What Is a Partner Manager?

A partner manager is an emerging role in today’s world. It’s a term that essentially is at the heart of collaborative partnering.

A partner manager is an emerging role in today’s world. It’s a term that essentially is at the heart of collaborative partnering. 

As the nature of business is so varied, it makes sense that the specific details of this job vary across different industries. 

Yet, some things are in common. When we look at skills, it’s easy to see that exceptional partner managers share certain skills in common. The top skills fall into 3 categories:

    • Strategic thinking
    • Creative collaborating
    • Iterative innovating

Just looking at those skills, one thing stands out. Namely, these are all process skills. They all end in ‘ing’ and indicate a focus on interaction. Together, they imply that a partner manager has a high tolerance for ambiguity, creativity, and problem-solving. 

In other words, to become a partner manager, you can focus on how to develop skills and increase your comfort zone. This can happen as part of your current job, part of your life beyond the job, and as an active part of your personal learning path.


What’s Your Job?

In many organizations, the role of a partner manager occurs within the context of other responsibilities. It often is something that starts small and then grows over time.

Leaders, account managers, sales partners often find that they are seeing tremendous opportunity by thinking outside of their organizational silo. This is why they are spending more time relating with potential partners. This gives rise to re-naming and re-defining their job. 

In the course of being a partner manager, you’ll get involved in a whole new environment for generating value. You’ll do this not by working harder to close small deals. You’ll do this not by doing more repetitive tasks or cold calling.

You’ll do this by cultivating skills of big picture thinking, connecting with people, and actively solving problems.

You’ll identify strategic partners, maintain those relationships, design criteria for partnerships, seek connectivity, and ultimately — generate more sales.

Let’s consider each of these aspects in closer detail.


Identify Strategic Partners

Did you ever hear about Andy, the town cobbler? He believed everyone was a potential customer. Why? Because everyone has shoes. Therefore, everyone would need his services.

This is a lovely idea. But it is not truly strategic. 

Your best partners are not in the category of everyone.

While it may be easy to start a partner relationship, often there is a meeting of the minds. Partners often look for overlap amongst strategic direction. In other words, you’re serving the same target customers—but you are offering non-competitive value. 

Strategic partners look for evidence that there is already effort, time, and inroads with this customer base. It makes sense really. Every partnership is an investment. Strategic alliances are best when partners have an ongoing investment. This could be in data sharing, technology integration, meetings, and strategic alignment. Relationships require an investment of energy, money, and time—which is why you’ll want to identify the best strategic partners to invest into.


Maintain Relationships Between Strategic Partners

Every relationship deserves and requires attention. It’s true for personal relationships. And, it’s very true for strategic business relationships.

Many of the clients I work with give this area extra special attention. They know, as you do, that maintaining and sustaining is key for building strong alliances. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of method. It requires ongoing focus, inquiry, and deliverables. 

Some partners share educational material. Others offer financial access. Others share marketing processes or materials. As you look at your relationships, explore what you have that would be valuable to them. The answers may surprise you. 

Keep asking your partners what they want and need. Keep working to stay current with the ever-evolving needs of your partners.


Design Criteria for Strategic Partners

Who is the best fit for being your strategic partner? That’s what you will determine. 

And, when you do, you’ll have a remarkable set of criteria. With this in hand, you can design a specific criteria template for finding your best strategic partners. 

This varies across industries and lines of business. In some organizations, the criteria are by size, geography, revenue, industry, or niche.


Look For Connectivity

If you’re a strategic innovator, this is your home zone.

Looking for connections is like having x-ray vision along the entire sales funnel. You’re looking for ways to add value for your clients. You are looking for new ways you and your partners can serve your target market. F

Look at the sales funnel for your business--from beginning to end. Analyze problems from sales to service. Assess challenges from technology to design. Actively think from different perspectives from components to done-for-you. Focus on connections even if they seem magical or impossible right now.

Brainstorming for connections is one of the best ways to see new possibilities. Look at different angles. If one partner is providing sales, what can you offer in service? If one partner is offering parts, what can you offer for a complete package? Depending on your business, you are sure to come up with a web of ideas for your customers.


Generate Sales Opportunity

With connectivity comes opportunity. It’s entirely possible that your clients and prospects haven’t seen the opportunity—yet. It’s equally possible that some of the players in your industry haven’t even thought of the opportunity—yet. 

‘Yet’ is the keyword.

Yet is a word brimming with opportunity. It stands for growth. It implies learning. It signals freshness and possibility. 

For many people, the business world has changed. We are seeing collaborations and sales alliances that didn’t exist a moment ago.

As a partner manager, your job is to think for the future. Look towards things that don’t exist yet—but could transform the lives of your customers.

As our world often is seen to be increasingly complex, many of these future-facing sales opportunities can be found by making life simple. Sales opportunities often exist at the interface of complexity. 

Ask yourself what improvements or innovations would make your client’s life:

    • Simpler
    • Faster
    • Easier
    • Hassle-free

As you look at the value from your client’s perspective, new pathways open up.


Sum Up

Going forward, expect to see more organizations looking for and promoting partner managers. Focus on developing the specific skills you need to succeed in this role such as strategic thinking, iterative innovation, and collaborative creativity.

By optimizing your partner manager skills, you can join successful businesses that are shaping the market and realizing significant revenue potential. Partnership Co-Selling is how you can virtually qualify B2B sales opportunity. You can use this to boost sales, expand your network, and grow profitability.

Using a platform like CoSell.io is the simplest way to get your sales team on board. CoSell is a robust platform that makes it easy and fast to automate and scale collaborative co-selling across sales teams. 

If you’d like to explore how partnership co-selling can help you and your team boost sales and win major clients fast - check out our selection of free eBooks.

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