Using KPIs to Drive Continual Partner Program Growth

Using KPIs to Drive Continual Partner Program Growth

Ryan Lieser discusses developing growth-oriented strategies with a small, agile partnerships team.

This article is part of our Q1 spotlight on Partner Program Planning, Goal Setting, and Forecasting. Learn more in the series introduction.

After transitioning away from being a financial advisor, Ryan has spent the better part of his career in sales. When he saw the power of partnerships for software companies, he began spending the bulk of his time building out strategic partnerships.

After supporting multiple organizations in building their go-to-market strategy for partnerships, he was tapped to help build, scale, and execute a new Partnership GTM function at Total Expert. Today, Ryan joins the anecdotes team as the Vice President of Partnerships, the first hire in the business development and partnerships department. 

In celebration of taking on this new role, Ryan joins us to share his insights on developing growth-oriented strategies with small, agile teams.

First Steps Toward Building a Tech Partner Program

Ryan Lieser anecdotes Vice President of Partnerships

Ryan Lieser’s role at anecdotes won’t be his first building a partner program from scratch. He originally joined the Total Expert team in 2019 to build their partner program. Ryan explained, “I’ve spent the last three years building out our go-to-market strategy for partners. We didn’t have much of a strategy when we first started. In the beginning, we were laser-focused on determining the tech partners in our ecosystem then deciding how to build a cohesive story with them. We worked backward to determine the activities we could do with our partners to ensure they were influencing our pipeline. We look for mutual value for our strategic partners before building marketing collateral. We always make sure our sales teams are aligned so we can have a joint story.”

Ryan’s efforts to refine partner strategies have ultimately paid off. He shared, “For 2021, the partnerships team impacted 72% of net-new revenue, which makes up a larger portion of our growth. Total Expert was a $10MM company when I joined and has grown to $50MM in the years since. As we’ve gotten into new markets as a technology company, partners have been at the forefront of sourcing those deals.”

Goal Setting with KPIs

Ryan highlighted the tracking around partnerships-related metrics he’s done in past roles. “For all new deals in our pipeline, we would track the average sales cycle for deals with and without partners,” Ryan explained. “It’s a significant decrease in the length of the sales cycle when working a partner. The same is true for average sales size, which is much larger partners are involved. Similarly, evaluating sales by sales reps, the reps who are most engaged with partners tend to have closed the most business.”

When it comes to setting OKRs and KPIs, Ryan shared he started by looking at industry averages. “Since our program was new, we didn’t have a baseline to refer to, so we looked at industry averages for organizations with similar size partner teams. Everyone wants to see a continual increase, so our initial thought process was to have partners source and influence 20% of our revenue. Now, we take a look at our company objectives and determine how significant our partners will be in the overall growth.”

Since it’s still early in the development of anecdotes’ partner team, KPIs are essential for establishing a baseline. Ryan shared, “As you’re building a partnerships team, your KPIs will evolve. It’s essential to have a framework for getting your program off the ground, and KPIs are the framework for measuring how your department is building momentum for success.”

When it comes to reporting, Ryan and his team check-in frequently to measure progress. He shared, “We typically meet monthly to look at our metrics. We’ve tried to do quarterly business reviews with our partners to look at these metrics. Some partners we review with annually — it depends on how strategic they are.”

Setting Effective KPIs

Contrary to OKRs, Ryan recommends tying KPIs back to employee compensation. He explained, “It’s essential to ensure you have your partnerships team aligned to KPIs by tying them to how you get paid. Most partnership people have sales DNA in them. Make sure you attribute the KPIs to compensation and that you have the framework to track how you’re doing against those KPIs.”

Next, Ryan highlighted the importance of communicating your goals across the organization. “As you set your KPIs, you need to make sure that you inform the other departments within your organization that can help you,” he shared. “Explain how you’re measured and why you do things the way you do. It’s amazing that once they knew how we were measured, they could support us better. We meet with our account executives bi-weekly to look at what’s in their pipeline and conduct account mapping compared to our partners. They know we’re measured by partner-influenced deals and try to bring partners in more because they know it will help our team be successful. We track everything in HubSpot and report out of that. We use Crossbeam for account mapping and a bit of reporting.”

Ryan and his team are well poised to continue growing their partner program over the coming years. We’re excited to see how they continue to reach and exceed their goals. Ryan will dig deeper into his partner program development insights in this recurring member-only roundtable.

Learn more about goal setting in partnerships when you download Strategies for Achieving your Partnerships Goals. Experienced partnership professionals like Ryan will join us over the next few weeks to share their planning, goal setting, and forecasting insights. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to catch all of the interviews as they’re published. 

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