Partnerships Strategies for B2B Account Executives: The Definitive Guide (2022)

Back in the day, if a person or company needed a product or a solution, they’d connect with a vendor to chat with a salesperson. The salesperson would pitch them product options to choose from. If the company was happy with the pitch, the sale would be made.

It was a very direct sales process. But things aren’t the same anymore. B2B sales have transformed dramatically in the past several years.

Now, with the power of online research, social media, and free trials, buyers can complete nearly 70% of their decision-making process without even speaking to a salesperson.

Consequently, marketing and sales have transformed, creating a sea of challenges for B2B SaaS companies.

The power of partnerships has become more important than ever as they allow savvy teams to alleviate a number of these challenges and get ahead of the competition. These days, they’ve become vital for success.

In this definitive guide of partnership strategies for B2B account executives, we’ll answer the following questions: 

Click to Download this Playbook: Partnerships Strategies for B2B Account Executives: the Definitive Guide

What Is Co-Selling?

Co-selling happens when your company partners with another, complementary company to mutually help each other make more sales by sharing customer information, providing warm introductions, and making referrals.

The two companies will be involved in every step of the sales process and, depending on the relationship, might even share the revenue they generate from the partner sale.

There are three main types of account-based networking (ABN) partnerships in SaaS: tech or integration partnerships, channel partnerships, and agency partnerships.

Tech/integration partnerships:

Tech/integration partnerships involve two software vendors targeting similar customers with their tech solution products. Think of Salesforce and Snowflake, the latter of which is available in the Salesforce AppExchange. This is a paid integration that helps Salesforce users efficiently and conveniently extract data from the Snowflake database.

Agency Partnerships:

An agency partnership is when an agency and a software vendor join forces to ensure all client requests are met. For example, HubSpot is an all-in-one software providing inbound marketing and sales tools. Additionally, HubSpot has agencies they work with that offer partners training, guidance, and support to grow their business and retain clients. This is a win-win for both the agency and the ISV.

Channel partnerships:

Channel partnerships include a reseller and software vendor working together with their sales teams to identify suitable customers and close deals. Shopify is a prime example of this. Leveraging channel partnerships, Shopify made $673 million in revenue back in 2017, while its partners made $800 million.

For purposes of account-based networking, we’ll stay focused on Tech/Integration partnerships since these are the most common type of account-based networking partnerships. 

What Partner Ecosystems Are and Why They Matter?

Simply put, a partner ecosystem is a single company’s network of partners. Within this network (or ecosystem), your partners could also be each other’s partners.

Let’s look at a heavy hitter like Salesforce. With over 2,200 partners, many of Salesforce’s partners have partnered with each other to complement the functionality of their own software through tech integrations.

Shopify, another big player with over 700 partners, has earned itself a spot at the top as an e-commerce platform due to its many seamless integrations.

Now that we understand what a partner ecosystem is, let’s explore why they matter.

Why Do Partner Ecosystems Matter?

A strong partner ecosystem can make all the difference in getting your product or service in front of the right customers and helping you uncover new market opportunities for your business.

Additionally, it can also help you find ways to provide more value to your customers, increase brand loyalty, generate leads, and expand your market share.

The truth is, one company can’t serve every customer’s needs, nor can it reach them all. A partner ecosystem provides you with a competitive edge and takes your company to the next level.

Leveraging a partner ecosystem can be the missing puzzle piece in driving success to your business and helping you hit your sales goals.

But before you scout out suitable partners, it’s important to be familiar with the different types of partnerships available so you can understand how to co-sell with each one of them. 

Partnership Types and Examples

A strategic partnership is an agreement between two business entities with similar customers to share resources with the goal of mutual success. 

There are several types of strategic partnerships out there. Your partner manager, depending on your company’s needs, will decide which partnership is right for the company. Then, it’s your job, as the account executive, to connect with the partners and kick-start your successful partnership. 

Understanding that type of partnership should be the first step.

The following are high-level descriptions of different types of strategic partnerships:

Tech Integration Partners

We briefly mentioned this type of partnership above, but to touch on it again: a tech (or integration) partner is a company that you’ve partnered with that will offer an integration with your product. Think of Zoom and Slack; this integration partnership allows users of both Zoom and Slack to make Zoom calls directly from Slack.

Having the ability to integrate with other software is more appealing to your potential clients as you’ll be bringing them convenience in the form of a one-stop-shop.

Agency Partners

An agency (or software) partnership takes care of customer sales, software training, or ongoing support on behalf of your SaaS company for a consulting fee.

Your SaaS company directs leads to your agency partner(s), and tier partners sell the software and recommend your company’s software to their own clients. 

The Benefits of Partnerships for B2B Account Executives

Strategic partnerships can go a long way for B2B companies. In fact, 85% of business owners believe partnerships are necessary for success.

Some of the key benefits of partnerships are:

  • New Introductions & Leads: Cost-effective growth opportunities in a crowded market
  • New Access: Access to key decision-makers at prospective companies
  • New Information: Access to historical data, including geographies, markets, and buying trends
  • New Recommendations: The ability to scale faster than would otherwise be possible

Let’s look at a company like ConvertKit. Thanks to its efforts facilitating 150 webinars in partnership with other like-minded companies, ConvertKit grew from $98k to $625k in only one year.

A partnership with like-minded entrepreneurs can help save both companies a lot of time. And before your partner manager finds potential partners, they take the time to think of the ideal co-selling partner.

The reality is, nearly 60-70% of partnerships fail, as Knowledge points out.

It’s not that partnerships are ineffective; it’s actually quite the opposite. When they work, they can bring significant value to both sides, which is why companies invest in partner teams.

Your partner team’s job is to understand who the company’s ideal co-selling partner is (and, more often than not, they’re actually compensated for helping you close more revenue with your partners!). 

As an account executive, it’s your job to meet your sales quota. And one way to accelerate your sales process is by leveraging co-selling partnerships.  

Before doing so, you should be aware of the following best practices and rules of engagement when connecting with your partners. 

  • Connect with ideal customer profiles that overlap with your own
  • Connect with partners that have experience with a product/service similar to your own
  • Connect with partners that have influence in the market
  • Identify existing or potential integrations for your customers
  • Take time to help partners understand your product (and take time to understand theirs)
  • Make the relationship a social experience

Let’s dive in!

Click to Download this Playbook: Partnerships Strategies for B2B Account Executives: the Definitive Guide

Partnership Best Practices and Rules of Engagement for Account Executives

Partnership Best Practices

1. Connect with ideal customer profiles that overlap with your own 

With overlap in customers, you and your partner company will have the opportunity to identify complementary products, services, and unique offerings for your customers. Additionally, overlap in customer profiles can help you level up your customer service.

And we haven’t even mentioned cross-promotion yet. That’s right. Cross-promotion [see How To Find New Customers and Increase Sales Using Strategic Partnerships]. We like to think of this as the two birds, one stone approach. For example, you can leverage social media or even paid ads to expose both brands at once. 

2. Connect with partners that have experience with a product/service similar to your own

Does your potential partner know your product? Do they know your industry? You don’t want to enter a relationship, then spend a ton of time educating your partner about what it is that you’re selling. 

Prior knowledge and experience with your industry, product and customers should be a factor in figuring out which partners you want to invest your time into co-selling with.

3. Connect with partners that have influence in the market

Are they a leader? Are they known for great customer service and client relationships? 

Your partner’s influence can help when they pitch your product or service. This added perk can go a long way to further support your sales goals as your partner can get your business in front of a lot of prospects. 

Also, another very important piece is cultural fit. You’re looking to grow, so it’s assumed you have a performance-driven attitude. You need a long-term commitment. 

4. Identify existing or potential Integrations for your customers

This is where co-selling is key and can help you and your partner drive the most value for your customers. 

Working with a partner that compliments your service allows you to deliver mutual value to a customer and continue to scale your business by filling your pipeline with warm, qualified leads. 

Let’s use HubSpot as an example. This inbound marketing giant, which now has over 2,000 partners, has grown its brand through the power of co-selling.

The beauty is, some of HubSpot’s partners get a commission when they sell a complimentary subscription to an existing HubSpot customer. That’s what you call a win-win.

We can take a page out of HubSpot’s book: incentivize your partners with a commission for sales of complementary products. 

So, to set yourself up for success, make sure that you understand your partner’s product and how it can complement your own.

5. Take time to help partners understand your product (and take time to understand theirs) 

When a partner understands, or even better, uses your product, you’ve already got someone who values what you offer. 

This will help them to champion your product and provide warm leads when appropriate.

The same goes for you understanding what your partners sell. 

Mutual understanding helps create a collaborative environment in which you are actively looking for opportunities to introduce each other to a potential shared customer.

You and your partner can provide each other with training and marketing materials to help better understand each other’s company and processes. 

Each of you will know your customers best, so it’s essential to give your partner room to put their style in their marketing efforts. 

6. Make the relationship a social experience

Communication is key in partnerships.

It helps strengthen your relationship and decrease the chances of any roadblocks. This is why frequent communication is imperative to the success of your working arrangement.

Here are some efficient and easy ways to stay connected.

You can set up private communities:

  • Slack channels
  • Facebook groups
  • LinkedIn groups 

Whatever you decide on, it will be an easily accessible one-stop-shop for communication.  

You can use these communication channels to: 

  • Provide updates, feedback, success stories, and Q&A for you, your partners, vendors, and sales representatives
  • Share expertise, information on mutual customers, tips, strategies, best practices, and more
  • Share important or even urgent information regarding customers and anything that could further support your businesses 

The goal is to provide partners (and help them provide you) with just-in-time information to help close deals faster. 

So, you’ve got a stacked list of best practices for partnerships. The question is: how do you run your partner interactions once your partner manager makes the introduction? This is where the partnership rules of engagement come to play.

Rules Of Engagement For Partnerships

When you reach out to any prospect, you need to have your communication planned. You want to have a clear and concise ask with an attention-grabbing lead-in to ensure you capture your prospect’s attention. 

Once you start locking meetings in, you’ll need to prepare meeting agendas and questions.  

The following are downloadable templates to help lead you to success with your partner interactions:

Get all the Rules of Partner Engagement for Account Executives (2021) 

How do you feel after going through the best practices and rules of engagements? We hope you’re feeling confident about your next partner meeting. That’s our goal with this complete guide; we want you to exit your partner meetings feeling like a million bucks.

Though crushing your partner meetings is super important, knowing how to get to your potential partners is even more important.  

At this point, you know that partnerships can drive your sales targets. The million-dollar question is: where do you find your partners? 

The answer: your partner team.

The next section covers the best practices for working with your partner team.

Let’s dive in!

Best Practices For Working With Your Your Partner Team

The core issue is that there can be a major disconnect between your sales team and your partner team. Your sales team may not necessarily know that your partner team is there to support you.

At times, it probably feels like they don’t even exist.

The fact is, they do. And they’re there to support you in driving as much revenue as possible.

So, take a step back and ask yourself: “when’s the last time I connected with my partner team?.” 

If you can’t remember, then chances are you’re not working with your partner team enough or at all.

News flash: your partner team holds the cheat sheet for your sales cycle. They can introduce you to various partners from within their ecosystem. 

This section is going to be short and sweet with a few very important best practices.

Let’s get to it.

  1. Don’t avoid your partner team. They’re there to support you (and more often than not, they’re actually even compensated for helping you!). If used correctly, with access to various contacts, your partner team is going to be one of the biggest accelerants of your sales cycle. 
  1. Ensure that you have a regular cadence with your partner team. Make an effort to connect with them bi-weekly. Be proactive and schedule times in your calendar for you to connect with your partner team. Actually, why don’t you go ahead and mark it in your calendar now?

Your partner team holds all of the relationships across your organization's partner ecosystem, so you want to make sure that you’re extracting as much value from them as possible.

  1. Come prepared. If there are specific partners or opportunities you want to be exposed to, make sure that you go to your partner manager prepared with a list of well-thought-out target opportunities that are of interest to you. The more prepared and prescriptive you are, the easier it is for them to help you.

All of the ways in which you can increase the collaboration with your partner team will increase the chance of them helping you with your sales deals.

The more they help you, the faster you’ll close your deals.

Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

Remember these best practices. Connect with your partner team.

Once your partner team starts introducing you to their contacts, it’s important to track all of your interactions. Back in the day, people resorted to manually inputting their data in spreadsheets.

In this modern era, there are account-based partnership platforms.

Let’s jump into the next section and explore what account-based partnership platforms are.

Click to Download this Playbook: Partnerships Strategies for B2B Account Executives: the Definitive Guide

Account-Based Partnership Platforms

There was once a time when people manually input their data into spreadsheets. Thanks to account-based partnership platforms, that’s no longer necessary.

What Are Account-Based Partnership (ABP) Platforms?

Account-based partnership (ABP) platforms are cloud-based software that allows you to track, manage, and share data with partners within your partner ecosystem.

What Are the Key Features of an ABP Platform?

  • Account Mapping
  • Collaboration
  • Data Analysis
  • Security

Most platforms can perform account mapping, but one of the critical features of ABP platforms is collaboration.

Collaboration allows you to share sensitive information such as leads, customers, and potential opportunities, securely and safely to your partners within your partner ecosystem.

ABP platforms allow you to integrate with CRMs like Salesforce so you can export your data from your ABP platform and view it in Salesforce. The ability to integrate with other software can be a deciding factor for some people/companies when choosing the right platform.

Being aware of these important features will help you when searching for the right platform. But, we promise you that you won’t have to search for long…

The Partnered Account-Based Partnership Platform

Partnered, which checks all of the key feature boxes, is the simplest and most effective ABP platform that allows you and the rest of your sales team to reap the rewards of your partnership program.   

Partnered is a fully automated platform that crunches partner data and pushes key insights into the laps of your sales team, allowing them to save time prospecting and use powerful insights to close more deals.

Check out this case study featuring Branch, a global mobile SaaS company, that highlights how they increased their pipeline goal by 200% in only three months by leveraging Partnered’s account-based partnership platform. 

Partnered was a game-changer for Branch. It helped sales and business development teams rework their entire workflows. 

It gives you the opportunity to attribute results to specific partners. 

You’ve got the partnership best practices down and know how to own a partnership meeting. You know how to work with your partner team, and you know all about account-based partnership platforms and their key features. 

But, how do you get your company on board with partnerships? 

That’s in the next section. 

How to Get Your Company on Board with Partnerships 

Growing your sales pipeline can be challenging in an ever-so-saturated SaaS marketplace. 

There are likely many companies marketing products similar to your own, so what matters is who can get their product in front of their target audience efficiently. That’s where strategic partnerships come to play. 

Strategic partnerships are jam-packed with benefits. Once your company understands them, it sure is easy to get on board with pursuing one (or many).

If you’ve made it this far, you have a great sense of what the benefits of partnerships are, but let’s go ahead and recap them below:

  • Cost-effective growth opportunities in a crowded market
  • Access to key decision-makers at prospective companies
  • Access to historical data, including geographies, markets, and buying trends
  • The ability to scale faster than would otherwise be possible

1. Cost-effective growth opportunities in a crowded market

When you partner up with a complementary company, they can provide warm introductions to prospects that can benefit from adding your product or service to their tech stack.

Not only does this help you bypass a competitive, crowded market, but it also helps your team save a ton of money that would have been spent on marketing, man-hours, and other prospecting efforts. 

2. Access to key decision-makers at prospective companies

Say goodbye to hours spent finding the right person to talk to, or worse, having a deal fall through because you weren’t speaking to a key decision-maker. Partners can provide warm introductions to the EXACT person you need to talk to who has the power to buy your product or service and a genuine interest in doing so.

These referrals can lead to a 70% higher conversion rate.

3. Access to historical data, including geographies, markets, and buying trends

A lot of your team’s time is spent exploring markets, buying trends, and data to help you break into prospective companies and sell your products and services.

Partners can provide this information for you based on their company’s current customer list and prospecting efforts.

This only helps to speed up your team’s time to close and make that money!

4. The ability to scale faster than would otherwise be possible

Traditional sales growth strategies (cold calling, in-person meetings, rounds of golf) take time. A lot of time.

What is one thing that B2B SaaS companies don’t have a lot of? Time.

You need to grow quickly, and strategic alliances allow you to do so.

By leveraging a partner's clientele to get warm introductions, insider information, and personal recommendations, you can fill your pipeline and decrease your time to close dramatically.

Convincing your team that a partnership program is going to level up your company shouldn’t be difficult. You can take the benefits listed above back to your company and consider if partnerships can work for your company and product(s). If yes (this is usually the case), then it’s time to find partners and execute the relationship with confidence.

Book a free strategy call to chat with a Partnered professional today to gain further insight on how to best set up and take advantage of a partner program at your organization!


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