Partner Sales Acceleration Blog | Allbound

How HubSpot Built a Successful Channel Sales Program

Written by Jen Spencer | December 27, 2016

In a relatively short period of time HubSpot has positioned itself as a go-to all-in-one solution for the burgeoning world of inbound marketing, and indirect sales have played no small part in the company’s success. The fact that in the past few years HubSpot has experienced a huge influx of name recognition, and has become a tool used by marketers in an incredibly broad and diverse range of industries, is a testament both to the efficacy of the tooland to the reach-boosting power of channel sales.

We’re still in the early days of indirect selling for SaaS solutions, and while the value of the model is being proven the more SaaS vendors adopt it, people still have questions. We can answer some of these, and learn a tremendous amount, by exploring how the most successful sellers in the SaaS space have organized their channel partner programs. So let’s take a look at how HubSpot went about the task, and what best practices for building out a channel sales program any SaaS company can glean from their ongoing success.

A Smart Way to Build Partner Interest

While many businesses find advantages in pulling from an existing professional network to recruit channel partners rather than doing a completely open call, HubSpot approached it differently. They found a quite innovative middle ground between the two approaches – one which was highly successful in drawing the kind of attention they wanted.

HubSpot’s forte is inbound marketing, and so to build partner interest, they leveraged inbound tactics. HubSpot hosted webinars specifically targeting the kind of marketing agencies that they wanted. The marketing agencies had their interest piqued by the content of the webinar and HubSpot’s value proposition, so the leads that were generated were enthusiastic to get on board. After the webinar, agencies were reaching out to HubSpot about the partnering opportunity, and not the other way around.

A New Value Proposition: Helping Partners Help Themselves

From there, HubSpot whittled down the list. But they found themselves in a bit of a bind. The marketers at the agencies they were talking to simply weren’t in a position to buy the software they were selling. HubSpot was talking to a lot of people – but those they were getting in contact with weren’t the right people to talk to.  

At that point, HubSpot came to a conclusion that’s perhaps surprising. Rather than focusing on how the software would help their clients, they began to focus on how the product would first help the partners’ own business. Giving those potential partners the sense that HubSpot could help act as a consultative presence to get their own business in order before moving on to serving the clients went a long way in helping the partnerships take off.

Cultivating Partnerships with a Marketplace Approach

One of the central advantages that the channel offers to SaaS companies – as with any company doing indirect sales – is that it allows partners to sell services that clients need but vendors don’t provide. HubSpot recognized that in order to be the best partner possible, they could actually facilitate service-selling relationships through an online marketplace. The marketplace allows HubSpot’s direct customers to seek out partners who can suit their inbound marketing needs. This helps build the success of their channel partners, which in turn builds the reputation and profitability of HubSpot’s entire network. 

Putting the Partner First

As HubSpot continues to grow as a business and become an even more essential part of the inbound marketing landscape, they continue to build and cultivate their impressive partner program. Running the numbers on what works at scale, providing rewards and incentives that make their partners feel like an important part of the team, and offering a robust service marketplace to promote business both direct and indirect all combine to keep HubSpot on top. And these features, while perhaps best practices in any indirect sales relationship, are even more important in the world of SaaS sales.  As vice president of sales Peter Caputa observed in a blog post, SaaS vendors need to put their partners first, just as partners need to put clients first.