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Organization Maturity: How to establish Level 3 (Partner Management)

(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn here)

Level 3 of the Disruption Selling Maturity Model is Ecosystem Fit, where the Disruptor has to establish a comprehensive partner ecosystem around their Disruptive Innovation (DI). It is a prerequisite to be able scale and address the mainstream market, representing 84% of the total addressable market (TAM). This involves a multifaceted approach encompassing various dimensions of partner relationship management owned by what we collectively term as Partner Management

Firstly, the Partner Manager must focus on developing robust and collaborative connections with external partners. This entails a deep understanding of their partners' business models, objectives, and how they integrate into the broader ecosystem. Successful relationship management involves forging connections that go beyond transactional engagements.

Identifying and onboarding suitable partners is the next crucial step. This involves aligning potential partners with the company's objectives and values and overseeing the onboarding process. This includes managing contractual agreements, providing necessary training, and ensuring seamless integration with the company's systems.

Empowering partners is another key task. The Partner Manager must equip partners with essential tools, resources, and training to effectively promote and sell products or services that complement the Disruptive Innovation. This includes providing product training, marketing materials, sales enablement resources, and access to support.

Performance monitoring is vital for assessing the effectiveness of the partnership. Tracking metrics such as sales targets, revenue generation, customer satisfaction, and market share helps in identifying areas for improvement and recognizing high-achieving partners.

Effective communication and collaboration are essential to keeping partners informed about product updates, promotions, and any shifts in business strategies. This ensures that partners remain aligned with the Disruptor's goals and objectives.

Business planning involves the joint development of strategic objectives and initiatives with partners. This includes setting revenue goals, devising marketing campaigns, and engaging in co-development endeavors through the creation of joint business plans.

Escalation management is crucial for resolving conflicts and safeguarding constructive working relationships. This involves addressing issues promptly and ensuring that conflicts do not hinder the overall collaboration.

Managing compliance and contracts is necessary to ensure legal and regulatory standards. This includes overseeing contractual agreements, compliance prerequisites, and ensuring that all partners operate within the defined legal framework.

Supervising Market Development Funds (MDF) involves allocating and overseeing funds to assist partners with marketing and promotional initiatives. This ensures that partners have the necessary resources to effectively market and sell the Disruptive Innovation.

Collecting feedback from partners is a valuable resource for refining partner programs, improving processes, and enhancing overall collaboration. Actively seeking input from partners about their experiences and challenges fosters continuous improvement.

Finally, strategizing for expansion and growth involves exploring prospects for entering new markets, reaching different customer demographics, or expanding product offerings. Jointly crafting go-to-market strategies and identifying potential target markets is a collaborative effort between the Partner Management and its partners.

Further considerations when establishing Partner Management:

Reporting line: The Disruptor must avoid having Partner Management as another silo in their organization. To unleash the full potential of Partnerships, Partner Management must be part of the local/regional sales organization. Otherwise it will lead to disconnected actions resulting in frustration and possibly confusion with customers.

1+1=4: On a basic level a partner ecosystem will help improve the productivity of the Disruptor due to the ability to scale sales and delivery. In addition, there is significant value for the Disruptor because of better access to customers paired with skills and know-how in adjacent topical areas e.g. integration, operations, etc..


Break through: The Disruptor must not rely on Partners crossing the chasm for them, it’s the Disruptor’s job to break through into the mainstream. Partners will help but the pull needs to come from customers, typically the early majority, stimulated by the Disruptor.

Time: Building a great partner ecosystem doesn’t happen overnight but over several years. And especially in the first steps the Disruptor might feel that it gives more than it gets. The journey is worth it given the leverage the Disruptor gets in return over time.


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