Ask anyone in your company to define the partner manager’s role, and you may find that it’s not a very well-understood profession. This is especially true when there are valid cases for partner managers to report directly to operations, sales, marketing, or product teams. Because of the broad scope that partner managers can fit under, companies approach partner management in the same generality as a business development role, with little or no formal process guiding partnerships.
While having a sales or marketing background is certainly beneficial, partnerships are also now rooted in technical integrations that influence how companies collaborate and create value for their customers. As companies continue to transform digitally to get closer to the customer, partner managers must maintain an agile approach. Outside of the partner manager, one other position that faced a similar challenge and developed into a pivotal role today is the product manager.
The Partner Management Mindset
As businesses evolved, so did the role of product management. Product managers evolved from brand management in the 1930s to what some would call the mini-CEO of products due to their expansive set of responsibilities and functions. In 2001, product managers experienced a significant focus shift. As product management’s role moved into the tech world, it became evident that the importance of understanding the customer and their needs would have to be aligned with the product’s development — a common set of principles within product development needed to be created. As a result, the Agile Manifesto was born.
Today, the reasons customers purchase are changing, and partner management principles are evolving in response. Like product managers, successful partner managers come from various industry backgrounds with experience in multiple disciplines. It’s this variety of experiences that create the partner management mindset.
Without the execution of a purpose and a set of principles, a partner manager cannot fulfill their role and chart out the necessary growth needed to compete in the market effectively. Taking a cue from product management, I’ve created a manifesto that acknowledges partner management’s common definition across any organization. The Partner Management Manifesto is a simple list that serves as a starting point for anyone searching for the best way to convey the partner manager’s mindset to others in the company. It recognizes the position that partner managers are in today and their role as the internal and external evangelists for successful partnerships.
Partner Management Manifesto
- I have a strong vision for my partnerships and develop winning strategies that align with my company’s goals and ensure that our investments of time, money, and energy are well‐spent.
- I am committed to using the best methodologies, tools, templates, and techniques to be more efficient and effective at my job.
- I am an expert in all areas regarding my partnerships: customers, technology, competition, channels, trends, and anything else that must be taken into account to succeed.
- I rely on data to understand how my partnerships perform today and where they can go in the future.
- I am my partners’ and customers’ voice and represent them in every critical decision.
- I am a leader. I develop strong alliances with everyone in my company that I need to ensure my partnerships’ success. Some of these people will be challenging to work with, but I will find a way to make everyone successful as a team.
- I will do whatever it takes to persuade others internally to do what is right for my partners, customers, and company, even though I may have little or no authority.
- I am responsible for defining my product’s positioning to my partners and their customers.
- I will perform a healthy balance between inbound and outbound partner development and sales activities. Having this mix creates strong partner managers that build great partnerships that address the customer’s needs and drive revenue.
- I am not afraid to iterate my value proposition because great product positioning motivates partner sales teams to want to sell it, inspires customers to want to use it, and strikes fear into the competition.
Successful partnerships build exceptional customer experiences. Partner managers must influence and lead the charge by rallying others to their vision and drive success from concept to the market. Today, partner management is more than just a job title. Partner management is a mindset that allows partner managers to understand, process, and craft the potential value from various partners into actual partnerships that customers will love.