As your company and partner program grows, you’ll need to occasionally evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and then determine where to focus your efforts for the most effective partner strategy. After all, what works at the start of your partner program may not serve you well as your program matures.
If only there was a fill-in-the-blanks exercise for doing just that...
Isaac Smith, Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Allocadia observed that his team was spending most of its time with a handful of tech partners and not enough time engaging its system integrator (SI) partners — think: partners leading customers through a digital transformation and including Allocadia’s marketing performance management software as part of the customer’s new-and-improved tech stack.
Allocadia’s ideal customer profile (ICP) — or the customers who are most likely to convert and have the highest business impact — prioritizes companies with $250 million or more in annual recurring revenue (ARR), so it’s important for Allocadia to partner with companies that can help them reach those target accounts.
Once Smith narrowed in on the common characteristics of his most impactful partners, it was time for spring cleaning.
Smith developed a partner program evaluation exercise to validate his hunch and form a strategic path forward. Through the exercise, Smith now has a clear vision for when and how his team should engage SI partners for deal acceleration and the enablement processes he needs to prioritize for maximizing his SI partners’ impact on revenue.
“We’ve done more work with our SI partners in the last quarter than we have in the last three years combined that I’ve been at Allocadia,” says Smith. “And the best part, other than revenue, of course, is that we’re seeing these partners able to make a significant impact in the experience and success of our customers.”
Below, we’ll walk you through the process so you can complete your own evaluation exercise.
The Glossary for Allocadia’s Partner Program Evaluation Exercise
While Smith’s partner program evaluation exercise focuses on SI partners, we recommend that you make a copy of the spreadsheet and adapt it for your particular program while customizing the “activity required” column to reflect your partner program’s priorities.
💭 Tip: Establish a color key to help you call attention to the sections that matter most for your program.
For example: Smith uses red and green color-coding to quickly identify missed opportunities. If “Do we” and “Should we” is red for the activity “Develop the request for proposal (RFP)” (meaning, Smith’s team does not and should not create RFPs), and “More customer value with the partner” for the same RFP activity is green, the combination of colors signals to Smith that he should develop a strategy for getting his partners to include Allocadia in their RFPs more often — Smith has observed that RFPs through partners lead to a higher conversion rate for Allocadia buyers.
Example of color-coding from Allocadia’s partner program evaluation exercise
“When I see that one is red and one is green, it tells me, ‘This is an area that I need to prioritize and where partners can support,’ and it also helps us figure out where our partner strengths are,” says Smith.
As you work through the partner program evaluation exercise on your own, keep these terms and examples in mind:
Sales cycle phase: the seven sales cycle stages, according to Salesforce, plus one additional “other” category for miscellaneous “steps” that don’t fit into a particular phase.
Smith has subdivided each sales cycle phase into “steps required,” as you’ll see in the section below.
Steps required: the various steps that unfold throughout each phase of the sales cycle. Think of the “phase” as the overarching category and the “steps” as the subcategories.
Smith has included steps like “DemandGen” for the “Prospecting” phase and “Develop Problem Statement” and “Select Solution Provider” for the “Lead Qualification” phase. These are the steps typically required for each prospect to graduate through Allocadia’s sales cycle during these particular phases. When you copy the template, customize it with your own steps.
Activity required: the tactical activities your internal team (with or without the help of partners) and/or partners complete to graduate the customer from one step to the next. In other words: any activity that plays a part in closing deals for your team.
During the “Select Solution Provider” step in the “Lead Qualification” phase, one activity that Allocadia’s partners typically complete is creating an RFP for the customer. Therefore, “Develop the request for proposal (RFP) for the customer” is an activity listed in the row correlating with this particular phase and step.
Do we? Is the activity something your internal team is currently doing (with or without the help of a partner)? Answer this question Y/N. If yes, color code the box green. If no, color code the box red.
For the activity, “Develop the request for proposal (RFP) for the customer” in the “Lead Qualification” phase, Smith’s “Do we” box is red. This means that his internal team does not currently conduct this activity (although their partners do!).
This brings us to the next question:
Should we? Is the activity something your internal team should be doing? (Hint: if your internal team should not be doing the activity, but rather your partner should, answer with a “no”.) For example: Is your internal team managing unpaid customer support hours that your partner should be doing because the service is built into the partner’s billable time?
Let’s circle back to the example from Allocadia in the “Do we?” section above, which focused on the activity, “Develop the request for proposal (RFP) for the customer.” Smith knows that getting Allocadia included in its partner’s RFPs carries a lot of weight in the prospect’s buying decision. This is because the partner is typically already recommending and implementing a variety of software for the customer. For this reason, the “Should we” box for this activity is red — meaning Allocadia’s team should not manage this activity.
Since both the “Do we” and “Should we” boxes for this particular activity are red, this sends a signal to Smith that he should prioritize ways to ensure Allocadia’s partners are including Allocadia in their RFPs — since Allocadia relies heavily on its partner’s influence during this phase and this type of partner engagement has proven successful.
More customer value with the partner? If the partner handles the activity (with or without your internal team's help), will the customer get more value? For example: if the customer is going through a digital overhaul of their tech stacks and workflows with a particular SI partner, the customer likely has a strong relationship with the partner. When it comes down to activities like “identifying the primary pain points” or “developing the request for proposal,” the SI partner may have more of the customer’s trust up front and more influence in advocating for your solution as part of a greater long-term vision.
“If they're paying somebody to come in and help them adopt software, they're probably going to listen to them a lot more,” says Smith. “Or, if our partners are doing the change management around it, they're the experts.”
For our example with the RFP activity, the “More customer value with the partner” box is green — meaning, yes, the customer will receive more value than if Allocadia conducted the activity on its own.
Would we enable partner? Is the activity something you would allow the partner to do on your behalf, and are you willing to spend time enabling the partner to complete the activity? For example: if your team is responsible for the activity of “negotiating prices” and you do not want partners to manage this activity regardless of the scenario, you would not enable partners for the activity.
For our example, Smith answered, “Yes,” to the question of “Would we enable partner” and marked the box green. With more context around use cases, the partner may be more likely to include Allocadia in relevant RFPs.
Would partner? Is the activity something the partner wants to do?
“We may think that it's an activity the partner would do better, but if it's not something they consider lucrative or it's not something they’re in the business of doing, this is to evaluate that,” says Smith.
For our example, Smith answered, “Yes,” to the question of “Would partner” and marked the box green since its SI partners include Allocadia in RFPs for relevant customers.
Can a partner today? Is the activity something the partner can get started doing right now? For example: do they have support team headcount and expertise to manage customer training around your product?
For our example with the RFP activity, Smith answered, “Yes,” to the question of “Can partner today” and marked the box green specifically for partners who are already including Allocadia in their RFPs and have all of the necessary education and resources they need to do so right now.
Smith answered, “No,” and marked the box red for activities in which Allocadia’s partners are not already set up to manage the particular activity. If the “More customer value with the partner” box is green, the “Would we enable partner” box is green, and the “Can a partner today” box is red, this sends a signal that Smith’s team needs to enable the partner as soon as possible to help them manage the activity.
Can a partner eventually? Whether or not the partner can handle the activity right now, can the partner do it eventually? For example: the partner currently passes all opportunities interested in your product onto your sales team. After spending some time enabling the partner on the solution messaging and use cases, could the partner close deals on their own?
For those partners whose: “More customer value with the partner” box is green, “Would we enable partner” box is green, “Can a partner today” box is red, and “Can a partner eventually” box is green — this sends a signal to Smith that he needs to develop an enablement process to educate Allocadia’s partners on a particular activity in the future — either after his team is set up to enable the partner, after the partner has undergone organizational changes to help them better manage the activity, and so on.
Just three months after completing the partner program evaluation exercise, Smith now has a clear vision for:
- Creating avenues for maximizing the influence of Allocadia’s SI partners (e.g. identifying which SI partners are speaking with Allocadia’s prospects earlier on through real-time account mapping with Crossbeam and requesting that Allocadia be included in relevant RFPs)
- Onboarding and enabling new SI partners (e.g. identifying which partners can provide greater support in the “opportunity” phase through RFPs and providing them with education on particular use cases)
- Supporting existing customers, improve retention, and drive renewals through integrations as a growth strategy (e.g. identifying which tech partners Allocadia should prioritize building that support the digital transformations Allocadia is typically part of through its SI partners)
“Our partner engagement has gone through the roof lately,” says Smith. “We’re using this analysis as our ‘North Star’ — It continues to evolve.”
Do you have a partner program evaluation exercise you’d like to share? Send us a Tweet @Crossbeam. We’d love to hear about it!