SaaS Partnerships Team Lead

Where to focus when building a program from the ground up w/ Jillian at Remote

Carina Shahin
May 10, 2021
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SaaS Partnerships Team Lead
May 10, 2021

Where to focus when building a program from the ground up w/ Jillian at Remote

"Probably a lot of folks who are listening to this podcast know that when you do start a partnerships department, it takes a lot of effort to show the value that you bring to the organization."

When Jillian Trubee joined Greenhouse, she didn't expect to help build a partner program from the ground up but she saw an opportunity for immense growth and went for it. From the crucial enablement needed and the patience that is comes with building out an effective program, Jillian shares all that she learned in her time at Greenhouse as a Partner Program Manager.


[00:02:48] Meet Jillian

[00:04:52] Discovering early opportunities

[00:08:28] Ensuring partner success

[00:10:19] Titles and job functions within the partner team

[00:14:58] Enablement with co-marketing

[00:19:31] Quarterly partnerships workflows

[00:20:39] Effective partner ecosystems

[00:23:18] Jillians guide to partner enablement success

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

Episode Transcript


[00:02:48] Jillian: [00:02:48] thank you for having me. Um, so I'm Jillian, I'm a partner program manager over at greenhouse. Um, thank you for your kind introduction. Um, yeah, so I basically, I started at greenhouse on the recruiting team. And realized really early on that I didn't want to be a recruiter. So I got the opportunity to, uh, work on the partnership side of things and we didn't really have a team department, anyone dedicated to it, but there was kind of this like organic need for someone to focus on these third party tools I wanted to integrate with greenhouse and.

[00:03:27] Long story short. I was a founding team member of the partnerships department and at the forefront of building out the integration ecosystem that we have today, which we've now expanded into different partner verticals and different programming. So there's definitely a lot to unpack. 

[00:03:44] Carina: [00:03:44] Yeah, I love it. So when you were on the recruiting team, was there at all a partner?

[00:03:51] Team or department at 

[00:03:52] Jillian: [00:03:52] greenhouse? No, not at all. So there was our product marketing manager at the time who was having these one-off calls with his and background check tools, looking to integrate with greenhouse. And it wasn't really a part of his job description. And because we had a little in recruiting, my manager said, why don't you go and help this person out?

[00:04:13] And, you know, kind of take some, some pressure off of him. Um, and I kind of saw that as an opportunity to make it my full-time job and myself, along with two other team members built the business case for why there should be a partnerships department at greenhouse. And the rest is kind of history. 

[00:04:31] Carina: [00:04:31] That's amazing.

[00:04:32] And then such a great opportunity and look at you, you know, like six years later and you were absolutely killing it and you're sharing, sharing your successes with us on a podcast. Um, so when it came to building out this program, what were, what were those opportunities that you saw where you were like, no, we need a partner program here at greenhouse.

[00:04:50] What, what did that look? 

[00:04:52] Jillian: [00:04:52] I think it looks like we had, we had this kind of. Small group of partners already. I think there was probably about 40 partners that we had built integrations with. And then there just became this demand for all of these tools that wanted to integrate. And we just didn't have the resources internally at greenhouse to build those point to point integrations and maintain them.

[00:05:14] So our team actually launched, um, open API APIs that were free to use. And then that kind of like opened the flood Gates. Um, so it wasn't just the demand. It was also this like, What do we do with these partners? Like, what does this process look like? What do we need from them in order for them to be successful in our ecosystem?

[00:05:34] So I saw that kind of like process piece as an opportunity to really get my hands dirty because I'm a process queen and I love like building things from the ground up. And I think that's really important when you are building a partner program is really understanding. What are, what are the processes that you need?

[00:05:53] What are the criteria that you're looking for when you do partner with. You know, whether it's third party tools or service partners or agencies or VC is like, what does that look like? And then you can really build out your program from there. 

[00:06:08] Carina: [00:06:08] I love that. So you mainly work with integration partners right now?

[00:06:13] Um, I guess like, just give me a quick overview of what your program looks like today. Maybe who some of those partners are, um, and the different companies that you guys do look for, um, to partner 

[00:06:24] Jillian: [00:06:24] with. Yeah. So we actually have. Um, so our. Partner, um, programs are kind of, uh, going out into three. So we have our technology partner program, which is our integration partners.

[00:06:37] So those are the third-party tools that use our APIs to build integrations to greenhouse. Those are tools like. HRS is like namely or bamboo HR background checks like checker or HireRight. Um, we have 26 partner categories, so it's, it's a pretty big ecosystem. I think we have over 360 partners and really that program is, is built to service our customers.

[00:07:02] Um, You know, where there are gaps in greenhouse. We have partners that fill those gaps and really help streamline our, our customer's workflows. We obviously have revenue channels through those partners and, um, with a select group, we'll do marketing activities to really elevate each other in the HR tech world.

[00:07:21] But we also have a service partner program to offer services on top of greenhouse, like implementation or. Recruitment process strategy, system integration. So those are the services that we don't necessarily offer. Internally at greenhouse, but that our customers actually need, um, those partners also tend to be really big advocates of greenhouse, so we kind of help each other out.

[00:07:45] And then the third one is our channel where we have consultants and VCs who help advocate for greenhouse and really. Kind of add to the bottom line. And so a lot of the work that I'm doing today is around that channel. 

[00:07:58] Carina: [00:07:58] Love it. Yeah. Very similar to kind of how, um, we're doing it here in Sindh dosa, you know, the three different pillars and, um, very similar to some of the other people I've talked to in the space, but that's super exciting.

[00:08:11] And so when you were first starting out. And maybe you guys already had a handful of partners. Um, you are the process queen. So what were some of those first few steps or processes you knew you had to build out? Um, just to ensure partner success? 

[00:08:28] Jillian: [00:08:28] Yes. Great question. So first and foremost, I needed to get my API knowledge up to speed.

[00:08:35] I had no idea what I was talking about on all of these calls with these potential partners. And I really. Kind of had that, you know, initial imposter syndrome, like, what am I doing? This is not the job for me. I don't know anything about API APIs. Um, so there was definitely a learning curve around that to really help.

[00:08:54] Kind of guide partners as to how they could build their integrations. I think that was kind of a differentiator for the greenhouse partner program is that we were really hands-on and provided that level of service. Um, so that was first and foremost, and then it was kind of like checking under the hood to see where everything was and kind of.

[00:09:11] What the process had been so far and where there was areas of opportunity. Um, we were tracking every single partner in Trello that we had talked to, which was unruly and just really not manageable. So first line of business was actually migrating all of that data over to Salesforce and managing our pipeline in Salesforce and getting all of that set up.

[00:09:33] Um, Because I was a one woman show working with all of these partners, I needed to streamline my processes. Um, and that included building a micro-site that outlined what the whole onboarding process was kind of, as I laid it out and being able to share that with partners so that I did create kind of more of a self service motion with what we needed to get from them and what our expectations were.

[00:09:58] Um, so that kind of really outlined the actual onboarding process. Oh, 

[00:10:03] Carina: [00:10:03] wow. Well, that is a lot to do just for yourself. Are there any other, um, team members you have and, um, if there are, what are their specific titles in job functions for the partner department? Yeah, so we, 

[00:10:19] Jillian: [00:10:19] we've definitely grown a lot over the years when I first started, it was myself, um, and our VP at the time.

[00:10:26] And we were kind of building out this, this program together. Um, and then we hired our director. Garrett star who, um, is still on the team. And he oversees kind of all technology and service partners and any kind of strategic initiatives that we could engage in, like any sort of, you know, unique partnership that's going to help really drive.

[00:10:49] Um, A strategic focus for, for greenhouse. And then we have Emily who was brought on as our coordinator, but it's now our partner marketing manager and she really focuses on, um, still onboarding the tech partners into our, our ecosystem. Um, but I'm also kind of on the marketing side, any sort of webinars or events that we want to do with partners.

[00:11:13] Um, so that's, that's her domain. And then we did have a couple of other team members, but after, um, COVID we had to downsize, which was really unfortunate, but I think kind of the theme for a lot of teams out there. Um, so it's myself who. Focuses more on the service partner programs and channel marketing.

[00:11:32] And then, um, we're going to be hiring another channel marketing manager, um, next quarter to help, uh, kind of take on some of the responsibility that I have because it's a lot of work to 

[00:11:44] do. 

[00:11:45] Carina: [00:11:45] Yeah, that that is very nice. And it, that sounds like a great team. Um, and I know that, you know, you guys have over what, 360 integration partners.

[00:11:55] Um, so you definitely have a lot, a lot on your hands. Are there. Any specific tools that you're using to keep track of all this. I know you mentioned going from Trello to putting everything in Salesforce. Um, but is there a PRM, um, maybe an LMS system. Do you Cosell any of those tools? 

[00:12:16] Jillian: [00:12:16] Great question. So, um, up until recently we, um, had a lot of homegrown solutions, so I think.

[00:12:26] Probably a lot of folks who are listening to this podcast know that when you do start a partnerships department, it takes a lot of effort to show the value that you bring to the organization. And it, it does take time. And so, um, as a, as a partnerships department that was fairly new in the grand scheme of greenhouses full life cycle, uh, It took us a lot of time to show our worth and the value that we were bringing and, um, you know, the revenue that we were generating.

[00:12:56] So now that we're kind of more of an established team, um, and that we're generating a lot of revenue for the company. Um, there's definitely more validity that, that we have. And so, um, we've also outgrown our homegrown solution. So we actually just, um, Um, we just bought a PRM. We haven't implemented it yet, but we will be using Salesforce communities.

[00:13:20] I think they're calling it something different now, but, uh, we'll be using that for our PRM. Um, I know internally at greenhouse, we're launching an LMS that I think could be helpful for our partners. Um, and then, yeah, I would love to explore, you know, some sort of a co-selling tool like cross beam or share work later on in the summer.

[00:13:41] Carina: [00:13:41] Yeah. Yeah, no, those are all really great tools and congrats to you guys for, you know, growing and driving that revenue in order to, you know, hire more people for your team and really get the tools that'll only help you grow more and help the success of your partners. Um, when it comes to driving revenue.

[00:13:57] Is that like your main, your main, um, focus or is it really, you know, Finding more integration partners to work with and if the revenues driven from there. That's amazing. 

[00:14:08] Jillian: [00:14:08] Yeah. So our, our, um, KPIs have shifted a little bit, actually. So we used to be a standalone department after COVID, we've moved into the marketing team.

[00:14:18] So our KPIs are, are slightly different. Um, I think being under our marketing org, really the goals are around leads and ops generated. So we're, we're gold on the leads that we generate through marketing activities, and then the opportunities that I generate through, you know, channel sales and, um, those types of initiatives.

[00:14:39] Very cool. 

[00:14:40] Carina: [00:14:40] And what would you say, um, maybe some of the two most successful strategies, um, that end in, you know, those partners, sourced revenues or leads or opportunities, is it a lot of co-marketing maybe webinars, joint blogs, um, or is it really just looping in each other on deals? 

[00:14:58] Jillian: [00:14:58] Yeah, I think it's a little bit of both.

[00:15:00] Like, I think what I've seen be really successful. Is that, that partner marketing aspects. So doing webinars with a partner that has, you know, a really a huge database and a really successful marketing team that can help drive those leads. Um, we've also seen virtual events be really effective, um, to do lead swaps and, and, and have kind of that awareness at, at their events.

[00:15:25] But I think at the end of the day, it's like really. Partnerships is building relationships with your partners. And of course you can't have really close relationships with all of them, but the ones that you do, they're always going to think of you first and they're always going to want to recommend your solution.

[00:15:41] And so, um, kind of creating those one-to-one relationships with sales team members and, um, you know, making sure that for us greenhouse is top of mind, so that we're first to be recommended. That is really, really, really effective. 

[00:15:57] Carina: [00:15:57] Yeah, I completely agree. I think it's all about the relationships. Um, first and foremost, um, someone I talked to, it was actually Chris Merrill from JB sales mentioned that when they are looking for, um, new partners or people to work with, they first go by the new asshole rule.

[00:16:13] So they want to work with people that they really care about. And do you know that believe in that they have the same priorities as them and. Um, and then obviously, you know, if there is a fit when it comes to product, um, so I completely agree with all of, all of that there. Now I I'm wondering too, like, what are those first essential steps that you take?

[00:16:35] You know, you have 360 partners, that's a lot to keep track of. What are some of the first few steps that you take to ensure that, um, You are staying top of mind, really launching that partnership, um, successfully right away. And then how do you continue to deliver, um, and stay updated with those partners all throughout their entire journey of working with you?

[00:17:00] Jillian: [00:17:00] So I think. I think we've seen a lot of success with our service and VC partners in that sense. Um, definitely our HRS as well, but I, I see a lot of success with service and VCs because at the end of the day, um, I think greenhouse has a really great. Brand recognition and a great partnerships team. So there's, um, we've already kind of established ourselves as, as a leader, um, but really understanding those partner needs and those partner motivations are very different.

[00:17:30] Like they want different things, they're motivated by different things. And so programming is really. The strategy of the programming is based on those needs and motivations. And so being really in tune with that. Um, so for example, our service partners, they really want to be an extension of greenhouse.

[00:17:47] They want, you know, An into our product roadmap and understanding feature releases and getting to speak directly with our product team to offer them feedback. And so our programming has really been focused on that. Um, I've even created a Slack community directly for those, um, Those partners so that they do get to be a part of the greenhouse community and access to greenhouse resources that they wouldn't get otherwise.

[00:18:14] And then on the flip side, VCs, they want the best tools for their portfolio companies. So really being proactive with them to offer their founders, the resources they need and, and greenhouses a leader in the recruitment space, which is really important for, you know, founding teams to really. Align their talent acquisition functions, um, to the success of their business.

[00:18:34] And so we really help cultivate that. And I think that type of programming is really what, what sets us apart and helps like drive, drive us forward with those types of partners. 

[00:18:45] Carina: [00:18:45] I really liked that. And I love the idea of a Slack community. And so is this one where they're all together, um, in, in the same community we're in, they can kind of bounce ideas off of each other as well as your 

[00:18:57] Jillian: [00:18:57] team.

[00:18:58] Yep, exactly. So it's kind of, you know, Uh, peers and a lot of them. Um, so we did have a certification program way back in the day. Um, and some of them went through it together, so they get to kind of reconnect with each other, which has been really fun. 

[00:19:12] Carina: [00:19:12] That's amazing. And so with a lot of those partners to maybe, um, But ones that aren't as, uh, engaging with you as often, are those set up as like automated programs or where you just have maybe monthly or even quarterly workflows kind of go out that trigger emails and content out to your partners?

[00:19:31] Jillian: [00:19:31] Yeah. So we have, um, a monthly newsletter that Emily owns where she, uh, Actually, I think it's quarterly where we talk about, um, feature releases that might impact their integrations or any sort of news that might be going on in the greenhouse world or the partnerships world that would be pertinent for them.

[00:19:49] Um, But I think the PRM is going to be really helpful in us having more collateral and more trainings that we can disseminate to the broader, um, greenhouse ecosystem. I think that's been the hardest part is how do we scale our programming and our trainings and all of the collateral that we have all of our partners with kind of limited.

[00:20:13] Maybe free resources. So, um, the, the PRM is really gonna help move, move the needle on that. 

[00:20:19] Carina: [00:20:19] Yeah. I liked that idea and especially, um, a Salesforce community one, that's going to be all in the same place, so you can manage it very, very easily. 

[00:20:28] Jillian: [00:20:28] Exactly. 

[00:20:30] Carina: [00:20:30] I'd love to, just to see from, you know, from your lens, what, what do you think makes up an effective partner ecosystem and team.

[00:20:39] Jillian: [00:20:39] So I think it's having really good partners that, um, wanna help you be better as well as you help them be better, or like you have a common goal there's synergies between, um, your organizations. I think that's always really helpful in being able to partner closely with. A partner, um, kind of have common goals and you really want to help each other succeed.

[00:21:04] I think a partnership is supposed to be mutually beneficial, but you can't do everything with every single one. So really understanding what you, what you are capable of, of doing, and being able to communicate that with your partners. I think having a team that is dedicated to the goals of the team is really important.

[00:21:23] Um, I think what sets my team apart from the rest of the ETS partner programs was that we were really hands-on. We kind of. Provided this really white glove approach to how we worked with partners. Um, we've since moved away from that because there's just too many partners, but there was a point in time.

[00:21:42] I think that's kind of established our reputation, where we were getting on the phone with every single partner and really helping guide them through our program. Our process gave them recommendations on how they could build their integration. They were able to get on the phone with someone. And I think that that is definitely a differentiator.

[00:22:03] We also have just this like streamlined process there aren't a ton of hoops to jump through. It's really clear established. I think that is super helpful for anyone that wants to partner as well, because it's very clear and it makes it easy for them to, to, to join the ecosystem. 

[00:22:20] Carina: [00:22:20] I love that all really great points and things that I think are very, very important into building out a successful partner program and ecosystem, and really starting it off with that first point, you touched on it, like, you know, making sure that there is a fit and there is, um, compatibility that is.

[00:22:39] Always, always key. Um, and knowing that your teams can just work well together. And then from there comes, you know, the different opportunities that you can work on, whether that is co-marketing, co-selling, um, all these different things that you can do together to then, you know, just help, um, increase revenue, influence revenue, all of these different things.

[00:22:59] So. Thank you touched on a lot, I guess, for our audience. If you can leave, let's say, you know, if we have people listening that are just starting to build their partner program or some that are just kind of getting over the hump, um, what is one word of advice that you can share when it comes to enabling your partners to achieve ultimate success?

[00:23:18] Jillian: [00:23:18] Uh, question, um, and somewhat hypocritical coming from me because I am the most impatient person you will ever meet. Um, but have patience. Um, these things do not materialize overnight. Um, I think it was just this past year where we've really, you know, People saw partnerships as like this, this vehicle that was going to help them succeed in their own businesses from customer success, to sales, to marketing, to product.

[00:23:51] Um, and so having patients putting in the work and, um, really, you know, try to get as much shit done as you possibly can, but have patients that, um, You know, it is not an overnight thing. It is a gradual process and you will see success. You just have to, to, to have patients around 

[00:24:12] Carina: [00:24:12] it for patients. It seems to be a common trend here when it comes to partnerships.

[00:24:17] But, um, I completely agree with you. So for those of you listening, just patients and really work it out, build that foundation, build those processes and just talk to your partners. What do they want? What do you want? Reach common ground. Um, Jillian, this has been absolutely incredible, very insightful. I think you have done a great job at building out the partner program over at greenhouse.

[00:24:41] You guys have over 360 partners. You have a program that is incredible. And one that a lot of people are very fond of and including myself. So. It's been great. Being able to talk with you and learn more, um, and just hear all of your insights. So thank you so much for talking, being with us today. 

[00:25:01] Jillian: [00:25:01] Thank you so much for having me.

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