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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 3, Episode 2

Here’s How to Pivot to Partnerships in Current Market Conditions

Show Synopsis

On this episode, host Tori Barlow is joined by Alex Buckles, CEO of Forecastable and Allbound Award Winner. The topic of today is transitioning from direct selling to partnerships. The two offer advice on facing things like current market conditions and internal budget cuts, explaining how partnerships can help your organization push through their pain points.

Highlights:

  • Why it’s critical to invest in partnerships right now 
  • What advice they have for partnership professionals facing budget cuts
  • How partner managers should think about navigating success in 2023

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The Script

Introduction: 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 Alex Buckles CEO forecast stable welcome Alex or pumped to have you.

Alex Buckles: Hi Tori. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Yeah.

Tori Barlow: So like I mentioned, you’re CEO of Forecast. Well, we’d love to hear a little bit about that, but you’re also founder of Pathways for Autism, so you’re up to a lot these days. 

Alex Buckles: Yeah. So at forecast, well, we’re a SAS company that basically enables sales teams to more effectively cross-sell with their partner ecosystems. And on the pathways for autism side, that’s my nonprofit. And when I’m done here, forecast, I’m not waiting until we exit, but I’m going to spend the rest of my life focused on building a scalable infrastructure. So every individual on the autism spectrum can can live as financially independent of life as possible and can be activated in the workforce.

Tori Barlow: That’s amazing. Great work all around. And today we’re talking about something that’s very crucial to where we are in the market conditions. And we’re recording this, Alex, in early December. But I have a feeling, you know, the market will continue as is maybe, or who knows what will really happen. But the real answer from the partnerships pieces, we need to focus more on that as an industry and not so much direct selling. And you have a ton of experience here. Mcbain also recently shared a stat that 55% of channel partners are confident about their business performance in Q4 2022. So I feel like a direct selling motion would be fairly lower with confidence. But, you know, why is it mission critical right now for companies to invest more in partnerships than ever before?

Alex Buckles: For a number of different reasons. I mean, one, like the the economic uncertainty over there, you know, out there, you see all these layoffs happening in tech. And unfortunately, I’m starting to see, you know, you’re seeing a lot of partner pros lose their jobs, too, which is it doesn’t make any sense. Why? Because the cost of direct selling and direct marketing and going out there 1 to 1 trying to get in front of that customer is just going way too high. It’s not a sustainable model. I remember when Predictable Revenue came out of that whole framework and we were trying to get the, you know, the outbound combining with inbound and all that good stuff like it has hit critical mass and now you’re starting to see diminishing returns. And so you’re going to see like over the course of the next five years, the SAS industry in itself is going to quadruple in size. And so when you think about that, it’s like, I know my inbox is already filled, like I already don’t answer my cell phone. So now you’re going to for X, the number of stars that are calling on me, you know, in that fashion, it’s just not a sustainable model and it’s breaking right now. And so as it’s breaking, Chief revenue officer is or just the C-suite in general is they’re looking at how are they going to manage the business through uncertain economic conditions. It’s like, well, we got a better start focusing on lower customer acquisition costs. We can better arm our customer success organization with access to partnerships so they can start servicing the account without extra support around them that we have to go and fund. So you just get lower customer acquisition costs, higher and or higher lifetime value. There’s just so many positives to partnerships and that’s why the crows that are investing in this, that’s why they’re doing it. And double down, doubling down on it.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, No, I think it’s crucial now more than ever. I’m curious to you, being a CEO, a lot of partner leaders go up against getting exec buy in. If a CEO like yourself or CRO is not familiar with partnerships, like what’s one key takeaway that you as a CEO would look for if someone were pitching a partner program to you?

Alex Buckles: So pitching the partner program like you’ve got to like basically find the right internal stakeholders to go and do that pitch. Never try to do that pitch solo. Right. And and so find find that internal partner that has some sway and some juice and influence to go help you have that conversation. So as an example, if I’m in partnerships, I might go sales would be my number one, right? If I can get the VP of Sales or Chief sales officer on board and us together saying, look, if we run these motions into the partner ecosystem, here’s what we’re going to get. Our customer acquisition costs are going to drop by 40%, and this is what we anticipate. Here’s how we run a small pilot. That’s the conversation. And when that CRO or that CEO sees that there’s alignment between sales and partnerships, they’re much more likely to go ahead and approve that because they want to support their organization. Now, at the same time, don’t show up to the table without rib ops. And so, you know, definitely try to like as soon as you start aligning with that VP of sales, bring that rib ops person in for their feedback because that CEO or that CFO, the first thing they’re going to do after they see all this wonderful collaboration between the two departments, they’re going to look and say, Hey, does this pass the rev ops sniff test? And are they on board, you know, operationally?

Ttori Barlow: Yeah. It’s crucial to have that rev ops partner ops that HubSpot Canal is Partnership leaders survey just came out with the importance of why you need to measure partner programs. So I think that’s a really important piece and something that’s looming over. I know folks in partner teams or even marketing teams are budget cuts for, you know, 2023, the upcoming year. What advice could you give someone who might be going through a budget cut?

Alex Buckles: So I think when it comes to budget cuts, like specifically in partnerships, they need, you need to focus on measuring your value, right? It’s easy to measure the value in sales. People have quotas, right? It’s all closed one and and in partnerships, yes, most folks can try to measure partner, source and partner influence and all that good stuff. But but in general, you have to do that internally. If you’re seeing budget cuts, you have to make yourself important. And if you haven’t already proven your lower customer acquisition costs higher or higher LTV because of the partner program you’re rolling out, then you might be in danger. So it’s important to start. So even if you haven’t done that already, like don’t freak out. Like you can go do that today and it doesn’t have to be like this big thing. You can just go in and say, Look, I’m going to focus on this one partner and this one segment, or maybe one tech partner and one services partner. We’re going to go to market after these top 250 accounts. And here’s the result I expect. And just start measuring that stuff. So do little pilots. And then when when budget cuts come up, you’re less likely to get cut as long as you’re proving your value with metrics.

Tori Barlow: I love it. Yeah. Be proactive and always think about how you’re measuring. It’s not only lagging indicators or bottom bottom line revenue, but also the leading indicators and how you’re looking at attribution that way, too. And then, you know, thinking about the beginning of the new year, what should partner managers think about in terms of navigating partner programs next year?

Alex Buckles: You know, in terms of navigating partner programs next year, I would focus on on basically operationalizing every single partnership, right? So when I look at like an ecosystem of partners, like all I see are a bunch of different ingredients and pieces, right? That we need to go put together to go sell whole solutions, because no longer going direct 1 to 1 doesn’t work anymore. We’ve got to go in and say, okay, what is this? What pain point is this buyer trying to solve? And how can I jointly solve for that with my partner ecosystem? And can I come to the table as a unified front and present that to the customer, maybe do some some some type of funnel marketing, you know, using a beam focus top of funnel marketing into those accounts with your you’re better together story. I don’t know if you’ve ever interviewed Blake Williams at AMP Factor, but I think he’s great. He’s phenomenal. Right. And like that guy and his company have done like they put together the best like I said, the most top notch program I’ve seen when it comes to like that effort. And so if you can’t go to AMP Factor and like and pay AMP Factor to go do this for you, then then you need to go figure it out yourself. But it does require better together stories. Top of Funnel Album Marketing.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, yeah. No, these are these are crucial. I think if, if you’re you’re running into a roadblock at your company with building a partner program and really getting it off, you got to have that buy in. And if you’re struggling with what to do next with these market conditions, partnership leaders is always a great place to go. They have an open to work forum. I know the folks over there are super passionate about finding other roles for people, so don’t give up. Thank you to our guest Alex, CEO for classical and thank you to you the listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast.

Outro: That’s all for this episode. We’d like to thank you for taking the time to listen in. If you like what you heard, we’d love the chance to take the talk to LinkedIn and continue the conversation. If you want to stay up to date with all of our new episodes, subscribe to our series wherever you like to listen to podcasts.