THE PARTNER CHANNEL PODCAST
S3E17: How to Do Partner Operations Right the First Time
On this episode, host Tori Barlow is back with Shubham Sood, now the Operaions Specialist for Channel at JustCall. It’s been a few months since we last caught up with Shubbham and he is excited to share what he’s learned, what’s changed, and what you should do to see success with your partnerships.
- What defines partner excellence
- How JusCall built out their processes and structures
- Why it’s important to prioritize partner operations
Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, the podcast for partnerships. In our episodes, we discuss ways to power your programs and gain actionable insights for all company sizes and partner types. We sit down with industry thought leaders to get the best tips and tricks for you, the listeners, to achieve your channel goals.
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 Shubham Sood Operations Specialist channel at Just Call. Welcome Shubham. I’m excited to talk to you again because you’ve been on before. How are you?
Shubham Sood: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s it’s been a great ride since the beginning and even after, you know, we last spoke of I think there are a lot of changes that I’m excited to share with you and, you know, our amazing listeners. So yeah.
Tori Barlow: Yeah, we are following your story. And for those of you just tuning in, Shubbham and I chatted last time around how he really scaled his partner program and the pieces he put in place to get there. And this time we’re talking about something really interesting, which is partner processes and operations. But before we get into that, a little reminder of everything you’ve accomplished. Shubbham was SaaS Labs first partnership hire in 2019, and since then he’s worked with building relationships with 600 plus partners who’ve generated more than $1.5 million in . He’s also got experience working with tech partners like Intercom, HubSpot, Pipedrive to drive key initiatives like co-marketing marketing campaigns and all the above. He now focuses on key operational projects, both with internal and external stakeholders. Shubham was also this year’s Allbound rising Star winner, who competed against several partnership professionals globally. He previously. He’s previously been titled Lim Lister of the Week by the Outbound Tool List for gaining high open rates on his outbound emails while building partnerships in 2020. He likes to read books and write about sales and partner blogs like Sales, Hackers, Zapier Genius and more. So from that, if you were listening, if he can do it, you guys can do it too. And he’s put in a ton of work to get where he is and I’m just really excited to see what you’re up to now. And so getting into the partner processes, rev ops for partnerships, this is a hot topic right now in HubSpot recently launched a partner ops report and I think it got a lot of eyeballs into why it’s so important to a create partner processes. But then B, how to prove bottom line. So last time we chatted, you told us how you scaled just calls partner program from 0 to 1 million in less than two years. So let’s start with what you’re up to now at just call.
Shubham Sood: Yep, yep. So as the business basically grew, we’ve added more team members to the entire partnerships team. Uh, in 2019, we were literally at day zero for our channel and agency affiliate partnerships, but we did have some integrations in place of SaaS labs. Where I’m today is a VC backed B2B startup building products for agents in the sales and support teams. Uh, some of our popular products in the market are Just Call, which is a cloud based phone system, helped by a shared inbox and call page, a website tracking tool, and to share more context for all the new listeners. Like Tori mentioned, I was handling all the end to end relationships with our partners for the last three, three and a half years and recently transitioned into partner operations. Uh, partner Ops is a niche and growing space. I got into this because I really like the chance to, you know, rebuild all the systems and process we had in place at that time. Uh, having worked in, you know, multiple fields because I was a single resource for a very long time, it also felt, uh, the right space to invest my time and energy in as this was overlooked, for the last two years. And to finally make the move into this space. Uh, you know, the leaders also felt that this could be a great learning curve as I move ahead in my tech partnerships, uh, career. Coming back to, uh, you know, what’s changed? Whatever systems and processes I’ve set up in 2019 took us from, you know, when we last spoke of to around 1 million to to 1.5, 1.8 million and around 600, 700 ish, 650 ish partners.
And to me as an org, we’ve, we’ve already accomplished, you know, a lot since you and I last spoke. We have five team members, uh, in partnerships. And overall, our organization, HeadCount, has grown from 180 to almost 304 people. And all, all our team members in the partnerships team are globally located in different regions. Uh, we have brought in new dedicated tech only for the partnerships team to look at. Uh, we have rebooted our partner program and identified three key areas for growth in partnerships. One is tech and Integrations, which is building with other apps, other bigger players, driving co-marketing lunch and learns with them. Then there’s strategic industry focused partnerships that we look at to build, say, a real estate vertical, collaborating or partnering with top real estate firms and getting into their network of agents and brokers. And then there is the existing and proven channel and affiliate model. And channel is a, you know, any agency we see a good fit for our business today. We work with them, we acquire them, we nurture them, we enable them. And an affiliate is usually a blog owner or an independent, a website who wants to put our product in front of their audience.
In channel, particularly where I’m focused at, we’re building a solutions channel program to support all our partners through training, education and how to implement the product, the features and grow their client’s business and their business along with us.
Shubham Sood: Uh, our team has worked on, you know, defining an IP, which is an ideal partner profile. Uh, who, what kind of partners to go after, Uh, analysis of top ten tech integration partners, we think could be a good fit for to, you know, go after tech ecosystem battlecards how we sit in where we’re placed today, uh, when it comes to our competition, Uh, and we are also, you know, bringing in more process, uh, and systems around, uh, discovery of discovery calls for our agency, the agency applications, and we’ve prepared a, you know, qualification guide to, to basically get the right agencies in rather than like target each and every agency out there and. A lot of work sprints around and we continue to have a lot of work sprints around building the right processes because I personally see, you know, 2023 as the year for rebuilding or laying the foundation for, you know, the partner program here at SAS Labs and also to reach five to land between 5 million to 10 million RR through our partner source revenue in the next two years. And I know it might seem, you know, a bit ambitious, but but we’re, we’re very confident about our team, our product, our overall capabilities. And definitely we’ve seen some larger players like Monday.com Drive, you know, $30 million in through their partner source revenue. And yeah, one of our bigger players competitors who’s who’s I think at 100 million IRR today sits 52% of their revenue coming from their channel partners. So yeah, we’re very excited to be here in this space.
Tori Barlow: This is so inspiring for a ton of partner leaders out there. And just to recap, so you came on, you grew from literally nothing to a piece of the pie within the organization. For RR, you were able to build a team, build out your partners more, and you’ve created more processes to qualify and DQ just based on what you’ve learned. And I’m curious, you know, seeing as though you came on and it was primarily a direct revenue source and now you’re bringing in this indirect element, what has been the mindset shift internally like? Is there more pro partner type of rallying around you or is it still heavily direct? How has that shifted internally?
Shubham Sood: See I think from from an. If you if you really ask me since day one as an organization, I’ve seen that we have focused on building partnerships. So day zero or even day minus one, uh, the focus on partners was basically never let go. We, we have always believed to stand by and contribute and add value to each and every partner that we onboard with the integration. Sometimes our customers also want to refer. We also see them as an independent partner or a small scale partner, but. The end game, I think is be it direct or indirect source revenue, you know, indirect impact on the revenue. I think the the I see it more as, like I said, you know, like laying the foundation to to even do more scalable stuff. I think in our previous setup we did it. We had some bandwidth issues. We were able to, you know, we were able to go to 1.5, 1.8 million era, which was great while we were setting up, but now see that this indirect approach is more crucial to get back to the direct approach and take it, you know, like all the way to even a bigger, uh, yeah, uh, goal.
So like one of the, one of the concerns that, you know, I was often told by our partners was, uh, you know, getting into, uh, their client accounts. We did have a portal for them to have visibility into, you know, their client accounts. But one of the things was that how do we get into the client’s account? And we as a company like SAS Labs is like very compliant with all the, you know, uh, rules, regulations, all the necessary certifications, soc2 compliant, you know, So we have to be pretty sure about like customer consent data. And so one of the approaches we are trying to take, you know, here is that add a partner seat to make sure like the, the customer or the client, the customer gives consent to the partner and the partner is able to, you know, like get into this. So I think that that that entire project is going to add like incremental value to our overall revenue goal because it’s going to, you know, make sure that the two element is taken care of and they get into their client accounts.
Tori Barlow: Cool. Yeah, that’s super helpful. And I know we both share a passion for operational excellence and you’re working on this right now. So what is your definition of partner? Operational excellence.
Shubham Sood: That’s very well put. I know that you are also an operational. Yeah. You’re very strong on operations and fundamentally think like operations, according to me, is not only to set up processes, systems and structure in place, but also embed, you know, the capability to to improve and be efficient and save money wherever possible. I think in order to succeed in partner ops, you have to basically get used to servicing both internal team stakeholders and external stakeholders, which in this case will be a partner, uh, externally, you know, right from the start, we want to make sure that our partners have everything they need to succeed. We enable them with all the right resources, uh, give them a dashboard to have visibility and escalate their concerns on priority. So we’re also building on a notification or a message that we get internally whenever a partner raises a concern or a partner client raises a concern so that we can escalate, uh, them uh, such concerns. There’s also a partner directory out there that we’ve just launched. Uh, and the entire idea behind that is to get more services revenues for our partners. So I mean, externally that takes care of pretty much most of the stuff internally. We, we have, you know, we have to align all our stakeholders, uh, which is relevant right of its time. So we have a sales ops or ops team here.
One of the things we’d like to ideally see was, see activity in Salesforce, you know, popping up. And that’s, that’s, that’s, I think that’s a work in progress. But yeah, I mean internally you have to be, you have to first know what you want and then you have to just make sure that the information is over to the right heads and one, one relevant, you know, thing that we pulled off, which I’m actually very proud of, uh, for our, for our entire team was on the engineering front where we, we launched a billing API just before the holidays last year. And that led to incorrectly sort of, you know, account almost $30,000 worth of entries for all our partners. So, I mean, there was a lot of communication and collaboration that took place between the Channel partnerships team and the engineering team. And we were able to, you know, pull off the entire project in a record time of seven days. And that that also, you know, ensured, uh, all our 100 plus payouts, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of payout sort of went out on time.
There was no hiccup there. And I think like operationally everyone was on top of it.
Tori Barlow: I want to dial in a bit further to the processes. So I think getting the understanding of, yeah, here’s who I have to present these numbers to, here’s how I have to get the partners set up. So internally and externally, as you put it. But let’s drill into how you actually build these processes and structure. Can you walk us through that?
Shubham Sood: See, that’s a that’s a great question. Uh uh, I think, uh, for me, it has always it always starts with defining the problem statement. Uh, I’d like to first figure out, you know, the most alarming problem statement or issues. Make a list of them and prioritize, you know, based on the impact they would have on overall business. Uh, then I’ll, you know, also look at what are the ammunition resources, uh, people have in the organization to actually get that done. Uh, and here’s my cheat sheet, right? Like, these are some of the, the key areas that I’ve looked at in my partner ops role. Uh, first is our historical data. Uh, definitely. Look at, you know, data, data, data. That is the key. We have to look at all our previous systems in place where we use a tool called first promoter to see what’s working, what’s not. Where can things be scalable and, you know, where do we need additional tools to make sure it’s working for us and our partners? Second is, uh. Market and competitor analysis and looking into, you know, how the industry, standard or industry practices are being shared. For SaaS companies. Third, using wireframes and flows to actually build out a process for us to understand and the entire organization to consume that piece of information. Fourth, double down on our reporting metrics. Take note of, you know, what are the key numbers you’d like to see every week, every month, mainly revenue. Our overall partner pipeline, the number of leads that have added conversions from partner source revenue and then new expansion, which is our net new ADD. And fifth, I think the final piece, you know, to build any process and structure is collaboration and communication with all our respective teams.
I think it’s a very important piece that you have to be a good communicator and you have to make sure that you share all the relevant information so that your projects are, you know, are delivered. And I think overall, the outcomes that that that you would get if you’re able to follow the same cheat sheet is, uh, if you have, you know, done the respective analysis on competitors, you’ll make sure your partner program is relevant to the market. I see a lot of partner programs today, uh, that are run on historical, uh, incentives, and that is honestly opportunity for us to go work with such partners. Uh, it also gets, uh, you know, you also get more visibility into the data, uh, where you’re getting growth. What are the main reasons why are the partners or clients, uh, you know, moving to a different software? Because if a, if a partner source client is, you know, uh, moving away, it could be only a matter of time that the partner also decides to walk away or work with the other company. So that’s a crucial piece of information to look at. And you also have to make sure that the information during, you know, the cross collaboration with the leaders that you do that is also, you know, shared across the team members. I think the real front workers here at SaaS labs, right?
Each and every team member who’s out there talking to the customers, taking feedback and making sure that this information reaches, you know, everyone from top to bottom should be the final outcome that can be derived.
Tori Barlow: Yeah. And you hit on really good points there. And I loved your piece on, you know, the way you’re running a partner program may be outdated or antiquated just based on what you have set up. And I think right now, like so many companies are trying to get this partner program up and running or they’re starting to understand the value of partnerships, which is great. But speaking specifically around partner operations, partner processes, why is it important for partner leaders to prioritize this right now? And when would be the ideal time for them to think about prioritizing this versus laying the foundation?
Shubham Sood: I think this is a great question. And, you know, you mentioned about the report at the beginning, and I did go through that report, and one quote that has been with me from that report is that companies that do invest in partner ops have stronger ecosystems that drive more revenue and better retain customers. I think I’ve seen this up front. And this is this is a very valid point. And there there are two, you know, high level answers to the why is it important for partner leaders to prioritize a partner ops? I think first is data. You get so much insight, you get so much visibility into what’s working and what’s not. And second is growth, you know, or revenue. You will be you will not know what needs to be built out for your partners or how well or bad your partner program is doing. Uh, unless and until you invest in partner ops. Uh, I think you also one, one thing that we learned and we’re working on is automating a lot of manual steps. Uh, so that, uh, you know, it becomes easier for us to consume information.
And we are on top of everything that’s crucial to know when it, when is actually, again specific to everyone’s business. But I think a ballpark figure is if you have a dozen or a few, few more than that, engage partners and buy engage partners. A partner who’s gotten you at least one paid customer. That’s where I’d start. Uh, at that point, I think it’s, it’s crucial to have a professional operations person to tackle the process, enabling for all partner relationships and, you know, tracking the results. Uh, again, you need to provide a successful onboarding, engagement, active, activate all those partners and make sure you know all the relevant system and information is in place. Honestly, our SAS labs, because we were bootstrapped and profitable for a very long time, almost five years, I think we were late to invest in partner ops, uh, based on our ecosystems and partner directory size. But now that you know am at it, I’m excited to be, you know, part of driving this motion forward.
Tori Barlow: I think that’s a really great way to put it. You have to know what’s winning in order to do more, and partner ups helps you get there. Thank you to our guest Shubham Sood operations specialist channel at just call. And thank you to you, the listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast.