​​4 Universal Partnership Team Roles in High-Tech Channels

Updated April 12, 2024
Published in Channel Management

There’s really no such thing as a “standard” partnership team structure.

Every company takes its own approach to partnerships and, therefore, has its own org chart.

But some roles do stay consistent across partner teams. While they may have different titles at different organizations, who they report to, why they are important, and the skills they possess are nearly identical from company to company.

In this post, we outline each of these positions, their role in building and maintaining a first-rate partner program, and how you can accelerate a new partnership hire’s time to value.

4 Common Roles On a Partnership Team

There are four key partner-related roles in most organizations. They include:

  • A Head of Partnerships, who reports to the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) or the Chief Partnerships Officer(CPO).
  • Partner Managers, who report to the Head of Partnerships or a Partnerships Director.
  • Partner Operations Specialists, who report to the Head of Partnerships or a Partnerships Director.
  • Partner Marketers report to the Head of Partnerships or have a more cross-functional role and sit on the marketing team.

Usually, these roles are assumed by different people, but one person can take on multiple roles in smaller channel organizations.

Sample partnerships org chart

Below, we delve into each role in more detail, explaining what they do and why they are a critical piece of the partnership team puzzle.

1. Head of Partnerships

You can probably already guess what this person does — they’re in charge of designing the overall partner strategy and leading the team that executes it. That also means they’re the face of the partnerships team, within the organization and outside of it.

What they do: 

  • Develop a clear partnerships vision. Using the company’s overall strategy as their North Star, Heads of Partnerships map out a plan for hitting partnership revenue and co-marketing numbers, incorporating what they know about the company’s current market penetration, product capabilities, and expansion goals. They then work with other members of the team to break down this vision into manageable parts and relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) to work toward.
  • Evaluate and communicate team success. Heads of Partnerships are in close contact with company executives and share how the team is doing in formal and informal chats. To make sure they have an accurate update, they maintain regular one-on-ones with their direct reports, who update them on the status of their projects, partner relationships, quotas, and KPIs.
  • Thought leadership. To evangelize their vision, they participate in external forums, speak at conferences, and build community on social media. Generating hype is especially critical as the partner program scales and enters new markets.

What they’re good at:

  • Building and managing teams. Because they’ve been around the partnerships block before (and held most of the roles they currently manage) they know what kinds of people to look for when building a team, and are adept at motivating and teaching aspiring partner leaders to take their careers to the next level.
  • Owning a budget. Heads of Partnerships own the team’s budget. To continue growing their team and receiving financial support, they must demonstrate the value of partnerships — not just EOQ but day in and day out.
  • Managing risk. They’ve been around the leadership block before, so are experienced at identifying and mitigating potential risks — conflicts of interest, intellectual property issues, or compliance concerns.
  • Working with upper management. Heads of Partnerships have worked their way up to this role, deepening relationships with other company leaders along the way. They use these relationships to prioritize co-marketing work, strategize with sales leadership, and collaborate with legal when pursuing new markets.

2. Partner or Channel Manager

Partner managers source new partners in their assigned region, partner type, or vertical. They serve as the primary point of contact from recruitment to activation and are very hands-on with partners, talking to them daily. Usually, they carry a quota for partner-influenced or partner-sourced revenue.

Greg Sanders, founding principal at Sortis Digital Marketing, looks for resilience, the ability to listen and adapt, and a deep understanding of market trends in his partner managers.

Why? Because they need to be able to integrate themselves into partners’ processes. “From my tenure at Sortis, one notable success was integrating our partnership, marketing, and sales teams with our partners’ operations. It significantly improved lead generation and client acquisition metrics for both parties.”

What they do: 

  • Recruit and onboard new partners. Fantastic partner managers are keeping a close eye on company strategy and going after partners who are most likely to bring new business, drive revenue, elevate brand awareness, or complement the company’s product.
  • Negotiate partner agreements. A company’s partner agreement almost always includes some kind of incentive, whether it’s marketing development funds, referral commissions, deal splits, or all of the above. Now, not all companies will negotiate — some vendors (big or small) have a standard partnership agreement that all resellers have to sign. But if there’s any wiggle room, partner managers have to be ready to push for an agreements that offers the ROI they want.
  • Drive joint initiatives. Partner managers move the train forward, pushing toward co-marketing and co-selling goals. They actively track partner performance and regularly check in with partners to make sure they hit their revenue numbers each quarter. Often, partner managers set quarterly or annual goals with partners ahead of time, and document these conversations and KPIs in a business plan that they monitor throughout the year.
  • Provide ongoing support. They jump in whenever a partner has an issue and proactively try to prevent problems by surfacing clumsy processes to partner ops. Sometimes, they may be required to resolve a dispute between partners (especially regarding deal registration) or conflicts between partners and the vendor sales team.

What they’re good at:

  • Nurturing relationships. They know how to keep in close touch with partner contacts without being annoying or pushy, and they are always thinking about how to better incentivize partners and provide value.
  • Communicating. Great partner managers ensure partners know what’s expected of them. They set up standing meetings, pull together detailed business plans, and share progress toward goals and joint initiatives often.
  • Cross-functional collaboration. Partnerships is a team sport. The best partner managers know how to get the information or action they need from other teams (sales, marketing, product) and how to reward them in return.
  • Strategic thinking. Skilled partner managers pay attention to new trends and regulations. And they combine that with their product knowledge to find new partners who will uplevel the partner program.

More on how to excel as a new partner manager here.

3. Partner Operations Specialist

Partner ops folks are Swiss army knives. They’re highly organized, useful in almost any situation, and insulate partners and the partnership team from harm. They may have been a partner manager in a past life or supported other client-facing teams.

Partner ops managers mainly work behind the scenes, although they may interact with partners to elicit feedback about the Partner Portal, onboarding, training, or engagement.

What they do: 

  • Manage a PRM. Generally, partner ops folks administer partnership relationship management (PRM) tools. They collaborate with HubSpot or Salesforce admins to get the integration between the two tools up and running. They work with partner marketing to get the right resources in the Partner Portal. They work with sales engineers, product managers, and integration specialists to design and launch thoughtful partner training. And they work with partner managers and the Head of Partnerships to build out standard operating procedures (SOPs) for internal work within and outside of the portal.
  • Maintain cross-functional lines of communication. From that first bullet, you can gather that partnership operations specialists work with almost every team in a high-tech organization. That’s because: (a) the work partnerships teams do is influenced by the work of other teams, and (b) the work they do has downstream impacts on almost every other team. Partner ops is in charge of figuring out those dependencies and keeping everyone on the same page.
  • Collect and share insights. Partner ops managers track all kinds of metrics — from partner engagement to partner satisfaction to quota attainment. They identify patterns that could indicate potential avenues for expansion, new marketing angles, or necessary changes to the partner program. 

What they’re good at:

  • Business systems. They feel comfortable in PRMs and CRMs and know how to make them work for the business. SOPs are their love language. They are extremely organized and have processes for everything — even for building out QBR decks or writeups.
  • Working with others. Partner ops folks are highly empathetic. They constantly put themselves in others’ shoes to confirm that a process makes sense and fits within their typical workflow. They’re great problem solvers and often become the “go-to” person for partnership questions.
  • Receiving feedback. It’s the partner ops person’s job to evaluate and improve processes, so they need to be comfortable collecting, digesting, and acting on feedback. They are gifted at sussing out the root cause of issues and ruthlessly prioritize to ensure the whole team is working on the activities that will actually move the needle.
  • Analytics. They know an anomaly when they see one, have ideas for how to fix or capitalize on it, and know who to talk to first.

Struggling to make an impact as a first partner ops hire? We’ve got you covered. Start by running a partner program audit.

4. Partner Marketer

Partner marketers work closely with partner managers and partners to develop and launch co-marketing campaigns, such as webinars, conferences, and events. They need a strong marketing background and a good understanding of your product and your partners’ products to brainstorm different angles for co-marketing material.

What they do: 

  • Create new assets. Partner marketers get requests for all kinds of assets, from one-pagers to slides to LinkedIn carousels. All of these assets need to match your company’s branding, style, and tone while communicating the better-together messages partner managers have established with their partners.
  • Execute events. Many B2B SaaS companies host partner events before, during, or after conferences or in certain regions throughout the year. Along with partner managers, partner marketers are responsible for making those events fun, memorable, and fruitful. After the events, partner managers put together nurture campaigns to convert potential partners or partner-sourced leads.
  • Promote the partner program. This role isn’t just about promoting existing partnerships, it’s also about marketing the partner program. To get more inbound potential partners, partner marketers need to work with the rest of the partnerships team to pinpoint target audiences, define messaging and positioning, and then set campaign goals and KPIs.

What they’re good at:

  • Process. To create good blog posts, email sequences, whitepapers, and case studies, partner marketers need many things: partner logos, partner input, SME input, and customer quotes, to name a few. The best partner marketers set up a process for requesting partner marketing help, outlining their requirements. They then project manage each request from start to finish within partner and/or internal deadlines.
  • Marketing. This is obvious, but bears repeating! You want your partners and your partner program to shine, and you can’t do that without a creative, smart marketer. Look for someone who can show you exciting sample campaigns with impressive end results.

To learn more about how to elevate your partner marketing engine, read our Complete Guide to Partner Marketing.

Other Potential Partnership Team Members

Depending on the size of your program and the types of partnerships you engage in, there could be a few other people on your team:

Partner Development Director

These folks specialize in identifying and recruiting new partners. They flex their selling and negotiation skills and work with marketing to get bigger, better partners excited about the partner program and its incentives. Once a partner agreement is signed, they may take over partner onboarding and enablement activities.

Often, but not always, partner development folks have worked in partnerships in your specific vertical or region for a long time and have solid contacts they can introduce to your company’s product.

Technical Integration Lead

Many B2B SaaS products have a strong set of integration partners. Integrating with these partner solutions provides additional value to end users that a vendor’s product wouldn’t have on its own.

Building these integrations takes dedicated product and engineering resources. 

Technical integration leads help bridge the gap between the partner’s product and eng teams and their internal peers, planning what needs to happen for the integration to make it to production. They manage these projects end-to-end and facilitate testing to ensure smooth delivery. In addition, they may work with partner marketers to announce the integration and with partner ops to ensure the integration is included in internal sales training.

Strategic Alliance Director

Strategic Alliances are a more intense type of integration partner. They co-market and co-sell with your company, so they feature prominently in your go-to-market strategy. Because they are so key to your company’s success, strategic alliance directors are seasoned partnership employees — they’ve run strategic alliances at similar-sized companies before and have the results to show for it.

They’re comfortable presenting to executives and think critically and creatively about optimizing the value of a strategic alliance from marketing, revenue, and growth perspectives.

3 Ideas for Onboarding New Partnership Team Members

Hiring top-notch partner talent is the first step in building a killer partnership team. Just like partners, you have to enable them with the knowledge and tools to do their job well.

Beyond inviting them to all the requisite meetings and having them shadow existing team members, you should also consider:

1. Having them go through the new partner journey themselves. Not only will they learn how to use your Portal, but they’ll also get a better sense of what partners learn, what resources are available to partners, how the deal registration and referral modules look on their side, and be able to share suggestions for improving the workflow.

2. Having them go through product training with CSMs. Partner team members need to know your product inside and out — especially if they’re responsible for actively recruiting new partners. Without that core knowledge, it’s tough to convince companies that a partnership is worth it, craft a compelling better-together story, and ensure value for end customers. Be sure to also share demo videos or interactive demos, and have them sign up for a free trial or give them a dev instance to explore the product on a deeper level.

Geoffrey Bourne, cofounder of Ayrshare, explains, “Beyond the standard onboarding protocol, new partnership employees get thrown into the nitty-gritty of our product. Without a deep understanding of our product, current market, and our target growth through partnerships, we are setting them and, ultimately, ourselves up to fail.”

3. Having them prepare a mini QBR. Think of this like a little quiz at the end of their onboarding — way less stressful than a real QBR but a good way for new hires to demonstrate what they learned and where they see opportunity in their role.

Let Channeltivity Fuel Your Partnership Team

Partnerships have a lot of moving parts. Without technology, it’s tough for partnership teams to work effectively with each other, let alone with partners.

Partner relationship management tools are the glue that holds partnership teams and their partners together, and Channeltivity is the most popular choice for growing high-tech companies.

That’s because Channeltivity comes with everything you need to support a channel program out of the box, from partner enablement to co-marketing to co-selling — complete with analytics and reporting to measure and sustain partner performance. And we have the G2 reviews to prove it.

So, what are you waiting for? Schedule a demo with one of our channel experts today.


Scaling Partner Relationship Management: 6 Principles


What Is a Partner Business Plan, and How Do You Create One?