"When you are talking to your board, it is way different than talking to your team."
The word “Channel” is lost on many. The word “Partner” is broad and encompasses so many types. And you cannot call your “Partners” affiliates. Further, “You do not discuss partnerships in the same way to your team as you would your board.” This is the premise for our discussion with Bryn Jones, CEO of PartnerStack and Nikita Zhitkevich, their Director of Channel Partnerships.
In this episode, we discuss:
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Bryn: [00:00:00] When you are talking to your board, it is different than talking to your team. What other
[00:00:04] Nikita: [00:00:04] solutions are people buying alongside your
[00:00:06] Bryn: [00:00:06] software? You want to hang the sign on your door on day one that says you're open department.
[00:00:15] Alex: [00:00:15] Welcome to make them famous. The podcast about partner enablement, the only podcast uncover both how partner teams enabled their partners and how other department leaders enable their partner teams to achieve success. Wow. Just wrapped with Brynn and the Kita and what an excellent episode. We should have done this as our very first episode for the show, because it really lays out the groundwork and the strategy.
[00:00:41] And it's a thought exercise more than anything of when and how and what and why. Of agency slash service provider partnerships, nomenclature budget, and board discussions, which a lot of you listening have those frequently, which is, should I hire, what should I budget for? Who should I talk to? First?
[00:01:05] Second, third, what should I tell the board? Very tough decisions. Oh, and this. Episode what you learn. We'll just go through the points here. Why agency partnerships, why now we talk about what agencies are thinking about related to partnerships. Today, we look at some of the best practices and some of the examples that each of us have recently been involved in.
[00:01:28] We talk about litmus tests for if, and when you should launch your service provider agency partner program. We talk about board discussions, Brynne just closed the series B. He had to sell this to a board of investors and he talks about his experience and what he says. And when. Nomenclature channel partner programs, partnerships, VARs, MSPs.
[00:01:53] It's all confused. If you try to have the wrong discussion with the wrong board member or the wrong advisor or the wrong team member or the wrong agency, uh, it could get lost in translation. So we talk about nomenclature. We talk about why conversations about partnerships with the board are completely different than conversations with your internal team member.
[00:02:12] We talk about states. We talk about bifurcating, the role of partner manager to marketing and success. If that's ever a good idea, if so, how to do it, we talk about a thought exercise and roll out a strategy to consider. We talk about timeline, budgeting and all of that. So please enjoy this episode and as always join the collective collective dot partner programs.io for discussion on this and other topics.
[00:02:41] But before we get started, please hear about three tools that will help you scale your partner program. For sponsorship we aimed for not only great products, but tech use to power, some of the top partner programs. We've invited partner stack share work and send DOSO to be those sponsors. Partner stack for those of you, unfamiliar is the leading partner management platform or PRM for SAS companies like Monday Unbounce in our comm and web flow.
[00:03:11] And it is a company we've worked closely with. We advise many of our post-program market fit clients to demo partner stack when they are ready to scale revenue through partnerships. And we've talked a lot about co-selling in this podcast. So please check out our spa. For co-selling share work.co a free app that allows partnership managers at top companies like Qualtrics, full story, smart recruiters, and Sentosa to easily generate partner sourced and partner influenced deals.
[00:03:45] Thanks to real-time and unlimited account. Share work is offering all, make them famous listeners a three month free account to map unlimited accounts to generate leads and attribute revenue to partnership managers efforts. You use the link below to sign up for that offer. Finally, the top sales and partnerships teams around no of our third partner syndrome.
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[00:04:31] Founded in 2016, some DOSO is trusted by over 500 companies and has a vast global footprint with presence in north America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Learn email@example.com. So thanks again to our amazing sponsors. Now let's get back into the episode. This discussion is going to be valuable to all the teams out there that are in the early stages of program development, in my opinion, but we are going to speak towards those that are rolling out.
[00:05:01] Their agency focused program. So many SAS and platforms. Have had tech alliances have had brand partnerships and strategic partnerships for a long time. And they're looking into the agency channel and maybe they haven't cracked it yet. This episode will give you a firm understanding of how you should speak internally about partnerships specifically about agency partnerships and MSPs or service providers.
[00:05:26] We're going to talk about the nomenclature. Getting board, buy-in litmus testing to make sure that you're ready to roll this out. And, um, and what to look at, what other verticals and what other sectors to look at for the strategy and for some of the things that are quote unquote progressive or best practice.
[00:05:44] So first and foremost, let's do introductions. Bren start with you and then Nikita you go next.
[00:05:50] Bryn: [00:05:50] Amazing. Thanks a lot, Alex. Um, yeah, so I'm Brian, I'm the CEO co-founder of partners. Yeah, we've been building partner stack for the last couple of years. Our mission is to really change the way the world sells software and, um, you know, we're, we're well on our way.
[00:06:04] Um, we've been really fortunate to work with so many great customers, um, several hundred SAS clients right now, um, who leverage our platform to build their partnership ecosystem and power what's there. Um, and what we're really excited to, to come out at announced too, is we just closed our series. Uh, we're gonna use that as series B to double down on the technology and do everything we can to build a world-class platform, to enable people to build scale and grow through partnerships.
[00:06:31] Alex: [00:06:31] Awesome. Brin and Nikita.
[00:06:33] Nikita: [00:06:33] Awesome. Yeah. Thanks Alex. Uh, um, so I'm gonna Kita, uh, I'm the director of channel partnerships and alliances of partner stacks. So, uh, you know, I've, I've worked with a lot of organizations to help them, you know, put the strategy behind their own agency channel kind of an Alliance partnerships, but, uh, now.
[00:06:51] Doing what we do best, uh, building a partner program for partner stack itself. Because, you know, if we're out there telling people that they need to vote partner programs, we've got to show them why.
[00:07:00] Alex: [00:07:00] For sure. Yeah. We're all in the business of why. So I think Nikita, you and I are definitely doing this on a day-to-day basis, but hammer.
[00:07:10] The why of partnerships. Um, Brent, you've got to sell the board, you've got to sell investors. You had to do this over the last however many years, really, but definitely in the last number of months to get your series B done, but getting the board on, on, on par. So what I want to start with is the discussion of why service provider partnerships, why these agency partnerships, why now?
[00:07:34] Why is this important and what is coming in the next year? That has allowed you to raise the series B what are some macro influences that we should know about?
[00:07:44] Bryn: [00:07:44] Yeah, that's a, that's a good question. Partnerships gives folks, you know, D global distribution and it's incredibly efficient, right? So you're talking about global scale at a fraction of the cost.
[00:07:57] And you know, what we've seen throughout COVID is everyone realized that folks are no longer jumping on planes to go in and do deals. And what I see happening inside of partnerships is that companies understand they need to meet their customers, where they are looking to now buy. And that could be, you know, whether it's software, whether it's any commerce, um, people are going to trusted sources for purchasing decisions and they're making very educated purchases.
[00:08:26] And, um, you know, that coupled with the fact that partnerships gives companies global scale. You know, there's, there's some serious changes happening in the industry.
[00:08:35] Alex: [00:08:35] Yeah. And a lot of that is marketplace driven and we spoke about this in the prep, uh, brand. So we'll definitely want to touch on the marketplace side of that, but Nikita you and I are talking to agencies a lot.
[00:08:48] You know, I'm hearing more agencies looking to hire partner managers to be in the driver's seat of partnerships. But give me your experience as of late with just the pulse of partnerships with these agencies, what are they thinking about? How are they going about it? What is it. General status or the average.
[00:09:09] Yeah, it's
[00:09:09] Nikita: [00:09:09] actually a very interesting question there. Um, so they're thinking about a lot, it's that there's, there's no shortage of things that they're thinking about for sure. But, uh, they're trying to understand, you know, which partners are really good fits for them. Right. And a lot of them are also trying to understand, well, how do they, how do they make service lines or businesses, or how do they expand their core business offerings, uh, as a result of what these partners.
[00:09:34] Uh, so really good example is, you know, HubSpot partners, right? HubSpot did a phenomenal job, honestly, of, uh, allowing a lot of these agency partners to build strong businesses, um, around their core software offering. Uh, and now these businesses are realizing that. HubSpot only does so much. There were other, uh, software vendors in the space that they can partner with and either create service offerings around or, uh, create, um, uh, you know, some kind of business structure around too.
[00:10:04] And so a lot of agencies I talk to now have a other head of partnerships or a head of growth or some kind of business development individual that's really focused on. What do those partnerships actually mean for that agency and how do they, how can they continue to expand and grow? And, you know, by all means that's not every single agency, not every agency wants to continue to expand that, you know, forever.
[00:10:26] Uh, but they're realizing that a lot of these technology and solutions will benefit them, but also benefit their own clients. Um, across
[00:10:33] Alex: [00:10:33] the board. It's a situation where the proof is done. I think all SAS. Um, at least the arguments I don't think are happening in Bren. This is the next phase of this discussion is, uh, internally the SAS companies that I speak to, um, are not saying to me anymore, that partnerships isn't going to work.
[00:10:53] There are SaaS that do choose not to have a partner program. I was speaking to some agencies about gong in particular, but for the most part, from my experience, all SAS are. Of the opinion that partnerships with agencies and service providers is a viable business model in general. Uh, but board members, stakeholders, investors, they are very hesitant and they are very weary of course, of the time.
[00:11:24] Of partnerships the time cost the return on time, the ROI of course, and whether or not the timing of partnerships is right for their investment for their, um, for their portfolio company. So let's talk about that. Let's talk about the time as well as the litmus test for if you should launch a partner program and then speak to some of those companies that you guys lose in the sales side.
[00:11:49] The gongs of the world that just say, you know what? Partnerships is not our bag. We're not going to have one. And, uh, why, what is there a reason I honestly don't know, but speak to that. How do you kind of frame this and what do you pull from when you talk to your board about why a partnerships and what it would take and when?
[00:12:08] Bryn: [00:12:08] Yeah, so I think that board hesitation often comes down to the fact. That they've had a bad experience with partnerships, right? Um, generally folks have a negative association with ownerships when it hasn't provided a return. Um, and what we've seen is that partnerships have moved from under, under sales to under the marketing function, to now much more of a standalone part of the organization.
[00:12:35] And what is in very important when folks are communicating to the executive team and to the board fighting for that valuable budget that ends up being there is that there's some shared terminology that each department really understands and that there's reasonable time periods, um, for the investment to actually be paid back and accelerate on growth there.
[00:12:57] The challenge for SAS companies specifically is. You know, we've really developed this motion where we are addicted to direct sales and addicted to ad words. Um, and these are very easy things to quote unquote, turn on. They're very challenging to do, but you should see a return in them in a relatively short period of time.
[00:13:20] Now, direct sales teams are more complicated than people often make them out to be, but it's a muscle that people have gone and trained where they really just understand. Um, so what we're seeing is the boards who are adverse to partnerships are often people that may be used to do partnerships, the boards that are, you know, really diving into partnerships.
[00:13:42] Um, understand that, you know, a lot of that new bookings, a lot of that new revenue, um, is only possible through a third party. And whether that third party, uh, be through, you know, an agency or a marketplace, um, or even through another software vendor or other company where you're mapping accounts back and forth, um, you know, The boards that have positive experiences, or those are the ones that going into and succeeding.
[00:14:08] So the big trick is to frame it up for the folks who are scared about here's what it means. And here's the payback period, um, that we're going to start to see a positive return. Uh, on
[00:14:17] Nikita: [00:14:17] that note there just jumping in there, Alex, I think what Brynn said before was really important, right? Like you have to go where your customers are buying.
[00:14:24] Right. And so the vendors that choose not to go with partnerships are automatically like, they're just, they're just saying, Hey, there is a subset of vendors that we don't want to service, you know, because we're not going to go, we're not going to work with, you know, the agencies that they trust to ultimately make purchasing decisions.
[00:14:41] Um, and I guess that's okay for us. Right. Um, but you know, whenever a company gets to a certain size or scale, um, I find that, you know, Yeah. As, as, as the, the easy growth, as I say, and no growth is ever easy, uh, kind of slowly starts to dry up. They have to become more open to partnerships, uh, because they now have to find new levers of growth that they might may have not.
[00:15:04] Before. So, uh, I think Brynn made a really good point before where you have to be where your customers are buying. Um, and so for the ones that choose not to, I mean, that's, that's okay. I mean, that's their prerogative. Everyone can choose which, which go to market channels, they start with. But, um, I think ultimately.
[00:15:20] Most companies, if not, all of them get forced into partnerships, um, uh, because they have to go where, uh, you know, their, their, their vendors are
[00:15:29] Bryn: [00:15:29] just to quickly touch on that too. We see that, you know, it can be very easy to build a go-to-market machine and hit $20 million, $30 million, even $40 million in revenue by not having a partnership.
[00:15:43] But everybody has realized that SAS specifically is much bigger than we originally thought. Right. Um, and you want to actually be growing that, you know, 50 to 75%, maybe even a hundred percent year over year when you move through that a hundred million dollar mark. And so the folks that are saying no are often heads down and focused on things that.
[00:16:05] Uh, but once they hit that 50, $60 million mark, if they're not looking for new channels to go in and turn on, um, you know, growth slows and we see the people who say no, come back to it. When they see growth, slowing growth is the lifeblood of any company, especially an early stage company. And, uh, you know, boards feel that pressure and look to try new things
[00:16:27] Alex: [00:16:27] as well.
[00:16:27] I love having you guys on. You could take over, um, also sit back and listen. Uh, but, uh, but yeah, this discussion can go so many different ways, but we have a couple of things on the docket to talk about. And nomenclature is one of those. So partner enablement, overarching theme of this podcast. But of course, if the company is not fully aligned on what you're doing and why you're doing it, There's going to be, um, there's going to be a lot of walls that will prevent you from really working closely with your partners, which is what causes the partner program to be successful.
[00:17:03] Or one of the main factors you want to get really close to these partners. So, uh, let's talk about nomenclature. Let's talk about, uh, selling into the channel. Let's talk about the board side. So Nikita, since Brenda spoke, let's talk about the nomenclature on the agency side, in the trench. The slang, the terms.
[00:17:22] What means, what, what have you heard? What has changed since you've been in this role at partner stack? What did you think, you know, versus what you know now, what are some of the things that you like to talk about? When, um, someone talks about the word channel and the term partnerships and everything.
[00:17:38] Nikita: [00:17:38] It's a, it's a really interesting subject because I, you know, there's almost no consistency with the nomenclature. Uh, like I can, I think what I've gotten really good at is really bucketing things. When someone tells me that they're in partnerships or in channel, I really need to have a conversation with them to be like, To really understand exactly who they're working with, because like you mentioned, like if you think about the channel space, there's many different types of partners, right?
[00:18:02] Someone can refer to someone as an agency or a VAR or an MSP or a distributor or a marketplace. And sometimes, uh, a partner could be one or multiple of those at the same time. Right. If you're not from the space, that's incredibly confusing. Right? Like I have conversations with individuals on my team and even a partner stack, I think on a, on a weekly basis where it's like, what is this partner again?
[00:18:27] Like, what does this partner do? How do they work with us? Um, so I think where like the terminology is there's one it's expansive. Um, two it's confusing. There's no, like there's no. Buckets that people can easily kind of put these individuals into. Uh, but what I've started to see change is that, um, you know, you're not necessarily getting new buckets or like new nomenclature come up.
[00:18:51] People are just trying to consolidate some of the nomenclature that's there. So they're trying to, you know, really, you know, bridge the gap between like a reseller or an agency or a reseller and a distributor. Right. And, and, and kind of put that all together. Uh, but some of the nomenclature. Yeah, how interspersed it is and how different it is, uh, makes it difficult for a lot of people to like truly comprehend the channel.
[00:19:14] And then this, this is probably something we'll talk about. Like if the board doesn't understand, you know, some of the partners that you're working with, it, it makes it much more difficult to, to actually get a lot of that budget and, and, you know, ultimately continue to invest in, in, in the channel that you're building.
[00:19:30] If they just don't understand what you're.
[00:19:32] Alex: [00:19:32] Yeah, and I think this is what we could do for the listeners as we kind of go through these questions. Um, we want to get to a point in this episode where we almost formalize how you're going to present the partnership's discussion to the investors, uh, staging, budgets, nomenclature, all of this stuff.
[00:19:49] So if you're listening to this episode, Whether you have a board or you just have a team and you want to make sure you have alignment. This is a perfect time to get out your pen and start to formalize what it will be for you guys and what terms you're going to use and how you're going to present it.
[00:20:05] And what is it going to be in that presentation, but bran back to you for the nomenclature side. So speaking to agencies. Partnerships, uh, is the term that is still general, but we, we say SAS partnerships. We say tech partnerships, um, speaking to tech, uh, we typically use service. Partnership service up entity or consulting partnerships, service provider partnerships.
[00:20:30] When I'm speaking to a SAS that has digital marketing or digital agencies as their target persona agencies typically works. But if you go, um, out of. Uh, north American continent service provider tends to work better. Channel is really good where a lot of the confusion resides, but you speak to board members.
[00:20:51] Maybe they're a little bit older than some of the agencies. Uh, the agency founders that we typically see partnering, but where do you see the misalignment? Where do you see some of the confusion? What do you say to your board?
[00:21:03] Bryn: [00:21:03] When you are talking to your board, it is different than talking to your team, partnership leaders and partnership executives, people that are driving this industry forward have been forced to be super tactical.
[00:21:15] So we've developed all this, you know, nomenclature that works for us so that we can contextualize and maybe most importantly, get stuff done with very little. When you work up to the board, you have to do the opposite of it. It actually doesn't matter whether you're an agency or a managed service provider or a tech partner, any number of things.
[00:21:36] If you are a partner, you are a partner and there are three types of partners. There is that account mapping partner. There is the marketplace partner, and then there's just, you know, a third party partner and a third-party partner is really a catchall for. You know, channel and agency and everything like that.
[00:21:53] And those are the three buckets of partnerships. Like that's really what we go in and see. Um, and there are, you know, level two and three, you know, pieces of nomenclature that go and describe it much more tactically. But the challenge for partnerships folks is we actually don't need to be any more. We need to be more strategic, especially when fighting for budget.
[00:22:15] And if you can explain how you will grow in those three buckets, again, being third-party partners, marketplace, and account mapping, your board will understand. If you get caught in the nuance of the sales motion or of the relationship, that's where things will get very, very complicated very quickly. Now, of course you have to have answers for that, right?
[00:22:37] Um, you have to be tactical. You have to go in and do your job, but when fighting for budget, you have to simplify it so that everybody in the organization can really understand it. I
[00:22:46] Alex: [00:22:46] love that. You mentioned that. Yeah. Speaking to your board is totally different than speaking to your team. And I just had this conversation.
[00:22:53] I'll use this anecdote to kind of. The strategy for the next part of this discussion. But I was speaking to a team that is a very successful SAS team. They do not have a partner manager or a head of channel or anyone really owning and solely responsible for partnerships. The CMO is convinced that they need a partner program.
[00:23:13] They have been working with key service provider agencies, some of the top out there, but they're deciding whether to hire for a partner manager to budget. Or the strategy of that, I just posted it to the collective is really well. Can you bifurcate partnerships and have sales and your CMO run it right?
[00:23:34] Or your head of marketing run it where you have referral only partnerships that are in co-selling motions with your sales. And you have your influential top brand sort of agencies, those that have influence over other agencies, as well as your customers and your co-marketing with them. So you're essentially onboarding them as a co-marketing partner maybe, or you're onboarding them as a co-selling partner.
[00:23:58] And they're getting into discussions with your two sides of your organization on marketing and sales. Or do you hire someone to manage it? And then they communicate between sales and marketing. And what stages do you roll this out? So the staging is the key word that I want to talk, talk about. We don't have to talk about the strategy in this one, there's other episodes and other content for that.
[00:24:19] But I do want to hear brand as well as Nikita, uh, talk about what you suggest teams do and how you frame that in a presentation for internal stakeholders and or board where you're saying. We are going to be careful with budgeting. We are going to make sure that there's some level. Program market fit, milestones, KPIs, all of that to make sure we're not just dumping a couple million dollars into forming a channel program.
[00:24:47] And, uh, and then hopefully that works out. Do you see staging happening? How does the, how do those stages work? Um, let's start with, uh, Nikita since Brenda spoke. Talk to me about your perspective and then brand was talk to, um, the boards and the stakeholders of the world about. Yeah,
[00:25:04] Nikita: [00:25:04] totally. I mean, uh, I think Bruno agree with me on this one, but you know, starting a channel is it's almost like developing product market fit.
[00:25:11] Uh it's it's just like going after, uh, any, uh, net new go-to-market channel, uh, SIM SIM is what we did a partner stack it. It for us was, you know, you start slow, right? And so what I mean by that is you go in, you try to figure out who your best partner types are. Like, you understand your product, right? You understand your average sales price.
[00:25:34] You understand what products people purchase alongside you like your product today. And then ultimately you make a decision on the types of partners you go after. Can you bifurcate that with sales and somebody on the marketing side or manages the partners and somebody, you know, on the sales side helps close the deals.
[00:25:51] Totally. Right. If you don't have the budget for it. Uh, but I would still like for a lot of the organizations and vendors that are kind of listening and thinking about it, um, you know, making a partnerships, hire, you know, puts a dedicated resource behind it and allows you to really test a lot of things at the same time.
[00:26:07] Right. So, you know, if you buy for case something between like a marketing and a sales org, they're still going to be core focused on what they're looking to do today. So if you have a direct sales org, they're not going to really understand how partners, you know, dive into it. They might not, you know, develop the partner relationships the way they need to be developed, things like that.
[00:26:25] Uh, but the best way to go about it is, you know, create a plan. Um, as you know, the CMO of the CRO, when you're thinking about partnerships that basically puts direct revenue numbers associated. Right. So, um, it might not be almost immediately, but maybe, you know, six months or a year down the line, you say, okay, cool.
[00:26:43] We want to run a partnerships channel. These are the partners. We think that we should target because they are really good fits for us organization. Or, you know, there are a lot of, uh, complementary solutions that they sell alongside us. We need a partner manager to come in, to work with these partners to really enable them and to put the infrastructure behind them.
[00:27:00] Right. And a single individual for a lot of organizations, uh, And correct me if I'm wrong here, but I don't, I don't think it's an egregious hire, uh, considering that, you know, the, a lot of direct sales teams spend a ridiculous amount of money on, on just software and infrastructure for themselves. But, uh, you can budget in that higher and effectively have a really clear targets associated to that higher, uh, an insurance.
[00:27:27] You know, they are focused on those targets and then there's the general payback period for that individual. And then once they've proven out that that channel can work, you scale it from there. So that's what I kind of meant by. It's almost like finding product market fit. Need to have that almost that individualized person that's trying to figure out where that fit lies.
[00:27:46] Cause that fit is somewhere there. Once that person finds that fit can start developing within those specific agencies with those specific partners that you want to target at that point, that's when you really scale it. And that's when you start, you know, getting into the questions of like, okay, how much should we scale this by how much of our strategy is going to be direct versus indirect.
[00:28:06] Right. And then ultimately, what does that structure going to look. Are there going to be things like channel conflict. So, um, that's kind of how I've always thought about it and how I've always prioritized it. But, um, you know, I, I'm incredibly lucky in the fact that. I think that the organizations that understand partnerships understand that there's a lead time to some of this.
[00:28:25] Sometimes you need to spend a little bit of money, wait a little bit, and then, you know, it, uh, it, it, it pays back in, in droves and I'm really lucky that, you know, Brynn and the board and, you know, we luckily understand partnerships. Um, but there's a lot of companies where if you don't have that senior leadership alignment, It's going to be incredibly tough to prove it out unless you have it.
[00:28:47] Bryn: [00:28:47] So, yeah, just a very quick, um, difference of opinion. A little bit on that. I actually don't believe you can buy. Partnerships, if you're gonna do anything, invest it. If you're going to deprioritize, it just don't do it right. Dedicate the resources somewhere else. Um, and I think that the first step is often find someone that comes and has that BDR type background and has sales experience, but understands like how pipelines work and how funnels work and moving folks through that.
[00:29:15] Um, and you know, partnerships should start as, you know, marketing source revenue is aligned that people go in and focus. Partnerships should sit under marketing and contribute towards marketing source revenue. Um, and at some point in time graduate, um, from beyond that marketing source revenue, because to Nikita's point, you know, you, you, you, it is incorrect, incredibly expensive to build a sales team.
[00:29:39] 50% of the sales team won't work out. It takes, you know, probably on average five to six months for our mid-market sales reps to actually be produced. There could be nothing more expensive than that. And so when you create your partnership budget, you could just use should be framing it as the same way as it would cost to hire a sales hire, build a sales team, or run multiple ad word campaigns, some of which will yield no return.
[00:30:04] Alex: [00:30:04] Great points. Yeah. I think that is right. I think there's, there's this there's a mentality and there is a conversation to be had for different teams at different structure, different stages with different stakeholders. If you've got a board and you're incorporated, and there's lots of stakeholders involved from the financial perspective, you're going to have to jump through hoops on the litmus test side on the Y side on the.
[00:30:30] What are we doing and what stages either way, you're going to want to be structured. And you're going to want to have a, both a sort of, should we do this thought exercise as well as what different ways we can do this in the early days, you can be a little bit more nimble and flexible. Versus, or leading to the final stage of how do we structure this for long-term scale and what's in place and who's doing what and how it's going to be systematized.
[00:31:00] But in those early days, I think these thought exercises are really good for teams to, to do, uh, between CEO, head of marketing, head of sales. Looking at the user base and looking at where agencies are involved in their user base, we're talking to the SAS companies of the world. So this company that I was talking to, that we kind of created this next step in their program together.
[00:31:22] Super interesting, because what they hadn't done is looked into their CRM, looked into their user accounts and looked at third-party admins of their user accounts that don't have the same domain. As the account owner, which means those are potentially consultants or third-party agencies that are co-ed administrating that technology account.
[00:31:47] If there are a lot of those going on, that is a perfect opportunity to go to the team and say, it's happening. All we have to do as a strategy is find out who those are. Find lookalikes of those agencies, those consultants, as well as enable those that are also touching the account. To help us upgrade their account, help us to create case studies, help us to advertise that they are doing great things with that account, with that software, with that use case.
[00:32:18] So I think there's some thought exercise that doesn't happen enough with teams early on in the program to really understand. Why it's already happening with their product and how agencies are interacting with the product and with the use case and communicating and assisting and consulting. They don't do that enough in my experience, the good ones do, but, uh, but some don't.
[00:32:43] So I think that's one of the first steps is to really look into the data. Who's involved in the program. How are they interacting with it or sorry, the, the software itself, how they're interacting with it and have those conversations with people, then you form a persona who's interacting. In what way, then you look at Tam, total addressable market of that persona.
[00:33:06] How many of those types of individuals are out there? Then you start strategically figuring out how you're going to let. Continue to interact with your onboarding processes, with your sales processes and with enabling your customers, how you're going to enable them. And then you just layer in the pieces, what needs to happen in order to get there in order to enable them to do all that, that you want them to do.
[00:33:29] That's incentive structure that set sales, enablement assets, that's training and certifications, all that stuff underneath. Uh, but let's round that part of the discussion out, uh, comment on anything I just said. And then let's go into the agency persona and what needs to be in place to make sure that you can sell this to the team.
[00:33:52] And some suggestions that you have there. So either of you, anything comments on what I just said before we go into the
[00:33:58] Nikita: [00:33:58] final part of the walk, quick comment on one side, I'm really glad you brought up that a example, Alex of, Hey, go through your CRM, see where, or, you know, there is a, a mismatch between someone that's clearly managing the account.
[00:34:12] Uh, but it doesn't have the same domain name and email. And I think this goes back to Brynn's point of like, you know, other. You shouldn't buy for your kid this because, you know, direct sales teams have a very different than incentive structure. There were a lot of organizations that I talked to where, you know, direct sales teams effectively sell to partners, right.
[00:34:29] They sell to agencies that are managing those accounts, but they only think about that one account. Right. Uh, but the reality is, is if you go back and you look into your CRM and there's a ton of these, cause you know, consultants sell into. They make purchasing decisions or agencies make purchasing decisions for a number of companies.
[00:34:46] And you see that there's a good, really good subset of agencies that are managing these accounts, go to them, see who else is their customer? And you're already on better footing than a lot of other companies, because Hey, they have a successful customer using your platform today. How many other clients that they have that might be really good fits for you?
[00:35:05] Right. And then ultimately, how do you work with that agency to ensure that, you know, there's priority? And there's a good partnership between the two of you one, you know, that you can potentially get in front of their clients, but two that you're giving their clients, you know, the best possible service to, uh, ensure that they continue to grow as a business as well.
[00:35:22] Um, it's a very tactical and a very, uh, I think it's a very easy way to actually, and just look through your current clients today and, and make a call on like, Hey, are there partners that are already working with us that we're not working.
[00:35:33] Alex: [00:35:33] Great points. Always great points. Yeah. And you are, like I mentioned, on, on the ground floor of this, you are talking to agencies like I am getting involved in their strategy as well.
[00:35:43] So things are changing on that front too, which is pretty cool. Uh, that helps drive this decision with SAS companies, agencies are pulling. Yeah. I would say pushing the SAS company is probably a better word to use, to have a program, which is awesome for all of us involved in this ecosystem. Uh, but there still needs to be alignment internally and there still needs to be a process and staging.
[00:36:05] Um, so Brin, uh, definitely comment on anything that we just said there before going into this, but the question that we have to answer and to help round this out is what to know about these service provider personas. That needs to go in your preparation, your budgeting, your staging, budgeting. I think you guys deal with a lot, obviously you are selling a PRM into this ecosystem, so you get the budget questions back to you all the time.
[00:36:33] So I think this is a good time to talk about the staging of, um, and, and the cost as well as how you kind of frame that. And when you present it to your. And all of the things that have to happen in
[00:36:46] Bryn: [00:36:46] between. Yeah. When you're rolling these types of things out, I mean, you want to dedicate one person to this.
[00:36:51] You need to allow them to get up to scale inside of your business, which is going to take a minimum of 90 days. If you can do it before then you've got an absolute rockstar and we've been fortunate enough to go in and work with a number of those folks. And then you want to give them three months, have them set the KPIs, what they're going to go on.
[00:37:08] In three months, you're probably not going to be generating revenue. You're probably going to have at that six month mark of them on the job, you're going to have those partners personas built out. And those personas aren't things that you need to have discussions about at the executive team, or even at the board level.
[00:37:23] Just talk to them about the partners that you're driving. Um, the personas that you have are things that you need to be talking about internally at your partnership team. It's the only way if you understand your partners, you will be able to drive right. If you do not understand your partners, you're going to be in a bad spot very, very quickly.
[00:37:41] So building that persona is incredibly important and your persona is going to be different based on, you know, the ACV or product type that you have. Um, you know, the, the person that's selling a mid-market enterprise or mid market marketing software is often different than the person who's selling, uh, enterprise security software.
[00:38:01] And so just figure out who is it? Is it an agent? Is it one of the, you know, numerous definitions that are there, but maybe more importantly, where are they located? How big is their. What's the average ACV they can drive for you. How long does it take for them to close a sales? It's very much so thinking of it as you would, you know, building out a persona behind a sales rep.
[00:38:22] Alex: [00:38:22] Awesome. A lot of good points in there, and I think I'm putting the, uh, wheels to the ground, so to speak, if you're listening and you're in this boat where. Maybe you have agencies that you're talking to very closely as almost like you guys are friends at this point where they've been using the tool for so long, they've been advocates.
[00:38:43] You go to them for product, um, roadmapping stuff. You go to them for co-marketing and weapons. You lean on them to support your top tier users, but you want to find more, you want to develop this into a program? Uh, this is the scenario that I was just mentioning and had that anecdote discussion a few minutes ago, but let's put it to a little bit of a preparation of a plan.
[00:39:07] So you're in that boat where you do have the budget, meaning you do have the cashflow, you do have the resources to put a partner team together. You do have those first few. Case studies, so to speak. It's not a formal case study, but you do have agencies that are in this partnership type of relationship with you.
[00:39:25] They are talking to maybe someone on marketing and then they have loose affiliations with people on sales and maybe a product person, but you want to put this into practice, right? So if I'm coming to partner stack and I'm in this boat, What are some of the things that you guys tell the SAS to make sure they have in place?
[00:39:44] And if you were hypothetically more of a consultant than selling them a software, how would you sort of approach the conversation of well, when and how, and what do I need to make sure my team knows about and is in place and what sort of budget expectations should I have for years? Who should it own it?
[00:40:08] What should I have? How should I have this conversation? So put your budget, hats on being partner stack. You've got to fit into that budget, but then also put maybe your consulting hat on to say, Hey, if I was giving them advice here, what I would
[00:40:20] Bryn: [00:40:20] say. Yeah. So I would, uh, I would kick it over to the Kida cause he can describe exactly like.
[00:40:26] We did this at partner stack and we figured out what works partnerships is our number one channel for growth. Um, and so he's going to have some really great tactical advice on how to do it, but don't just start with the budget, build a bottoms up budget, right? Like you need at least one person that one person's going to, you know, spend X and in, in, um, technology to go and support the partnership channel.
[00:40:47] And you should be really looking to get some version of an ROI. Um, or at least proof points within the first 12 months and positive ROI. Um, you know, ideally before that, but okay. Get over to Nikita. Cause he did some really interesting things as he built out our own partner program to which I will say we did way too late.
[00:41:05] We are a platform that supports partnerships, but we under invested in our own partnership program. It it's my number one regret that we've had as a business.
[00:41:13] Nikita: [00:41:13] Yeah, totally. Thanks for that brand. Yeah. I mean, there's, there's kind of a few things that I'd say there. Um, one. Yeah. I mean, we, we've definitely done some really interesting things with our partner channels.
[00:41:25] So, uh, what I'd say for a lot of organizations that are looking to kind of start is, um, really clearly define your partners, clearly define who you're going after. Right. And it's some of those tactical things that we talked about a little bit before Alex, but, you know, make a call on. You know, want to understand what other solutions are people buying along, alongside your software?
[00:41:45] Uh, once you have a good sense of who those partner profiles are, you can effectively then say, okay, here's the plan? Here's the partners that we're going to go after. Uh, we also need some kind of technology in place to support those partners. And, you know, the, the argument for partner software shouldn't be as hard as it is.
[00:42:00] I mean, most direct sales teams realize that they need a. Right. Like, I think we're all past the point of realizing that, Hey, if we want to scale an organization and we want to score a scale, a direct sales function, and we need to buy something like Salesforce or HubSpot, but for some reason, you know, PRM has not entered that phase yet, but basically, you know, create a really strong plan, um, effectively around who your target partners are.
[00:42:25] Um, how many people are actually going to be involved in targeting them. So I was going to be a dedicated partner manager. Uh, what is that actually going to look like? What KPIs you're going to look at in the first 12 months, and then any budgeting for technology like partner stack, um, fit that into the KPIs that are there.
[00:42:39] Right? And so you're going to need information. Right. And so, uh, whether that infrastructure comes at the beginning, uh, or three months in, or once you hit a certain KPI target, make it very clear that like, Hey, this is a channel that we're going to look to scale. If we hit these KPI targets, we're going to need to unlock these specific things.
[00:42:57] So we're going to need to unlock a PRM, right. That helps us, uh, you know, manage partners and manage and really scale our partner channel as well. And so, yeah. Don't when you, when you go out and create some of that budgeting and the forecasting ensure that like you plan for scale and some kind of capacity.
[00:43:12] No, that like, if you hit these targets, you're going to need to continue to hit them and continue to scale with those targets. And just generally continue to, um, you know, leverage partnerships as a growth channel. And you can't do that without the right industry. Right. And what I see a lot of individuals do is when they, when they approach they get the first part of it.
[00:43:32] Right. So they understand who their, who their partners are. They start reaching out to them and they have a couple of them. Right. But that's really stopped. They say, okay, cool. We have five partners. We have 10 partners. Great. We're going to keep working with them. And they spent too long in that, in that, in that bucket.
[00:43:46] Right. So they're like, okay, we have 10 partners. That's really working well, But realistically, you're like, you've proven out a growth channel, right? You want to continue to scale it. And so now you really need to put the infrastructure in place to scale it. And so now you have to think about, okay, cool. If there were two partner managers and we were working with 20 partners, what would that look like?
[00:44:03] Um, and I find a lot of organizations. Get to that point. Like they don't know how to take it from, you know, they might know how to take it from zero to one and get the budgeting and get everything there as it comes up. But also, but it might be really hard for them to go from one to two or one to five and really scale out the channel as it comes out there too.
[00:44:22] I agree.
[00:44:23] Alex: [00:44:23] I agree. No arguments there. Brynn anything on what Nikita just said any follow up
[00:44:28] Bryn: [00:44:28] that. Yeah. Yeah, just get to know your partners, get on the call with them. You know, it's pretty simple at first you consider it, share a slack channel. If that's what you want to go on. Um, you know, the most successful companies are the ones who invest most in their people, the most successful partner programs of the same thing.
[00:44:42] Yeah. And the
[00:44:43] Alex: [00:44:43] advice going back to your point, Brian, about having someone own it, it's super important to make sure that that person's involved in the strategy and the creation and the execution and the testing of this program, because obviously you want someone to. Help you scale it. And if you bring someone on too late, uh, there may be some confusion that would have done it differently depending on who this type of person is.
[00:45:07] Uh, but, uh, very important to also make sure you have a plan of action. You have some level of proof of concept in place. Uh, any litmus tests, Nikita Brin for. And when you should launch your program.
[00:45:24] Bryn: [00:45:24] Yeah. I mean, I think that you want to be able to know that someone can sell your product. I actually think that you want to hang the sign on your door on day one that says you're open to partner with people.
[00:45:34] There's no harm in doing it. There's no commitment required. There that's an inbound partnership strategy. Put it up on your landing page. That's something you can do for free. You don't need technology and infrastructure for that. And you can start capturing who these people are signing up. You can go through your list.
[00:45:48] But what you're starting to go in and look for, um, you know, the different folks that could actually go in and do it. Once you start approaching that million dollars in ARR, or once you have your first successful, uh, non founder sales rep, you should be implementing a partnership program almost immediately after.
[00:46:05] Uh, because if you know that someone else can sell your platform, then it's about how do you enable a third party to go and sell your platform?
[00:46:11] Nikita: [00:46:11] Yeah. I completely agree with burden there. I think it's really easy for a lot of organizations to literally on day one, just toss up a form on their website that says, Hey, we are open to partner opportunities.
[00:46:22] If you want to partner with us, reach out to us. Right. You'd be surprised how many organizations, uh, don't do that. But when they do what the general inbound traffic from some of these partners is, um, that they didn't know that were coming to their website and just wanted to partner with them in some kind of capacity.
[00:46:38] And it, once again, it's not to be a selling partnership, but it could be, you know, solutions, partnership, or whatever, kind of. Plays out with, but, um, I, I agree. I think, uh, you know, the moment you realize that there's a, an opportunity, once you figure out how to directly sell your product or how to sell your product, generally, I think you need to start thinking about, you know, one obviously, how do you scale that channel, but two, how do you get a third party to start selling it or implementing it, or, you know, whatever that kind of partner channel is that you end up setting up.
[00:47:04] Alex: [00:47:04] Um, very good advice. Two and a half minutes here. So let's just do the a one minute breakdown. I'll do this real quick. And then we'll go back to you guys for final thoughts and, um, any that you want to mention announcement stuff that's going on. That's relevant for the listeners. So, uh, to break it down, uh, like Nikita said, I think it is a very good step for SAS that know that they have agency.
[00:47:29] In their funnel that they have agencies interested to throw up a splash page, a partner page with a form, talking about your ideas for how the partnership's going to work, mentioning that you're sort of open for business for partnerships, run that through your newsletter. I do recommend, uh, not like. Just sit out there, but do it as a litmus test to say, Hey, who's coming through that form.
[00:47:50] What do they want? Have conversations with a few of those agencies that come through and kind of qualify in a way, find out what they want, find out what they're expecting. Are they purely after commissions? Do they want more support? What do they want? Find out, get the team together. Start to plan out sort of a.
[00:48:10] Loose agenda for the incentive structure and the program design, uh, then go after some more agencies with that program in mind, maybe go back to the ones that applied, uh, look internally for who can potentially own it. You can pull in someone from sales, someone from marketing there's best practices, either way.
[00:48:28] Uh, we don't have to talk about that, but figure out who's going to own it. Start to enable that person to really steer the vision of the program, have a lot of conversations and use that to back the program design. You're still under a low budget at this point. And maybe at that point and Brin, you probably have some good advice here.
[00:48:48] Go to the team and the board and the CEO, and figure out a long-term budget plus strategy for how this is going to roll out. Uh, give me your version of that brand real quick and let's
[00:48:59] Bryn: [00:48:59] do sign-offs. Yeah. I mean, if you're, if you can show that you have 10 active partners who are sending you business, that you or your sales team are either closing or they are in fact closing themselves.
[00:49:11] And what you're looking at there is you're looking at a range of about $250,000 and they are upwards of $500,000 in ARR, even if they're just leads that came in, you need to be really investing heavily in your partnership. Um, and it should be really in the year one, um, one for one. So if you want to go in and generate $3 million in budget or $3 million in net, new revenue, you know, you might need to be going and spending, you know, somewhere in the range of a million, five to 3 million to go and make.
[00:49:38] Uh, but that's of course after you've got those proof points in place. Well done guys,
[00:49:41] Alex: [00:49:41] Nikita do a quick sign off, then we'll go back to Bren for his sign off, mentioned anything that's relevant and then we'll wrap. Yeah, I mean, I
[00:49:47] Nikita: [00:49:47] mean, uh, thank you. Thank you for having me here. Uh, obviously, uh, uh, really excited to see kind of where the space takes us, uh, and, uh, excited to be just really a part of helping a lot of organizations.
[00:50:00] You know, set up scale and tactically figure out when partnerships make sense for them and, and ultimately, um, help put a lot of the infrastructure behind it. So, uh, Alex, thanks for having me on the podcast and I'm excited to do
[00:50:11] Alex: [00:50:11] more of these ones a hundred percent. Uh, thank you for being here, Nikita and Bren.
[00:50:14] Uh, talk about anything that's relevant for the SAS listeners.
[00:50:17] Bryn: [00:50:17] Yeah. I mean, we've got some exciting things that are gonna be coming up. Some exciting partnerships. We just announced, um, with some large distributors, which is a little bit. Um, so feel free to reach out to me directly Brin, uh, partner stack.com or through LinkedIn.
[00:50:30] And I'll make sure that we can have that early conversation. I am always interested to hear about new and innovative things that are happening inside of partnerships. And I know that it's the community that builds it. So look forward to connecting with everything and Alex, of course, thank you for doing this.
[00:50:45] Uh, that, you know, we have people like you building this community and what's awesome to join alongside you.
[00:50:50] Alex: [00:50:50] I appreciate that. And you guys are the leader in the space. I'm not just saying that because you guys helped with this podcast, but a G2 crowd confirmed it recently. I saw your post to a, you guys are number one.
[00:51:02] So huge, congrats to all the success you've had on the PRM space. There's a lot more coming. I know brand, you've got some huge announcements over the next six months. You guys will be doing a lot of cool things. So follow partner stack. LinkedIn and reach out to Brin, reach out to Nikita, get involved in whatever they have to offer.
[00:51:20] Cause it's great. Thank you both for joining and we'll see you. Um, .