SaaS Partnerships Team Lead

Part 1 of SalesLoft + JB Sales: How to build lasting relationships with your partners w/ SaleLoft

Carina Shahin
March 17, 2021
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SaaS Partnerships Team Lead
March 17, 2021

Part 1 of SalesLoft + JB Sales: How to build lasting relationships with your partners w/ SaleLoft

“Partnerships are successful when both sides approach them as give to get.”

This is part 1 of a two-part episode where we learn how Salesloft & Jbarrows were able to build a strong partnership that is built on the no asshole rule, hard work, and reciprocity. They talk about the importance of working with companies you believe in and how making sure your technologies are complimentary are some of the traits they look for in partners today.

“Partnerships are successful when both sides approach them as give to get.”


Sean Kester - VP Platform Strategy at SalesLoft

Matt Alvarez - Director, Global Alliances at SalesLoft


[00:02:09] Background

[00:03:21] Cross-functional alignment

[00:06:10] Who partnerships reports to

[00:09:53] Tech stack

[00:12:18] Operationalizing

[00:17:37] Partner growth strategy

[00:19:46] Learnings

[00:21:46] Word of advice

Resources: - The leading sending platform. - Partner tracking and payouts. - A free account mapping solution.

Join the conversation inside the Partner Programs Collective >>

Episode Transcript

Sean: [00:00:00] I think it starts with revenue outcomes because that's what people pay the most attention to. But ultimately what we're looking for is customer outcome 

[00:00:05] Matt: [00:00:05] partnerships are successful when both sides approach them as give to get right.  Here we go. We have an incredible episode today that I am beyond excited to share with you all with me.

[00:00:17] Carina: [00:00:17] I have long time friends and two people that have taught me a lot about partnerships. Welcome Sean Kester and Matt Alvarez from sales loft. So I've had the opportunity to work with SalesLoft for. Four plus years now and learn a lot from these two individuals, but for the listeners who may not know you, let's give them a little bit of an introduction.

[00:00:38] So Sean, can we start with you, give us your name, your role and how long you've been working with SalesLoft?  Yeah, 

[00:00:44] Sean: [00:00:44] my name's Sean Kester.  I run all of our technology partnerships as well as our VC and PE partnerships.  And I've been with the company for a little bit over seven years now. 

[00:00:53] Carina: [00:00:53] Amazing.

[00:00:54] And now, Matt, what 

[00:00:55] Matt: [00:00:55] about you, Karina? Hey, just want to say thanks for having both of us on, it's such a pleasure to be on this podcast. And I know I've listened into a few of the other episodes and it's just been great to see what you guys are doing and talking about partner enablement more broadly. It's something a lot of companies need a lot of focus on, but before we get into that, I  just quick introduction to myself, I run our consulting and solution partner programs here at SalesLoft and  Spend a lot of time  building enablement strategies for our partners.

[00:01:22] So excited to dive in here with you. 

[00:01:24] Carina: [00:01:24] Dang.  I'm so excited to have you guys, so Sean, I want to start with asking you just the first few questions. We'll keep it really broad and basic here, and we can dive a little bit deeper, but what in your opinion makes up an effective partner ecosystem and team.

[00:01:39] What was the partner team that you guys initially made up of compared to how it has grown to where it is now?  Yeah    the partnership team started with, I guess me back when I was running product  we saw a 

[00:01:51] Matt: [00:01:51] need to incorporate other 

[00:01:54] Sean: [00:01:54] vendors into our platform.  So they could either use it from a UI perspective or have backend data sync.

[00:02:00] And so we started open up some API APIs and then over the years I've become more and more focused  on partnerships in general. And it wasn't 

[00:02:09] Matt: [00:02:09] until about  maybe a year and a half ago.  When Matt started  handling a lot of our  solution partners. And then since  we've grown the team to about six folks that report into the partner team, and then we have about three adjacent ones.

[00:02:23] Sean: [00:02:23] So we have a director of solution partners, director of partner sales, head of technology partnerships, head of growth and reseller partnerships, a partner marketing manager. Then the three that are adjacent does is partner operations.  We just hired a partner solutions engineer and  we have our product owner for the API team as well.

[00:02:42]   We've doubled the team in the past few months and it's really exciting.  Because we're able to focus in our individual lanes  and make sure that we're producing the most value for the business. 

[00:02:56] Carina: [00:02:56] I love that. Yeah. You guys have definitely grown a lot and I love to see it. Partner operations sounds like such a great role and I'd love to have them over here too.

[00:03:04] But what would you say some of the roles that are most crucial to have when you're building out a team and to really. Help scale it to where you guys are today. 

[00:03:12] Matt: [00:03:12] Yeah  it really starts all with executive alignment. It's something that we struggled with early on and  making it a core strategy for our business.

[00:03:21] Sean: [00:03:21] And until that happens  you're  going to be hamstrung by the other priorities in the business. And so really making sure that you've got your executive team in line  especially the  the C-suite. All the way down to your head of sales  and whoever runs the success and support organizations  was a big turning point for us, I think just from  core roles.

[00:03:42] It depends on your overall strategy, but you would likely want someone who is in charge of the technology side, someone who's in charge of any agency or solution partners, as well as  if you're going into reselling. Having a focus there.  The other thing I'll say  is the impact that a partner marketer makes just from a growing ecosystem is so big and it can't be overlooked.

[00:04:04]    We've had to use extra resources from marketing and fit it in over the years until we had someone who was fully dedicated to it. And that really helps us ramp up  and show the value from a go-to-market perspective for our partners, because we're not reselling them in our marketplace, but we are providing  market value so they can help.

[00:04:21] Acquire more customers and grow their businesses 

[00:04:23] Matt: [00:04:23] as well. And I was just going to add to that  I think Sean hits on some good points there just around like cross-functional alignment. And  one of the things that we saw early on is we started partnerships at sales lock was  w where does this role in function sit?

[00:04:35] Is it a marketing function? Is it a. Is it a post-sales function? Is it a sales function? And  and I've even had  some privileges of working with other companies that have had some of those similar challenges around where does it sit and   it can ultimately create  friction early on.

[00:04:50] When it  comes to building out  the right team, the right function, and where does it all sit? But I think Sean hit  on the roles  that are mission critical  running  the technology partnership side. That's so critical as you think about  What    the connected sales stack would, should really look like, especially for us and.

[00:05:08]   On the solution and consulting partnership side, I think  we recognize the value  in what third parties can do and provide to our customers and how they build innovative services to bring that value. And then    I think the other piece that we've started to realize is having.

[00:05:23] Advocates across teams.  So Sean hit  on one of the points around having  having someone on the marketing team. That's laser focused in, on, on partnerships    enablement, that's another  key functional areas. We'll I'm sure  we'll talk more about, but  cross-functional teams are  really helpful when it comes to partnerships.

[00:05:41] You can't just think about having functional owners or  just  partnership management, as you think about how the. How an organization more broadly supports the success of your alliances and partnerships that you're building a hundred 

[00:05:53] Carina: [00:05:53] percent. And when you guys were first  trying to understand and get a, just a better gauge of where you sit under, is it with marketing?

[00:06:00] Is it with sales? How did you take those first initial steps to  reach executive alignment? Because I think that's something that a lot of  partner teams struggle 

[00:06:10] Matt: [00:06:10] with. 

[00:06:10] Sean: [00:06:10] Yeah.   I was reporting into marketing in the beginning  before the question was it, should it be marketing or product?

[00:06:17] And one of the harder parts about that is that marketing has different priorities than sales and does product. And so the frustration came about when. A lot of our focus on partners is all about  how much we can do on the marketing side. But we weren't thinking about how we could innovate the product    what value they could add to sales.

[00:06:34] Matt: [00:06:34] And 

[00:06:34] Sean: [00:06:34] so ultimately we ended up putting it underneath sales when we brought on our new CRO, because that's the outcome we're trying to drive for the business, right? Fluids, pipeline influence, close wine    having referrals that  are sourced and closed one. And so if you're not aligned with the ultimate outcome of the business goal, Then you're always going to struggle to get the resources 

[00:06:56] Matt: [00:06:56] you need.

[00:06:56] Carina: [00:06:57] And on that same topic, what do your guys's KPIs look like today? How was it  in the very beginning compared to where it is now  is it increasing integration, usage, partner, sourced revenue, or  all of the above? 

[00:07:10] Matt: [00:07:10] Yeah. It's a bit of all of the above. I 

[00:07:11] Sean: [00:07:11] think when you're early on in developing  The sales relationships across your partners, then you're really going to look at a couple of things.

[00:07:21] One is just the net number  of referred deals that you can get over.  And those mainly come from our solution partners and resellers and growth partners. And then when you think about the technology partnerships, because you're also adjacent and selling into the same buyers, You're really pushing for influenced revenue, meaning that they're involved in that deal in one way or another, it could be an intro.

[00:07:42] It could be giving you insights. It could be    sending or making sure  that both products are bought at the same time. There's a lot of different ways you can do it there.  But those are the early on influences is the main one that we're looking at. As we move and mature as a team, then we'll start looking at  actual percentage of revenue of our overall revenue  engagement metrics with      the integrations themselves, and trying to reach a certain percentage of mutual customers that are using it across our key partners.

[00:08:11] And then  Ultimately source revenue. 

[00:08:14] Matt: [00:08:14] I'll just add to that really quick. I think it's important  as partnerships team, as partnership teams grow and emerge  just being as realistic as possible with the metrics that you're looking at out of the gate  they're there  right out of the gate, you're  a team that may be new to building partnerships or    building alliances, maybe won't have the.

[00:08:34] Source revenue number. They won't, they might not have the influence revenue number, but  tying it to customer outcomes or    usage of key integrations, as Sean mentioned  are two great starting metrics. Whether you're looking at solution partnerships or technology partnerships, and then as you mature and you grow   there, there certainly becomes  a revenue component and  and the function  emerges in into its own.

[00:08:56] No way of truly driving revenues for the business.  But  that's a lagging sort of KPI that, that teams I think get to, but maybe don't necessarily need to start with out of the 

[00:09:07] Carina: [00:09:07] gate. Yeah. And I think this all obviously starts with executive alignment, like you mentioned before, and making sure that you have the necessary roles to get there, because if you all can define that  we measure it.

[00:09:18] Partnership success based on increasing the integration usage or the usage of the overall platform.  Then that's where you can focus. But if it's all of the above and you need to help influence deals, then you know, those are a lot of different roles that you do need to bring on because everything does take so much enablement, so much process  and a lot of time  So  on the same topic, Matt, I would love to understand how you resource your Alliance partner program currently.

[00:09:45] And if there's any tools or technologies you prefer to use, like LMS PRM co-selling tools, et cetera. 

[00:09:53] Matt: [00:09:53] Yeah.  I think you, you bring up a few good points. Of course, there's key technologies that the teams will look to use in order to  enable their partners  both LMS PRM systems. But I think.

[00:10:03] The most important learning that I have  in terms of  key technologies and resources to enable our partners is really  to build out what those, what the resources need to look like technology aside, it's  a, the age old  like people process, then technology  build your processes, build your resources  build what your journey is going to need to look like, and then enable that through technology.

[00:10:26] And     we do have a PRM system that we provide to our partners. They all get access to it and get  a slew of resources that are at their disposal and      that they can use, whether it be for co-marketing implementing  supporting the sales process, whatever it might be.

[00:10:43]   I think  as we look  a lot of companies  will tend to look to technology to make self process problems and  that's not always the right. The right approach. And      certainly PRN  is key. And so is the LMS  I think for us   we prioritize the importance of ensuring that our partners get certified on the technology.

[00:11:02] And    for us  we make sure that they all do go through  a self-based certification.  That's  that's built out in our  in our LMS. Got 

[00:11:11] Carina: [00:11:11] it. Okay. Yeah. I was going to ask if that's something you guys build out yourself.  But definitely I think. Understanding why you're getting these technologies and how you're going to leverage them before you get them is very crucial before.

[00:11:24] Just so you don't end up wasting  a technology and don't use it, or don't have the enablement to train your partners or internal teams on how to use it as well.  So I really quickly, I just want to touch on your relationship with JB sales trainings. I know they're a partner of yours  and I have a great relationship with them as well.

[00:11:41] And they're not your typical agency partner. At least that's what I would say in my mind, but when it comes to certifying your specific partners  I would love to just understand  how did you guys first start working together and what made you  I guess just  sought them out to really bring them on as a partner.

[00:12:01] Yeah.  That's a, certainly a long story for another day, but I think it really goes back to the  executive relationships that    that John and Kyle have, and really saw and recognized  the massive opportunity that sat in front  in front of us around  transforming the way companies sell.

[00:12:18] Matt: [00:12:18] And operationalizing  operationalizing on, on that through technology. And so that was  the infancy    of the partnership, but ultimately    John and the team, John, Chris Morgan, and the rest of the group, who've just been fantastic advocates of our products and of the solution as we've continued to grow and  ha have reached new Heights.

[00:12:37] And  again, not necessarily a traditional agency partner. And  I know many of the partners that do exist in, in  at least on the solution side wouldn't necessarily categorize themselves as agencies.     And I think John and his team are certainly one of those. They're  unique team of fantastic experts that deliver fantastic outcomes for the clients.

[00:12:58] They serve around  sales training    and    helping teams execute more effectively on their sales strategies. 

[00:13:05] Carina: [00:13:05] Definitely shown a lot of success there.    Both of you guys. And so in the first  first few months of working with them  what were some of those first few steps, whether it was asset exchanges, content that you shared that you needed to  Get them ready 

[00:13:22] Matt: [00:13:22] quickly.

[00:13:23] So like  when we really started to put  what I'll call meat on the bones, so that, to the way we partnered    it, it started with identifying a few key client advocates that could take advantage of  some of the specialized services and training offerings that they provided.

[00:13:37] And then looking to drive client outcomes from. Those initial, that initial sort of group of clients that they started to work with.  And from there  the partnership just grew  and continue to emerge      as time went on. And what 

[00:13:48] Carina: [00:13:48] do you think I've made that  just that partnership and that relationship really successful with  between.

[00:13:55] JV sales and SalesLoft. And what are some other things that your other partners have done to build a successful partnership with sales off? 

[00:14:02] Matt: [00:14:02] No  I think generally speaking  partnerships are successful when both sides approach them as give, to get  ultimately  there's plenty of little acronyms and corporate kind of speak for how we think about partnerships.

[00:14:15] One plus one equals three.  I've heard  plenty of those sort of  topics, but I really hold true to the.  Give to get and less is more philosophy around partnerships. And  for us  that's ultimately what's helped us be successful  is not looking at our partners only  as a lane to drive revenue through, but as a way to really drive mutual successful outcomes.

[00:14:35] And I think that's. That's really  what's made the partnership  whether it's with  John and his team  or other partners in the ecosystem, successful is  always approaching it with the customer at the center of everything versus  Hey  hand me some leads for lack of a better term.

[00:14:51] So I think keeping the customer first  executive alignment  especially when it comes to the more strategic relationships. Tie into initiatives across the company.  And really just    keeping your customer and partner first. I think I said that twice, but that's my general 

[00:15:08] Carina: [00:15:08] suggestion.

[00:15:09] I was going to repeat the same thing. I think it's very important. You keep the customer and partner first. And I think it's, I think we've talked about this in the past too, where  when you're looking for  Maybe different agency partners or consultants pro services to work with, go to your customers first and see if they're already working with some, because if they are, let's bring them on and  that can build a really great relationship.

[00:15:32] Is that something that you guys have continued to do or just started doing in the very beginning and  I guess how do you then approach finding new  consulting and agencies and just partners in general and bringing them on. 

[00:15:46] Matt: [00:15:46] Yeah.   I think we're in a really fortunate space and  in sales engagement where it's just growing and it's just completely blowing up and helping companies transform  the way that they sell.

[00:15:56] And    with that  there's been the high influx of companies that are looking to partner with sales loft. And    we're certainly not at a shortage there, but I think when we do approach partnerships  and think a bit more strategically about them    I think about conversations I just had earlier this morning about talking about mutual customers  who are we serving and what are those customer stories look like?

[00:16:18]  How has  how has the services that you guys have brought to life, help them transform? So we have a.   Something to go and canvas across   the ecosystem with the partnership, whether it be some internal selling, cause  a big component  of bringing new partners into the ecosystem is selling to your internal audiences, selling across internal teams.

[00:16:36] And then of course  being able   to think about   those customers is as way to ways to  new routes to market for those partners and new ways to win new customers.       Always starting with mutual customers I think  is  the  it's one of the first things that  I ask a partner  when we're having exploratory conversations.

[00:16:56] And it helps to  really guide where we take the partnership from there. Yeah. I completely 

[00:17:01] Carina: [00:17:01] agree. I think sometimes   you want to  give one, get one.  But definitely sitting down, looking at the mutual customers that you have identifying those overlaps, it's all very helpful.  You want to.

[00:17:12] Crawl, walk and then run.  But Sean, I'd love to come back to you and just learn about how you envision or hope to grow and work with your partners.  In the next six months to a year, obviously sales loft is growing like crazy. Your partner team has doubled in size  the types of partners you work with  and are hoping to grow with are going to be a little bit different.

[00:17:35] So how do you envision this? 

[00:17:37] Matt: [00:17:37] Yeah.  I see it. I'm 

[00:17:39] Sean: [00:17:39] going in a few different ways.  One, we want to continue to partner with the best  in the spaces that we work in from a technology perspective, solutions  growth, et cetera.  But there's going to be a higher focus on those mutual beneficial outcomes.

[00:17:54] So making sure that we're driving the business outcomes that we want, whether it be revenue, adoption    retention, et cetera. And so I think as we specialize roles and continue to build those teams out, We'll have more and more people that are dedicated to each of those channels  to drive those outcomes.

[00:18:14] And hopefully we are able to show the organization that  just the overall value of partnerships in general  we don't have a strong partner muscle historically. And so it's one of the  newer focuses of the business and something that people have to get used to  flexing that muscle.

[00:18:28] And    I think it starts with revenue outcomes because that's what people pay the most attention to. But ultimately what we're looking for is customer outcomes  that are positive and seeing the correlation between working with partners and in retention. And  I think just in, in my experience of working with you guys for so long, you have a great and very strong partner muscle.

[00:18:47] Carina: [00:18:47] It's a partner team and ecosystem I've been very fond of. And that's why I was so excited to have you two here to talk a little bit more about. The journey and how you have made it so successful.  So Hey brag about it. You guys got a  strong muscle there. 

[00:19:02] Sean: [00:19:02] We're getting there for sure.  It takes a lot of brute force  until it's  really  it all starts turning when you can show revenue outcomes.

[00:19:12]  That's when people start paying attention to you, it's when you can get budget and head count.  And until that point  it's, without the data  it's hard, it's a lot softer  we know  that integrations are going to add value to our customers, but quantify those. And how do we measure it and how do we make sure that we're looking at the correlation between  integration, usage and retention, and when people are doing  consulting    engagements with our customers, are they adding value or are they expanding and growing?

[00:19:39] And so you've got to look at all those kinds of little micro. Data points in order to paint the bigger picture of overall partner success. 

[00:19:46] Yeah, 

[00:19:46] Carina: [00:19:46] definitely. I completely agree.  What are some of the  maybe top two or top three surprising things that you've learned about?    Just building out a partner program since you've been first and 

[00:19:59] Matt: [00:19:59] foremost, 

[00:20:00] Sean: [00:20:00] the need for executive alignment and support, you're not going to get anywhere alone.

[00:20:03]   And I'll add cross-functional into that because. And you can't  as a partner team, there's very few things you have full control over. And so making sure that you've got that alignment and everyone's agreeing  on the direction that we're going  the second piece  would be having great people.

[00:20:20] It's not an easy role and it's a bit ambiguous at times. And so having people that can really  own their. Part of the business and make sure that  it doesn't take micromanaging where to get things done. Everyone is engaging with partners at the same level of quality and responsiveness.

[00:20:38] And then third would be  just the overall company alignment and making sure that we've got enablement internally implement often goes overlooked.   We're talking about partner enablement, but the enablement with our internal teams to understand who do we work with? Who do we prefer to work with?

[00:20:53] Why are we working with them? What value do they add? How do we get in contact with them, setting up all those processes so that you can start measuring those outcomes?  It takes a lot of work. And    those are the three probably biggest things that I. Realize  that are critical in order to have success, regardless of what kind of programs you're running 

[00:21:10] Carina: [00:21:10] 100%.

[00:21:11] And it's definitely not easy, but those are all three really great points that for those of our listeners that are just having some struggles right now, or they really need to get everything back together to make 20, 21 a great year for their partner ecosystem, executive alignment build a great team enablement.

[00:21:28] That's all going to be so huge.  And Matt, just from you, what is one word of advice? One sentence, whatever it might be that you can share with the audience about building a stronger partner program and relationship and how people can really replicate the type of relationship you guys have built with JB 

[00:21:46] Matt: [00:21:46] sales.

[00:21:47] Yeah.   I think the, if I could put it into one sentence, The importance of culture when it comes to building partnerships    and just really being able to be completely open and transparent with the work with the companies that you partner with.    So that way you guys can really understand what challenges you're facing  as a collective whole, in order to bring a better outcome to your joint customer or to your joint prospect or whoever it might be.

[00:22:11] And    My thing is just the importance of culture.  You can have a, you can have a company that looks fantastic on paper and looks like they check all the boxes for being a great partner of yours, but it's some of those intangible things that, that really just tie into building a great partnership.

[00:22:27] And  and so again, the importance of culture, not just. In building your own internal team, but in building partnerships as well. 

[00:22:34] Carina: [00:22:34] I agree there too.  It's been an absolute pleasure talking with both of you. I have been learning from you too for so many years now, ever since I have    started my journey in partnerships and I'm really thankful to be a partner and a friend of you both and for sales loft  Thank you guys, both so much for joining me today.

[00:22:52] I'm so excited to just watch your partner ecosystem, continue to grow and watch you to grow in your career. 

[00:22:59] Matt: [00:22:59] Thanks Trina. It's been great. It's been great. Hanging out with you. Thank you so much. Greener. Thanks guys.

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