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State of Partner Ops & Programs '22 with Kelly Sarabyn @HubSpot, Asher Mathew @Partnership Leaders

Who said Partnerships Ops are boring and non-essential? We had a really fun and insightful discussion ⚡️ on their current state and best practices with:

Kelly Sarabyn - Platform Ecosystem Advocate at HubSpot

Asher Mathew - VP, GTM of Demandbase and Founder of Partnership Leaders

2 out of 3 organizations today consider #partnerships as “very important to their future”. But the lack of Partner Ops often makes partnership success ❓ uncertain to say the least.

That’s why this is the session you don’t want to miss.

Learn key insights from the 94 page report (link) and more.

💡 In this episode:

0:00 Intro

3:00 Why Partner Ops matter

6:30 Surprising findings from the Partnership Ops report

8: 00 When is the right time to start a partner program and adopt partner technology?

11:12 The dangers of partnering first, before your direct sales motion start working

16:51 Who should own partner technology?

21:25 What should be KPI’s of your partnership program?

24:26 Key attributes of a great partnership leader and who should own partnerships?

30:47 How to align partnerships with the rest of business to survive in the next 18 months?

34:13 Advice for new partnership leaders

Roman: Asher and Kelly, let me quickly introduce you.

You Kelly were one of the people who championed this report, and Asher, you’re doing too many things as well. You are leading Partnership Leaders, which is a great organization. Kelly, do you want to introduce yourself quickly?

Kelly: I'm the platform ecosystem advocate for HubSpot. It’s essentially growing the ecosystem by engaging partners, both our current partners but also prospective partners out in the ecosystems. Prior to this, I was leading marketing at Pandium, which is an embedded iPaaS, so very much in the partnership and ecosystem space .

Thank you. Asher, I’d love to hear a brief version of all the roles you’ve been doing - it's difficult to keep up with you.

Asher: Hey everyone, I'm Asher. I'm one of the go-to-market VPs at Demandbase. In my spare time, I started a community called Partnership Leaders with Chris Samila and Tai Rattigan. That's what led to me being here.

Both of you have a lot of experience in partnerships. What's amazing about your experience specifically is that you've been in organizations that oversee the entire partnership space. Asher, you’ve been leading Partnership Leaders and Kelly, you’ve been in Pandium and then HubSpot, you've been doing a lot of work. The report that you published a few months ago was fantastic and specific. I'm excited for you to share your insights. We have some audience questions that I’m going to ask. But to kick us off, why did you decide to publish this report? It’s been very important and long overdue, but what was the motivation or trigger?

Kelly: The space is rapidly in flux. We're shifting from the traditional channel to an ecosystem model. Partner technology is exploding, and it's rapidly evolving, which is great because it will unlock a ton of value. But it's also a challenge for partnership people. How do we put all these components together to be successful? There's a real shortage of market data. There's a lot of data that existed on the traditional channel and how those large companies are running that, but not so much on this newer ecosystem model and how companies are responding to the digital transformation around that to tackle partnerships today. So we really wanted to get enough data to bring some market insights and not just have our intuitions and experiences that we're all operating on which is good.

let's benchmark where we are with operations with partner technology, what the pain points are, what's working, and what's driving more revenue from partnerships. And also, how are organizations viewing partnerships?

But really being able to say, okay, let's benchmark where we are with operations with partner technology, what the pain points are, what's working, and what's driving more revenue from partnerships. And also, how are organizations viewing partnerships? The idea is to have this data and do it on an annual basis so we can capture this rapid evolution where things are changing so quickly.

Asher. when you got this data, and you expected to have 500 people to participate, but you had 650, which is 30% more, which is amazing. What surprised you?

Asher:I would just add to Kelly's answer. Partnership Leaders exist to elevate the role of partnerships at tech companies. We started off focusing on people and what’s their progression looks like. We specifically focus on leaders. The other part of the mission of Partnership Leaders is to focus on helping with scalable processes. If you think about once a leader is installed and focuses on scalable processes, they need technology to implement scale. As we were speaking with our members in early Q1, we got the feel that if this macro trend pushes partnerships to the next level, then somebody will be needed to own the processes, technology and data. For us, that is partner operations because we took a page out of revenue operations, which is a similar role that supports sales and marketing. That's the context of why we partnered with HubSpot. It's gracious of you to say we expected 500 people, but we actually expected 200 people. We landed at 650, which is fantastic and speaks volumes to the need for this type of data. When Kelly and I were talking about starting this project, we asked what exists today. The answer was nothing materially existed. We started focusing on this piece. To answer your second question, the thing that surprised me the most is the data point in the report that says in organizations with 140 employees or up to 140 employees, there is one partner ops person that you’ll find. I said it a number of times, I believe there are more partner ops people, they're just not called that. In many cases, partner managers doing partner ops work or worse, partner leaders doing partner ops work. The market is understanding that a role is needed so that people that are supposed to be customer- or partner-facing can spend more time in revenue-generating activities. This is something I took out of this book because my role at Demandbase is advising companies on their go-to-market.

I agree, people should be doing less ops in an ideal world. This is true across all functions, including marketing and sales. However, it's more obvious in partnerships. In my mind partner ops can be divided into processes and technology. You underscored this in the report asking "Do you have a partner program at all?" and then going into different technologies they use. Can we talk a little bit about overall settings? When do companies tend to start partner programs? And when do they tend to start partner operations - today and when do you think they need to have some sort of partner operations running in an ideal scenario?

Kelly: What was interesting about the results was that it showed early stage companies under 100 employees already have multiple partner types. What we saw, enterprise companies do have more partner types, but it's not a huge bump, it was a little bit over four, and for earlier stages closer to three. So a really interesting finding is most likely what's going to happen to your company as you grow is you're going to go deeper into these partner types that you've already started, rather than expand out to having eight or nine partner types. Some organizations do go down that route as well. But that's not the typical thing. So for startups that means, make sure you're thinking very carefully about the partner experience from the get go, because it can be extremely disruptive to later make huge changes, especially wanting to pull back any benefits or commercial terms. But alongside that, what we saw is that the start of the partner operations and the partner program is actually pretty early. Now what it looks like at that stage is more ad hoc.

So one of the biggest indicators of driving more revenue from partnerships was to have a programmatic allocation of your resources through your program. So not just to say, "Hey, here's my three tiers, you can be a partner." And then in reality, it's just the squeaky wheels and the most aggressive partner manager that's getting the go-to-market benefits, right? That is usually what happens when programs start because they just don't have the workflows, the processes and the internal alignment to make it run from a programmatic level. I would say that 50 to 100 employees is where we're really seeing people saying they have some kind of a program going. To Asher's point, at that stage, it's more the partner ops work is being done by the partner manager, someone maybe who's just an admin/ programs /analysts / manager. When you get closer to 200 employees, you might start to see “okay, let's have one person”. Because the question we asked was, how many people do you have working on this full time? So when it says one person that means they have one person that's their whole job. The first stage is just spread it across a bunch of different people. As Asher noted, it could be the executive is often the one that has to at least put in the design around it. I think in that sense, it was promising, that we do at least have companies thinking about this early, recognizing that there's a need, even if the execution is fairly poor at that stage.

Asher:I would just add, Roman, from a revenue leader perspective. Somebody who is looking at the whole thing - the minute the first four partner deals are done, you know, the next four are behind it. You should already be thinking about the partner ops process, maybe not the headcount yet, but you should definitely be thinking about like, okay, if the next four deals come in, and they're being forecasted in whatever shape or form they are, they are going to happen, right? Because the first four did happen. And there'll be some noise around them inside the company and outside the company. So I would say the revenue leaders should have his eyes on staffing this role, the minute the first four or five deals are done.

the minute the first four partner deals are done, you know, the next four are behind it. You should already be thinking about the partner ops process, maybe not the headcount yet, but you should definitely be thinking about like, okay, if the next four deals come in, and they're being forecasted in whatever shape or form they are, they are going to happen, right? Because the first four did happen. And there'll be some noise around them inside the company and outside the company. So I would say the revenue leaders should have his eyes on staffing this role, the minute the first four or five deals are done.

Good point. I had a conversation with the CEO of an AI startup. He said that we have three people in partnerships and we won't adopt any technology unless you have someone in partner ops, which makes sense. I'm wondering about adopting at least some sort of technology - when do you think is the right time? Is it from the get go, is it when you hire a partner ops person. What are your thoughts?

Kelly: I think it depends on the category. What was interesting - most people in their organization said their organization should have partner technology. That was true even of the smallest companies. I think the easiest category probably to adopt early is account mapping software. These are all running on freemium plans, and you can connect with a partner for free and it will tell you your overlap. That's immediately useful no matter what size you are. But when you get to more complex technology like PRMs, that's supposed to own your whole partner experience. It can get more complicated. We do have newer PRMs that are designed to be like the HubSpot of PRMs, where they are easier to use and not Salesforce level customization. I think it is potentially going to end up similar to the CRM journey where you do put it in early, but you tend to have something easier. It's unusual to see a 5 to 10 person startup using Salesforce. If you do it is because they’re anticipating being 150 by six months. I think that's potentially how it will go, but it's a little complicated because some systems are trying to be the single pane of glass everyone plugs into. If that happens, it may look different and there will probably be a freemium element, where little players can plug in. So, I think as the market exists today, you probably want to adopt account mapping software off the bat. And then the PRM you should hold off until you have at least one person doing the ops. That's my read of it. Some of the more user-friendly ones could add value earlier, but I don't know. Asher, what do you think?

Asher: I agree with what you're saying, but there are interesting questions coming up in the chat. I'll take two questions. One is, what revenue levels should a partner program be initiated, while the direct sales model is still not formulaic yet?

I'm probably going to get some criticism for this answer, but I would say if your direct sales model is not built out, you probably should wait to do anything partner, because your company does not know how to partner yet. I've made this mistake directly myself, and I've also made this mistake indirectly when I advised someone to do it. In both cases, the ending was not happy. So if your direct go-to-market is not built out, please be careful about initiating partnerships because you risk severing relationships with those partners. Unless your entire model of going to market is through partners, then for sure you have no choice because you'll be working on that anyways.

Normally, I would say somewhere between $0.5 million to $1 million ARR your direct go-to-market model starts to become clear, at least you should have a line of sight on how to reach $10 million in ARR. And then, once you get to a $1 million in ARR, or at least have line of sight to it, you should start thinking about which types of partners you should be including. The best way to do that is actually just go to the early customers and ask them if there was a partner that they could work with or that they could buy from, what type of partner that would be, and then work with that partner. Just to add a little bit more to the answer, it's interesting that the average number of types of partners is 3.6, which Kelly said in SMB companies it’s 3, but in enterprise, larger companies, it's 4. I think what's happening is, because you do the shotgun approach on trying to work with any partner out there, trying to see what sticks, versus doing the research work, which is going to your customers and prospects and hiring services like GLG, or AlphaSights or anything like that. Or just ask the analysts in your space, who should we partner with, and they'll tell you who to partner with. And you can actually take a much more calculated and efficient approach to partnerships. And then that will actually result in success that should technically be much more repeatable and much more efficient than the shotgun approach. So I'll pause if Kelly wants to add something.

Kelly: Yeah, I would want to add something to validate that approach. I think one of the dangers of partnering first, when you don't have a direct motion established is that you lose the direct connection with a customer to some degree. If you put a partner in between yourself and the customer, that can work well for all the reasons we know. But when you're at a very early stage, and still figuring out product market fit, and trying to get feedback very quickly on what the market is looking for. If you rely on a partner to go to market for you, which is Asher’s point, unless that is your whole business model, because in some categories it makes sense, you're going to have a harder time getting that feedback directly and quickly. So, I think having a successful direct motion tells you that you've connected the dots and understand what your customer is looking for. Then, you can do the research to map out the whole customer journey end to end more easily.

I agree with you, maybe one caveat - some companies tend to have a pull from customers through partners. For example, Asana had this. I think they had a working product, so consultants started to use Asana [for clients]. Atlassian had the same and other companies. I’m not sure at which level of revenue it was happening. But otherwise, you need to figure out direct sales before doing partnership.

Asher: You make a really good point. If your product is a natural workflow product, like the example you gave to us, you're probably going to get a partner pull much faster. Because the people who are using it, if they're good at business, will think, "I'm using this, what if I sell it? Or what if I support it and make more money from this?" And then they'll start working on a $1 Asana gives me a $3 partner services type of model, because they already start thinking that. If you're in a partner pull world, that's fantastic. But even then, be very careful making sure your primary go-to-market is built out. In Asana’s case it’s actually a PLG model. There's lots of things that can go wrong in trying to land and get a PLG model going.

What we saw on the survey is that technology partnerships were the most common partner types of early stage startups. I think that's because those don't initially have to be go-to-market, you’re just sending each other referrals. In many product categories, you just have to have certain integrations to exist effectively for the customer. So early stage startups build those technology partnerships out, but they work on their direct sales and marketing model. And then, when they have a better understanding of that, they can start to commercialize those relationships better.

Asher, please continue answering questions. Generally, I do have my own questions, but we also had some questions filled by the audience. Unless we have a live audience asking questions, I have a big backlog of questions. And I would rather us focus on questions and then let people read the report.

Asher: The other question from Rod is, in the first year of the partner program, should we just have a static web forum, like a Marketo or Eloqua to be pushed for an Impartner and then have the CFO questioning it? Again, this is just my philosophy. My fortunate history is that I've been part of four startups, and then three of them exited. And so I've seen this go right and very right and wrong and very wrong, when we don't understand the process completely and we push for automation. When I take any type of biz dev or partnership roles, I almost always, if the company is using Salesforce, I just go put a web to lead form and get my lead deal registration done. If they're using HubSpot, it's even simpler to create a landing page that'll just be a lead capture, because that's all you're trying to do, right? And making sure you get the attribution right. So I'm very much against starting with a heavy duty PRM product. But I’ll go back and what I said before is once you see the light, the first 4 deals are done, and you're seeing the next four deals in front of you, you need to make sure that a product that will create an awesome partner experience exists, and for sure you can bring in a PRM. But I would also say that before you decide to install a PRM, make sure you know who's going to own this, because if there is no owner, it's the partnership leader. And that's a very expensive person to own a piece of technology while you want that person to go out again, do revenue-generating activities.

Kelly: Yeah, I agree, expensive and also potentially not as effective, to be honest, because it gets complicated fast. And it also requires aligning with other revenue departments, which the partnership leader should be doing at a strategic level anyway. But doing it down to the nitty gritty of the workflows, processes, and integrations. Which was interesting, when people are buying partner tech, integration was the most important factor. And that's because these things don't exist in a silo. I definitely agree with the more heavy duty PRM like Impartner, although I know they're currently adding more functionality to make it usable for earlier stage companies. But I agree, marketing and sales technology that exists can be used when you have an early stage program effectively and efficiently. So I would recommend doing that.

Asher: Yeah, this is an interesting way, as Kelly was talking about this, I'm thinking if you're at an early stage, it's probably better that you spend more time making sure that the sales enablement team is actually preparing for partner enablement. Or just think about how you're going to enable partners, right? Because, again, if you get into this lucky situation that Roman talked about where you have a partner pull, you'll always be catching up to the market. Right? And if you're an early stage executive, let's call it you’re an early stage customer executive - CRO, CMO, CCO or CPO, you should be thinking about partner enablement and partner experience, because you'll have investor pressure in most cases, to ramp up your direct sales team. And you're thinking about hiring, enabling, and all this stuff. And then you have this other, let's call it, borrowed sales team, or borrowed solutions team or board customer success team, right? That is actually going to be putting pressure on the same process. And so Roman, I don't know if you have thoughts on this one because I have a feeling that you have some commentary on this piece.

I'm trying to hold myself from plugging in our product, which is a light PRM. But from how users behave, I agree with you - you need to figure out the process and make it repeatable, at least with a few partners. And then you need to adopt PRM. We try to help users by adding templates, so you can use customizable workflows, which are already pre-built. But I don't want us to focus on our product. I would rather answer questions. But before we go into the live audience next question, there were a lot of questions before the live session about KPIs. What are the KPIs for partnership programs? I know from speaking with a lot of partnership leaders, it's always difficult - KPIs and attribution. I’d love you to maybe share some thoughts on that.

Kelly: I thought this survey results were actually better than I would have expected to be honest, in terms of the different KPIs that organizations are using for their partner teams. Because if you think about the ecosystem model, you need to move away from just doing sourced revenue. That's very focused on the traditional channel, the point of sale. I think that's where we're coming from, and that is still what we found was definitely across all organizations, the most used KPI. And it should continue to be a KPI. But influenced revenue was the second KPI. And I think that that's a good sign, because that is more reflective of the different ways that partners can drive impact. So the fact that the majority of organizations are using that was really good to see. And I think, from there, it dropped off where we had other things that you would expect, like leads, active integrations, partner satisfaction, partner profitability. Customer retention, and customer satisfaction, which was pretty low in use. But I think as the field continues to mature, we're going to see more around that because, partner retention and partner satisfaction, however you term it, is really important to leveraging partnerships at scale. If you're not paying attention to that KPI, if nobody's being KPIed on that, then you're gonna have a problem, because that means that nobody's really honed in on that, and nobody owns that. And so you're gonna lose a lot of partner investment and partner loyalty that you could be acquiring, and they're gonna leave if they can get a better deal elsewhere.They're staying around for the business transactions of the business need. But just like with customers, the partner experience is what can make them over invest and have loyalty. So they're recommending you to other partners.

Asher, do you have anything to add in terms of KPI, attribution, and maybe how different companies actually do that?

Asher: I think what happens is, and I'll actually answer the CRO/CMO or elsewhere question at the same time. In my opinion, the person that cares the most about partnerships, if there isn't a senior partnerships executive that exists in the company, that person should own partnerships. And it's the same thing that we actually learned about SDRs, because there's always - should sales own SDRs or should marketing own SDRs? And in every case, where a senior SDR leader or executive does not exist, because we didn't have the SDR executives like Kyle Coleman, that are really taking this function to the next level. We saw that when the SDR team reported to somebody who didn't care about them and just treated them like a lead generation machine - those people suffer. But then there are more folks like Lars Nilsson at Snowflake who did the same thing at Cloudera. They've created amazing SDR organizations. And so if there isn't a senior executive, a real deal industry benchmark executive, not somebody with just a VP title, because there was just a need to give somebody a VP title. The person who cares the most about partnerships and partnering- and it'd be very clear, because in executive meetings, you'll just know that this person actually has a very calming presence and a very collaborative approach - that person should own them. So that's when there isn't an executive.

When there is an executive, and it's a senior person, and this person looks and feels something like this. When they're in a room, they are extremely supportive. They say yes to more things than they say no to, and they work with people and understand perspectives and actually try to move both partnerships and incubation efforts further. When you have that type of person, the only person who can empathize with that person is the CEO, because the CEO also has to provide a very calming presence in the room and understand different perspectives and align different resources from multiple programs, which include sales, marketing, customer success, product, engineering, finance, legal, and HR. If it's just channel sales, we can park the person in sales. But the thought process of how to support and make this executive successful is interesting, because over time I’ve been an executive, I've learned that it is the company's responsibility to make the executive successful equally as it is the executive's responsibility to make themselves successful. Companies that bring on executives and just say “go become successful” have high executive churn. So, I'll add that, I know this is not related to the report, but this is a really important point. Roman, or Kelly, do you want to add anything to that point before I go to the next part of the question?

I have a question actually, related to that. And thank you so much for outlining this. And I agree with you, but I think where a lot of executives who are in partnerships and are very bright, tend to struggle is that they get pigeonholed occasionally in being measured purely on revenue. And they would want to do more product integrations and do all these types of partnerships that you've seen in your report. How do you help them succeed or how should you help them succeed? If you're a CEO, what would be your way to make sure this person gets the most out of resources that they have and get to results?

Asher: This is a very P&L centric answer. Wherever you're going to find this person from, whether it's sales or marketing, R&D, or G&A, is the pressure that person is going to feel, because the keeper of that P&L is actually the CFO. And if the CFO does not do a good job of holding people accountable, then he or she is going to get fired. What happens is, a new VP of partnerships or a chief partnerships officer is installed and the ecosystem thinking, let's say, let's just focus on that piece, which is a very cross functional, even more cross sponsored than just partnerships. The ecosystem thinking is not fully internalized. And you funded this person from sales and marketing. The CFO, who is the, let's call it, the financial orchestrator of the company, basically looks at this person as a lead generation person or a deal or revenue generation person. And so now the company is saying, "Hey, let's go do ecosystems," but the person is stuck in sales and marketing. The CFO is like, "WTF" and you go to a board meeting and they're looking at this person and say, "Wait, wait, what are you doing? Why are you doing this?". I think the more interesting thing is - yes, if you want to incubate the power of the partnership program, I always say pay the person from G&A. And then if your customers are saying, "We want integrations, because our workflows are not complete without them" or your customers are saying, "We would like to buy your product through another company because we already have an existing relationship and it's easier for us to procure," then you decide whether to fund this person out of R&D or out of sales and marketing. But not understanding where you're going to fund this person or this team from and not understanding the overall company strategy, whether it's just partnerships or ecosystems or biz dev, which is large deals, then what happens is you are in a mismatch. And I'll also say go step further and call the partnership leader out as well. This is the whole reason why the partnership leader in the organization exists. In a lot of cases, the partnership leader is not seasoned enough to understand that this is happening. But there are tons of organizations supporting CROs who understand whether CROs are lead revenue generators or revenue routers. Because when we install a CRO, we always have a VP of sales that reports to a CRO. We don't have just a CRO and then have all these other functions. And so what happens is because there's not enough coaching, content, or experience around how to make this executive and make that executive successful, we run into these issues where this person gets parked in some other organization and then ultimately gets stressed out because they do 17 different things because that's how they're trained. And then you run into these problems. So hopefully, I wanted to give some context on the P&L view of this problem because it's a much simpler way to look at it and then you can set this person up for success.

Kelly, I would love to throw maybe a curveball to you. I found that people tend to ask the same questions, and I'm guilty myself. I've been asking the same questions “where a person leading partnership should be in an organization, how partnerships should be incentivized, what are the KPIs and so on. In terms of seeing partnerships in different forms and through different lenses, what are the things people should be asking themselves when they start at partnerships or lead partnerships that they may not be asking?

Kelly: This has been talked about to some degree, but I think there's probably two points that need to be broken down more. And one is, how do you develop relationships and trust at scale with your partners, because that looks very different from very hands-on strategic partners where you're having all this one on one time.

And then the other thing is, how do we really make these conversations effective into other departments and functions? Because partnerships need product, they need engineering resources, they need marketing, they need sales, they need all these other functions, to have the impact that they can have. And I think we're all aware of that. And it’s one of the contributions that this book talked about how and what do you actually do? One of the suggestions was to look in your CRM, find the 10 biggest deals that are currently up for grabs, and then go look at them closely. Find out which partners you can bring in, bring them in on as many of those deals as you can. You've just associated yourself with all the biggest deals. This is an individual play into the sales org. But I think we don't talk enough about how you get product and engineering to give you more resources when you need more to either build integrations or support integrations. Your API, if there's any extensibility in your platform, that has to be built by your team. I would love if we had further conversations around both of those two points, because I think it is something we're aware of, but I don't see people really getting tactical and specific about how you execute on those two things.

Fantastic points, actually, from my personal experience, when I was in partnerships, I found myself to be cheerleader in chief. You go to all these departments and you cheerlead "Oh, we are about to launch this partnership." You need to somehow find time to cheerlead inside the organization and outside the organization. Probably people in this room know this even better than myself.

Asher, from the time when the report was published, any insights you found interesting post publishing?

Asher: To me, the most interesting thing was around ad hoc allocation versus programmatic allocation. And I really thought - this is surprising - that more people understood the benefits of a partner program. And this came up in another podcast that we were doing, actually a webinar, that when we started double clicking on just this part of the report, we realized that a lot of people don't understand partner program design. And to me, that was crazy, because we understand the sales program design, we understand marketing campaign design, and offer design, messaging design, and all this stuff. But we don't apply the same rigor to the partner program. And then at that point I realized that the problem is actually because the company is not heading into partnerships and there's just an experiment happening. It's like what you just said, you had to go cheerlead. In the world we're about to head into; there is no cheerleading happening. It's like kill or be killed.

I mean, I know that's a little intense, but we're heading into a wartime mode. So we have to be extremely intentional about if we are going to partner or not, because if you aren't and you are, it's gonna be such a distraction that you're going to get hit again and miss and then have to do cuts. And then people lose their jobs. And so that was super interesting to me just the ad hoc versus programmatic allocation piece of this. I just thought that we were much further and it looks like we aren't yet.

I just want to double-click on what you just said about the world that we are heading. I think, talking about your insights, programmatic vs not programmatic, I think this seems to be like a new group of partnership leaders who came not necessarily from a very structured maybe channel world that used to be, maybe they came from MBA programs, or they came from different types of backgrounds like marketing, and I think they are doing more adhoc stuff. I’d love to hear maybe from both of you, what would be your advice, looking at the year ahead 2023, for let's say, a young partnership leader, who just maybe started a half a year ago, maybe a year ago, and now getting pressure of “Okay, the year is ending, what is the result and what's your plan for 2023?” So what would be your advice, in terms of resources, insights, whatever advice you might give to this person.

I think attribution is key to really understanding what you're going to be able to attribute to partnerships in your organization, and also how your C-suite and board currently looks at those things. So if they don't care that you come along and you say, hey, if people have four integrations installed, you know, they're 58% more likely to have higher retention, that's valuable. We all know that in the partnership world and retention is really important right now. But you really have to read the room and be honest with where you are in your own organization, because unfortunately, most partnership leaders do not have the luxury of being in an organization that views everything ecosystem first. There are some organizations like that, but most people's key part of their job is that advocacy you are talking about. But right now, when things are being cracked down upon, you really need to be honest. And if the answer is sourced revenue is what they really care about, then find out how you can get that attributed to partners, and you can ramp up that motion. And I think you put on the backburner making the change. So you have to do the advocacy work to get those other values recognized. But understand in the short term, that's not going to be a luxury for you to spend half your time on making that case. And everybody's just fine to wait, which I think a year ago, because of the macroeconomic conditions being so positive, we all had a little bit more wiggle room. Like everything was on the up and up. So that would be my big advice is try to get better attribution, however you can, even if you have to go back and steal from your ops department to get those resources, and then really deliver on what your organization cares about strategically and values the most. And then spend like 10% of your time trying to advocate for the broader changes that get the other stuff recognized.

That is perfect, thank you so much and I completely agree with you. Asher?

Asher: I would just say in the next 18 months, if you don't report to the CEO, whoever you report to, whoever the C-suite executive is, just go and align with them. Because they have an extremely big, fat target on their back, and whatever you can do to help them. Again, if you're reporting to CRO, for sure, you're gonna have source revenue, if you're reporting to a CMO, but the company has deployed an account-based sales and marketing model - something that Demandbase advocates for - then you're kind of tied. And at that point in time, attribution makes sense, because you're actually going to be doing a lot more partner marketing than actually doing partner sales. And in partner marketing, whether you use UTM links or use campaign codes or use different landing pages, the system already exists to support you. So you don't have to reinvent the wheel. But what's important is to be laser-focused - if you report to the CEO, then go aligned with that person and be like, "Hey, what are the two things I need to get done so it makes your next board meeting simpler?" And if it's not that, if you are to the CFO, the CEO, whoever else it is, just align with them and say, "What is the one thing I can do to make sure your next board meeting is straightforward?" And just go be laser-focused on that and just drop everything. I know it's very hard, because as partner people, we are the “always-be-opening-doors” people, right? So the shiny object syndrome is very, very high for us, right? But in the next 18 months, we gotta dial it in and just be very focused on doing a few things really, really well and not worrying about it. And I also believe that the people that survived this are actually going to become pretty amazing partnership leaders with solid operational chops.

Thanks so much, guys. Kelly and Asher. One outcome that I got from this discussion, which was fantastic, is that partnership people look like you guys. They have a lot of layers of understanding of different facets of how organizations operate, and how other companies around them operate. Thanks so much for sharing your insights. I look forward to doing another one at some point.

This was great. Thanks for having me. By the way, folks. This partner ops campaign is a year-long campaign, as Kelly was talking about earlier on. We intend to do multiple sessions, and we can also come back on this podcast because as time goes by, we're collecting new data points, new stories, and new best mental models of how to share this. Thanks to Kelly for starting this whole thing.

Thank you for having us. Yeah, thanks so much.


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