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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 14

Playbooks, Partner Org Charts, and Content…Oh my!

Show Synopsis

For this week’s second episode, host Tori Barlow sits down with Katie Landaal, SVP of Corporate Strategy at Sales Impact Academy. Together, they talk about developing a partner ecosystem and establishing cross organizational understanding of your product.


  • How to recycle internal materials for partners
  • What to think about when making content for partners
  • How strong relationships are at the root of engagement 

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The Script

Tori Barlow: Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, the voice of the Channel. I’m Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound. Excited to be here with Katie Landaal, SVP of Corporate Strategy at Sales Impact Academy. Welcome, Katie. We’re excited to have you.

Katie Landaal: Hi. Happy to be here.

Tori Barlow: A little bit about Sales Impact Academy. You guys are the world leading live and interactive revenue education service learning designed by industry leading revenue experts for revenue professionals on the ground. I feel like a lot of people can use that nowadays and a little bit about you. What do you get when you combine intuitive business wisdom with a disciplined, analytical approach to profitability? As others put it, Katie leads strategic partnerships with an empathetic concern for all stakeholders. Consequently, she has facilitated high profile partnerships with the likes of Google, Microsoft, AWS, legal Zoom, and more. With over 15 years in the SaaS industry, she’s repeatedly proven that with the right collaborative strategy and partnerships, there are no limits to revenue opportunities and deep consumer penetration. Well, you’ve been up to a lot, it sounds like. And before you joined Sales Impact Academy, you led strategic alliances at Zoom Info. So I’m sure our audience would be a little bit curious to understand more into your background and what led you up to partnership programs?

Katie Landaal: Yeah. So, you know, as Tori mentioned, I’ve obviously done this for about 15 years now. So it started kind of on the channel sales side, honestly running programs. My strongest foothold was in the days of channel distribution with Sprint and franchises like GoPro and Subway and things like that. So really long time ago before all the fun stuff of SaaS world. And so my career kind of kept growing in that way. And everything that I moved towards was through Ingram Micro, Microsoft, obviously Allstate, Zoom info was my most recent prior to Sales Impact Academy. And so, you know, for me, it was just a lot of I’ve been in the weeds of it and really being an IC and growing this stuff by myself all the way through to having a team of over 30 employees running multitude of partner strategies and infrastructures and ecosystems. And so I’ve had a pretty, pretty long experience here. So it’s been great thus far.

Tori Barlow: Wow. What a colorful background. And I’m curious what you’re doing at sales impact right now. Can you kind of give us a little bit of insight into what you’re currently working on?

Katie Landaal: Yeah. So Sales Impact Academy is, we’re a new startup. And so what our founders have decided, which is great, is that one of our main strategies is through partnerships and building a partnership ecosystem. And so what they did was they really recruited me on and brought me on board. And now I lead all of that for our organization, along with our long term business strategy and so forth. And so with partnerships, I had to kind of come in and really build it from the ground up. They didn’t really have anything existing today. It was more of a kind of reactive space which happens a lot. It’s kind of the odd duckling deals. Or, you know, some sort of friend of a friend relationship or whatever the case may be and had to really lay some ground rules, set up some standardized business practices for partnerships. Really kind of bring the team that they already had existing to a hyperfocus so that we had some real clarity of what we were doing and kind of what we were driving towards through each quarter and for each year.

Tori Barlow: So yeah, that’s a lot to take in, especially with your, your background. And I think, you know, this topic fits well today. You know, we’re talking about going to market with partners and and how to do that, breaking it out in different buckets. The one we’re talking about today is specifically important with engagement and getting your partners active within your product or service, whatever you’re selling. And that’s playbooks, content and even the likes of cross-departmental relationships. And you have really unique views on all three of those. So, you know, with your background and now that you’re at Sales Impact Academy, kind of building everything from scratch, when you kick off a new channel program, one of the first things partners need is content. So what should camps think about when creating content for partners?

Katie Landaal: Yeah. So my take on on content for partners is you almost have to think of it as is your product for dummies in a way, right? But you’re not speaking to customers. You’re speaking to an extension of your sales team, right? So almost the same type of collateral and enablement that you’re already building for your sales organization. You really should be applying to your partners as well because they’re needing to have that same type of stance. They’re representing you, they’re representing your voice, your brand out into the market. And so they need to really understand your product as if they were, again, extension of your sales team. So my belief is you don’t necessarily have to create everything from scratch. You almost want to continue to use whatever it is that you’ve developed for your own organization internally, but almost create a level above or a I hate saying it, a dumbed down version. But it’s just because they’re not in your business practices all day, every day. So sometimes some of the messaging, you have to take a little bit of a step back in to really explain it to somebody who’s external.

Katie Landaal: It’s as if you’re talking to your friends and family, trying to tell them what you do and how your product works and why it’s exciting and all of those things. And so that’s kind of the strategy that I like to do, because it then creates consistency.  So consistency and voice, it’s consistency and brand and you’re making sure that again, they’re speaking in the same tone and voice that your own sales organization is speaking in. Obviously, there’s going to be some exceptions to that, right? There’s going to be some collateral that you provide that’s very specific to partners. Right. And obviously, that does not apply to your sales teams. Usually those are more of those tactical type things of, you know, this is how the program works or this is how our product works or, you know, here’s all your contact lists, things like that. Those are obviously slightly different, obviously, but for the most part, right, like your core items really should be very similar to the same list that you use for your own enablement for your internal teams too.

Tori Barlow: So what about consumption? How do partners like to consume content? Is it through ebooks or is it video? What do you find?

Katie Landaal: You know, it’s kind of shifted and evolved over the years. I think it really depends on the partners that you’re talking to. If we’re talking about like agency partners or consultative partners, things like that, the ones that are really more in the weeds with this, those ones, they tend to react and do better when you’re handholding them a little bit more, meaning there’s more interaction. So you have videos, webinars, you actually have dedicated account managers who are talking to them at least once, twice a month. You know, those are where you see the most success. And when they’re actually retaining the information and getting what they need out of what you’re providing for these partner programs. As you start talking about more of these strategic partners, maybe with larger companies or big names, things like that, the way that you keep them engaged, quite honestly, is really you just have to have a very strong relationship, number one, with them. Number two is you want to make sure that you have a lot of that executive buy in as well,  because if anything gets stuck or things like that, you want to make sure that that executive is still pushing their teams to the end goal of what you’re trying to do with the partnership. And then third, you know, as they’re doing any type of cross-sell or referral motion, let’s say that you’re doing with these kind of bigger like I said, bigger partners, strategic partners.

Katie Landaal: You know, the way that they really stay engaged again is the rapport, having somebody day in, day out, you know, they’re checking in. They’re these internal champions of your own product. So what I’ve seen work really well, for example, when I worked with Google in the past is I would have somebody that’s dedicated to Google. They know Google. They are in and out of their business constantly. They have tons of contacts there. It’s almost as if they are, you know, Google’s own employee and they’re going around talking to all of these different sales organizations and leaderships and having just multithreaded relationships throughout the organization so that they’re continually. They have these relationships throughout the organization so that they’re continuing to strengthen that kind of interaction between the partnership and strengthen all of the things that you strategize with them on. And so, again, it just kind of depends on the partner that you have. But really the crux of it is, you know, you want to make sure that you’ve got that that good relationship overall. And then you also have a really strong content play and things that’s easy for them to do and implement themselves is also really important to.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. So not the transactional, “Hey, we just want referrals, we just like resells.” It’s actually a communication bridge, all of that. Katy Another piece that comes to mind when you go to market with partners: playbooks. And this can be daunting for anyone, especially if you’re not well versed in sales and enablement or, you know, any sort of sales tactics. What is the key to creating great playbooks and how should partner marketers or managers prioritize playbooks?

Katie Landaal: I mean, I think playbooks are really important. I think playbooks are almost a cheater’s way  of telling the partner what to do and how to do it. I think they’re equally important for internal purposes as well. Right. You want to make sure that you’re aligned in your organization is aligned on kind of what those different plays are for you in the company. But yeah, I think playbooks are super important. I think that they should always be developed straight from the beginning. You’ve got to know exactly what your strategy is. You’ve got to know what your priorities are and then how to apply them with partners as well. Playbooks, you know, everybody thinks that they’re really daunting. I mean, quite honestly, they’re not. It’s a lot of the same type of plays that, you know, you’re utilizing within even sales itself. Obviously, again, partner, it has a little bit of a different tone and a different voice, but, you know, you’re seeing a lot of the same plays over and over and over again. What you have to keep in mind, though, is you want to make sure that it’s something that’s differentiating yourself from others and you want to make sure that it’s really genuinely in your voice and your organization’s voice.

Katie Landaal:  Because that’s what’s going to really land with the partner as well. But again, yeah, you want to set it up mostly as kind of a cheat sheet for them to be able to go back to and see what what those plays are. But again, all related to what you do with your sales organization as well. Sometimes some of the plays can be as simple as, you know, this is how you talk about our product and refer us over. This is how you can marry it within your own messaging for your own company.  So it’s kind of a better together story. This is how you can create an offer with us so that maybe that’s something that your own customers are motivated by. Here’s different. And if you’re that type of organization, here’s different types of integration plays that we could potentially do together. It’s basically just outlining all the different ways that are the the best and most strategic ways on working with you as an organization, but also with your partners as well.

Tori Barlow: So you mentioned this earlier about managing a partner team versus the ESI or individual contributor role. And most of the time I feel like this. When partner leaders start a program, it is an IC role. So they’ll ideally want to make friends with marketing and sales folks in the organization. What’s your advice here?

Katie Landaal: Yeah, so partner team seems to be a little bit of an IC position in most organizations. I think that that’s changing, to be honest, as time goes on, because you’re now starting to see the likes of Dell CEO, for example, just came out in an interview saying that 80% of their business comes through their partner programs. You know, partner is becoming a much more gold standard in your organization’s strategy and how you should be strategizing your go to market efforts and that it needs to actually be a part of the plan, not just an afterthought or kind of the redheaded stepchild. Right. Which is what partners and partnerships have always been. I think as an I see the biggest thing that you need to do is you almost have to be a really good politician a little bit. You’ve got to be able to have the relationships with all the different people internally, cross-functionally so that you’re getting traction and all the efforts that you’re making in those partnerships and strategic partnerships. So making sure that you have a great relationship with the entire sales teams and all the managers and sales leaders there. Making sure that you have good relationships with folks on product, especially if integrations and those types of partnerships are important to you or your company strategy. As well as having good relationship and marketing. You want to make sure that you have that support system to be able to drive that. I think being an IC the way that you get that attention and the way that you get those relationships is obviously you want to make sure you prove your point, have a really strong business case, have a really strong vision of what that looks like and why you’re partnering and why you’re doing this motion and things like that.

Katie Landaal: And you’ve got to get those folks kind of bought in on that. And of course, it always helps to have C-suite support as well. So depending on kind of where you sit in the organization and things like that, you want to make sure that you have some sort of executive buy in as well of what you’re doing so that they can help facilitate and make sure those folks are actually helping you to do what you need to do. What I’ve seen is actually been really successful in other organizations and we do a little bit of it today here at SIA is that we do have our core partnerships team, but we also have dedicated partnership roles that are in other parts of the organization. So for example, we have a dedicated partner marketing manager who actually rolls into our CMO. So all she’s focused on is all of our partner messaging, our content, our playbooks, all of our social media campaigns, things like that. And so it’s really great to have a resource that way where it’s she’s a bit of a dotted line to our own team, but she really sits on the marketing team, which also gives her really great context of what’s happening elsewhere in the organization, so that we can easily line up our efforts between what’s already happening for us as a company and marketing as a whole.

Katie Landaal: And then maybe if there’s gaps, she can say, “Hey, we have these partners. Do you want to include them on some of these efforts Or do you need content created? We’ve got all of this stuff from partners and things like that that we could use for this campaign or specific messaging or whatever the case may be.” It’s just it’s so incredibly valuable when you have folks that are dedicated to partnerships in that way, because it’s not only just fulfilling what you need on the partnership team, but it’s also most of the time bringing a lot of benefit to that part of the organization that maybe didn’t think that partnerships could fill a gap or a void or add to some sort of strategy that you were going out with and stuff like that. So I’ve seen it done a couple of ways, but I tend to like it in that fashion because again, you have you have a much better relationship with the organization that they fall under. And at the same time, you’re seeing what else the rest of the company is doing as strategy. And you kind of want to make sure that you’re attached in some way, shape or form or working together collaboratively through that stuff.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, that’s a really interesting way to look at it. I’ve talked to several leaders like yourself and I feel like it’s an ongoing conversation of where partner folks roll up and I have never heard that one before. I think it makes a lot of sense. At the end of the day, you know, if you have all the partner people on one team rolling up under one exec, you’re still almost on an island, you know. So having someone on the marketing team, I’m curious, what is your what is it like now at Sales Impact Academy? Is there a partner sales person, a product? What is the makeup like there? Yeah.

Katie Landaal: So for us, we’re running a little lean right now, to be honest. But what I have is I have an operational person who all she does is work on all of our the ins and outs of workflows and things like that on our team and make sure that we’re at a level of excellence that matches up to the rest of the organization. And again, she does roll up to me directly, but she also is a dotted line to our chief operating officer so that she has a good insight as to what they’re doing elsewhere so that we as partner are well aligned with the rest of the organization and fit into that story nicely. I have I’ve got a couple directors of partners or partner relationships, as we call it. You know, they’re basically like senior partner managers. And what they do is obviously handle the relationships with partners sales, making sure that everything is flowing the way that it needs to be. Not only going out and selling, but they’re also managing the relationship and then at the same time making sure that internally everything is running the way that it needs to for those partners and so forth. So we have, again, operations and sales. We have a dedicated marketing person, like I had mentioned before. Right? They actually sit on the marketing team, but again, very kind of dotted line to me.  I also have somebody who is kind of a secondary operational person who all they do is focus on data and analytics for us.

Katie Landaal: So it’s all of our reporting and metrics and how that feeds into the rest of organization. And he’s fantastic. Again, he sits under actually our chief operating officer but is dotted line to me. So again, he gets a really good handle on what we are doing as an organization, but he is dedicated only to partnerships and kind of what needs to happen there and what that looks like. And as we expand, right, and what I’ve seen again when I’ve talked about having a pretty expansive team is, you know, you have a little bit of everything and a lot of it is, you know, you want it’s almost a business within a business. So I’ve got people who are dedicated in finance. I have people who are dedicated in operations. I have people dedicated in product. And then you get people who are dedicated, obviously, in sales and marketing. So that’s that’s the way I view it. That’s the way I like to do the organization. Because for me, again, it’s removing that feeling of you’re really on an island doing your own thing. It’s making sure that you’re really in the loop with what the rest of the organization is doing, and you’re staying in line with what their their future plans are, what their strategies are, so that you’re not having to constantly do this kind of working against it. Right? It just makes it a lot easier and it flows a lot better.

Tori Barlow: It’s so important when you’re starting a partner program and if you’re starting it at a startup Not a lot of folks have that experience or buy in. So you are that one person, but you have the opportunity to build out your team and make these relationships across different departments. Thank you to our guests, Katie, SVP of Corporate Strategy at Sales Impact Academy. 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.