Bridging the Gap Between Insights to Outcomes Requires Playbooks + Training

Bridging the Gap Between Insights to Outcomes Requires Playbooks + Training

Chris Lavoie 7 min

We know the insights, and we know the desired outcomes; now is the time to define and build the robust playbooks and associated training programs needed to bridge insights to outcomes, the single greatest challenge partnership programs face today.

Raise your hand if you are fatigued by the ocean of fluffy partnership content in the market that focuses solely on surface-level topics such as “Top Partnership Insights” or “Key Outcomes of a Partnership Program.” 

This isn’t 2020, and partnership practitioners don’t need any more content on what insights they need or what the target outcomes are: they need to know how to bridge the gap between them.

Tools like Crossbeam, Reveal, and others make surfacing incredibly powerful insights trivial. Now, more than ever, partnership programs are being charged with closed-won partner-delivered ARR; the “insights” and “outcomes” are crystal clear and readily accessible.

Playbooks + training = the key to unlocking revenue

What is missing, and ultimately preventing thousands of partner programs from reaching their full potential (leading to serious downstream effects like mass layoffs), is powerful playbooks and training on those playbooks for practitioners to use in the trenches to hit their goal. You can “survive” with just one, but in order to thrive, you’ll need both to be rock solid.

So what is the current state of playbooks and training SaaS partnerships? Let’s dive in.

Partnership playbooks

Playbooks are standard operating procedures used by partnership practitioners to execute a very specific process with very specific target outcomes in mind. Playbooks are a quintessential element of all successful partner programs, and span a wide range of activities, from co-selling & co-marketing to app marketplace strategy and integration adoption.

Playbooks in partnerships today run the gambit from loosely configured ideas that aren’t really repeatable to battle-tested playbooks that can be drag-and-dropped into any partner program. As an example of the latter, Digital Bridge Partners published “The Outbound Referral Playbook,” the first Nearbound process on the market that makes it easy to scale referrals to partners en route to referral activity in return.

Professional IP like the Outbound Referral Playbook is not the standard partner programs need to strive towards with their playbooks. They should, however, commit to building well-defined, easily used, and highly repeatable playbooks for every major process routinely run by its practitioners.

Failure to do so will be severely limited at best, and catastrophic at worst.

There is a misconception, however, that powerful playbooks (like an Outbound Referral process), do not exist yet, and this is a major reason why so many partner programs are struggling. This is far from true and a grotesque disservice to the great playbooks that exist today.

The reality is that many of the winning Nearbound playbooks needed to build a successful partner program have already been built; they just aren’t discoverable and broadly usable because they exist within the confines of the few companies with star practitioners who have pioneered these powerful playbooks.

This is to say, the partnership ecosystem is not lacking in winning playbooks themselves, but rather lacking in the sharing and usability of these playbooks, and as an industry, we must find a better way to “mindshare” and piggyback off of the collective efforts of our network instead of our current situation where we read articles, attend seminars, and go back to our respective labs and try to build the exact same thing.

We are all trying to make our own hammer; wouldn’t it be better if we had a marketplace of sorts for the best hammers on the market, and just buy those and add them to our toolbox?

This is the future of playbooks in partnerships; less bespoke in-house development and more outsourcing of our needs by tapping into the collective (and mighty) IP that exists within our ecosystem already.

Partnership training

In contrast to playbooks, the state of training in partnerships is in much worse shape. Consider that according to a recent poll by Partnership Leaders to its IC members, only 23% of partner managers receive “good” or “great” training from their manager and company. Yikes.

Among other things, this means that even if you DO have winning playbooks built (which few do), you won’t get anywhere because so few practitioners are adequately trained to run them. This is a BIG problem that you are likely facing (and if you think you aren’t, think again).

Why is training so severely lacking in partnerships? One of the major reasons is that the reliance SaaS companies are putting on their partnerships department to generate revenue has exploded in recent years, leading to a massive influx of partnership professionals in the workforce, very few of which have formal and relevant training for the role they are hired for.

In contrast to sales professional training, which is largely established given its long history and the availability of powerful training resources & tools like Gong, Showpad, etc., training for partnership practitioners is still in its infancy.

In order for partnership programs to achieve Efficient, Predictable, and Scalable results (EPS), their ICs will need hands-on training that is not just conceptual (theory based), but rather extremely practical, actionable, and proven.

While ICs have every right to demand robust training from their managers and company, the reality is that it is hard enough as a leader to build winning playbooks that scale, so carving out time to also build training programs (on some things you as a leader have never done!) is a daunting challenge.

Among the areas partnership ICs need help with the most, the top 5 are (source: Partnership Leaders poll):

  1. How to generate revenue FROM partners
  2. Negotiation, persuasion and overall business savviness
  3. How to deliver value TO partners
  4. Integration and App Marketplace Strategy
  5. How to operationalize proof-of-principle ideas into bonafide playbooks at scale

This begs the question: How will the increasingly massive pool of partnership professionals receive sufficient training when their managers and company are ill-prepared to offer the training they need and deserve?

Get the partnership training you need to thrive

Large, mature companies will eventually figure this out by building it in-house. For everyone else, they will need to outsource the majority of their practitioner training to the market, and they will need to do it fast.

Fortunately, a growing number of world-class training programs are being developed for partnership professionals, across all roles and seniority levels (PARTNERNOMICS, SaaSy Sales Leadership, Firneo, SEBS, and here at Digital Bridge Partners to name a few).

We hope you are convinced that the path forward in 2023 and beyond is to ensure your teams receive the training and mentorship they need to unlock their full potential. We encourage you to tap into available resources (like those found at PartnerHacker) and communities (like Partnership Leaders) to engage with fellow practitioners who are likely struggling with similar challenges.

Do you have a Validated Playbook that you want to convert into a productized IP that you can sell to the market? Digital Bridge Partners is here to help.

Digital Bridge Partners can convert your validated playbook into hardened IP that we package, market and distribute to our vast network, so more partner programs benefit from your mastery, with you getting paid for it.

Have a playbook you’d like to bring to market? Contact our Managing Partner and Partnership Guru Allan Adler at [email protected] and tell us about your idea.

Prefer to listen? Subscribe to our PartnerHacker Audio Articles Podcast. Text-to-speech provided by our partner

Chris Lavoie 7 min

Bridging the Gap Between Insights to Outcomes Requires Playbooks + Training

This isn’t 2020, and partnership practitioners don’t need any more content on what insights they need or what the target outcomes are: they need to know how to bridge the gap between them.

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