As any partnerships leader knows, alignment is the key to building successful partnerships—but it’s all too easy to focus exclusively on external alignment. While this form of alignment is undoubtedly crucial, getting internal buy-in from relevant stakeholders is an equally significant part of running a successful partnerships program.

In this installment of Partner School, Firneo CEO and founder Scott Pollack spoke with Povilas Steikunas, Head of Partnerships at Ondato. During their conversation, Povilas shared his wealth of experience in managing partnerships, sales strategy, and customer success teams. He also highlighted the intricacies of keeping internal stakeholders engaged in the partnerships ecosystem—especially stakeholders involved with sales and marketing.

Insights on Getting Internal Stakeholders Engaged

Partnerships leaders are responsible for keeping their partners happy, but they need to give stakeholders in other departments a reason to care about these relationships as well. With that in mind, Povilas encouraged these people to:

1. Emphasize Alignment

Povilas stressed that establishing alignment between different departments’ goals is crucial, whether this alignment is related to revenue or other key performance indicators (KPIs). The aim is to achieve a win-win-win situation that provides benefits to your company, its partners, and the end customer.

2. Have a Clear Focus

To overcome challenges in aligning partnerships, sales, and marketing, Povilas pointed to the significance of focus. In particular, aligning industries between sales and partnerships is key—if the sales team is organized by industry, the partnerships team should follow suit. That will ensure a shared focus and facilitate collaboration.

3. Communicate and Build Trust

Trust is another critical factor behind successful partnerships. According to Povilas, a company’s partnerships will be unable to thrive if this organization’s departments aren’t able to communicate their goals and support each other in achieving them.

4. Take Ownership Seriously

Povilas went on to emphasize the significance of leadership and ownership in the partnerships realm. He suggested that the Head of Sales and Head of Marketing should take charge, providing clear communication, learning experiences, and awareness about partner solutions. Having a defined ownership structure will ensure smoother collaboration between departments.

Lessons from Real-World Challenges

In partnerships, quality is far more important than quality—and Povilas candidly shared a valuable lesson from his early experiences to demonstrate why. He recounted a time when he focused on signing numerous partnership contracts, only to realize that doing so led to suboptimal results. 

In order to avoid situations like this, partnerships leaders should take time to truly understand their partners’ solutions and align them with their own organization’s goals. By doing so, they’ll have an opportunity to build deeper collaborations that yield substantial value. 

Unlocking Opportunities through Qualitative Approaches

During the discussion, Povilas also encouraged partnerships leaders to step out of their comfort zones. He emphasized the need for qualitative approaches such as:

1. Technological Knowledge

When they understand precisely how their partners’ solutions work, partnerships leaders will find it easier than ever to build solid relationships with these companies. This process involves gaining technical knowledge to comprehend core systems, integrations, and industry-specific solutions.

2. Strategic Ecosystem Creation

Povilas presented the creation of ecosystems as another strategic approach. By focusing on specific industries and creating ecosystems around them, partnerships can seamlessly integrate with sales efforts. This strategic alignment enhances the value proposition for both internal and external stakeholders.

3. Qualitative Analysis and Organic Growth

Povilas also highlighted the importance of organic growth, where partnerships can bring unexpected opportunities. Through qualitative analysis and an organic understanding of their partners, companies can unlock new possibilities. And when they’re willing to learn and adapt, partnerships leaders can identify areas for collaboration that may not have been apparent initially.

Teaching Sales Teams the Value of Partnerships

As the conversation continued, Povilas emphasized the importance of giving sales teams reasons to engage with their company’s partnerships program. Specifically, he suggested incorporating partner products into sales quotas and goals, ensuring a seamless integration that motivates sales representatives. 

By offering these bonuses and rewards, organizations can create the engagement they desire without deviating from their core industry focuses. And once sales teams have a chance to see the benefits of partnerships for themselves, they won’t need extra encouragement to work with partners.

Scott asked whether these motivational efforts are meant for partner sales teams, internal sales teams, or both. Povilas clarified that the incentives he discussed apply to both of these teams. When partnerships leaders motivate and collaborate with sales teams, these teams will become more receptive to partner solutions—ultimately driving faster deals.

How Informal Interactions Can Help

As another way of building camaraderie between members of a company’s partnerships and sales teams (among other stakeholders), Povilas expressed the value of informal interactions within the workplace. Playing games like ping pong or billiards creates an environment where colleagues can naturally discuss work-related topics, share information, and solve problems. These informal settings can also help to foster relationships and streamline communication.

Collaborating with Marketing

Moving on to marketing, Povilas outlined the key benefits that partnerships bring to marketing teams. By leveraging the partner ecosystem, marketing teams can generate more qualified leads, facilitate promotional activities, and garner positive reviews.

Povilas and Scott also discussed common challenges partnerships leaders face while working with their companies’ marketing teams. Povilas identified three key hurdles:

  1. The absence of a shared goal, which can lead to confusion and ineffective collaboration.
  2. A lack of trust, since building trust is essential for successful partnerships. 
  3. Poor communication—this can hinder a partnerships program’s progress.

Fortunately, these challenges are far from insurmountable. Partnerships leaders can overcome these hurdles by creating goals that consider multiple departments’ priorities, gradually building trust by expressing their program’s positive results, and establishing solid lines of communication between different teams.

Case Study: Ondato and Microsoft

To illustrate how a company’s marketing and partnerships teams can work together, Povilas talked about a successful partnership between Ondato and Microsoft. For this partnership, Ondato’s marketing and partnerships departments collaborated on initiatives where 50% of the marketing budget was allocated to joint marketing efforts. 

While working on this partnership, marketing focused on lead generation and partnerships handled coordination and implementation. The result was a situation where both parties benefited from leveraging each other’s strengths—and a perfect example of how strategic partnerships lead to mutually advantageous outcomes.

Master Internal Alignment Strategies with Firneo

When they focus on both external and internal alignment, partnerships leaders can strengthen their relationships with their partners and colleagues while getting better results than ever before. But in order to successfully build this alignment while handling the other day-to-day challenges associated with partnerships, people working in this field need a strong foundation of industry knowledge—and that knowledge can be surprisingly hard to come by. 

As the world’s leading name in partnerships education, Firneo can help. Our Mastering Partnerships Strategy program will help you understand the challenges most partnerships leaders deal with and arm you with common-sense solutions to these problems. Take the first step towards ensuring your future success in the industry by signing up today!

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