Uncovering The Power of Partner Operations: Tools, Strategies, and Advocacy
The Head of Partner Programs and Operations at Simpro Software shared insights on the transformative power of partner operations for B2B SaaS, from showcasing ROI to advocating for resources. We broke down the key takeaways.
November 8, 2023
On this episode of our podcast Between Product and Partnerships we interviewed Lindsey Traub, the Sr. Director and Head of Partner Programs and Operations at Simpro Software. Simpro is a field service management software for those in field service and trade contracting industries.
In this interview Lindsey shared her take on:
Advocating for partner operations: Why the role of Partner Operations is pivotal from the start to build scalable, robust programs.
The state of partner operations tools: The shift from DIY solutions to sophisticated, ready-to-deploy technologies.
ROI in partner operations: How to capture and demonstrate the real value of partnerships and partner operations.
Making the case for resources: How to effectively advocate for the resources your team needs, using data-driven insights and strategic communication.
Listen, watch, or check out the summary below.
Lindsey’s Path to Partner Operations
Lindsey’s career trajectory saw her lean into partnerships early. She recognized their potential to enhance customer stickiness and overall retention. However, her love for process and structure eventually pulled her towards partner operations, where she found her calling in being the architect behind successful programs.
“I saw the power of partnerships and how valuable they were. That's what drew me to partnerships in general. And from a partner operations perspective, I love being involved in the behind-the-scenes," she shared, emphasizing her role in creating streamlined processes and structures that drive successful partnerships.
State of Partner Operations Tools
When it comes to tools available for partner operations, Lindsey acknowledged the exciting growth in the sector. She noted the shift from having to build in-house solutions to now having a variety of specialized tools at one's disposal.
This evolution, according to her, is a promising sign for the industry.
"It's really exciting to see that there are even tools available now.
There's a new openness to what partners need, and what buyers need from these vendors," she observed, indicating a landscape ripe for innovation and customization in partner programs.
Despite the pivotal role that partner operations play, Lindsey admitted there’s a significant knowledge gap within organizations regarding this function.
She often finds herself explaining the value she brings to the table, and explaining how her role interplays with other parts of the organization like finance, legal, and customer success.
"People understand that there has to be an architect that builds the plane. You've got your VP driving your strategy, and I take all that strategy and make it possible," she shared, underlining the need for a strategic approach to scale and grow programs effectively.
Advocating for a Partner Operations Role
When asked about the ideal time for organizations to consider bringing in a partner operations professional, Lindsey’s advice was clear-cut: the sooner, the better.
She believes that the foundation of any successful partner program lies in its initial structure and processes. Therefore, having a partner operations person from the onset can ensure a scalable, robust program.
"If you build something without a good foundation, it's hard to scale. Let someone come in so they can help you build something that can be expanded upon," she advises.
Her insights make it clear that for companies venturing into new partnerships or looking to enhance existing ones, investing in partner operations isn't just advisable; it's integral to the program’s success.
As organizations continue to navigate the intricate world of SaaS partnerships, having an advocate for effective partner operations becomes not only beneficial but essential for sustainable growth.
Identifying and Showcasing ROI in Partner Operations
Lindsey also discussed the challenge of showcasing the Return on Investment (ROI) in partner operations. In the realm of partnerships, demonstrating tangible ROI isn't instant—it's a journey.
Lindsey emphasized the importance of capturing the low-hanging fruit initially, such as basic CRM metrics that could track program success.
She shared a personal anecdote from a previous role where the company knew they were participating in revenue-generating deals, but there was no structured reporting or consistent record-keeping.
By implementing a process and establishing fields in the CRM for tracking, Lindsey was able to capture essential data and demonstrate the value she brought to the role and the value the partnerships team brought in.
Bridging the Gap: From Building to Demonstrating ROI
Lindsey articulated the inherent challenge in bridging the gap between the phases of building a program and then showcasing its ROI.
It's essential, she notes, to find quick wins and low-hanging fruit to demonstrate value swiftly.
This strategy includes assisting sales in closing a deal with a partner's help or leveraging partners to help customer success managers retain customers.
But what’s more crucial is understanding the distinction between partner-sourced and partner-influenced success.
While partners might not have sourced a deal, their influence can be critical in sealing it. This subtle yet significant impact is something that needs tracking and acknowledgment, she urged.
Building Credibility in Your Partner Program
The process of building credibility and a compelling narrative around the partner program involves celebrating one small win at a time.
"You're setting the scene; you're understanding the characters, which are your internal teams, your partners," Lindsey stated, emphasizing the strategic, patient, and data-driven approach required to craft a successful, scalable partner program narrative.
Lindsey's advised partnership teams to trumpet their successes more loudly and assertively.
This effort, she suggested, should extend to training teams on growing the motions they initiate, highlighting the potential for success when partnerships are leveraged effectively.
Realizing the Untapped Potential of Partnerships
Lindsey explained that the journey often begins with an 'aha' moment when customer success and sales people recognize the potential lying in partnerships.
This shift is more than just a process—it’s about acknowledging the extensive opportunities and enhanced capabilities that come with embracing partners.
By doing internal education and fostering a deep understanding and appreciation across teams, companies can unlock new dimensions of growth and customer engagement.
"The minute it clicks for them, it opens up a whole new world."
Evolving from Basic to Advanced Partnering Processes
Moving beyond basic collaboration, Lindsey explained that the integration of advanced automation can transform the raw potential of partnership leads into a well-oiled machine.
This is all about taking the conventional, manual handoffs, and adopting innovative solutions that streamline operations and amplify impact.
Structured Lead Management
For lead sharing and collaboration, structure and automation stand out as critical players. Without a dedicated mechanism to handle incoming leads, even the strongest partnerships can falter.
Lindsey explained that investing in these systems from the outset not only ensures seamless lead management but also serves as a testament to the value you place on your partners' contributions.
"That automation piece is key because they usually don't exist at first."
Strategies for Building Partner Programs from Scratch
The prospect of starting a partner program from scratch can be daunting. Yet, Lindsey explained that this journey of introspection, strategy evaluation, and ecosystem understanding is where a resilient program can be built.
Lindsey explained that there are so many partnership opportunities that are hidden within organizations. By tapping into insights from various departments, like customer success and sales, you unveil hidden gems where partners can add immense value.
"I talk to everybody that will talk to me. I knock on everyone's door."
This internal networking allows for education about partnerships and pulls unexplored partnership opportunities into the spotlight, enriching a program's potential.
Customer Support: The Unsung Hero in Identifying Partnerships
Often overlooked, the support team is on the front lines, gathering invaluable customer intelligence.
Lindsey shared that their interactions frequently reveal unmet needs and gaps perfect for partners to fill, thereby driving strategic expansion.
Empowering these teams to voice insights can significantly influence partnership strategies, ensuring they are grounded in real customer needs.
"Support will usually get angry requests, but a lot of times it's people asking for recommendations..."
The Power of Trade Shows
Lindsey explained that trade shows can be more than networking events. The face-to-face interactions with a diverse mix of partners and customers provides a unique perspective, often leading to breakthrough ideas.
As a result, these events become instrumental in shaping partnership strategies, ensuring they're responsive, dynamic, and impactful.
"I just always came back with actionable insights that I could implement," Lindsey shared. "You're getting interactions with such a big cross-section of partners and customers."
Making the Case for More Resources
As a partner operations person Lindsey has had a lot of experience advocating for additional resources once a partnership program is underway.
She shared some of the challenges and strategies involved in advocating for more resources, whether it's for internal team expansion, system upgrades, or external tools.
Lindsey highlighted the importance of crafting a compelling case, and emphasized the need for solid data to support any claims, reflecting on her time managing various support teams.
Lindsey explained that she uses every available metric to paint a clear before-and-after picture, illustrating where the team stood and where they could be with additional resources.
The Art of the Pitch: Tailoring to Your Audience
Lindsey's approach goes beyond just gathering data; she explained it is also about knowing your audience.
She discussed the nuances of pitching, emphasizing that what works for a CFO may not necessarily resonate with a VP of Sales. The key is understanding what matters most to them and tailoring your pitch accordingly.
Navigating the SaaS Integration Resource Challenge
When it comes to technology partnerships a common pain point is obtaining resources for building integrations.
When advocating for third-party support for building integrations, Lindsey suggested that beyond the metrics already discussed, one compelling argument is the cost comparison between building in-house and outsourcing.
“Explain how much it would cost for an engineer to build it versus if you outsource to a service.”
She shared that it also makes sense to discuss the time-to-market aspect, and where internal resources are currently focused. Explain how existing commitments will make getting an integration built take longer and how that can affect potential revenue opportunities.
In contrast, explain how outsourcing could expedite the process, which is a critical factor in competitive markets.
The Strategic Value of Outsourcing
Lindsey underscored the strategic advantages of outsourcing tools, particularly for integrations.
By doing so, companies can not only save money in the long run, but also free up internal resources to focus on core responsibilities.
This approach, she suggested, offers tangible value, as leaders need only wait for the finished product without being bogged down by the process.
“Yes, [outsourcing] will cost you money upfront, but it’ll cost you way less in the long run,” Lindsey stated. This is the value that you get by allowing engineers to focus on the things they need to focus on.”
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