Let's note some of our (Partnerprograms.io) opinions on this matter before we share our views on this question:
If all of these are agreed upon by you, or at least you see where we're coming from, then we can proceed to what shapes my personal biases on this topic:
So, while it is difficult for me to relate to the politics of running a company with partnerships + sales + marketing teams... My experience has brought me to these findings:
Meaning, their genesis is taking someone on the sales team (AE or BDR), giving them marching orders to "sell" ____ number of partners on this program and then "draw out" revenue from them to meet a $____ ARR quota by Q2 (notice how I didn't use the word "enable"). This typical rep has never worked in the type of business they now have to partner with. And this individual is usually around 25 years young.
Then this poor young salesperson now has to report their progress to an aggressive technology sales leader who ONLY sees the bottom line.
What inevitably happens is they push too hard to deaf ears, upset more agency-users then they bring in, and the program gets scrapped.
Let's look at the flip side:
Many programs succeed because the demand for the product is so high and partner incentives are too good and too sticky for it to possibly fail.
And those who argue the point of "Well, HubSpot's partner program has always had a revenue quota and has salespeople as partner managers, and look what they've done..."
Yes, HubSpot is a shining example. But they also put an ecosystem around their product and partner program (training mainly, but also paths to referrals) that made it so damn sticky, the HubSpot partners I speak to daily who tell me they are so annoyed by the end of month referral requests from their partner manager, will still stay on the program despite constantly being pushed to give up leads. The agencies who drank that coolaid early on have reached enormous success.
But, that success of the program to date, and affinity for the program, is due to the ecosystem - the product integrations ecosystem, the sales enablement training, and the support the partners receive from HubSpot for being in their program...
Hopefully you are still with me :)
Now, let's assume you call yourselves a "Customer Centric" tech company. If you do, and you're serious about that, you want the most valuable feedback on how your product and customer success performs against your competition, and be aware that agency or consultants who also sell to your end users are the BEST source of product feedback on all sides. And in that reality:
...at least in the early days. This is important because not only does it take 6-12 months for any new partner program to find it's groove, if you force revenue KPIs on your partner managers too soon, they'll burn what could have been excellent strategic alignments with people in the channel by annoying them with sales calls.
Further, being under sales creates a negative stigma for the partner manager with their prospective partners because no one likes to be sold anything. You don't know how many HubSpot agencies I speak to who ignore their partner managers requests for a call at the end of the quarter because they know that call is a request for pipeline.
Most of you will not agree with this. And those of you who do are probably on a sales team who have run intro frustrating attribution issues between salesperson and partner program.
What's the right place for your partner program in year 1?
In tech companies who want to enable partners to sell their solution for them...
With the caveat of over 500 employee org's... at that scale, the CEO is too detached from the product itself to really be able to speak to savvy agencies about the use case.
So in larger org's, the partner team should report directly to the CEO.
That is the only way to prevent these pitfalls:
Hypothetically, you are with me still...
Now the strategy for those of you in this ballpark (under a few hundred employees, product-market fit, high NPS... ready for partnerships), is to first have your founder/co-founder start to reach out to agencies;
At this point, the team comes together and decides to hire or place from an internal team.
Whether you agree or disagree, I'd love to discuss this with you:
Partnerships teams have to convince third parties (agencies, consultants, tech, VARS...) to “partner” with them. But... the partner teams are not marketers or copywriters. So they either hand the copy tasks off to the marketers, who write copy to sell the product (as they are trained to do), or the partner teams provide the copy to get added to the page, which results can be much worse...View Resource
On our call, Bob and I discussed the state of ‘channel,’ the nomenclature, and where he believes it’s headed. After our call, Bob further-elaborated on our talk with this email.View Resource
Circles are our way of describing the relationships found in partnership ecosystems where a consultant and/or agency is partnered with both your tech and a product you sell well with (possibly also natively integrated to). This video will explain the strategy on finding those circles within your ecosystem.View Resource