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Field Notes

The Alliance Executive

Hone Your Hiring Profile

Over the course of my career at IBM I hired or participated in the hiring of dozens of alliance professionals to oversee go-to-market alliances. The job descriptions called for individuals with industry subject matter expertise, a history of successful alliance development and management, AND a demeanor suitable for senior level interaction. True, folks who fit that bill completely came by once in a blue moon. The question then was, if you can’t find candidates who have all three, which two - or one – is the most important?

Process of elimination: Whether subject expertise or salesmanship is deemed to be the most important alliance professional capability, the competence to operate at an executive level is an essential base-line attribute, no matter what.


The decision then comes down to which attribute can be taught/learned in the shortest period of time. That’s not such an easy question to answer. Some candidates may be verbal learners and quick studies, a quality better suited to subject expertise. Other candidates may be more visual and experience-based learners for whom sales skills come more naturally.


While debating the importance of one attribute over the other, it is crucial to keep in mind the single most important criteria that the alliance professional will be evaluated on: “How have you grown the alliance?”


So the answer is: “It depends.”

  • First, it is important that the partners discuss openly what attributes/skills – subject matter and sales – will be required to beat competition

  • Second, the partners discuss and decide who will provide those resources and associated talents.

  • And third, this is where a joint Plan of Record fleshes out these issues upon which a successful sales process can be built

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