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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 11

How JustCall Scaled and Increased Partner Revenue
100% in 36 months

Show Synopsis

This week, Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound spoke with Shubham Sood, Partnerships Manager at JustCall about the transformative 36 months they’ve had with their partner program.

Highlights:

  • Steps that get you real results
  • Defining your ideal partner and how to recruit them
  • Articulating the value that your product has to partners

Subscribe to the Partner Channel Podcast

The Script

Tori Barlow: Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, the voice of the Channel. I’m Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing here at Allbound. Excited to be here with Shubham Sood, Partnerships Manager at JustCall. Well, welcome, Shubham. We’re very excited to have you.

Shubham Sood: Yeah. Thanks Tori for having me. I’m very excited to be here and share what I’ve learned throughout my entire journey with you and your entire audience.

Tori Barlow: We’re pumped. JustCall has done a ton of great things with partnerships. Thanks to you. A little bit about JustCall, it’s really impressive. You guys are a product by SasS Labs. You create and manage your own international contact center in seconds and you can get a local or toll free number in over 70 countries. And not to mention your recent G2 SNB 2022 winner. And a little bit about you, which is the topic of our conversation of what you’ve done at JustCall with partnerships, but you personally have scaled partner-sourced revenue from 0 to 1000000 and a half dollars ARR and increased partners by over 500 in less than 36 months. You created a network of resellers, affiliates and channel partners from scratch, and you in your free time are an advisor at Cloud Software Association, contributing member at Rev Genius and Sales Hacker. You are very impressive and I can’t wait to dive in more with our topics today. And we’re just going to talk about how you at JustCall have increased partner revenue like I mentioned and increase the volume of partners in such a short amount of time. So before we dive into that, we’d love to hear a little bit about your background and what you’ve been up to at JustCall.

Shubham Sood: Well, thanks Tori for the brief introduction. Yeah, I think it’s been a great journey so far. I definitely I think it’s an understatement that whatever feat we have been able to achieve that was in all honestly achieved independently. I had the support of all of the management, our sales support engineering teams to take it and to take it even forward from there. I was of the first higher SaaS labs almost three years ago, graduated fresh out of college, saw this very interesting opportunity, learned about SaaS. And at that time we were a team of around 50 or maybe 20 people. We are now more than 200 people now. I was initially hired for a different role, more of a sales role. But early on I learned about how other SaaS companies are leveraging channel partnerships and resellers as a growth lever. So I took this insight to Gaurav, who’s the CEO and founder of SaaS Labs and he gave me a couple of months to test this theory, test this market out and that that definitely turned out to be a game changer. So an interesting metric I learned was that some SAS companies are bringing close to 30 or 40% of their total revenue only for this particular source. These metrics, these numbers intrigued me to work here in this niche. And yeah, but if I can recall, I think I started right off Google sheets and we were tracking every contact and activity across each row and column to just move the needle.

Tori Barlow: That sounds like a good you had your work cut out for you then, especially dealing in sheets, but diving into the nitty gritty. I’m sure everyone’s excited to hear how you grew your your program so quickly and so impressively. What has your experience been with managing JustCall’s partner program alone without any other team members?

Shubham Sood: Yeah. I think it was daunting at first. I was all alone in this particular single function. And to drive impact is very hard. But I had a lot of support, like I said, from Gaurav. So I started reaching out to his and my own personal network. I knew that like on day zero or day one, our product didn’t have a major pull from the partners who we want to work with. So I personally heavily relied on cold calling, emails and interactions via Gaurav or my own network on LinkedIn. Another thing that I really focused on since month one was to narrow down on a very limited audience.  For example, we work with agencies based out of New York, I picked that metric up because I knew that we have a lot of customers from that city and it would be easier to, you know, vet and acquire our on board agencies from that particular city. Apart from that, you know, yeah, alone is difficult, but our company’s values or itOs are aligned, a lot towards ownership and accountability. I think we famously put it that every single team member is not in that independent role. They are more of a mini CEO of that particular function to own the entire channel, entire function. And gradually, I think as we scaled up the revenue, the numbers, the customers that were brought in by these partners started acting as a great validation for the impact I was leading

Tori Barlow: Yeah, that’s really impressive. I think our next point is really a highly debated topic of technology. So when you first came on and you were building out the partner program, was technology even a thought? Do you build a foundation first? When is the right time to introduce technology when building a partner program?

Shubham Sood: Well, Tori, throughout my past three years, I’ve done a lot of research into channel and partner programs as a whole. I’ve looked at a lot of successful and failed partner programs, and one thing that I’ve seen consistent with the successful ones are that they’re launching their partner programs a bit late. So I think it’s 10,000 and MA is considered as a stage for any SAS and any company that has crossed it has a very good shot of putting together a successful partner program. And I’ll tell you why. There’s a very interesting, interesting fundamental behind these channel partners. But SAS Company wants to work with they are looking for products or companies that that have tested the market and found a real customer fit. And if you as a product company or as a SAS company are able to sell to customers, they know it’s very clear that even they can. Also, I think it’s important to realize that you you wouldn’t want to start a partner program that that if the product is going to fail, there are communities of partners and these companies, resellers, agencies who are sitting in the market for decades. And I think that if you are not delivering a good product, good service, it’s going to be very hard for you down the line. I’m talking your one or two into the market to make the needle move with the same partners you’ve had and a difficult experience. So when it comes to the tech, like I said, we were all Google so early on, but we did put a partner management software in place. So I think looking at the market today, first you should understand what are your company’s goals and overall alignment? If you have that product market fit, you should explore more tools. I think Allbound in itself is a very good tool. Recently, a new trend of selling is also popping up and I’ve used the tools like crossbeam and reveal for selling. And then I think for affiliate management dotcom, which is in itself a little.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, yeah. There’s so much to look at. There’s a I feel like the channel tech tech stack is really growing and whatever to your point, figure out your needs from a product customer perspective and then build on top of that. Don’t just get technology to get tech. Analogy, but make it fit within your product and partner program needs. I think this next piece is really important. It kind of carves out the building blocks for a channel program. So can you walk us through what steps you took and processes that were most important when building the partner program?

Shubham Sood: Yep. So we we internally have realized that we need a framework to actually build a real program. And it’s a six step process I share with other channel partner managers or partner program heads who reach out to learn about the successes we have had. So I’ll start with the most important and fundamental one. A landing page with a convincing copy. It does not have to be very beautiful, but it does need to outline your offer and what is the potential for the partner to learn? So we did recording commissions for a long, long period of time and I think that was very enticing for anyone who wants to work with us. And those commissions would last till the customer sticks with us. Second is definitely a clear payout and timeline or a structure around that. So like I said, we did we did recording commissions, so there was a 45 day cycle on that. We also now work with some of our partners or affiliate partners, mainly on a cost per lead basis, but that’s still low volume. If you’re in SaaS, having like a recording of say, 12, 24 or even 36 month cycle is what is reasonable. But I’ve seen a lot of SaaS companies, including Shopify and HubSpot, do lifetime recording deals as well. So I think that’s a very exciting offering for the market to have. I think apart from that, there’s a partner knowledge base that should be in place. 10 to 12 questions that every partner who’s coming on board is going to have around how to get payouts, how to submit a lead.

Shubham Sood: What happens if their client is not happy? Who is the partner account manager? Who’s providing support? Stuff like that. I think that will reduce a lot of workload on your support and internal teams. Apart from that partner, onboarding and support is a constant channel to focus on. It’s similar to customer onboarding, but you deal with the partners here where you provide them with all the marketing collaterals, a product demo or a demo account and functionality to add clients that they think they onboarded but are not added to their dashboard or their account. I think this is one of the clear winners in our overall partner experience, because if you would ask for proof if a client has been onboarded by them but they didn’t use their links or the platform they wanted to go through, and that really builds a relationship with our partners and they want to do more and more business. So apart from that, we did some MDF or marketing. We kept our marketing development fund aside for all our partners, which is for any co-marketing spend. They think, say, for example, we did we sponsored a trade show for small businesses in January where our partner went out and put in a booth with our branding and spoke to all the leads and converted a few. So yeah, these are the basic processes I think going to have, but this will keep the ball rolling.

Tori Barlow: This is so helpful. I think when you enter into a new role, whether it’s an existing partner program or you’re building it from scratch, it’s kind of like you’re a deer in the headlights. You just don’t really know where to start and you don’t know who to tap on to first, who you can work with within the company, who to reach out to. These are excellent building blocks that I think anyone could take advantage of. I want to spend some time on something that I know is a controversial topic within the industry. And it’s there’s a ton of different ways to do this. You have a specific method of proving ROI for a newly built partner program. I think there are so many variables in place with where partnership teams sit within the organization and lack of knowledge of what partnership programs can actually bring to the table and proving out ROI reporting on KPIs is. Ultra important within the industry. So curious to hear your take on how to do this and what steps you’ve taken.

Shubham Sood: Yeah, I think it’s a very valid point. If you don’t have the alignment of internal stakeholders, you’re not going to get anywhere, be it any business function. So I kept it fairly simple for myself, and I think it’s partly because of the the understanding we had at that point of time. SaaS Labs was a bootstrapped company when we started the partner program and I think I had a couple of months where I was very candidly said that if you want to test it, go for it. And I came in with a very realistic plan, which I thought is reasonable. But I think the seller for, you know, I think for the big win for me was being able to look at other SaaS companies who have achieved so much in such less amount of time. There’s Monday.com. I think they bring in $20 million every year from their partners and then HubSpot and there’s another company called Infusionsoft. Big SAS companies ioining in big profits was what made me work in this time. And I took the same insight to Gaurav and I think Gaurav also shared a similar vision. So I think if it’s a small company, don’t think twice, just go and sit with your CEO or talk to them and show them the metrics, what you can achieve. You can use endless amount of information that’s out there, but when it comes to my plan, I think I really narrowed down on the niche and I still focus on the niche. I’m not going after the entire market, to onboard each and every partner who’s out there. I think working with those who are a better fit to sell our product has been like a continuous reason that we’ve been able to win.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, I think that’s a really key point. And can you touch on a little bit about your ROI plan and how you prove ROI specifically after you get by in?

Shubham Sood: Yep. So when it comes to the ROI plan, we definitely knew that to scale it, our investment was somewhere close to in the first year, it was around $10,000 that we started with. We knew that to get that return, you have to make it to at least 20,000 by the end of the year. And the plan, the specifics around that was that we’re going to put money into the resources like cold calling, cold emailing, all these resources, all these tools at that point of time, a data intelligence tool to get information on our ideal, to get more contacts into our ideal partner profile we spent on the basics. And the ROI in itself was justified not even in six months, but three months. We were able to onboard those early partners who were very keen to know about our product and sell to their existing clients.

Tori Barlow: Okay. Yeah, that’s that’s really important. I think figuring out how to create a plan around tracking and KPIs and what actually to look at within the partner program is, is really important. Siobhan This has been an action packed podcast with many different topics from how to get buy in, how to set up, you know, who to recruit and, and how to look at metrics. This this is well beyond what any partner program I’ve seen achieve within a short amount of time. You have done tremendous things that just call. So thank you to our guests. Shubham Sood, Partnerships Manager at JustCall and thank you to you, the listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast episodes wherever you like to listen to podcasts.