The 11-Step Co-Sell Transformation Playbook

February 20, 2024

We know that the old sales playbook no longer works and sales transformation is a top priority in 2024. Companies have changed how they buy products and services for their companies, and sales deals today are exponentially more complex than they were 10 years ago. The modern sales playbook must include all the other vendors, suppliers, and partners influencing your sales deals and make it easy for your sales reps to engage those individuals across companies that already have the trust of your buyers. This is co-selling. Evolving your sales process from Random Acts of Co-Selling to a high-performing and scalable co-sell motion with thousands of partners isn’t easy, but we have built a playbook to guide companies through this transformation process.

The following Co-Selling Transformation Playbook was built based on our experience working with dozens of enterprises such as AT&T, Lumen, Softchoice, ADP, HPE and SAP Concur to design, build and scale their co-sell motions. Our 11-Step Co-Sell Transformation Playbook shares the best practices for how to build and scale and high-performing co-selling motion at your company.

1. Change-agent leadership

The most critical ingredient for any successful transformation initiative is change-agent leadership. Leaders who want to stick with the status quo should not sign up to lead a co-selling transformation effort. The ideal change-agent leader is someone who can work across sales and partner teams, and engage with your top partners to paint the vision and north star for where you all need to move together.

A great example of transformational leadership is from one of our customers, Lumen. They have a CEO who is outspoken in her mission to transform the entire organization. Under Kate Johnson’s leadership, Lumen’s indirect channel leaders, Sarah Seegers and Danny Beneditti, have carried this torch and led a channel-first sales transformation that moves them from engaging with partners reactively, to engaging partners proactively to hunt and co-sell into accounts. 

2. Co-selling strategy

In order to get your co-selling strategy right, you must include a very strong business case that includes KPIs. Your co-selling strategy needs to clearly articulate the WHY and north star for your co-selling initiative, and it must bring all revenue teams under the umbrella initiative so they have a voice and buy-in to the effort.

3. Design co-sell program around your customers and prospects 

When you’re designing your co-sell program you need to design it around your customers and buyers, not around your current org chart. I hear so often from channel and partner people that “my partners are my customers” – which is wrong. We need to change this – your customer is the shared customer. By partnering, we’re coming together to make that shared customer successful. When a co-sell program is built around the customer, and you align with your partners around each customer, then the sky’s the limit. A customer-centric approach is critical for co-selling to be able to scale.

4. Automation to scale

With the status quo today it’s not possible to scale up a customer-centric co-selling motion across hundreds or thousands of partners. That’s where automation comes in. Automated account mapping, real-time pipeline sharing, and automated co-sell workflows that instantly connect your sales reps and partner reps on their mutual customers and prospects allow you to scale up a high-performing co-selling motion.

When you start on your automation journey, begin with your top partners – the ones you already drive significant revenue with, and the partners that your executives and sales teams will pay attention to. But your list of “top partners” is all relative. Some of our customers start with their top five partners, while others have started with their top 1,000 partners. What’s important is that you use automation to scale up your strategic co-selling program with your partners that already understand your business and how to go-to-market with you. This will get your co-sell sales plays off on the strongest foot so you and your partner both make more money.

5. Update roles & responsibilities

Once you’re able to scale with automation it’s important to think through how roles and responsibilities will change for your partner, channel and sales teams. Once you have automation and detailed partner data, your partner teams will have more time for proactive, pipeline generating work, especially when they dive into all the mapped data they have with each partner. 

Once you’re able to run co-sell workflows that automatically connect your sales reps with partners engaged at their target accounts, it’s critical that your sales reps know they’re expected to engage with those partners to learn about the accounts and have those pre-opportunity exploratory conversations that can identify new opportunities for your rep and partner to pursue.

This is where we’ve learned a lot over the last two years. Automation can help you scale the first parts of co-selling, but you won’t see the revenue start to climb until your PAM’s, CAM’s and sales reps start working this new way. Without these clear new roles & responsibilities, many will continue to work the way they have been working and you’ll get the same status quo results.

6. Training and enablement for all teams 

Every transformation project requires an investment in your people. For co-sell transformation it’s important that you invest in training and enablement to transform your PAMs and CAMs into data-driven pipeline developers, as well as training to transform your sales reps into true co-sellers. Many of our professional services partners, such as Spur Reply, JSG and Achieve Unite, will confirm that your partner and sales teams won’t uplevel themselves. Invest and plan for the training and enablement your teams will need to become excellent co-selling partners to your partners.

7. Run sales plays

When you have a great customer-centric co-sell strategy, and you’ve invested in the co-sell automation you’ll need to scale, then it’s time to start running sales plays. With the data and workflows you get from a system like PartnerTap your partners teams can become Co-Sell Quarterback that align partners, orchestrate the sequences in each sales play, and run the co-sell workflows that connect your sales reps with the specific partner sales reps on the high-value accounts you want them to collaborate on. Instead of reactively introducing sales reps and partners one by one, they can design and run hyper-targeted co-sell plays that connect hundreds of sellers for pre-lead and pre-opportunity discovery conversations.

8. Attribution

When you’re running all these sales plays it’s critical that you can track the impact of every sales play on new pipeline and revenue. Get credit for all of the proactive work you do to help your teams build pipeline. The greatest thing about running an automated sales play is you know exactly which accounts you sent through a co-sell workflow and can track and measure the specific new opportunities in process with each partner afterwards. With full automation comes beautiful attribution. Each successful sales play and introduction can be tracked back in your CRM and PRM for closed-loop tracking and credit.

9. Change Management 

Every transformation initiative requires follow through to really make sure the change is effective and sticks. All the work you put into building a high-performing co-sell program won’t matter if you don’t continue to reinforce the expectations and best practices you want each team to follow. It’s so easy for teams to go backwards – and hard to effect lasting change. Only a commitment to ongoing change management will ensure you get the sales transformation results you need.

10. Identify more deals with each partner

The greatest thing about co-selling is it’s not a zero-sum game. The more you win, the more you can help each other. The data across your partner ecosystem is constantly changing. Prospects become customers. Sales territories change. Customers buy additional products. A sales rep moves to a new role. Channel managers get reassigned. A partner adds a new expertise or certification. You add more partners. You hire more reps. More prospects become customers. This is where real-time account mapping helps you identify the gold accounts that are hidden within your ecosystem, and zero-in on the best accounts to focus on with each partner.

11. Co-Sell quarterbacks 

Many companies today have a co-sell desk that is mostly reactive. The typical co-sell desk deals with 1:1 issues with a partner, about an account, or about a specific deal. The co-sell desk of the future will be running 1:many plays and even 1:many:many plays with partners and sales reps. These will include co-sell plays that bring together direct reps with alliances and technology partners. These will include through-channel plays that connect your resellers with your internal channel managers or product specialists to support them on their deals. And it will include direct sales plays to your internal sales teams where your Co-Sell Quarterbacks have identified specific accounts, intel, and resources from partners that will help your sales reps sell into these high-value accounts. The co-sell desk of the future will be using mapped data from across your ecosystem, zeroing in on the highest propensity to buy accounts, and using co-sell automation to proactively orchestrate co-selling motions at hyperscale.

In conclusion

Co-selling change agents are the talk of their ecosystems, companies and networks. As Channel Chiefs and partner leaders you hold the key to your sales teams’ success. At PartnerTap, we’re here to help companies build high-performing co-sell programs and help sales reps go to Presidents Club. If you’d like to talk with a co-selling expert at PartnerTap we’re here for you.


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