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S3E21: Prioritizing Internal Teams to Power Partnerships

Show Synopsis

For this episode of the Partner Channel Podcast, sit down with Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound, and her guest Jason Ashman, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances and Partnerships at SaaS Labs. Together, they’re talking all about aligning internally to better enable partner success.


  • How to optimize internal workflows while keeping partners in mind
  • What balancing both your people and your partners looks like
  • How to manage needs and expectations across the board

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The Script

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 Jason Ashman, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances and Partnerships at SAS Labs. You are a two timer here, Jason, So welcome back.

Jason Ashman: Thanks. Thanks for having me. 

Tori Barlow: Yeah. And a little bit about you. For folks who haven’t listened to the other episode, you were the first hire for the company and you previously built up a $200 Million partner acquisition channel. So I think if anyone has any questions, they know they can go to you for sure. But today we are all about prioritizing internal teams, primarily sales teams and your partners. And I think there’s a lot of ways to phrase this, whether that’s channel conflict or just giving attention focus areas. But it’s a hot topic right now and I’m so excited we’re talking to you about it. Um, so it’s been a year since we last chatted. Can you update us on what’s changed at SAS Labs within the partner program? And just a quick reminder of what your partner program looks like.

Jason Ashman: Yeah, yeah, sure. So thanks again for having me. Uh, great to be back. Um, so since we’ve last chatted, a lot has changed over here, So we’ve, uh, I think we’ve grown our partnership team now to about, um. One, two, three, four, five. I think about eight people, give or take. Right. Wow. Uh, with additional resources supporting us as well. Right. So we have grown out to we have a strategic arm now and that is focusing on our vertical expansion play. So breaking into different industries. Let’s say right now we’re focusing very heavily on real estate, followed up by, you know, automotive or home services. Thereafter. We have someone running our tech partnerships now. So this is, in my mind, kind of the most basic to understand, right? A tech partnership is a company you integrate with. And so our platform plays with their platform, which makes our mutual customers very happy and we all win with that. And then we have the channel team, right? Um, and we’ve had actually probably the most growth over there. And so the channel team is really focused on, we call it actually solution partners. And so the solution partners, these are consultancies, agencies, companies that really help our customers, right? Or their customers, mutual customers implement either their tech stacks or build out workflows and strategies that’s going to help them optimize their sales or support or success teams. So that’s where we got today. And then on top of that, we were really lucky to get an additional headcount to hire a partner marketing person as well. 

And I strongly suggest if anyone can hire a partner marketing person, definitely do that because they will help you out tremendously.

Tori Barlow: Oh my gosh, partner marketing is so critical right now. I feel like we could do a third podcast specifically on partner marketing, but starting with the hard hitting question. So you’re building the partner program. Obviously you’ve done this in the past. Why not put all of your resources into direct sellers for SAS Labs?

Jason Ashman: Yeah, so this is a question I think a lot of companies think about. And you know, obviously as partnerships continue to grow and expand, it’s becoming a bit more acceptable or understood as to why this is important. But the short answer is right. So utilizing partnerships really allows us to maximize our coverage and like an immediate way without really kind of putting more costs and burdening our balance sheet. So our finance team is a lot happier with that, of course, right? Co-founders, obviously a lot happier with that. And if you are younger or smaller company or maybe you’re a bit more cash strapped. Cash strapped it is. Excuse me. Um, you know, being able to leverage partnerships is, I think, a great way for growth to think about it this way. A quick example, right? So if we’re moving into, let’s say like a new geographic location, you know, break it into that geo or going into a new vertical or industry, let’s say like automotive sector partners will oftentimes have these unique or specialized knowledge or insights within that region or that industry that, you know, a direct sales team, especially newly hired one, won’t have. And on top of that, they might even have already established relationships to help you break into that stuff, to refer you immediately, or having even just those direct customer conversations to help you gain more insights yourself to take back to your own internal marketing or product teams. And so leveraging these various partnerships really allows companies to efficiently test these waters. Hey, is automotive the way for us to go instead of investing, you know, 4 or 510 headcount into sales team and adding more support people or success people, um, is a great way to scale and kind of understand is this a real good product market fit for this industry or for this geo or whatever it is? Basically?

Tori Barlow: Yeah. That’s really important to think about. And I think too, as cash is strapped and probably amongst a lot of SaaS companies right now, this is a crucial pivot or thing to look into when determining how to go to market. Now, when you think about it, how. How do you optimize or look at the workflow with partners and how does that inject back internally? How do you think about that?

Jason Ashman: Yeah. So when we think about how to optimize this workflow, right, there’s it’s a bit of a balancing act, right? So being able to set guidelines early on and really clearly defining those roles and responsibilities and you can break this up in a few different ways. So maybe you have a, let’s say, a reseller team focused only on, let’s say, EMEA or Latin America or stuff like that. And so, you know that any deals that come from those areas, there’s can be no real conflict. So again, we want to prevent this conflict between, let’s say, a reseller and a sales team, right? And so having to find territories, what where they can work or operating is kind of like one way I’ve seen kind of work really well. Another way is to maybe focus on different products. So let’s say a sales team’s core focus is, let’s say selling on, I don’t know, selling a water bottles, let’s say, right? I have a water bottle on my desk. So some water bottles right? But now the resellers focus or channel partners focus is to, let’s say, focus on selling cups or mugs, let’s say. And so by having different products and different focuses over there, you’re going to help prevent some of that conflict and you might even share that mutual customer. And that’s where you can kind of see like cross collaboration in terms of, hey, we want to sell them water bottles, but they need something to drink it out of.

Maybe we could partner with our reseller over here who only sells, you know, let’s say different product to us, and you kind of combine that together and co sell together or even think about, you know, the, the global aspect of it. Some of these companies, like my company, for example, SaaS labs are based out of India. Right. You said earlier I was the first US hire. Right. And so when you work with a global company, you have different regions or offices where you’re going to need a partner with various different companies to break into that so we can work with SaaS labs based in the US. But how do we work with their Indian employees or their We have employees in Poland or an employees in France or even some people in Singapore. So how do you operate with those different aspects of the company? And so leveraging these partnerships, again, having those clearly defined roles and definitions early on will help, I think, accelerate the and foster a good relationship over there. And the last piece for that, I would say is is also kind of, you know, established pricing. I think it’s important to make sure there’s different pricing between maybe an internal sales team and then let’s say on the call, let’s say an external sales team, that’s not always the case.

But if your internal sellers could have maybe more control over offering them discounts versus a reseller, that’ll also help along the way as well.

Tori Barlow:  All right, so now let’s pivot. So how do you think about balancing the internal sales folks and prioritizing their needs alongside the partner needs?

Jason Ashman: Yeah, So. It’s very important. The first thing I want to say over here, it’s very important to have some focus on and managing these needs and expectations of of this this dynamic over here. Right. This is going to require ongoing attention, right? So in order to really foster this growth and collaboration and have religious and mutually beneficial environment, that will both optimize your internal sales team as well as your external partnership teams. Right. You’ve got to have strong attention over here and strong focus. So that’s the first thing. So having someone dedicated to this, as I think is almost paramount. Uh, the next piece I would say is making sure that there’s equitable support and resources, right? It’s important that your internal team, again, these are the people you see probably more on a day to day basis sometimes or in your your daily stand ups or your company town halls or things like that. Right. Your company retreats. Right. You have to make sure that they understand that you value them and you’re not playing favorites, right? Because if they feel like you start playing favorites with a kind of an external resource, sometimes that can start creating a negative environment. Right? And we want to prevent that. And so. Making sure you understand that there’s no favorites over here, and they really understand the concept that this partnership team is just an extension of the overall revenue team and it’s going to help them maybe accomplish or hit their goals more efficiently or more quickly and make things easier for them. Right. Um, and then the last piece I would say is making sure that the compensation aspect is really aligned. So partner leaders really give ample attention to comp payout structure for these partners, which is great and important.

And so the sales leaders, right, they do the same for those internal reps as well. Right? So making sure that those plans are really attractive and fair to give them incentivized to give them kind of going on and get them excited about this stuff. And it’d be great even to see ways. And I know some companies have done this figure out ways that, hey, if a lead comes in or an opportunity comes in from a reseller and they bring in a sales rep, some of those sales reps don’t always get that full commission. I think that should be the opposite sometimes, like, hey, we want to foster this good collaboration, this teamwork. If you will, give them the full commission or even maybe an extra spiff on top of that, right, Which keeps them going. Because if a reseller or a partner is bringing in a customer to us and they need help selling that, most likely that’s because it’s a more complex deal or larger scale deal. Right? Because any reseller out there is going to be offering that frontline or Tier one type support and sales stuff. And so when they come back to us, it’s kind of maybe a bigger ticket deal. And so making sure that our our reps understand that, hey, this is, let’s say more kind of like first line or smaller scale deals, not always. And we want to reserve the bigger scale deals for you guys. Again, that comes back to the defining roles, right? So maybe they’re going after goals or or different products or even different segments, SMB versus mid-market versus enterprise. 

And so being able to to having those clear lines of communication and properly incentivize people, I think really will be helpful and beneficial to preventing conflict.

Tori Barlow: The piece is so important. I’ve seen this done really well and I’ve seen it done not so well. And it really changes the the motivation for a rep to participate in any sort of buying cycle. You were on our podcast last time we talked about progressing your career from sales into partnerships, and here we are again. The theme is still don’t forget about sales. And the direct line is is really important. So thank you to our guests, Jason, senior director of strategic alliances and partnerships at Sass Labs. And thank you to you, the listeners, for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast.

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.

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