Partnerships is a growing field, and many people from sales and marketing to customer support are looking to transition into becoming a partner manager.
But what does a partner manager really do day-to-day? And how do you get hired as one?
I read through 50+ job descriptions. These were for roles including partner managers from entry-level to senior partner managers and director/heads of partnerships.
So here’s everything you need to know about being (or getting hired as) a partner manager in 2023.
Note: these are mostly roles in B2B SaaS companies, but range in size from early stage startup to large corporations.*
What is a partner manager
A partner manager (or partnership manager) works with their business’s partners to reach revenue, product, and partner referral goals. Their job often involves recruiting, onboarding, and nurturing partner relationships. Ultimately, their goal is to help both their business and the partner’s business benefit from the partnership.
Partner managers work within partnerships teams which can report directly to the CRO or be built within sales or marketing teams.
To be a strong partner manager, you should have previous partnership or sales experience and strong interpersonal and communication skills. You must be willing to think long term, have a mindset for reciprocity, but, ultimately, be able to drive results from partners.
What does a partner manager do
The job of a partner manager can vary based on your company’s partnership program and your partners’ goals. But I hate vague statements like that, so I dug into over 50 job descriptions to distill what most companies are actually looking for from their partner manager. Here’s what I found:
Grow partner-driven revenue
In most partner programs, you as a partner manager will be directly responsible for delivering and increasing partner-driven and partner-influenced revenue. Most of the rest of this list is jobs you’ll do in order to grow partner revenue.
You’ll also be expected to track and report on this revenue. Want some help? Check out our list of 10 ways to track partner metrics.
If you’re applying for a partner manager job at any level, be ready to show what you’ve done in previous roles and how it drove revenue growth. Be specific about percentages or numbers when talking about revenue driven.
Recruit new partners
Partner programs need to grow the number of partners in them in order to be successful. As a partner manager that’s your job. To do this, you can market your partner program, identify and recruit target partners, and vet incoming partner requests. You’ll be responsible for creating and managing partner pipeline.
Drive partner engagement
There are two main ways to grow revenue from partners – recruiting new partners and engaging current partners. By keeping your partners up to date on your company and engaged in the program, you’re more likely to drive revenue from them via referrals, co-deals, or in other ways.
You can drive partner engagement through onboarding, newsletters, direct outreach, check-in calls, reciprocity, marketplace listings, and many other tactics. It will often be up to you to identify the most effective and efficient ways to engage your partners.
Build strategic partner relationships
As partner manager, it may be your job to build and nurture a few high-impact partnerships with strategic partners. From identifying opportunities to garnering trust, you’ll be in charge of maintaining a strong relationship.
With these strategic partners, you will make mutually beneficial plans and execute and report on them.
Create partnership strategy & build programs
Some companies are early in their partnership program development or are looking to shift strategy. As partner manager you may be responsible for developing the partner strategy and building out the program.
If you have experience running a partner program in a similar business, mention it in your interview for this position. Discuss how it was successful and the ways you’d create a strategy for your new company.
Develop resources for partners
As partner manager, you’ll be responsible for developing resources to help your partners be successful in your program. These could include:
- Business plans and propositions
- GTM resources
- Co-selling resources
- Co-branded assets
- Training materials
- Partner marketplace listings or instructions
You may be required to create these resources yourself or in conjunction with a partner marketer. When applying for partner manager jobs, it would benefit you to mention specific previous experience with building similar partner resources.
Go-to-market plans for partners
Announcing partnerships is one of the best ways to get a jump start on achieving your revenue goals. So your job as partner manager may include developing specific or generalized go-to-market strategies and plans for your partners.
Improve the product & customer experience
A large part of being a partner manager is making life better for your customers. Depending on your business’s goals, you may work alongside your ISV/tech partners and your product team to develop the most useful integrations. Or, you may work with agency partners and your sales team to identify places where they can help with implementation, support, and making the best use of your product.
Be ready to work cross functionally and communicate with different teams, both internally and externally.
A large part of being a partner manager is making life better for your customers. Depending on your goals, partner technology may be essential to your ability to efficiently and effectively promote, manage, and work with partners.
Be ready to learn or already know PRM, marketplace, account mapping, and even potentially iPaaS software on top of the basic software each company uses (like communication and project management tools).
What does a partnership leader do?
As you move further into your partner manager career, you will start to be qualified for senior partner manager, director of partnerships, head of partnerships, VP of partnerships, and other partnership leader roles. Although these positions have a lot of the same responsibilities and goals, there are a few skills you’ll be expected to have in addition.
Whether presenting to your executive team, the board of directors, or high-value partners, you’ll require strong presentation skills. For more on presenting effectively to executives, check out Maureen Little’s presentation, Building Influence to Drive Impact.
As a leader in partnerships, you’ll be expected to influence high-level strategy and decisions. To do this, you’ll need lots of experience, research, and data to back up your plans, and a strong communicative voice.
Hiring and managing a team
At the leadership level, you may be expected to manage and expand your team. Don’t assume you know how to lead just because you were a good employee – hiring and managing a team is a skillset on its own. Start to think like a leader and learn about effective recruiting and hiring practices and how to motivate your team.
While a partner manager may often work behind the scenes, as a partnership leader, you’ll be expected to show thought leadership. This could include presenting at conferences and on webinars, building your personal brand on LinkedIn, and even building relationships with key industry leaders to extend and strengthen the business’s network in the space.
In general, as a leader you should think ahead, lead from the front, and seek out ways to disrupt markets with new partnership and business practices, services, and solutions.
What is a partner manager’s salary?
In 2023, the average partner manager salary is $120,000 in the United States. Your salary may vary based on your experience, additional compensation, and your location (sometimes companies pay more if you’re in cities like New York, San Francisco, or Chicago). You can expect a much higher salary in senior management positions.
Although the number of partner manager positions available have reduced and competition is higher due to layoffs in 2023, partner manager salaries have not dropped significantly.
I pulled this data from Salary.com and Glassdoor, and compared it to listed roles. I highly recommend you do your own research before negotiating your partner manager salary.
Where can I find partner manager jobs?
The best places to find partner manager jobs are:
- Partnership Leaders community. They have publicly available job postings on their website and a Jobs channel in their gated Slack community.
- LinkedIn searches and networking. You can search for partner manager (or related) roles and apply on LinkedIn. But leveraging your LinkedIn community might actually be more effective – create content and regularly remind connections you’re looking for a partner manager role.
- Personal networking. Reach out to people you’ve worked with in previous roles to let them know you’re searching for a partner manager role. Attend networking events in your city or online to get to know more partnerships professionals.
- BuiltIn. BuiltIn is a U.S.-based recruitment site for tech companies and startups. You can find partner manager jobs in your area and remote options.
- Wellfound. Wellfound is a job board and recruiting platform that connects startups with job seekers. You can create an account and profile, then search for partner manager positions.
Other partnerships positions
There are many other roles in partnerships. I won’t dive into them deeply, but will give a quick overview and salary expectations of common partnership positions.
VP of Business Development or Partnerships: A higher executive role that oversees all partnership activities, strategies, and teams. They work closely with the C-suite to align partnerships with overall company strategy.
The average VP of business development salary is $250,000.
The average VP of partnerships salary is $200,000.
Partner Marketing Manager: Focuses on co-marketing efforts with partners. This includes co-branded campaigns, events, webinars, and other marketing activities that benefit both companies.
The average partner marketing manager salary is $114,000.
Partner Operations Manager: Handles the operational aspects of partnerships, such as onboarding, training, reporting, and performance analytics. May handle technology solutions such as partner automation, marketplace, PRM, and setting up integrations.
The average partner operations manager salary is $104,000.
Partner Enablement Manager: Ensures that partners have the necessary tools, resources, and training to effectively sell or integrate the company's product or service.
The average partner enablement manager salary is $132,000.
Channel Sales Manager: Manages relationships with channel partners who sell the company's products or services. They might be responsible for sales targets, training, and support for these channel partners.
The average channel sales manager salary is $129,000.
Alliance Manager: Similar to a partner manager but often focusing on larger, more strategic alliances with significant companies or organizations in the industry.
The average partner marketing manager salary is $137,000.
Affiliate Manager: Manages relationships with affiliates who promote the company's product or service in exchange for commissions or other financial incentives.
The average partner marketing manager salary is $85,000.
Bring a big idea into your next partnerships role
A way to stand out in interviews and impress leadership in your first 90 days is coming in with a big idea.
One big idea you could bring is a marketplace.
Whether your new partner program is on outdated legacy software, requires developers to update, or you don’t have a public and in-app marketplace, you can suggest an improvement.
With Partner Fleet, you get a platform that can use a single source of content for on-site and embedded marketplaces, a partner portal where your partners can create listings, accessible back-end management for partner or marketing teams, and much more. And the whole marketplace can be live in weeks.
* The research for this post was done in November of 2023 and included job descriptions from companies like Intuit, Trustpilot, Deel, Azure, Merkle, Enable, Electric AI, Typeform, Influ2, Clevertap, Tripadvisor, LegalZoom, PlayerLync, Arrow, Grammarly, Wonderschool, and Notion. Salaries were all pulled from Salary.com, Glassdoor, or Zippia.