What Is a Strategic Partnership Manager? (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 20, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Operating a business involves increasing sales and revenue, improving relationships with current partners, and developing new ones. Forming and maintaining relationships with suppliers, distributors, and clients is the responsibility of a strategic partnership manager. Learning about this role may help you decide if the position matches your qualifications and career objectives. In this article, we answer the question, "What is a strategic partnership manager?", outline their qualifications, and review their skills.

What is a strategic partnership manager?

If you're interested in a career in business relations, it's important to answer the question, “What is a strategic partnership manager?” A strategic partnership manager is a professional responsible for managing and sustaining relationships with internal and external partners and stakeholders. They also establish collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships with new partners to support the growth and development of both parties. A strategic partnership manager is usually a full-time position, and the role requires working closely with company executives.

Strategic partnership managers manage relationships with partners and stakeholders on behalf of a company. They help the company grow by using partners' resources while providing them with mutual benefits. The role involves a wide range of responsibilities, including:

Exploring new partnership opportunities

Partnerships can help a company achieve its goals. While partnership managers mainly manage and maintain existing partnerships, they also look for new partners and collaborations. Forging new partnerships helps companies access new markets, increase sales in their current market, get access to technology, and gain additional resources, such as human resources and financial capital. Partnership managers work closely with partners to determine if they can help the company reach its objectives and ensure that the relationship also benefits the partner.

Related: 10 Manager Responsibilities in a Functional Organization

Studying and understanding partners' strategies

For this to work, a partnership manager studies and aims to understand partners' business and marketing strategies to determine their priorities, capabilities, and available resources. This helps them determine how the company can help the partner reach their goals, often through the contribution of finances or resources. This also allows the partnership manager to optimize the benefits of the partnership to best suit the company's interests.

Related: What Is a Partnership Strategy and How Can You Create One?

Facilitating communication between the organizations

A partnership manager handles communications between the business entities. They may initiate and attend meetings to relay important information to their partners. Effective communication results in a fruitful discussion of each company's goals, directions, and expectations. It also enables the formulation of mutually beneficial agreements. Open communication helps build trust in the partnership, which may lead to a long-term relationship.

Related: Project Communication Management (Definition and Steps)

Discussing and negotiating business decisions

Partnerships sometimes experience obstacles, especially when making business decisions. This may happen during mergers and productivity plans, particularly when strategies don't match. In these situations, strategic partnership managers act as mediators who analyze the plans of both entities, determine the potential benefits and consequences of each plan, and make a judgment. This prevents operational delays and misunderstandings between the companies.

Maintaining and strengthening existing partner relationships

The role of a strategic partnership manager involves continuous collaboration with partners to ensure that both entities benefit from the relationship. This includes communicating with them constantly, taking their feedback and making improvements, monitoring performance, and offering guidance to help them reach their goals. It may also involve working with partners to update business plans to cover new business scopes, develop new protocols, address emerging market challenges, and adopt new strategies.

Establishing and aligning goals

Strategic partnership managers ensure that the business goals of the two companies align. They identify differences and address and minimize gaps. If conflicts arise, especially if competing interests exist, the partnership manager finds a compromise that benefits both. For instance, if both companies aspire to become the leader in a specific market, the partnership manager may create a specialized plan where one focuses on a specific business area, such as customer service, and the other focuses on another niche, helping them both reach their goals.

Related: What Is a Partnership Agreement? (Components and Importance)

Providing training and support

A strategic partnership manager may support a partner by providing training and workshops. The partnership may be more beneficial when the partner possesses the same level of expertise in the company's products and services. It's also helpful to update them when the company releases or adjusts its products, as it allows them to market or sell the products more effectively. A partnership manager often provides product training and sales coaching sessions to share best practices and develop sales communications skills.

Strategic partnership manager qualifications

Companies looking to expand their partnership programs hire strategic partnership managers. Because this position involves sustaining existing partnerships and developing new ones, companies generally prefer candidates with strong business skills. Here are some qualifications to become a strategic partnership manager:

Education

Employers generally require a bachelor's degree for this role. They may prefer candidates with a degree in a business-related course. While an advanced qualification, such as a master's degree, may not be a requirement, it can be beneficial to have one in a relevant field, such as business administration or business management.

Training

While specific training and certification aren't common requirements for this role, sales training may be helpful. Many companies offer on-the-job training for new employees, which comprises observing another partnership manager's meetings and sales calls to learn the company's processes. This enables them to understand the company's partners and builds a relationship with them.

Work experience

For this role, companies may require a minimum of three to five years of work experience in a managerial or supervisory position in the same industry. Experience in sales and strategic planning may also be helpful. Familiarity with the company's market or industry may be beneficial because the role relates to sales and marketing.

Strategic partnership manager skills

While employers consider a candidate's education and experience, they also look for sales- and business management-related skills that can help a candidate become successful in the role. Here are some common skills for a partnership manager:

Interpersonal communication

Successful strategic partnership managers possess strong interpersonal skills, which include verbal and non-verbal communication and active listening. Because their job mostly involves partner-facing situations, excellent interpersonal skills allow them to engage meaningfully and communicate productively with partners. A professional and personable attitude also facilitates relationship-building.

Strategic thinking

One of the key responsibilities of a partnership manager is strategizing the company's affiliate and partnership program. Having the ability to think strategically is an essential skill for this role. They know how to create specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for programs and company initiatives. They implement these strategies and, depending on the result, adjust them to achieve their goals.

Analysis

Partnership programs involve large volumes of data, which partnership managers compile and analyze. This data provides useful insights for formulating strategic plans and decisions. It's important for a strategic partnership manager to possess good data analytics skills because they may analyze the performance of projects by looking at various types of information, such as performance analytics, conversion rates, and lead volumes. The results of their data analyses guide the implementation of their strategies.

Related: What Is Data-Driven Decision Making? (With Benefits)

Business management

Partnership managers understand how businesses operate and know how to manage them effectively. They understand and manage the entire partner lifecycle, from onboarding to helping partners with deals. Management and organizational skills are helpful in this role because partnership managers often oversee multiple partnerships.

Sales and marketing

Strategic partnership managers understand the organization's market, and this helps them create specialized programs for the target audience. Competent marketing skills also help them recruit more partners because they know how to create effective partnership programs. They can also provide support to partners through their knowledge of modern marketing techniques.

Related: The Most Important Sales Skills for Your Resume

Problem solving

These skills are essential because when a partner encounters a problem concerning the partnership program, they contact the strategic partnership manager to address the issue. It's important that the partnership manager knows how to analyze the problem and solve it. Excellent problem-solving skills prevent operational delays and strengthen partnerships via efficient problem resolution.

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