Partner Value Languages: Are You Speaking the Same Language?

Partner Value Languages: Are You Speaking the Same Language?

Business partnerships and personal relationships have many parallels. Personal relationships require trust, long-term commitment, and communication. Both require open and honest communication to ensure understanding and alignment of goals.

Business partnerships and personal relationships have many parallels. Personal relationships require trust, long-term commitment, and communication. Both require open and honest communication to ensure understanding and alignment of goals. As a partnerships manager, you must ensure your partnerships are strong and resilient.

If you have been in a personal relationship sometime in the last 30 years, chances are you’ve heard about Gary Chapman’s 1992 book titled, “The Five Love Languages.” If not, the premise is quite simple. He explains that people care, express emotion, and want to receive emotion through different methods and that we must understand our partner’s language to speak the same.

This couldn’t be more relevant to our business partnerships. Partners don’t work with us to achieve our goals; they have their own. In the wise words of Tai Rattigan, “Partners are like a bank account. You cannot withdraw without deposits.”

If we understand what our partners truly care about, we can determine their “Value Language.” Gary argues that everyone enjoys all languages but usually speaks one or two primary languages. 

Do you understand what your partner’s language is?

If so, do you know what types of activity you can do to help drive value to them?

About Travis Bradley

Travis Bradley has over eight years of leadership experience in SaaS partnerships, sales operations, and project management, having worked with tech companies like Tipalti, Sysomos (Meltwater), and Amplitude. He also invests in and advises growing companies like Ray Bloch Productions, Haptik.ai, and PartnerPortal.io, specializing in building partner programs, designing revenue streams, and implementing operations for partnership management. Travis looks to support companies in expanding their TAM through channel sales. 

Travis shares the partner value languages that every partnerships manager should know to succeed in their careers.
Travis Bradley, Senior Manager, Alliances at Tipalti

Let’s explore :

The 5 Partner Value Language Types 

Finding a partner’s language should be straightforward. You can identify their preferred value language by asking the right questions and understanding their personal and professional goals. 

They often fall into one of these categories: 

1. Customer Need/Demand  

These partners are solution-driven for their clients. They are focused on their business rather than the larger partnership. Often, it is not a sales-type role.

  • Common Profiles – Consultants, Agencies, Partnerships Manager, ISVs with product gaps  
  • How to Speak this Language – If this is their primary driver, they often want to avoid talking about pipeline, sales, referral fees, or partner programs. They want to understand your product and its value proposition and need to trust your team with their valuable client. It’s important to respect their time and understand that your product may not be the priority daily. Try to stay on top of things and focus on their client.  
  • Useful Tools
    • Demos and Lunch and Learns
    • Technical training 
    • Deep understanding of support
    • Awareness – Gifts, Events, dinners
    • Product update emails

2. New Business 

This is a language most Partnerships Manager experts speak fluently. We want Net New business, and it’s often the hardest to speak back. This partner is looking for new deals and increased revenue.

  • Common Profiles – SIs, Resellers, VARs, Managing Directors, Other Partner Leaders 
  • How to Speak this Language – Be direct. I imagine most people reading this are looking for the same thing – Leads, referrals, opportunities, whatever you call them. Understand your partner’s business and prepare to sell them internally to your team. How can your partners help your clients and your GTM team?
  • Set goals and let the partner do what you need to get clients interested. Whatever you do, ensure your organization can provide this value before proceeding. 
  • Useful Tools
    • Account Mapping
    • Shared Client Events
    • Connecting Sales Leadership
    • QBRs and Forecasting
    • Exports from sales tools like Zoominfo, 6sense, SFDC 
    • PRM

3. Awareness and Marketing  

Many of us work for cutting-edge SaaS companies that have set the standard for marketing over the last decade. Some partners can significantly benefit from the exposure that we can provide. These partners prioritize marketing, events, and exposure.

  • Common Profiles – Boutique Agencies, Smaller ISVs, Contacts interested in Career Growth
  • How to Speak this Language – Plan and execute. It’s easy to waste valuable time back and forth with marketing teams that are not aligned on your goals. Keep things simple, know what KPIs you want, and try to plan months in advance. 
  • Useful Tools
    • Case studies
    • Blog posts
    • Webinars
    • Panels
    • Repurpose content
    • PRM 

4. Services

Four and five are the best languages for those who speak language 2 (I assume most of us are fluent in wanting deals). If you care about new business, why would your partner want to drive that? These partners benefit from your product, the increased time on their SOWs, and larger deal sizes.

  • Common Profiles – VARs, SIs, Resellers, OEM, Practice leads, Managing Directors 
  • How to speak this language – Technicalknow your stuff, and be in sync with your CSM and support teams: 
    • Does your product have integration needs? 
    • Do your clients need support with content post-install? 
    • Is there change management needed to help your buyer? 
    • Once you understand what your clients need and the partners that can support it, they can build the 
  • Useful Tools
    • Find early adopters / existing customers
    • Have your CSM team outline common gaps
    • Ask about other services they offer
    • Demos and Lunch and Learns 
    • PRM access
    • Technical Support
    • Have a partner shadow a sale and implementation

5. Commercial

The holy grail…(in my humble opinion) This Partner would like to financially benefit from each sale, reseller, channel, or referral through your partner agreement. Most Partnerships Manager roles and AEs assume Commercial is a preferred language. However, in my experience, it is the most rare dialect.

  • Common Profiles – Resellers, VARs, Practice Leads, SIs, and smaller boutique firms.
  • How to speak this language  – Often mistaken for why every partner refers to business, these unicorns care deeply about referring and winning your business. They need to understand your sales pitch process, want to stay updated, and want to be paid on time. Transparency and numbers work well here. 
  • Useful Tools
    • Sales / PRM for deal updates
    • Sales process training 
    • Partnership contract reviews
    • Discount / Referral programs
    • Repurpose sales material
    • Partner Payment systems

Conclusion

If you have made it this far, I hope you have thought about your language and have been transparent enough with your partners that they know it. I have seen too many partnerships speaking two different languages, and both leaving feeling like they’ve wasted precious time and often tainted their reputation. 

Hopefully, this helps you, as a partnerships manager, understand your partner’s values, gives you the tools to speak those languages, and drives the values they care about. 

Please feel free to reach out and let me know your thoughts. My love language is words of affirmation, and my value language is Commercial. 

TB

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