Partnerships Strategies for B2B Sales Development Representatives (SDRs): The Definitive Guide (2021)

No one seems to need a crystal ball more than you, Sales Development Representatives (SDRs). It would be easier for you to know what prospect(s) to approach, the best way to approach them, and whether they’ll be successful. In a world where only 28% of cold calls result in conversation, a crystal ball would make your life easier.

For instance, for you to contact a prospect at Microsoft, you’ll need to cold call or email an executive who is interested in your company’s services. If you call at the wrong time, you could lose the deal. Most customers would rather be called when they’re 70% into their purchase journey. Say the wrong thing, and you might end up pushing away your prospect.

Cold calls aren't the only low-ROI prospecting tools you SDRs have to work with. You might need to try anything under the sun, from social selling to cold emails to events. 

What if there was a better way to improve your success rate as an SDR? Partnership programs have proved to be spectacular at helping SDRs develop warm pitches for a better chance at success.

Whether or not you're new to partnerships, this guide will provide you with a blueprint for how to use partnerships effectively and answer the following questions:

  • What is co-selling?
  • What is a partnership ecosystem?
  • Why are partnerships important?
  • How do partnerships help SDRs prospect better?
  • How to connect with your partner manager?
  • What are the best practices for running interactions with partner managers?
  • What are the dos and don’ts when forming a partnership?
  • How to leverage Partnered for partnerships?

Co-Selling and Partnership Ecosystems

The whole idea behind partnerships is creating relationships that are mutually beneficial to both parties involved. Partnerships can help SDRs get more leads and develop warm pitches to target audiences. In most cases, success involves creating co-selling opportunities and partnership ecosystems.

What Is Co-Selling?

Co-selling is when two sales teams from different companies collaborate to better sell their products. Your sales team will get a huge chunk of helpful information and prospecting opportunities. 

Co-selling can help you generate more data, introductions, resources, and contacts to close deals faster. It is easy to increase consumer confidence in your products since your partners could also endorse your products to prospects.

Today, co-selling is much easier than in the past. You can map new accounts in real-time, which eliminates the need to spend hours filling spreadsheets and analyzing data. 

Instead, you simply tap into your partner's resources for insights on how to better prospect and close deals. This relationship-centric strategy allows you to improve close rates, fill product gaps, increase deal sizes, and outdo the competition.

What Is a Partnership Ecosystem?

A partnership ecosystem is simply your network of partners. These ecosystems represent groups of businesses that have partnered to optimize their opportunities by sharing key insights.


To be successful, members of these ecosystems must actively and publicly engage in the relationship. While you can create a partnership with businesses within your vertical, you can also look for partners across different verticals.

A good example of a partner ecosystem is Adobe. The CRM platform has formed partnerships with Oracle, Salesforce, and VMware — companies that can mutually benefit from each other. 

Some of these Adobe partners also partner with each other: Oracle has partnerships with both VMware and Slack. This network of businesses creates a partner ecosystem that can mutually rely on each other. 

There are three main types of co-selling partnerships: tech or integration partnerships, channel partnerships, and agency.

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 an ISV join forces to ensure all client requests are met. For example, HubSpot is an all-in-one software providing impeccable inbound marketing and sales tools. Additionally, HubSpot’s marketing agency program offers its 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 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 co-selling, we’ll stay focused on Tech/Integration partnerships since these are the most common type of co-selling partnerships.

Why Are Partnerships Important?

Partnership ecosystems are important for two main reasons. First, it is hard for any single company to reach all its potential customers. Partnership ecosystems better position your brand to reach more customers. 

Second, it can be even more challenging for your business to offer an end-to-end solution to your customer's pain points. A great ecosystem will fill the gaps in your product and service offerings to provide a comprehensive solution.

Examples of highly successful partnerships include:

  • Apple and MasterCard: Apple revolutionized mobile payments, but to do that, it had to partner with MasterCard to integrate technologies. Apple got to be an innovator, and MasterCard improved its competitive advantage and attracted new customers.
  • Airbnb and Flipboard: This relationship helps Airbnb users receive lifestyle content from people with similar interests. In turn, Flipboard receives a bevy of new users. Airbnb and Flipboard pride themselves as curators of great experiences. While Airbnb empowers travellers to see the world under their own rules, Flipboard helps travellers share their experiences through engaging mobile-friendly content. The partnership led to the launch of Airbnb Experience Magazines on Flipboard, where travellers could share information about their experiences in different parts of the US. Flipboard got to attract more readers to their app, while Airbnb got a marketing channel that could redirect anyone who would love similar experiences to their website.
  • Salesforce and Slack: Thanks to this partnership, Salesforce users can seamlessly share Salesforce data on Slack and import Slack conversations to Salesforce. This partnership worked so well it even wound up in an acquisition! Both companies get users that are interested in their services from each other. It is also harder for users to leave either of the two if they're still using the other due to the seamless experience.

Partner ecosystem adoption rates

  • Partnerships are all the rage—84% of companies consider partner ecosystems essential to their strategy.
  • 7 of the top 12 largest companies by market capitalization (Alibaba, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet (Google), and Tencent) participate in partner ecosystems.
  • 57% of organizations rely on partnerships for lead generation.

Partnership success rates


How Do Partnerships Help SDRs Prospect Better?

As an SDR, partnerships will help you better understand prospects and their stage in the buyer's journey. They will also increase your chances of making a relevant and successful pitch. Since timing is key, understanding your prospect's stand can help you create a better pitch. Great partners can help you figure out the best time for approaching prospects based on their past interactions with them.

Ideally, you will conduct account mapping while establishing a partnership. This involves creating a list of potential and current customers and sharing it with the partner. Any overlaps between the two lists can present opportunities, customers, and prospects for both parties. 

You can also receive insights into how to break into some accounts. However, for partnerships to be successful, you have to stay in sync with your partners by sharing the right data and insights.

"Staying in sync with our partners is crucial for our organization" —Dan Zurek, mParticle

For instance, you have to establish how integrating your solutions will improve the lives of your current customers. 

Another great example is the partnership between Freshworks (an intelligent customer and employee engagement software) and Tech Data (a global IT solution distributor and aggregator). The partnership introduced Freshworks to the Indian market while helping strengthen Tech Data's service offerings.

How to Connect with Your Partner Manager

As an SDR, it usually takes some time to get into contact with a partner manager for a partner.

You need to contact your partner manager who will then get in touch with the partner's partner manager. Once you get a response, you need to manually map out your prospects and customers on a spreadsheet before sharing it with the partner manager.

With Partnered, you will only need a fraction of the time and effort. We provide an easier connection to partner managers and streamline information flow.

Once you figure out which partner managers are the ones to work with at your company, you can use our tools to map accounts and see overlaps with your partners seamlessly. It becomes easier to identify the accounts to concentrate more on and what to ignore.

Best Practices For Running Interactions With Partner Managers

Once you get connected with a partner manager, be sure to offer them as much information as necessary. This account information should include the relevant news, background, history, compelling events, key contacts you have targeted, and upcoming events.

All this information helps the partner manager understand how to best serve you. 

Also, ensuring that you have all the right questions prepared for your meeting with the partner is essential. It allows you to get the insights you need while optimizing everyone's time.

Reciprocity for SDRs—How To Give Back To Your Partners

Partnerships are two-way relationships. 

Both teams involved should benefit from any partnership. If a partner offers insights and data on a prospect, build trust by sharing something helpful too. You can provide information or refer them to a prospect.

Most importantly, stay true to your word. Partnerships only work when both parties follow up on their end of the bargain. If you promised to introduce your partner to an executive, get it done. Have you said you’ll deliver information concerning deals or call cycles? Share it with your partner. 

Relationships built on trust tend to go far.

The Dos And Don'ts of Forming a Partnership

It’s challenging for a partnership that isn't mutually beneficial to thrive. Ideally, both parties have to give something to keep the relationship from seeming one-sided. Avoid asking for too much without reciprocating with information or help.

Ideally, you should offer helpful information without expecting anything in return. Sure, some partners might not manage to help you at the moment, but you never know what the future holds. The idea is to make the relationship less transactional and more mutually beneficial.

You should also:

  • Conduct deep research on your partners before starting a partnership. This helps you understand areas where your priorities and opportunities align. It also makes it easier to manage the relationship.
  • Ask for feedback from your partners for insights on how the market is fairing from their perspective. You should also seek feedback on how well you have handled the relationship.
  • Be in constant communication with your partners. Whether formal or informal, keeping tabs on your partners will help you nurture a more beneficial relationship.
  • Avoid starting a partnership without a plan. A well-thought-out plan helps you hit the ground running. It provides insights on how to maximize your relationship from your perspective.
  • Avoid ignoring requests and inquiries from your partners. Ensuring that your partners are happy with your interactions sets your relationship up for success. Besides making them feel unappreciated, ignoring your partners' requests or inquiries could result in you ignoring valuable business opportunities.

Best Practices for SDR-to-SDR Relationships

SDR-to-SDR relationships should be built on a collaborative approach. Understanding each other's points of view and objectives and helping each other attain their respective goals should be the target. 

When talking about accounts or prospects, be sure to offer as many insights as possible. Full-context information will help your partner thrive in their specific niche. 

You should also:

  • Share warm introductions with your partners
  • Identify any shared objectives to find ways to help each other
  • Encourage informal check-ins to form low-pressure relationships with your partners
  • Set sessions for celebrating wins and milestones that your partners helped achieve
  • Leverage data insights for a more granular approach to partner relationships and prospecting

How Do You Make Sure You’re Not Asking for Too Much?

When your paycheck is contingent on the number of deals you close, it is normal to do everything in your power to close more deals. Sadly, taking more from your partners than you are willing to give will only hurt the relationship long-term, even if you might get some quick wins. Your partnership will work best if you are open to collaborating and sharing.

It is also possible to find ways to co-sell your products to improve their value to the end-user. All these benefits are hinged upon how strong your relationship with your partner is. Keep sharing insights and look for ways to include partners in deals that could benefit them.

How Do You Reach Out to SDRs at Partner Companies?

The typical process of building new SDR to SDR relationships is quite straightforward. You can contact your SDR manager who will then engage your partnership manager. The partnership manager then contacts the partner company to engage their partnership manager. The other side's partnership manager then reaches out to the SDR manager, who contacts the partner SDR.

Once you establish a relationship with a partner SDR, you can communicate directly with them without this lengthy process, unless you have an issue that needs the intervention of either partner manager.

SDR → SDR Manager → Engage Partnership manager → Partnership Manager contacts Partner Company & engages partnership manager → Partner Company Partnership Manager reaches out to SDR Manager → SDR Manager contacts SDR


Draft Email Example

Ideally, the first email you send out to the SDR manager or SDR should include an introduction that tells them more about who you are. This should be followed by a compliment or recognition that shares something you love about their company. 

You should follow this up with your request and offer—what you want from them and what they get in return. Wrap up the email with a call to action that gives them a path forward if they want to establish the partnership. 

Here is an email template to use:

Hey [PARTNER'S NAME],

I'm [YOUR NAME] from [YOUR COMPANY]. I've been following [PARTNER'S COMPANY], and I really enjoyed/resonated with [SPECIFIC PRODUCT/CONTENT EXAMPLE]. It [REASON YOU LIKED IT].

At [YOUR COMPANY'S NAME], we [one-sentence description of your business].

Are you interested in seeing how we can help each other on [ACCOUNT NAME]? In the past, we have [LIST OF SIMILAR PAST SUCCESSES]. We'd love to see if we can work something out.

Do you have time on [DATE AND TIME] for a quick call to discuss [ACCOUNT NAME] further?

Thanks,

[YOUR NAME]

Download all email templates and agenda tips to help lead you to success with your partner interactions

How To Plan The Meeting

Once you receive a positive response to your email, proceed to schedule your meeting. 

You should identify the meeting's agenda and goals. Be sure to write down some of the questions you wish to ask them and always lead with your information first to build trust.

Some of the questions to ask include:

  • Who are you working with?
  • What traction have you gotten this far?
  • Do you know which of the prospect's internal stakeholders is involved in the decision-making process?
  • Have you had any red flags with the prospect and/or people who have been detractors?
  • Do you know what the account's budgeting process is?

Something that might feel as trivial as the sports teams the internal stakeholder supports could help too. Such information helps you create a better pitch when prospecting.

What Questions Should You Ask, and What Should You Avoid? 

Partnerships bring together two willing SDRs to form a mutually beneficial relationship. You only get what the other side is willing to give. Avoid asking for too much.

For instance, don't request an introduction unless the other party brings it up. Also, avoid sharing or asking for any confidential information like pricing.

Talk about their goals and objectives to find ways you can help out. This sets the stage for reciprocity and a healthy relationship.

Keep the other side updated on any updates relevant to them. You can schedule three-month calls to keep pushing the ball forward with your relationship.

Once you close a deal with their help, don't forget to reach out to thank them.

Learn more about building successful partnerships.

Sales Team Networks — Key Benefits Of Partnered

Partnered is where you can connect your sales team with your partner sales teams to exchange customer introductions. In just a few clicks, you can 100X your sales team's network. 

With the best practices for leveraging partnerships and insights learned in this guide, combined with a powerful sales team network like Partnered, you will be on your way to achieving or exceeding your goals with ease. 

Our platform will help you:

  • Identify which accounts/partners to focus on
  • Unlock relationships you didn't know existed
  • Proactively identify which contacts to go after
  • Get alerts on any relevant partnership updates
  • Navigate every deal like a pro

 

How To Leverage Partnered For Partnerships

Using Partnered is quite straightforward. It can help you with:

  • Prospecting planning: Easily see your account overlap with partners and quickly see where to prioritize your book of business based on which prospects are in-market. 
  • Having trouble breaking into an account? Connect with your partners whenever you identify an issue or prospect you could use their help with.
  • Figuring out who is the right champion: Easily see who are the right people you should be targeting with your outreach.
  • Events or joint product sessions: Identify whether there are products or events that you could collaborate with your partner to benefit both of you.
  • New Prospecting Ideas: Identify growth opportunities with your partner by establishing your ideal customer’s interest.

Establish Helpful Partnerships

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." No statement resonates better with the modern-day SDR than this.

Partnerships will give you insights into how to close specific deals. They are a powerful tool for establishing relationships that can mean more profit for you, better service for your prospects, and a better understanding of your customers and prospects for your company.

Want to learn more and chat with a Partnered professional today to gain further insight on how to best set up and take advantage of your sales team network at your organization? Schedule a free strategy call!

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