of my reps is working that account. Can you connect my rep to the CSM or AE on your account?”
“Hey, I see you are working with the VP of Analytics of X. We have been trying to get in touch, mind if we connect our reps?”
Step 2: Connect your sales team
Chances are, your partner’s sales team and account managers are the best sources of truth for a potential lead. Along with your fellow partnership manager, introduce your two account reps. However, there are some real considerations here:
- Attribution. You’ll need a mechanism of tracking the introduction and getting credit if it results in a new or influenced deal.
- Pacing. As a partnership manager, you’ll need to be like an air traffic controller and be careful not to overwhelm either sales rep.
- Workflow. As you develop your account mapping workflow, you should be creating boundaries and limitations for your sales team. Maybe you limit how many times they can reach out to a prospective partner’s list. Maybe you make sure you assign the matches. Maybe you drop all of the matches into your CRM. Whatever you select, we suggest starting slow, especially with new partners.
Step 3: Record the connection
This can depend on your specific workflow, but usually involves tracking the match in a Partner Relationship Management or "PRM" system. (Watch our webinar with PRM tool Allbound on how to create a modern partnership workflow using Crossbeam and a PRM).
Step 4: Check in on it!
Our customers have told that, with long-running partnerships, they feed account mapping information directly into their CRM and communicate some limitations to their sales reps. This way, the partnership process is part of the normal workflow, and boundaries are established to ensure no one partner or account is overwhelmed.
Changing your internal workflows takes time. Be patient!
Step 5: Reciprocate
Make sure you are also helping your partner!
More account mapping examples:
We covered all aspects of account mapping, but it’s helpful to see what “good” looks like. Here are some of our favorite examples of effective account mapping.
- How Heap uses account mapping to push deals over the finish line.
- How Sendoso does all of their account mapping in an hour a week.
- How Uberflip increased the accuracy of their account mapping from 50% to 99%.
At Crossbeam, we publish insights, advice, and learnings for partnership managers every week.