Interview with an Expert: Barrett King
Partnerships expert Barrett King explains how to train for partnerships, and what skills you will need to excel.
Barrett King: You should ground in some core concepts. I had somebody far more experienced than me back in the day say every new hire should fill one of three buckets: domain specific, role specific, and product specific.
When I set out to build training around it, I would think about those buckets in primary and assume that, generally speaking, people had some domain experience, not a lot of role specific and then, and some form of product [experience] though it wasn't specifically ours. When you build training in that modality and framework, a lot of it comes down to “what are the gaps in the average new hire?” So there was a sales training curriculum and a product curriculum.
Also, I think you have to narrow down on teaching someone how to do something that is pioneering in many industries, so new and fresh. It's the things that are tangible, like business acumen and business perspective. At its core, it's gaining perspective on the actual businesses that you're partnering with because in partnerships, you have to [ask] “who are we as a company?” “What is our product?” “Why does a partner add value to their customer using our product or solution?” That's the contextual part that's important.
Sarah Loughry: Is there one you think is most important to have?
Barrett King: I think you gain most of your knowledge around the vertical itself. Your competitive analysis, your objection handling, your industry trends, your case studies—that stuff you better be damn good at teaching others, because that's the nuance of how you win in your industry.
Sarah Loughry: When someone is transitioning into partnerships, what skill would you say is most valuable?
Barrett King: If you're not good at people, you shouldn't even explore the profession. That's the reality of it. But I think if you are good at people and understand what value you bring, then it gets interesting then it starts to turn the corner. And that comes from, as I mentioned before, those more verticalized experiences you should have combined with core business acumen.
Sarah Loughry: What would you say to someone who's just starting out?
Barrett King: Do the work close to the partners. Go be a frontline employee first. That's gonna give you empathy, perspective, and experience in the problems that your partner solves. Then, go be a manager of frontline people. Master the art of frontline work, and master the art of helping others master the art of frontline work. Now you’ve got perspective.
Also, pick an industry that has partners that are not hyper-siloed you really can't translate elsewhere. I think it’s a common misjudgment that, starting out in your career, you're already going to be doing exactly what you want to do. I started as a restaurant host [and transitioned to] volunteering in my high school, and I became a teacher for six months because they needed somebody when a teacher went on a medical leave. Super random. Now I run go-to-market strategy, and as of last year, I know now this is what I want to do.
Sarah Loughry: Any final advice for people new to the partnerships space?
Barrett King: Be humble. Know [when] you don't have an answer. The more you can study [something], the better; you're not going to do it in three days. I know you're excited, but come in, make the observation, study the observation, draw your conclusion, and then wrap your conclusion in a nice, easy to digest package and then deliver that.
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