Executing a Partner Co-Sell Campaign
Selling with partners enables customer exposure, generates qualified leads for sales pursuit, and supports company revenue objectives. The challenge with such campaigns is to ensure the results warrant the time and effort to coordinate across partner organizations. This article shares best practice learning from executing co-selling campaigns.
The desired result is to not only to drive customer awareness, but also to identify “sales qualified leads”. This is beyond the typical marketing function of attracting prospects and generating “marketing qualified leads”.
The partner you wish to co-sell with must have a vested interest in your sales success. This could be a tandem partner who relies on your capabilities to successfully reach their target market. For example, a complementary software product that unlocks the enterprise suitability for an otherwise mid-market software product or an industry-specific enhancement that enables a broader product to penetrate a vertical niche. The partner could be a platform player (e.g., Microsoft) that wants partners to pull through their underlying technology (cloud services) and is willing to invest sales effort to penetrate a market segment (e.g., line of business solutions) they can’t directly address themselves.
Once you’ve determined there is sales and strategic alignment for executing a co-sell campaign, the next critical step is getting support from the partner’s sales managers. Salespeople don’t naturally work with partners without a framework that provides compensation (quota credit or spiff) and motivation (sales managers). You’ll need a project manager to own coordination across the partners and to keep salespeople moving forward with prospecting and lead qualification.
You’ll find some salespeople resist partner co-selling. It can be more complex and takes people out of their comfort zone of selling only their own products. If you have the chance, test for receptivity among individual sellers so you’re working with willing participants. Position the co-sell initiative as “doing leading edge work” as well as an opportunity for success beyond the standard sales role.
Note that platform partners have a hard time selling outside of IT. If you represent a line of business software solution, align with industry-specific sales teams instead of general account teams. The natural inclination to sell IT-centric software and services usually supersedes the solution selling intentions of platform partner sellers.
Create a Co-Sell Guide
Develop a co-sell training kit to educate partner sellers and management. This should include the following:
A definition of the sales process including which partner owns which step and when sales handoff should occur. This handoff should happen after both a decision maker and an active initiative are identified.
An overview of each partner and their contribution to the completed solution. This helps the team understand why partnership is valuable from an implementation perspective.
A financial model of a typical deal including the benefits to the customer and for both partners. Sales management and sellers need to understand the revenue motivations for partnering.
Targeting criteria including geography, industry, workload, customer segment, and typical decision maker titles. This helps reduce the ambiguity of who the teams are targeting and defines the scenario for qualified opportunities.
Email templates with pithy messaging and customer references. Creating approved messaging reduces sales team inertia.
A sample call script or qualification guide for sales conversations. Reduce sales team fear and reluctance to engage customer conversations by modeling those conversations.
A target list of accounts to pursue. Identify net new prospects that align with the qualification criteria.
These materials can take time to pull together, but the process forces you to address important qualification issues and results in a guide that helps execute the co-selling effort.
Educate the sales teams on these materials and set milestone expectations for sales actions (e.g., 20 emails and 4 customer conversations per week). Activity expectations will depend on other intitiatives the sellers are juggling.
Host regular meetings to capture insights from the sales teams and address additional sales support needs. Be sure to recognize individual successes in context of the broader group, including achieving milestones along the way to the final sale.
Contact Competegy to discuss how you can create or improve your own co-sell campaign efforts.