How to get AEs to actually work with partners

Nearbound selling and co-selling are buzzwords on everyone’s lips, but in reality, not many companies have managed to make them work at scale.

Why? Here’s my rather contrarian opinion:

No amount of training, no additional content, and no number of extra Salesforce widgets are going to get your sales team to care about co-selling with partners.

Here's why: while partner teams know there’s a better way to do things, the sales team is too busy with other stuff. They’re so overwhelmed and overloaded with data, sales frameworks, funnels, and new AI tools that it’s almost impossible to get them to care about co-selling.

Partner teams try to make them care by throwing more training, change management, and widgets at them, asking them to do things differently. In reality, this only ends up increasing frustration within the sales team.

So, how do we get AEs to understand when to work with partners, how to work with partners and, critically, why working with partners is so important? Last year, we interviewed over 100 AEs, and here’s what we found out: If partner teams want sales teams (and customer success teams) to care about co-selling, we have to make the process of working with partners as easy and frictionless as humanly possible.  

Getting AE’s to care about co-selling will take more than “please” – it takes EASE.

How to make co-selling super easy

AEs need more ease. If you try to ask them to do things differently, you better get in line, because your AEs are inundated with such requests. You need to enable them without increasing effort.

The best co-sell workflows are the ones that don’t require people to adjust their processes at all. They require no training, and they meet people where they are, and where they work. No additional tools to manage. No additional processes to master.

So, what does this look like?

The key thing here is figuring out where partners can add value, and then making the process as frictionless as possible. This way, you don’t need long, drawn-out change management processes, irritating demands, and extensive training. If the process adds enough value for the salesperson, they’ll be excited about it, and they’ll buy in right away. The new process sells itself, purely on the fact that is it SO USEFUL.

Co-sell workflows that always work

For example, one of the most high-value things we can do is find a process that alerts the salesperson when a partner can help them with a lead or a deal and then makes getting that help super easy.  

And when I say easy, I mean click-of-a-button easy.

Imagine this: An AE is working on a deal that’s stuck in the negotiation phase. They don't realize that the deal was sourced by a partner. Or perhaps no partner is currently attached, but Crossbeam or Reveal tell us which partners already have a relationship with the company. So your AE gets a Slack notification saying something like, “This deal looks like it’s stuck. We know a partner that could assist. Want help?” They then click either YES or NO.

Slack feature AE co-sell support-2

If they click YES, this triggers a workflow in which a multi-stakeholder email is sent from the partner manager's email inbox connecting the AE to the relevant partner contact, asking for assistance. It all feels super personal and human.

All that the AE needed to do to start this process was one click in a tool they already use, where they received this notification just when they were hoping for a miracle.

You might not need Superglue to get this done. If you can find another way to build something like this, that’s perfect! The point is this is the only way to get your AEs to work with partners in any meaningful way within days and without forcing them to change their workflows.

I’m super happy to help you get this right. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out! There’s nothing I love talking about more than co-selling. Maybe I should get a hobby?

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