If you’re ready to start a partnerships program, then you’re also ready to hire or designate a dedicated partnerships manager, or partner account manager. Partnerships managers are essential in successfully growing your business and keeping current partners happy and engaged. They’re the go-to between your company and your partners, and in many cases, they are also the ones who will spearhead business development as you explore these partnership opportunities.
Historically, partnerships managers have been an extension of the sales or marketing team. However, as we learn the value of partnerships and how they can help grow our business, it’s becoming increasingly common to have a dedicated person or department. A partner account manager can help identify potential areas for growth, create exciting new opportunities, and target potential partners to work with in the future.
Whether starting with one dedicated person or a team of partnership account managers, you’ll want to find the right candidate. Or, should you be looking to transition someone already on your team to a partnerships manager role, these skills are ones you can look for to see if you have a partnerships manager in the making already on your team. We saw James Urie go from salesperson to successful partnership manager at Close — proof that the right person might already be nearby.
10 skills a partnerships manager should have to be successful
Whether you’re writing up a job description or scouring your existing teams for the right person to lead your partnerships program, these 10 skills are the first ones you should be looking for.
Communication and listening skills
As the primary liaison between your company and your partners, your partner manager should have excellent active listening skills and be able to effectively convey what your company brings to the table. On the other side, listening to and understanding partners’ needs and how they fit with your company is key to success and can create long-lasting opportunities.
Being a good communicator means having strong verbal communication skills and using non-verbal and visual communication, written communication, and contextual communication. These skills collectively help create a better experience with partners. Also, since partner account managers will frequently liaise with other internal stakeholders (marketing, finance, leadership, etc.) they should be able to apply those sharp communication skills internally, too.
Masterful relationship building and relationship management
Partner account managers do more than help recruit and onboard partners. As the title suggests, they also manage partner relationships. Building trust and reliability goes a long way in ensuring partners feel comfortable working with your company. You want a candidate who can create those positive, long-lasting relationships built on respect, support, and appreciation. Look for someone who excels in relationship management!
Sharp problem solving and decision making skills
Partnerships managers deal with a network of external partners, each with their own sets of priorities. A core tenet of the role is helping others navigate their own goals, and in the process of enabling everyone else to meet their revenue targets and reach new audiences, partnerships managers continually have to enable their partners to sell and keep the interests of their own company in mind. Conflicts, problems, and roadblocks will come up, and the best partnership managers are adept at resolving them.
Identifying and rectifying potential problems is a required skill to keep both sides of a partnership happy and feeling valued. Whether that means working with other departments to find solutions or collaborating with your partners to find a win-win, the ability to identify problems, come up with solid solutions, and make quick but educated decisions is invaluable in this role.
Excellent time and project management
Partner account management is often a one-person job, especially at the start. When the whole program depends on one person, it becomes essential to manage time well. Not only that, but the aforementioned network of partners will all be relying on this person. Being organized, knowing when to follow up or check-in, and setting enough time aside to efficiently complete all tasks also go a long way when it comes to hitting deadlines and building trust with partners.
Planning, prioritizing, setting boundaries, and knowing when to say no are all great examples of practical time management skills.
Strategic thinking and innovation
Whether you’re looking to stand out to new potential partnerships or want to entice people to work with you, having an innovative partner account manager who can think strategically and long-term is an asset. Being able to identify new beneficial initiatives and pursue them can have a significant effect on how quickly you grow in your company’s strategic direction.
The nature of the industry lends itself to strategic innovation. It’s all about new connections, growing ecosystems, different revenue streams, new ways to sell products and services. It’s essential that those leading the charge be nimble and strategy-driven.
Foundational sales skills
There is a reason partnerships is often nested under the sales function: to entice a potential partner to buy into the value of your product is essentially sales. While partnership managers don’t have to be salespeople, they should have the salesperson’s ability to speak to the value of the product and partnership in a convincing way.
Remember when we mentioned liaising with other departments? Partner account managers don’t just work with partners, they also work with other departments to launch effective partnerships and business strategies best suited to your company. They’ll need to work closely with sales, marketing, and finance, among others. In that sense, having a collaborative spirit and being willing to work with the team is critical and will lead to better long-term success.
The ability to prioritize
When it comes to partnerships, there are a lot of balls in the air at any given time. Partner account managers seek out and nurture new partnerships, manage ongoing partnerships, and report to your company, which means they have a lot on their plates at any time. If they want to take the lead and achieve success in these tasks, managing multiple ongoing projects, meeting numerous daily deadlines, handling distractions, and prioritizing and organizing tasks are essential components of practical prioritization skills.
While PartnerStack makes the UX of partnership management as easy as possible, partner account managers will still need a basic level of technical know-how to set up their management software, upload and distribute educational documents, mange an LMS, set up trigger emails, and show partners how to navigate their portals. Partnership managers will also likely use CRM software and other basic programs like Excel, so they should be able to pick up new softwares quickly.
While partner account managers don’t need to be versed in the minutiae of the product, they should be able to speak to its main value propositions and functions. Ideally, they’re comfortable enough to convey its value to prospects and educate on its main features to partners, but they have the support of a product team to tackle more in-depth queries.
Hiring? Current partnership manager salary expectations
If you're preparing to build a partnerships team, you'll want to make sure you're compensating properly for this in-demand skill set. Currently, junior partner account manager salaries in the United States typically start around $84,000 annually and grow to an average salary of $125,000 to $140,000 depending on their years of experience, according to Glassdoor. That’s an extensive range, so look at potential candidates’ resumes and adjust according to their experience. That salary can be a base plus commission, bonuses, and profit sharing, depending on company preferences.
It might seem like a long wishlist, but we’ve seen firsthand how many capable partnerships managers have developed all the skills required to flourish in this exciting role.