As a new Alliance Lead for an AWS partner, you're stepping into a role that bridges the gap between your company and AWS. Your goal is to foster a strategic relationship between your company and AWS that delivers value to your customers. The best Alliance Leads can propel a company to the next level and is a critical position for any AWS partner.
The responsibilities of this role include driving brand awareness of your company within AWS, identifying opportunities to co-market and co-sell with AWS (such as Immersion Days and participation in other AWS initiatives), tracking partner status, and driving your organization to the next partnership levels. You are the main owner of your company's relationship with AWS.
Simply having a dedicated Alliance Lead is a strong signal to AWS that you are serious about your partnership. Note that we’ve highlighted the word “dedicated." This is not something that should be a hybrid or temporary role. Dedicate a resource to it and it’ll pay off in spades.
Let’s get to the things you’ll need to know in your new role.
Learn About The Technology
Familiarize yourself with AWS itself, even if you aren’t technical. AWS provides over 200 services. You don’t need to worry about knowing all of them, but you should be familiar with S3, EC2, RDS, Lambda, and the other main services. You don’t need to be able to put hands on keyboard and do the work, but you should know the proper names for each service and what they are used for.
The best way to do this is to study for and pass an AWS exam. If you are starting a partnership from scratch or trying to achieve the next tier, you will need a number of accreditations and certifications to qualify. It’s a worthy endeavor to go ahead and obtain one or both of them to help out your numbers and to learn more about AWS.
AWS has a number of free resources available for training. There are also platforms like A Cloud Guru/Linux Academy that are paid. Personally, ACG was a great resource for me and then I met weekly with internal technical resources to ask deeper questions.
Get To Know The APN
The AWS Partner Network (commonly called the APN) is your gateway to AWS. This is where you will learn about the different partner programs and the benefits they offer. As an Alliance Lead, this is where you will live. You’ll be able to see the status of your progress towards the next tier or competency and be linked to many other resources such as ACE and Marketing Central.
Get Familiar With AWS’s Culture
AWS operates on 16 Leadership Principles. Understanding these principles will help you align your strategies with AWS's way of doing business and to speak their language. While many companies put out a list of values on their website, never to be thought about again - AWS’s leadership principles (or LPs) are deeply embedded in their culture.
Not only should you know all of the LPs, but you should be able to quickly and articulately explain which LPs your organization aligns with the most. And while you’ll be tempted to say, “all of them!” or maybe even just make your values the same as theirs, resist it. AWS values honesty.
Learn About The Various Roles In AWS
The people you are most likely to interact most with are your Partner Development Manager (PDM) and potentially a Partner Marketing Manager (PMM). However, there are Account Executives, ISV Managers, and many other roles that you will need to learn about.
For the purposes of this blog, we won’t go into great detail on the org structure, but this is something you’ll want to discuss with your PDM. Have them walk you through the roles you’ll be dealing with (which vary based on if you’re an SI/MSP or an ISV). If you take our advice from earlier, you’ll be exposed to some of this in the AWS Sales Accreditation training available through the APN.
You will want to find out how everyone you interact with is compensated. This will help you align your discussions with their goals.
ACE The Test
ACE is the system where you will register opportunities with the AWS team. Once you add the details, the team at AWS working on this account will be revealed to you. You then reach out to this team and work on a co-selling strategy.
Do not, I repeat - do NOT try to game the system. Only enter opportunities that are truly real. If you ignore this advice, you will be caught and the teams will no longer trust you.
When you hit scale, ACE can be a real bear because you’ll be entering opportunities in ACE and duplicating efforts in your CRM. There are third party tools to integrate these two systems. WorkSpan is one of the more popular such tools.
Having your product or service offering on Marketplace can accelerate your deal cycles. Because of the stringent process to get listed, companies will often sign deals faster and it’s yet another avenue for you to be found. Marketplace is its own animal that could easily take up an entire article, so we won’t go into details here. Learn about the logistics of getting listed from the APN and your PDM.
Sign Up For All The Things
Attend any AWS webinars, events, and meetups you can. This is a great way to get exposed to the AWS way of doing business and to the community at large. This also keeps you updated on announcements regarding new services and will help you identify new areas in which to engage.
Identify Your Superpower
AWS often talks about superpowers. They want to know the thing you are the absolute best at. Many partners go wrong here by being too broad, too vague, or sounding too much like everyone else. If you put your description alongside of your top three competitors, could anyone tell you apart? Make sure you can.
You want to be very specific about what your company does better than anyone else. AWS will give you extra points if you can equally articulate what you are not good at. Know what practice areas you excel at, what verticals you specialize in, and what size organizations are the best fit for you.
Get A Process Together For Case Studies
Not only will you need case studies to get to the next partner tier, they will be the best sales tool you have to AWS stakeholders and to direct customers. They are your proof that you have done the job before and that the customer is happy with the results.
Work with your internal stakeholders to bake case studies into each and every engagement. My best recommendation is to capture some notes at kickoff defining the challenges the customer had. At the end of the project, hold a project wrap up call and capture how you solved the problem, what services were used, and what the measurable results were. Do this even if you are unable to publicly name the customer. While named case studies are the most powerful, unnamed ones are better than none.
Understand Tiers And Competencies
Partner tiers are Select, Advanced, and Premier. Along with this, there are numerous Competencies - think of these as validated areas of specialization. For each of these areas, AWS has a prescribed path to getting verified. You will find all of this information in the APN.
No, You Will Not Get A Lead List
There are thousands upon thousands of AWS partners. Do not expect to get handed a list of leads. While there is an occasional exception (such as with greenfield startup accounts), it’s largely up to you to drive business. Work with AWS on co-selling. That is a completely different motion than spamming a list of names. Again, you will get acquainted with this in the AWS Sales Accreditation training materials, but it was worth noting here.
Some Advice From The Pros
We asked our network on LinkedIn for their advice on how to be a great AWS Alliance Lead and here is what they had to say:
Understand how reps work internally at AWS and prep for meetings. Speak in their language and what matters to them personally, their role, their org, AWS and your relationship with them.
For ISVs, getting your solutions listed on the AWS marketplace allows you to access your end users committed cloud spend. This makes a huge difference in an economy where budgets are tight.
AWS rewards companies that share deal data and keep things up-to-date. Tracking your co-sell opportunities in the ACE partner portal helps you gain visibility and support from the AWS field. Failure to do this over time will hinder your partnership.
Be uncomfortable! You won’t always have the answers or the time to wade through all of the documentation. It’s okay to ask for help. AWS knows that the program is complex and full of layers. Be thoughtful and ask questions. Find opportunities to join sessions and listen in to learn more.
I just started at Rekor (an AWS Partner) and part of my portfolio will be conducting AWS Alliance Lead responsibilities. Prior to Rekor, I'd been at AWS for a few years so understand value of deep participation in the APN (Amazon Partner Network). One recommendation, get on AWS Marketplace: https://aws.amazon.com/marketplace/ - "AWS Marketplace provides a new sales channel for ISVs and Consulting Partners to sell solutions to AWS customers. AWS makes it easy for customers to find, buy, deploy and manage software solutions, including SaaS, in a matter of minutes."
They have a million people wanting to partner with them. Stand out by bringing opportunities to them, don't ask them to bring them to you. Be frictionless, add value, agree before getting in front of the customer as to who is doing what, and what both sides get out of the opportunity.
Also agree up front as to what you'll be tracking to measure success, and make sure both sides agree to those definitions.
It's like a marriage, it's about compromise and making both sides successful for the long term.
You have to know the AWS language, be heavily engaged with their community, and jive with their ethos.
I often relate the AWS Partnership with the Eastern Australian Current scene in the movie, Finding Nemo. AWS is the current and the partners are all the sea turtles riding the current. The challenge for each partner is to figure out how to best use AWS to bring the most benefit to its organization. Easy task? No. But a way to start is to passively adopt the AWS Flywheel mentality within your organization that incorporates regular cadence and structure to eventually tackle and expand one AWS-incorporated initiative after another. Create a tight ship and pretty soon you'll hear the flywheel hum of MDF, certifications, high-propensity, competencies, ACE entries, MP transactions, etc.
In case more comments come in after this article is posted, you can find the full LinkedIn thread here.
Congratulations on your new role as your company’s AWS Alliance Lead. Shameless plug - Better Than Services does offer assistance in helping you navigate your partner journey. In addition, reach out to the community on LinkedIn. Most folks are happy to help share their knowledge. Good luck!
About Better Than Services
At Better Than Services, we are the partner’s partner. We help SIs, MSPs, and ISVs by providing technical services, business process advisory and marketing services. If you're in the cloud ecosystem and have a challenge, odds are that we can help.