Take one glance at partnership job titles on LinkedIn, and you'll soon discover nothing is straightforward.
The SaaS partner ecosystem is more important than ever and there's never been a better time to grow a partner program.
But the myriad of confusing job titles can make finding the best role for you—or the right candidates for your company—feel hopeless. “Partnerships”, “channels”, “alliances”, “integrations”—the sheer number of variations combined with ever-growing partnership responsibilities makes moving between organizations frustrating.
All of this friction could be solved with a bit of standardization, similar to sales and design teams. Standard titles would help employees bolster their job search and find roles that best fit them. They would also make it easy for hiring managers to clearly define the company's needs, and find candidates suited to the position.
It's a problem that Mawghan McCabe, PieSync’s Director of Strategic Alliances, can identify with. She's frequently searching sites like LinkedIn for prospective partner managers.
“There are a million titles,” she tells Crossbeam. "It's definitely not like ‘CMO’ or something as easy as that … The titles are all over the place."
Craig Varljen, who has worked in partnerships roles at Uberflip, ReachForce, and elsewhere, agrees most companies simply don't understand what they're looking for. "Titles in partnerships are never cut and dry," he explains. "[For example], if they say they are hiring a 'director' of partnerships that needs to set an entire channel go-to-market strategy, that’s not what a director does. That is what a VP of channel does. Or a head of channel does."
New partner managers struggle to find their feet in a fledgling industry. Recruiters grapple with finding qualified candidates when they themselves aren't clear on their requirements.
Varljen explains that a lot of companies simply don't know how deep the partnership rabbit hole goes, "A lot of it comes [down] to companies not understanding how involved partnerships are, until they bring someone in."
Partnership jobs, by the numbers
To help you unravel some of the mess and improve your own partner programs, we crunched some data. Is it even possible to standardize job titles? Can we help prospective partner managers and HR teams alike find roles that best fit their needs?
To do this, we needed to collect as many in-the-wild job titles as we could. First, we pulled the top 100 companies (by six-month growth) from the SaaS 1000. We then grabbed all the relevant partnership-related job titles at these companies from LinkedIn, giving us 59 representative companies with partnership roles.
We combined this with survey data from Crossbeam customers, giving us a solid list of 375 identifiable partnership job titles (270 of which were unique) across 59 representative SaaS companies.
The variation was ridiculous.
A few takeaways:
- 59% of the top 100 SaaS companies have identifiable partner roles.
- Partnership roles make up an average of 3.06% of total positions at the top 100 SaaS companies we analyzed on LinkedIn. When you exclude the 41 companies without partner roles, this ratio rises to 3.96%.
- 43% of roles use the term "partner," closely followed by "channel" at 34%. "Account" (6.4%) and "alliance" (6.9%) follow behind.
- Some other common job title phrases: "partner manager" (7.5%), "partner marketing" (5.3%), "channel sales" (7.2%), "channel manager" (7.2%), "partner solutions" (5.6%) and "partner enablement" (1.3%).
- Looking at seniority, only 10 out of the 59 companies we looked at have executive-level or VP-level representation for their partnership program (they have “VP” or "chief" in their titles). Executives made up 4% of the total roles we looked at.
- Moving down the ladder, 14.4% of partnership roles included the terms "director" or "head," 11.2% of roles were designated "senior," and 1.6% as "lead," and only 1.3% as "associate." The rest did not explicitly include seniority levels in the title.
- Our State of the Partner Ecosystem Report found that 69% of companies indicated they have technology partnership roles as part of the team—but only 28% of the companies we analyzed on LinkedIn included technical terms like "integration," "technology," or "solutions." This discrepancy reflects the uncertainty around how to title partnership roles—while companies might have technical partnership roles on the team, those responsibilities aren't always reflected in the job title.
- Interestingly, all the technology partnership roles were at companies with 100 or more employees.
- Finally, looking at company size, startup partnership job titles are, on average, 16% shorter than their established counterparts. Job titles at startups (less than 100 employees) averaged 23.8 characters in length, while those at established companies (100+ employees) averaged 28.3 characters.
Which partnership job title is right for me?
Partnership job titles should (and will) become easier to digest.
Of course, with the modern SaaS partnership ecosystem still being (relatively) young, it would be great if we could blow up the system and start with standard job titles. It would make things easier on everyone—and we could stop writing articles like this one.
All this messiness shows change is happening. Partnerships are becoming more important, and companies are investing accordingly. Choosing a title that fits the role you're interviewing for isn't getting easier.
Our advice? Go in with eyes wide open.
Know which roles best match your skills and interests. Use simple keywords like "integration" and "marketing" to find the right roles, then narrow your search down. Avoid jobs that aren't a good match, no matter the job title.
It might feel like a mess now—but step one is acknowledging the mess.
Interested in more partnership trends? Sign up to get our State of the Partner Ecosystem report when it's released.