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Understanding the Partner Personas and the Partner Journey

Claudio Ayub

It's important that channel leaders understand that it's critical for them to take the partner's perspective as many vendors out there fail to capture mind share and drive continuous engagement with partners because they are focused inwardly. They're looking at their business, they're looking at their go-to-market as opposed to taking the partner's perspective. But what does the partner perspective really look like?

Let's start with the partner's journey and the partner's decision drivers. There are five stages in the partner journey when the partner engages with a vendor: the journey starts at the offer stage, followed by the qualification, commitment, enablement, and productivity stages.  At each stage, there is a different persona that will engage with the vendor in order to make that determination.

When you as a vendor extend an offer to that partner, the typical persona you will engage is the executive management team at the partner level. That persona, that executive manager, is looking to understand what's in it for them. Is this relationship with this new vendor going to be profitable? They really want to understand your offer and most importantly, they want to look at benefits.

This person is thinking, “What am I going to get out of this? I'm going to get margin. Okay. I'm going to get back-end discount. Great. I'm going to get marketing development support. Excellent." So that's what they're looking for and that's what you as a vendor need to focus on.

They're also looking for alignment, right? But once they've made that determination, once they've looked at these different aspects and decided that this is worth researching, they engage other partner personas: the head of technology, the head of professional services, sales and marketing.

These job roles are going to look at your offer in a different way. They're going to qualify it and ask, "Do we have to learn about this new product or is it something that complements our existing go-to-market or existing product line? Do we have the required skills in-house, or we need to hire additional people? What are the engagement rules?"

This is the partner's perspective from the different personas. As they move into commitment, it is the executive management in sales and marketing that is going to get back together and look at marketing, training, sales, marketing support, and all of the tools that you're making available to them in order for them to be successful.

Once they commit, the partner will look at the investment and what is the enablement phase from the vendor's side. The various personas in the buying group are going to focus on different things. Are you offering co-marketing funds? Do we have to put skin in the game on that? Is there a training required? Are there certification requirements that we need to meet?

Once all the different perspectives are addressed, then comes productivity. This sits solely with sales, marketing, and professional services at the partner level. They will look for incentives that will help them accelerate their time to revenue. They will look for incentives, not just at the company level, and I'm talking about the partner company level, but they will also ask, "Is this vendor going to incent our teams or just our individuals?"

It’s important that when you look at the partner journey you understand that the first three stages are all about recruitment and onboarding content. You’re not going to put incentives in the first three stages. You're only going to talk about them and describe how those incentives are designed to accelerate a partner's time to revenue. However, when you get into the enablement side and the productivity side, that is different. You will need to provide enablement content as well as demand content.

As mentioned before, during the different stages of the partner's journey, you will engage different personas. When you understand what drives the persona types you will discover that there are buttons that you can push with those individuals to ensure you are engaging with the right partners.

You’ve done your partner profile so you know the type of partner company you are recruiting, but you must also understand that those companies have individuals, personas that you need to address and make successful if you're going to engage them.

With executive management, it's all about growth. It's all about growing the top line. It's all about revenue, profitability. You need to ensure that your content, your offer, includes those drivers for the executive management. When you're looking at sales management, you're speaking to a VP of sales or sending content to a VP of sales, it's all about repeatable revenue. It's all about sales productivity.

The same is true with a partner marketing persona—depending on the size of the partner, you may have a VP of marketing or not—they're looking for help. They want to win with demand creation programs, generating leads, and filling the pipeline. These are the buttons that you can push at the partner persona level to get their commitment, to get their engagement.

About the Author

Claudio Ayub

Chief Strategy Officer Claudio Ayub brings over 20 years of global channel marketing experience to Perks.He has executed major go-to-market programs for a variety of vendors, including Bing, Cisco, Dell, EMC, IBM, Kaspersky, Lenovo, Microsoft, Motorola, Seagate, Symantec, and VMware among others.

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