Modern Partner Management: Turn Empathy Into Impact

Partner managers must leverage their business acumen and apply effective partner management tactics.

Jason Beal, VP, Worldwide Partner Ecosystems

April 29, 2024

5 Min Read
Partner management impactp

I get a lot of questions from industry folks about partner managers. I'm often asked, "What makes a great partner manager?" or "What should I look for when hiring a partner manager?"  

Those questions got me thinking. In the dynamic landscape of modern vendor/partner relationships, success is no longer solely defined by transactions and deliverables. Modern partner management is evolving in a way that prioritizes empathy as a driving force behind impactful relationships. The ability to turn empathy into actionable strategies not only puts you in your partner's shoes but also enhances collaboration and fosters long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.

Changing Dynamics Call for New Approaches

The tech industry is more crowded and competitive than ever. Vendors are knocking on the doors of the same partners every day, fighting for their attention, resources and investment.

At the same time, vendors need and expect more from their partners. Partners need to be more specialized, have a much deeper level of knowledge and offer a broader set of services to their vendors. As a result, many partners are choosing to engage with and focus on a much smaller subset of vendors.

Partner business models are also diversifying and becoming more complex. A modern partner manager needs to know much more about their partners' business models and identify the best ways vendors can leverage the partner and vice versa.

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Simply stated, partners must do more, and partner managers need to be much more than relationship managers. They also need to be project managers.

We Need Operators, Not Coordinators

Don't get me wrong, the ability of a partner manager to build and sustain strong relationships across their partners' organizations is still foundational and critical to the role. However, that competency is already expected as opposed to it being a primary responsibility and success factor.

Today's partner manager needs to be more of an operator than a coordinator. They must be highly focused on project management and the execution of detailed business plans and activities to meet specific financial and partnership objectives.

Why? For starters, partners are busier than ever, and thus, a partner manager must focus on detailed execution to get things done. Putting things on paper, delineating milestones and timelines, gaining mutual buy-in and employing a regular cadence to track progress are necessary to ensure successful project fulfillment for partners who have too much on their plates and too few resources at their fingertips.

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Rising Tides No Longer Float All Boats

Furthermore, the rising tide that once kept the tech sector afloat isn't lifting all boats anymore. After the recovery from the bust, the technology industry has generally benefited from strong annual growth rates. Thus, for most vendors and partners, growth came "easy" and didn't require a rigorous level of financial planning and project execution.

Those growth rates have flattened out. In 2022, the tech industry accounted for over 10% of the total U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), consistent with 2019 and 2020, when the tech industry's share of the GDP stood at 10% and 10.5%, respectively, according to stats from Zippia, a career planning site.

Further, competition has intensified, meaning that achieving growth in the tech sector has become more challenging and requires a more sophisticated and disciplined approach to partner management and success.

A Formula for Success

With this in mind, I created the "partner management formula for success." This equation is the foundation of "pHEARTnering" and partnership success. It goes like this:

IQ + EQ + AQ = SQ.


This formula may seem a bit quirky, but bear with me.

  •  IQ refers to the business acumen a partner manager should possess to drive execution. This acumen includes developing SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) in business plans, understanding and leveraging business intelligence and data analytics, knowledge of the industry and how technology has evolved over the years. Organizations must leverage this understanding and apply it to the effective partner management tactics I mentioned above.

  •  EQ refers to the ability to connect with and influence partners as well as internal and external stakeholders. Successful modern partner managers need to build deeper relationships, be their partners' trusted advisors and possess the soft skills for all aspects of the "know, like and trust" factor. They must also use their EQ to continually evangelize the channel's value, their individual partners' capabilities, and the reach their regional partners have to end-users.

  •  AQ represents the ability to leverage all the "arrows in the quiver," or all the resources the company makes available to its partner managers and the channel to build the business and drive success. These "arrows" include partner program elements, company infrastructure and departmental resources, leadership, sales and engineering teams, training programs, budgets, marketing campaigns, etc.

Rather than going it alone, a successful partner manager knows how to leverage all these resources and ensure their partners are getting their fair share of the company's resources to build the business.

The bottom line: Partners are busy. A great partner manager makes it easy to collaborate effectively, navigate challenges and achieve shared goals with partners while proactively engaging in success-enhancing activities such as problem-solving, sharing valuable insight, driving initiatives and being as much of an advocate as a manager.

When the IQ, EQ and AQ are all in place, this will lead to the SQ: Smashing Quota and "smarts" + "hearts" + "darts" = partnering success.

It's Not Rocket Science

Despite the quirkiness of this formula, partner management isn't exactly rocket science. A successful partner manager keeps pace with the changing tide of the industry and evolving partner and vendor needs.

Turning empathy into impact is the cornerstone of modern partner management. It creates lasting partnerships that not only withstand modern challenges but also thrive in today's competitive IT landscape.

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About the Author(s)

Jason Beal

VP, Worldwide Partner Ecosystems, Barracuda

Jason Beal is vice president of worldwide partner ecosystems for Barracuda Networks. As a global technology channel executive, he has a passion for partnerships and takes immense pride in working with teams to accomplish the most difficult of goals or customer challenges.

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