an image that readings making the case for an alliance team, by Invisory's blog for ISVs seeking cloud marketplace success

Making the Case for a Cloud Alliance Team

2023 was full of layoffs, which is no surprise to anyone working in cloud partnerships or tech at large. Per CrunchBase, “More than 191,000 workers at U.S.-based tech companies were laid off in mass job cuts in 2023, and the cuts continue into 2024”. With headcount hard to come by and even harder at times to keep in tact, it may seem counterintuitive to make the case for a devoted cloud alliance and partnership team.

Here’s why hiring a cloud alliance manager and building your partnership team makes more sense than ever before.


Cloud alliance teams bring new revenue opportunities

 

Today, independent software vendors (ISVs) are taking advantage of corporate restructuring to lean-in on  revenue-driving partnership opportunities with SIs (systems integrators) and cloud marketplace companies like Azure, AWS, GCP,  Salesforce and ServiceNow.

With all eyes on the traditional revenue drivers like sales and marketing funnels, too many ISVs forget about the impactful revenue streams offered by key technology partners. When managed correctly and reported on effectively, cloud partnerships can help ISVs enter new markets, close new deals, and drive revenue with fewer resources. 

The bottom line: Partnership and alliance teams are in a unique position during economic uncertainty to become revenue heroes. 

 

The risk of not investing in a cloud alliance team

 

If you are reading this blog you probably fall into one of two categories. 

1 – You already have an application listed on a cloud marketplace and or an established SI program but do not have a dedicated team in place managing the partnerships.

2- You are considering joining a marketplace and researching making a case for the investment. We covered the second in our two part ebook, “Making the Case for Cloud Marketplaces,” which you can download here

Now if you already have an application listed on a cloud marketplace and do not have a dedicated cloud alliance manager or alliance team in place to manage the relationships, the rest of this blog is for you. 

Without a dedicated team, the duties of managing a partnerships pipeline usually fall to a single person, often without any background in cloud alliances, or worse: an opportunistic free for all with your sales team. Neither are ideal. Hiring a single alliance manager is a great option for small ISVs, but you run the risk of a single point of contact or failure with your partnerships. You also limit your scalability.  If that person leaves, the relationship leaves with them. If your sales team is opportunistically working partner-lead deals, you’re most likely missing out on not only attribution, but opportunities to further your partner program. 

The new year is a great time to put processes in place and plans to accelerate your partnership success. Below are a few steps to help you understand your current position and how to make the case to executives and other stakeholders for a full partnership or alliance team. 


Understand your current cloud partnership strategy

 

To make the case for an alliance team, you need to know where you are with your current partnership strategy to identify the gaps and opportunities. Whether you work in Excel, Google Sheets, Word or PowerPoint, the important part is just to document. 

For each cloud marketplace you’re listed on or SI you work with, answer the questions below. (We also wrote a blog focused on retro work with SIs but honestly this advice works for partnerships across the board.)

      • How are you tracking partner deals today?

      • How many deals were partners associated with in 2023?

      • How much revenue came from partners?

      • Are you confident in the above data (is your team tracking partner influenced and led deals in your CRM)?

      • How did you engage with the marketplace sales teams in 2023?

      • How successful was your co-selling motion?

      • How many teams or reps from your partner target did you meet with?

      • What partner based collateral do you have?

      • What could you do with one more headcount?

     

    Benefits of building a cloud partnership team 

     

    Partners are a force multiplier. When managed and enabled, partners can co-sell with you to improve conversion and close rates. Partnering with cloud marketplaces beyond just listing allows your company and customers to reap benefits that go beyond those offered by your solution. Additional benefits include spending down commit, streamlined procurement and more. 

     

    The case for additional head-count to create a cloud alliance team

     

    Hiring a seasoned cloud alliance manager to build a partnership team brings expertise, time, and focus. With an alliance team in place, ISVs can build key relationships and develop a GTM strategy focused on partners, rather than listing blindly and praying deals will come. 

    Alas, sales teams are not conditioned or incentivized to sell with or through partners and often don’t fully understand the benefits. A cloud alliance team that is focused only on the partnership portion of the business can drive impactful results with as few as 1-2 people. Hiring a team focused on partners creates an environment where members of an alliance team can do more than sell – they can enable internal cloud marketplace selling teams and SIs to help sell on your behalf. They can identify SIs in an ecosystem that are a fit for partnering, as well as co-sell, co-market and co-promote your brand.


    Tracking partnership success with an alliance team

     

    Here are a few ways having a small cloud alliance team can help you track the success you’ve seen and drive ROI with just 1-2 people.

        • Understand the numbers
              • How many deals were sold in the past year with a partner involved? 

              • Did those deals close at a higher % or faster? 

              • Have you identified partners like industry, use case, or region where you can dial in for quick wins?

          • Understand the activities
                • Did you attend or sponsor events for partners?

                • What did those results look like?

                • How effective was the follow up by a sales team vs. partner team? 

                • What could you expect the opportunity to be if a dedicated person or people were following up?

            • Understand your customers
                • What ecosystems are your customers already listed on?

                • What SIs do they partner with? 

                • Where is there a concentration of opportunity? 
              •  

             

            Amplify results with a dedicated cloud alliance team 


            The benefits of a partner or alliance team might be clear to you now,but that doesn’t mean your whole organization is on board. If you’re struggling to make the case to your leadership team, we have some additional ammo to help make your case. 

            With a dedicated alliance team you can: 

                • Understand where you have connections today with your partners

                • Track those relationships at the individual level (who within a partnership are you working with) 

                • Create partner centric collateral and thought leadership 

                • Host partner specific events like webinars, lunch & learns, and happy hours 

                • Participate in partner specific events like annual and regional gatherings 

                • Provide partners with a responsive and educated point of contact 

                • Map key accounts

                • Create a true and lasting co-selling strategy 

                • Host weekly and quarterly touchpoints with your partners that help grow your brand and credibility within each partner’s organization 

              Partnership and alliance teams are in a unique position in 2024 to become pipeline heroes. All it takes is a few hardworking and knowledgeable folks who get the value of partnerships.  Invisory has built a business around helping ISVs with their listing, co-sell and partner GTM motion. If we can help you, we’d welcome an opportunity to chat.


              How Invisory helps ISVs reach cloud marketplace success


              The Invisory GTM cloud solution helps ISVs unlock their cloud marketplace potential across platforms like Salesforce, Azure, and AWS. Invisory’s one of a kind platform delivers actionable insights and key go-to-market deliverables to SaaS companies looking to stand out and maximize revenue in crowded marketplaces while reducing risk and accelerating results. For more information contact info@invisory.co.

              FAQ

              • Top 3 Things To Do Before Hiring Your First Salesforce Ecosystem Alliances Person as a Salesforce ISV

                As your ISV gets traction in the market, it makes sense to consider when is the right time to bring on an Alliances professional to focus full-time on maturing your alignment in the ecosystem with SIs, Salesforce, and other ISVs. Having experience in managing partner relationships within the ecosystem is something that I would recommend prioritizing, but is a bit harder (and more expensive!) to find. Here are a few tips to help them hit the ground running more productively.

                Salesforce Alliances Systems Support

                Unless you are trying to find a unicorn that has salesforce admin talent along with business development skills, do the work to set them up for success ahead of their arrival. At a minimum you will want to setup:

                • Salesforce - Create a Salesforce account in your internal CRM for them to track @salesforce.com people you have interacted with. This builds a marketing database for you and helps you understand which AEs and SEs are active with your company via using Contact Roles on your opportunities.

                • SI Tracking - There are over 1500 System Integrator partners that are registered with Salesforce globally and these organizations often recommend ISVs to solve customer problems. 

                • Email Cadences - Whether it is as simple as using Salesforce templates or a proper Sales Engagement platform, they will need a way to respond to leads and outbound to new contacts at scale. 

                Where to Focus in the First 90 Days

                If everything is important, then nothing is and even experienced alliances professionals can get overwhelmed at all of the goodness to chase in the Salesforce ecosystem. Have you developed your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and IPP (Ideal Partner Profile)? Do you have a partner referral program for SIs that is producing? A best practice is to start by making sure you understand which Market Segments, Industries, and geographies your most successful and largest customers come from. If you don’t have sales-ready messaging for this, you might not be ready to make this hire as it is unlikely they will be able to generate this themselves.

                What to Measure

                This will vary based on what is most important for them to focus on but you will want to get clarity of reporting on this as a separate funnel. Here are some examples of things to track that drive revenue:

                • Closed Won pipeline from partner referrals

                • Opportunities created from partner referrals

                • ADS (average deal size) of partner referrals

                • Close rate of partner referrals

                • First Meetings completed from partner referrals

                • Influenced deals where you engage an SI or Salesforce employee for coaching

                • New SIs added to partner referral program

                • Number of enablement sessions with partners completed

                • Number of partner stories created per month

                • Members added to your Org62 chatter

                The list will vary but creating dashboards and reports will help to ensure there are no assumptions of obviousness being made by you that will set you up for disappointment. It is important to know where you are today so that you can see the signs of improvement through their activity. Alliances in the ecosystem is not a flat, straight road and requires thoughtful measurement and experimentation until you find what works….and lean into it.

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