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The Partner Channel Podcast Episode #32

How to Enhance Your 2022 MSP Partnerships

Show Synopsis

In this Partner Channel Podcast episode, Dave Thomson sits down with Christine Gassman from Armor Cybersecurity to discuss how to engage and empower your MSP partners. 

Highlights:

  • How to build goals 30, 60, 90 when starting a new channel role

  • Tips to setting achievable 2022 partnership goals

  • The best ways to support your MSP partners

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The Script

Dave Thomson: Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, The Voice of the Channel. I’m Dave Thomson, chief revenue officer at Allbound, and I’m extremely excited to be here with Christine Gassman, Christina is director of global channel engagement at Armor Cybersecurity. Welcome, Christine. Thanks for being on the show.

Christine Gassman: Thank you for having me. Very excited to chat with you.

Dave Thomson: Great. Well, I wanted to kick things off and just learn a little bit more about you. So would you mind walking us through your background in the channel and how you ended up at armor?

Christine Gassman: Sure. I have been in the channel since 2005, and just to be completely open and honest. I fell into the channel due to a lack of any other option. Fresh out of college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was exploring a couple of things and to be honest, I was running out of medical insurance at the time. The clock was ticking, so I actually took a job in an inbound sales role that one of my college roommates at the time was working for. I wasn’t interested in it at all but took it again out of sheer need. I just fell in love with the industry. I started out in an inbound sales role, taking calls for a direct market reseller. Moved around quite a bit and fortunately, that organization had a parent company that had a direct market reseller division and the software distribution arm to it as well. So within the eight or so years that I worked for that organization, I was able to get a taste and experience of different facets of the channel. Selling directly to end-users, multiple products without a specific focus, selling a set of software tools to back then resellers, before managed services really came about. Selling to resellers and then also working with vendors to put together marketing campaigns and programs to both hit the end-user market, as well as a reseller market through the distribution arm.

Christine Gassman: From there, I moved to a channel sales role within a backup vendor and got a taste for travel, which I love and still love doing. Then moved on to another software vendor offering business continuity that was managed services only. That organization only sold to managed service providers. From there I really built out the Channel Partner program, build out the engagement strategy. So really establishing relationships with managed service providers, those face-to-face activities, not only to bring on some new MSP partners but to really make sure that we are establishing relationships with the MSPs that we were partnering with and working with. I was with that organization for about eight years. I left in a global role, so really not just supporting partners in North America, but in EMEA and APAC as well. Then I joined Armor when a former sales executive from another organization that I worked with reached out to me and kind of explained what Armor was doing. The shift in focus they wanted to make to only selling to managed service providers. I was super excited about the opportunity because I’ve loved working with managed service providers since I started and want to continue in that space. So this was a really great opportunity for me.

Dave Thomson: That’s great. Yeah, it sounds very, very similar to how I kind of fell into sales as well. It was a way for me to get out of my parent’s basement.

Christine Gassman: Yeah.

Dave Thomson: I was willing, to take pretty much any job. It just so happened it was inside sales gig. That’s great. I know, Christine, you started at Armor back in August of last year as a director of global channel engagement. A lot of new hires will create a 30, 60, 90-day plan or, MBO or monthly business objectives. Where did you start when you got there and how did you shape your onboarding at Armor?

Christine Gassman: Yeah. So first I started with Armor in August of this year.

Dave Thomson: So just this year, okay, I’m sorry.

Christine Gassman: Yes, no. No worries. This and that’s going to lead into a lot of what I’m going to talk about, too. Just to point that out, because, I’m still new in this role. When I joined, I did, just as you said I had put together, even before I joined a 30, 60, 90-day plan. But the kicker here and the interesting part about this, Armor has been around since 2009. Armor was selling directly to end-users and other non MSP channel partners, master agents, et cetera, nontraditional managed service providers. When I came on board, shortly after the chief revenue officer joined. He was hired to change the strategy to go from, end-user and those channel partners that I mentioned to MSPs. Within those four months that I’ve joined, we’ve done just that. We’re no longer selling directly to end-users only to managed service providers. And we still have those partnerships in place, with master agents and such that we’re working with. But it was a quick shift between sales, marketing, product, and all the different divisions in the organization. Everyone made this pivot extremely quickly and effectively.

Dave Thomson: Wow, that’s great. That’s that could be a very difficult pivot for sure. Tell me, how did you set the initial goals for yourself and your team?

Christine Gassman: Yeah. Initially, I came on board knowing that we had a limited number of MSP partners. My entire plan that I had put together the 30, 60, 90 was all around, OK, we’ve got this small base of MSPs. Let’s really work with them and see what we need to do better. See what we’re missing. See what we need to do better. See what needs to improve upon to further support them and also bring on more MSP partners. But as I joined, I realized that the pool of MSP partners that I thought we had was a little bit smaller. I did have to tweak that 30, 60, 90-day plan. But one of the things that I did that I just had a tweak. I’m a big proponent of MSP advisory boards. I’ve had them within the last two organizations that I’ve worked for because there’s I’m a channel-facing person, now that live events are starting to open up, I’m in MSP spaces, I’m hanging out with them. I’m spending time with them a lot. In any organization, the executives at the top, don’t get to have that face-to-face time as much as we do within the channel teams, within organizations. I’m a big proponent of getting MSPs in front of the executives and really, helping them understand what MSPs look like, how they think, act, what their needs are, and so on. I had every intention of forming a partner advisory board, but with the limited pool of MSP that we currently had, we had a shift a little bit. What we did was we brought in a couple of MSPs that have zero experience with Armor. I didn’t even want them sitting on a demo first. I didn’t want them to know anything about the product. I wanted them in a room and I wanted us to present to them from start to finish what we’re currently doing, how we’re doing it, and get their raw feedback. We did that just in mid-October, and it went extremely well because it allowed all of our teams product, marketing, sales, our solutions consultant, and partner success. It allowed all those teams to learn more about these MSPs, not just in relation to Armor and our products, but about their businesses in general. That was one of the things in my original plan that I had a tweak a little bit. It went from being a partner advisory board to more of an MSP feedback group. But it was very, very helpful for our teams.

Dave Thomson: Yeah, that’s really interesting. And I want to stay on this because I think I’m guessing there are probably listeners out there that are thinking or have thought about this transition as well. So that’s a great example. Is there anything else that you did that was successful in making this pivot? Or, is there anything planned that you have for 2022 that you can share as you continue to kind of refocus on this new business model?

Christine Gassman: Well, and I do agree with you on there are a lot of other vendors out there that do want to make this change, that do want to go from a direct model or maybe a resell model to manage services. The first thing I’d say is just you listening to these MSPs, right? It’s the first thing we did. We brought them in this group of MSP as we brought them in live so we could get direct feedback from them. To hear directly from them on what it is that they need, what we need to do better. That’s first and foremost. The second thing is consistency. In my role, channel engagement, my goal is to get in front of as many MSPs as possible. As I said, to bring on new MSPs, but also network and form those partnerships and friendships really too with the MSPs that we’re working with, with those MSP partners. But consistency is really key. We are getting our live event strategy is very aggressive for 2022, and it’s been very aggressive just since August. So August was the very first MSP-only event that Armor did. It was a CRN, The channel company, I should say, exchange event, and that was Armor’s first taste of an MSP-only event.

Christine Gassman: Since then, in four months, we’ve done several of them that we could still fit into, what was available for sponsorships for 2021. We have a very aggressive plan for 2022 because we need to be consistent. We need MSPs to understand that we’re not going anywhere, that this isn’t a trend for us, that this isn’t something we’re testing the waters on because I have not seen other vendors decide that they want to go into the MSP space and for whatever reason, within six months, eight months, it didn’t take off well enough. I hate to say, gave up and put it so casually, but gave up on that strategy and then moves back or continued with a direct model. We need consistency, and MSP isn’t going to start buying the first time they meet you at an event. Might happen, hope it happens for us. But consistency is really key. So we’re going to make sure we’re showing up to the same events supporting the MSP community and keeping our getting our faces out there over and over again.

Dave Thomson: Yeah, that’s a great takeaway. Everyone should know, make sure that MSPs know that you’re fully committed and this is not a test that you’re running for a few months. I think that’s great. Perfect. Well, let’s transition a little bit to the final four. Somewhat famous here. So question number one, if you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

Christine Gassman: I love this question and my answer. Hands down teleportation. I love to travel. That’s my job. I love it. I’ve been fortunate and I hope that I’m fortunate enough with Armor as we continue to grow globally. But I’ve been fortunate enough in the past to be able to travel to EMEA to APAC. And I love it. I absolutely love it. But the long flights are exhausting and the time traveling is exhausting. So hands teleportation because I love to travel. I love to go to new locations, just the flights and the travel time around it, not too big of a fan of that.

Dave Thomson: That is a great answer, and I could have used that on Saturday with my flight back from London. That was about nine hours to. Oh yeah, that would have been fantastic to have. Great answer. Okay. Number two, one mistake and one success that you’ve had in the channel.

Christine Gassman: So so mistake. Let me start off with the negative. I just did a women in technology webinar a couple of weeks back that Armor hosted. I focused on this for a portion of the webinar. One mistake, I’ll say, is that early on in my career, I was complacent in the role that I was in. I continued to take on more and more responsibility, which is great for my experience. I never want to shy away from taking on new responsibilities, but I had proven myself within that organization that I would continue to take on with no complaints. I would continue to discuss my career advancement opportunity but I was never given any of those opportunities. I just waited and I waited and I waited, and I would say it was a mistake waiting as long as I did. I’m happy for the experience that I got, but I could have moved on a lot sooner and had advanced my career more quickly. So I would say that that was a mistake and I haven’t done that since. I’ve been very clear on what my goals are within any organization and manager that I’ve worked for. Putting timelines on that and making sure that I’m being recognized for the work that I’m doing as I continue to take on more responsibility.

Dave Thomson: That’s great. That’s a good one.

Christine Gassman: Thank you. Thank you. And then as far as success, one thing that I absolutely love is one of the organizations that I was with. I was with for about seven years and I was employee number 109 in the company. That was an MSP-only organization. I was employee 109 nine. We had a base of employees, it wasn’t starting from scratch. We weren’t in that early startup mode, but still startup. Myself and then the team that was built around me, we were able to effectively and quickly launch a very successful MSP partner program, and that was through acquisitions. This company acquired several organizations while I was there and then rolled those new products into the partner program and made sure that it fit the MSPs that we currently had with the new MSPs that we’re bringing on. We did that I think extremely effectively. Our partners were happy. It was a very smooth transition with those acquisitions to improving the partner program. I would say that a success is managing that partner program with so many different changes along the way.

Dave Thomson: Yeah, that’s always difficult trying to integrate a new company into, not only the company itself in kind of a tactical stuff, but the culture and all that as well can be a challenge. Okay. That’s great. Number three, what is one business book you recommend to someone that aspires to be in channel and specifically really in channel leadership?

Christine Gassman: So I love this question too this is another one that I love. I was, I will say forced, not that I was unwilling, but I was forced to read a book several years ago with that organization. Within that organization that I just mentioned, I was there for seven years. My boss, who was the vice president of business development. He’s extremely well known in the channel and just has a great and loyal following of MSPs because he’s just such an incredible giver, I’ll say, and he’s completely supportive of the community. But he forced myself and my team to read the Go-Giver by Bob Berg. I know that a lot of other channel organizations are a big fan of this book as well. What I love so much about it is that the whole premise of the Go-Giver is to basically give as much as you can and you’ll get more back. I do that in so many, I genuinely believe in that. The whole book is around the five laws of stratospheric success. But that’s really the gist of it. You give more than you get and you’ll get more back. Again, both in my professional life and in my personal life, I completely follow that motto, if you will. I do dog rescue and I volunteer for adoption agencies, for kids and foster kids, and I can’t give enough. That book really, really just reiterate that if you give more, you’ll get more.

Dave Thomson: Yeah, no, that’s fantastic. I love books like that that have obviously application in the channel space, but also in your personal life. I’ve never heard of that, so that just made my reading.

Christine Gassman: It’s the Go-Giver by Bob Berg.

Dave Thomson: Mm-hmm. Okay, great. And last of the final four, five years from now, if you can imagine that what will be the major changes in the channel that people should think about now?

Christine Gassman: Well, who knows what’s going to happen with COVID? Unfortunately. So my sights are really set on thinking positively that just for 2021, not yet addressing the five years, but just for 2022, excuse me. In 2022, I am really hopeful and cautiously optimistic that we will still be able to have these live events and be able to engage face to face with our MSP partners. That’s a hope of mine, but who knows what’s going to happen. But I still see the trend continuing. I’m reading about it all the time about end-user businesses continuing to move towards subscription-based models. We’ve seen a rise in co-managed IT services where IT organizations, MSPs, IT providers, et cetera. They’re working with organizations and user organizations that have their own IT department but are outsourcing some of the services and they’re doing it collaboratively. That’s been a rise in that and I see that continuing to rise. With that comes these additional subscription models, where IT companies will continue to outsource portions of their IT services without feeling threatened that they’re giving up their responsibilities. So really cohesively working together on that. Then again, larger businesses as well moving towards subscription models and maybe, decreasing along the way. Not maybe I think it’s going to happen, decreasing along the way. Outright license sales, that resell a portion of the channel.

Dave Thomson: Yeah, I see that as a very, very likely outcome as well. Well, I want to thank you, Christine, again. This is Christine Gassman, who’s a director of global channel engagement at Armor Cybersecurity for popping in on the show. You’ve been a wonderful guest and also obviously want to thank all the listeners joining here at the Partner Channel podcast. If you’d like what you heard, please subscribe to our podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. Thanks again, Christine. Appreciate it

Christine Gassman: So much. Appreciate you having me.