Here’s Why You Should Embrace Partner Ecosystem-Led Growth

Feeling stuck with your current sales strategy? This partner-focused approach can boost your efforts and strengthen customer trust.

Written by Bob Moore
Published on Mar. 01, 2024
Here’s Why You Should Embrace Partner Ecosystem-Led Growth
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Historically, partner teams and enterprise partnerships are known for having a superficial value. Outside of significant channel partnerships in markets where these partners were the primary revenue generators, partner leaders in the enterprise haven’t often held a seat in the C-suite.

But with a tight tech market, a year full of layoffs and a need to do more with existing resources, it’s clear we need a change. Partner strategy is an increasingly valuable approach to driving enterprise revenue, specifically in the Software-as-a-Service market.

It’s time to rebrand partnerships in sales.

What Is a Partner Ecosystem?

A partner ecosystem is an interconnected network of businesses, communities and individuals that work together to offer end-to-end value to their shared customers or prospects.

More on strategic partnershipsHow to Find the Right Merger and Acquisition Partner

 

What Is Ecosystem-Led Growth?

Modern go-to-market teams are deploying an advanced approach that uses data to understand the complementary tech solutions that target customers are using today, or may use in the future, and mapping those target accounts and technologies to uncover co-selling opportunities. It’s called ecosystem-led growth.

Partners are nothing new, and have always been an external party with whom you “win together.” In the past, the definition and the benefit of some partnerships could be vague and unrealized. But the way companies identify the right partners and utilize them has evolved. Many companies are building new products with the partner ecosystem fully baked into the design, architecture and roadmap. 

Shifting to ELG can be seen everywhere in enterprise. Large companies are turning to ecosystem-driven approaches. Klaviyo, for example, attributed success and customer satisfaction to its ecosystem in its Q3 earnings call. And AWS, IBM and Dell have recently laid off significant sales staff with a move to partner-driven strategies.

 

The Value of Partner Data

Today’s application programming interface economy is generating valuable data, breathing new life into partnership-driven sales. Think about your tech stack today. There’s an abundance of different products and services integrated with a company’s offerings, as well as the products and services that your prospective customers use. Data is transforming every stage and aspect of revenue, and partnerships are no different.

The traditional top-down, outbound sales process is becoming less productive, especially as prospective customers look to mitigate the flood of sales inquiries and lean on trust factors like referrals and proven integrations.

Enter the partner ecosystem.

This is not just tapping the people you know to network or co-sell using static spreadsheets. As Andreessen Horowitz’s Sarah Wang put it, the old partnerships model was where “non-revenue things go to die.” But this perception has changed thanks to the availability of a rich set of partner ecosystem data and new technologies, leveraging the data securely and transparently to create more meaningful customer relationships. This is turning partnerships from a nice-to-have component of sales and marketing to an essential, high-impact growth channel.

Just as data infrastructure is a stacked deal with extract, transform and load technologies, data warehousing platforms, data modeling solutions and business intelligence products, customer relationship management is often paired with lead generation and sales enablement. Partner data shouldn’t live in a vacuum.

The new partner go-to-market strategy is rooted in dynamic data and the ability to map overlapping market segments with your partners and surface new revenue opportunities. The shift in go-to-market models is on and partner ecosystems are leading that shift.

 

Adjust Your GTM Strategy to Buyer Behaviors

As tech budgets either shrink or buyers become more selective, the quarterly rush to meet sales quotas is becoming more futile and has left companies missing revenue goals. A Pavilion and Crossbeam report exploring the sentiment of GTM leaders found that in 2023, 56 percent of sales leaders fully expected to fall short of revenue targets. 

Buying behavior has also shifted dramatically over the years. Enterprise buyers are opting for best-of-class over larger suites of software. And in the past year, companies have tightened budgets, scrutinizing their buying decisions more than ever.

Additionally, saturated markets in many sectors of SaaS muddies the sales and marketing landscape and burden buyers with the paradox of choice. Sales strategies need to shift to accommodate a different playing field, where 68 percent of GTM leaders now admit buyers have more control over the sales process.

In the same report, 89 percent of respondents reported that their companies are looking to change their sales strategy for 2024. The shift in buyer behavior is driving sales and marketing leaders to rethink existing GTM models and experiment with new ones that are more data-driven.

 

Establish Buyer Trust

Buyers continue to be bombarded with marketing and sales messages, accelerated by automation and artificial intelligence. Implementing such software by sellers costs a significant amount yet yields low response.

It’s missing a human element.

Compounding these sales and marketing automation challenges are additional tech guidelines put in place by email providers Google and Yahoo. In order to curb spam, they are putting in place new authentication requirements for bulk email senders

While this may appear to only impact email marketing campaigns, it affects cold outbound email from enterprise sales teams, too. According to MarTech, “the requirements apply at the domain level, which means they apply to all of the emails sent by the organization using the domain, not just marketing. That includes sales teams, particularly, business development representatives and sales development representatives that often rely heavily on outbound cold email tactics.” 

The net effect for buyers is to rely more on trust factors and referrals to guide their decision-making. In response, companies selling into the enterprise now realize that nurturing long-term relationships is vital to establishing trust with a buyer.

With sales costs going up and effectiveness going down, ELG and co-selling with partners, such as warm intros and swapping intel, is quickly becoming the number one strategy sales teams are focusing on. Lack of high-quality leads, according to 46 percent of Pavilion and Crossbeam study respondents, is the number one reason leaders think sales strategies are unsuccessful. ELG is turning that on its head by bringing trust and efficiency in demand generation.

ELG accelerates customer acquisition, account expansion and access to new markets. Partnerships are increasingly vital to growing return on investment by bringing in pipelines, shortening sales cycles and increasing conversion rates.

 

Stop Chasing the Top of the Funnel

A business’s value story and the future of its revenue is tied to its partner ecosystem. Adapt the growth strategy and tools accordingly. Every team, not just partnership teams, should look to ELG to contribute to their organization’s GTM strategy in sales, marketing and even customer success.

As companies look towards driving sales revenue more efficiently in today’s economy, partners hold an existing solution. ELG taps the most bountiful resource they already have: their ecosystem. Instead of chasing the top of the funnel, dive into the partner ecosystem. 

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