Partnering with GSIs & Agencies: Panel Recap
Updated: Mar 20
We were recently joined by Heather Roth of Slalom, Ben Mooney of CoreMedia, and Steven Shyne of CXperts for a dynamic panel discussion on partnering with global system integrators and agencies as part of this quarter’s spotlight theme. Each shared unique perspectives from their time working in SaaS and partnerships.
Partnership Leaders members have additional opportunities to hear from Heather, Ben, Steven, and more experienced partnership professionals in our upcoming breakout sessions on March 2nd.
This panel was brought to you in partnership with PartnerStack.
How to Approach Partnerships with GSIs & Agencies
Our panelists had great advice for approaching GSI and agency partnerships. Heather Roth highlighted the importance of focusing on outcomes and identifying case studies from relevant clients. Promoting success stories from similar projects up-front can be an effective way to jump over the credibility hurdle.
Ben Mooney pointed that you also need to consider your pipeline and how technology can increase stickiness. “You can enter from the revenue side of it, but you can also approach from a side of needing expanded services for customer success. Specifically for ISVs, if you can create a way for your partners to make revenue through your service, that can be an elegant pathway into those relationships.”
With so much noise in the marketplace, how can you get the attention of an organization like Slalom? Heather recommended focusing on your ability to solve a unique customer problem and showing outcomes. “I ask, ‘what outcomes did they drive for another organization that I can bring to my client?’ I lean back on the use-cases and value drivers. Even offering a demo and showcasing the use-cases for why your product is the best is great.”
Go-to-market strategies can vary significantly by partner models. In her experience on the agency side, Heather saw how different consulting was. “With agencies, we had very specific tools that we worked with, and oftentimes we used those tools with clients. Now, we don’t have a tool. We’re advising on how to use it. If there aren’t big service model pieces attached to it, then in many cases, just having an awareness of those technologies is the best way to work with us. If a customer needs a product, we can make a recommendation, but we wouldn't provide any services with that. We're incentivized on team utilization, revenue, and margin, so we have to utilize our team and have some services around that.”
Once you’ve partnered and started co-selling and co-marketing, Steven Shyne cautions against letting perfection get in the way of progress. “You need to define things pretty well. Your ducks should be somewhat in a row, but not perfect. Just try something, and optimize from there.”
Steven went on to share that getting sales involved early can speed up the tech selling process. “Get AEs involved right away and have the partnership team become less of a conduit and more of a facilitator for bringing in other teams.”
Ben also highlighted the importance of multidisciplinary teams for engagement. “This is often forgotten about in the hype of the pitch process. Both services and tech are coming together to create a pitch team, either jointly or separately to the customer. I've done this where I'm enabled, and the Tech Director is enabled as well, but then the Head of Data (or other) doesn't really know the value. When we're co-selling into the customer, that can create hairy situations where they're asking specific questions, and there's a knowledge gap. It’s important to ensure enablement and understanding of the basic feature functionality.”
Friction can slow down the joint sales process in a few different ways. Steven shared that oftentimes, there’s a disconnect between the initial solution discussions and the end outcomes. “You need to focus on how it fits with other outcomes and how it can fit with us.”
Heather pointed out that occasionally, relationships can be complicated. “Sometimes, AEs will go over our head, which can be difficult when we’re supposed to go into conversations together. You really need to understand how they’re incentivized to do X. How can we ensure each other is successful? What are some of the service models we can build around this technology? Does this partnership fit, or should this be a relationship where we know you and recommend you, but can’t partner with you?”
Co-marketing Amid COVID-19
It has been a crazy past twelve months. A year ago, this partnering with GSIs and Agencies Panel may have even happened in person. Like us, everyone’s sales and marketing strategies have shifted significantly.
Steven shared that so much has changed, and it’s becoming more challenging to strike a balance. “It seems to be a bit difficult to understand and navigate. Where we're at, that Zoom fatigue is real. People are really talking about that and maybe having a virtual pow-wow would have been successful prior, but no longer is. What we're seeing is it needs to be authentic. People are busy.”
On a similar front, Ben says his team has taken a dynamic approach recently. “Co-marketing in the last 12 months, it has been helpful to test different approaches for different partners. We're up for different things like co-authoring a white paper or a thought leadership piece. One thing has been clear: alignment on post-activity follow-up is critical. Given everything going on, people are rushing to podcasts and webinars, and now you have a list of contacts that attended, and all of a sudden, 200 sales teams hitting them up. You need to be authentic through the entire process and consider the sales experience for potentially different messages from a single event.”
Heather is also a big fan of thought leadership collaboration. “I feel it helps you get buy-in from the organization as well. If I can send my colleagues to a blog article on Medium I wrote with a partner, they can get more excited. I think that the thought leadership piece is a really great opportunity for developing campaign material and gaining internal traction. Even if we think it's the best product in the world, we have to convince other people that's true.”
Recent Shifts in the Buying Cycle
Co-selling and co-marketing efforts aren’t the only things that have shifted recently. Our panelists highlighted how they’d seen the buying cycle change recently. Heather shared that they’re interacting less with IT decision-makers. “We see much more buying from CMOs in the mar-tech and sales tech landscape. Both are booming right now. I think it's interesting because I've talked to multiple partners about this and even developed a few. Just discussing who those personas are and use-casing it for them. We're applying our own strategies to clients internally to give them talking points. Sending content when there are new features or a new product is released is great. When I have time to read that content, that really enables me in RFP situations. Staying close and making sure we're equipped to fight for you is important.”
Steven reiterated how busy buyers are today. “One of the trends I see more and more — which might be a result of my specified agency — is clients are asking for the shortlist and they want help navigating solutions.”
How can you break through the clutter and get attention in today’s marketplace? Steven shared that one way is to offer something unique and demonstrate value that maybe isn’t in the marketplace. As far as sales outreach, “if you send me an email, and I'm at least a little intrigued, I'll go to your website. If I can't figure out everything you're doing, I'm leaving. You need to tie content in with your for lead-in marketing.”
Also on the sales front, Heather likes when people follow up. “It shows grit. Cross-channel marketing really gets to me. I read a lot of content I see on Facebook. I think having multiple channels other than email will help you not get lost, too. If you have a great case study, make sure you're promoting that on LinkedIn too. Then, I would just say be persistent, until I tell you I'm not interested.”
We’re all familiar with the customer experience, but Ben pointed out that the idea of partner experience is still relatively new. “Having a really good partner and channel experience is a really good way to cut through the noise. The partner experience you receive goes so far as priority, the engagement you receive, and more. If you can cut through, assuming your product stacks up, and you can provide that partner experience wrapper around it, then that's where if you get a bit of momentum, you can start to outpace the bigger players.”
No matter what market you’re playing in or how large you are. There’s always an opportunity when you position yourself correctly. Heather shared advice for when you’re competing against large legacy solutions. “Salesforce is not going to be a solution for everyone. At all. Just because you compete with it doesn't mean you're not going to be considered.”
More Insights on Partnering with SIs & Agencies
This quarter, we’re taking a deep dive into best practices to plan and implement successful partnerships with SIs & agencies. Explore spotlight interviews from our Partnership Leaders members for more advice on effective partnerships from a variety of perspectives.
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