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Your Product-First Partnerships Team Should Report Directly to the CEO

This is Part Two of "Reporting Lines" — our series on where (and who) your partnerships team should report to. You can catch the others below: 

  • Part Two - Reporting to the CEO with Jake Wallace, Head of Strategic Partnerships at SignEasy
  • Part Three - Marketing-first partnerships with Garrett Helmer, CMO at PrinterLogic (Stay tuned!)

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How should you fit your new partnerships team (or first partnerships manager) into your organization at large? 

In his upwards of 10 years working in the nebulous partnerships world, Jake Wallace, Head of Strategic Partnerships at SignEasy, has reported to sales, marketing, and product — essentially anything and everything that plays a role in partnerships. 

When he joined the team at SignEasy, he knew the reporting lines had to change

“We’re our own team,” says Wallace. 

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Bridge the Gap Between Partnerships and Your Top Decision-Makers

Wallace says that reporting to leadership, whether it’s decision-maker #1 (the CEO) or decision-maker #2 (the COO), makes a monumental difference in getting buy-in for partnerships with a long-term ROI (return on investment) and for soundboarding the reasoning and data behind your partner strategy.

SignEasy CEO Sunil Patro is an engineer and product developer at heart, so it kind of just made sense that Wallace report to him rather than sales, marketing, or product.

jake-wallace-signeasy

“They understood right from the get-go these opportunities. I didn’t have to pitch to the sales manager and then they have to pitch internally to the CEO. A lot of potential strategic opportunities, or even acquisition opportunities, start with partnerships,” says Wallace.

Patro just gets it—making buy-in for the right opportunities a lot easier. So, bridge the gap—whether that means making a move from reporting to the Head of Sales to the COO, or from the COO to the CEO. 

Gut Check and Elevate the Partner Pitch

Going directly to your CEO to present the data and use cases for your partnerships roadmap can provide you with a three-in-one opportunity you simply wouldn’t get otherwise. 

  1. Gut check and validate the data you’ve collected (go-to-market viability, access to new customers, resources needed)
  2. Use the conversation to uncover the best selling points for your partner pitch (perhaps your CEO knows the best stakeholders to talk to, has additional market research to help round out your pitch, or knows how your integration could give your partner a competitive advantage—something you hadn’t discovered on your own)
  3. For the most strategic conversations, think about getting your CEO’s help with facilitating and accelerating the conversation with partners (it really doesn’t hurt to have another leader in the room who sees the relationship’s long-term value)

The feedback you receive from your CEO can play a pivotal role not only in getting that yea or nay to move forward internally but also in making sure you’ve nailed it.

Align Yourself With Department Leaders 

Reporting to the CEO has another benefit—you’re suddenly further up in the org chart and you’re aligned with leaders across marketing, sales, and product. While you can cut to the chase when it comes to getting buy-in from the top, you’ll need buy-in from a resource perspective from all of the departments partnerships go hand in hand with. 

You’ll need marketing’s help with co-marketing collateral, the sales team’s help with co-selling motions, and product’s help with building integrations.

Wallace says, “It’s imperative that partnerships be its own team, albeit small, and work closely with marketing and sales to be aligned at a leadership level.”

In our 2020 State of the Partner Ecosystem Report, only 31.7% of B2B partnership leaders reported that they’re peers with other leaders in their companies, and 31% of them claimed they reported directly to the CEO. 

Get info about reporting lines and more by downloading the full report: