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THE PARTNER CHANNEL PODCAST

S3E4:
Powell Software’s Revenue is 100% Partner-Sourced.

Here’s What They Did.

Show Synopsis

For this week’s episode of the Partner Channel Podcast, host Tori Barlow is hearing about Powell Software firsthand from Chief Sales Officer, Edouard Payennville. An oh-so-satisfied customer of Allbound, hear how Powell puts partnerships first and the things they’ve done to see success.

Highlights:

  • How Powell developed their partner-focused network’
  • What it means to enable partners to be resources
  • How to scale with partners through CSM activities

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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. I’m excited to be here with Edouard Payennville, Chief Sales Officer at Powell Software. Welcome, Edouard. I’m super excited to talk to you today.

Edouard Payennville: Thanks. Hello, everyone. Thanks for having me today.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, I want to introduce Powell Software in a bit. You guys are one of our happy customers. That a little bit about you first. You’ve had a long experience at Microsoft in sales, channel sales and marketing for 11 years before you joined Paolo Software two years ago. So you’ve got a lot of great interwoven experience. And I guess going into that, could you give the audience a little bit of an overview about Powell?

Edouard Payennville: Absolutely. So Powell’s software is a SAS B2B provider. The HQ is in Europe, but we are purely a global company. We are operating in four different regions across the globe. So Western Europe for sure, and the Nordics as well, which is our second region. But we also have some business in North America, US and Canada, and we opened a few years ago, Asia Pacific as well with specific people in Australia. So the mission of our software is to enable every sized organization to connect their employees in the hybrid workplace. So that’s our mission. Since day one, the company has been created seven years ago and we do have right now a bit less than 100 employees again across the globe, 450 customers that are mostly mid-market and enterprise organizations. And one of our specific differentiator is that we are very close to Microsoft. All our software is based on the Microsoft platform, and we’ve been awarded in 2022 as the Microsoft partner of the year for the Digital Workplace Solution. So for sure, not only we’ve been proud of it, but it’s also the demonstration that everything that we do since the last seven years is working quite well and we are glad to be that partner of the year for Microsoft.

Tori Barlow: Who snaps for you rolling into another award? You know, you guys are you guys won the partner of the year from our Allbound awards. And and I want to focus a little bit on what we’re talking about today because of that. And it’s really how to penetrate the international markets through your partner market without dedicated resources. So a little bit about that when it comes to growing your global footprint outside of France specifically. And I think when we talk about this, a lot of folks who are headquartered in regions outside of America can really benefit from this. But the French partner industry is rapidly developing. But I know our audience would love to know from your general perspective, how did you do this with your partner network? Because, by the way, you guys are 100% partner focused.

Edouard Payennville: Yeah, absolutely. This is part of our DNA since day one. Being a partner for his company was part of the executive decision of our co-founders. So, you know, when we created software seven years ago, we had two core objectives from a corporate standpoint. The first one was to build a 100% recurring model. So, you know, everything that is related to IT services, integration, support and user adoption was not part of the plan or, you know, we were really focusing on the creation, the development and how to build a great software for our customers. So that’s one and two. The second objective was really to be global. So, you know, starting day one, and especially thanks to the support of the Microsoft HQ in Seattle, Washington, we had the opportunity to start penetrating the US markets again. Since day one, by the way, one of our co-founders was based in the US at that period of time. So for sure it has a lot to create some trust with the ecosystem in the US. Now when you think about, you know, why we’ve made that choice and how we’ve been able to penetrate those different markets. So the first one, which is quite general when it comes to, you know, building a channel strategy is really to create synergy effects. So being aware that, you know, we were in a position not only to create great software but also to bring added value to the end customer that was combining software plus services. And I think in the SAS B2B model, that was for sure a critical priority. The second one was to accelerate our time to market. 

And I think, you know, for small organizations such as, you know, startup that is being created, when you think about penetrating new market, there is always two KPIs that comes first, which is cost of acquisition for new customers plus the sales efficiency.

Edouard Payennville: And you need to protect those two financial KPIs, not only to penetrate new regions, new market, but to stay and keep, you know, the profitability of your company. So that’s been, you know, the decision to say, hey, you know, let’s leverage an existing partner network. And I think the one of Microsoft for us was a huge help because, you know, we were leveraging the existing partners of Microsoft, especially on the digital workplace topics. And those were all, you know, low hanging fruits. And we’ve been, you know, engaging those partners again very early in in in the company history. Last but not least, we were absolutely convinced that, you know, to protect our existing customers and, you know, increase the customer experience working with a channel of partners everywhere around the globe was also a key priority, you know, not only to acquire new customers, but also to secure our existing customers. And for sure today, with the 450 customers we do have, we are glad to have our 70 plus active partners because they are day to day working, end to end with our existing customers and it’s adding a lot of value. Now just a few tips that I can share. There is no secret sauce for sure, but something I think that has been very valuable for us penetrating, especially in North America, was that first of all, it was an executive decision. It’s not something that was coming from, you know, one sales guy or, you know, the chief of sales at that period of time.

 It was really part of the DNA and the business plan for software for the coming years. The executives of Total Software were also aware of the potential drawbacks of, you know, a channel strategy, because there are some drawbacks. If you think about, you know, the less control you might have on your customers or the reduced revenue you might generate because you give back some margin to your partner. So, you know, there is a revenue difference as well. But at the end of the day, we build, I think, and that is for me the biggest differentiator. We built a product that was partner first. So it’s not about, you know, hey, let’s engage from partners and we’ll give them give them some margin back of margin. It was that our product was built in full package. So there is tons of product capabilities that are really specific for partners. That’s one. The second one is the profitability. So we were convinced that not only the partners will like the margin, but also that they will be able to generate additional revenue stream on top of the points of our product. So as of today, we have a pretty good ratio that is for 1 USD of software license that they sell the market. And this is the average that we see globally. The margin rate up to 3.5 USD on top with their services, consulting, integration, support and user adoption. So I think that was for us, you know, again, part of the DNA. But also we’ve think about the partner strategy along the life of our software so far.

Tori Barlow: So this is not just a year of resource and you’re owning the partner program. This is a company wide organizational decision, which is probably a big catalyst as to why you guys have been so successful.

Edouard Payennville: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, I like to recap when I. Have those type of conversation with the ecosystem that, you know, being a partner first is not to say it’s an R&D topic because the engineers, the developers needs to think partner first. It’s a marketing topic and go to market topic as well because, you know, you need to trade the content and the marketing and global campaigns for your partner community. And for sure it’s sell conversation as well. But it’s a mix. And I think the balance between those three pillars is is well balanced.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, no, I think that makes a lot of sense. And then talking a little bit about, you know, you said you had 70 plus partners. You know, I bet a lot of people listening might not have a good amount of resources on their team to grow quickly and enable partners. You did something really interesting where you enabled your partners to be your resources for you. What does that mean and how did you do it?

Edouard Payennville: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a decision we’ve made. Again, you know, quite early a few years ago that was, you know, go at scale for partners was really, you know, the objective number one was not it was not so let’s say to take, you know, every partner opportunity by opportunity, but really go at scale with a long term plan. And I think some of the decisions we’ve made. So first of all, the first resources we did hire, especially in Europe, were challenge salespeople before coaches. So they all had, you know, channel experience before. So that was one decision I think that was quite important. The second one is that again, we think big, so very early with the partner program, even at that period of time, we had just a couple of partners, especially in North America, but we built a partner program that was think for the long term partner program that is today running on the Allbound platform that is combining different resources. You know, think about, you know, the the content, the products pricing, the also online certification. Everything was built, you know, to give autonomy and independency to our partner ecosystem. That was the only way to scale, especially when you have limited resources, especially in different countries outside of Europe. So I think that was a very strong decision. Now, for sure, even if with no or limited resources in the country, we did had and we still have for sure very strong people in the HQ in France supporting our global partner and they are running like 1 to 1 or one to many partner stations or sales technical training partner days. They do running webinars, newsletters. So it’s all about community management and secure. Your partner is to become from being a fan of your product to an evangelist of your products. And you know, running that partner program I think has been a key success factor of our success.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, it’s about the true partnership. And to your point earlier, not just sending over a contract, creating some sort of window for commission fee, like how do you actually go to market together, What is your value together and how are you better together? And it sounds like that stems from the overall company at Powell and your revenue is 100% partner Source. You talked a little bit about this in the beginning, but how do folks do this as a startup and as a kicker not being headquartered in the US, where 50% of your revenue comes from, this has to be challenging. How do you overcome that?

Edouard Payennville: So I think that there are different topics on that one. So the first of all is, is trust. You know, when you think about channel and partnership, it’s at the end of the day it’s people to people conversation and even before the product, it’s about the trust. So again, you know, having one of our customers at the point of time based in the US was for sure for the partner ecosystem, you know, proof that we were serious enough. So that was number one. I think the second one was for our partners, again, the transparency and the honesty to admit that software expertise was the products, the market we were operating in and and was not the country or, you know, the vertical. In the US, for instance, the audience in the US or so I think being partnering with local partners was, you know, so the the fact that we were admitting that, you know, we, we had to combine our forces. Our job was to build a great product and lend it to markets. 

The partners were there to support and drive the good market from the marketing to the sales. So, you know, I think honesty and trust was existing since day one.

Edouard Payennville: That was one. And the second one that is, I think working quite well is also when you think about the life, the sales cycle with our prospects during the first conversation we had with any prospects, we announced to them that we are partner first and that at some point they might be in touch or they will be in touch with one of our partners. This is really again, it’s about trust and transparency. The worst situation is that when you wait your opportunity to be in a proof of concept or being, you know, in the negotiation and you say, oh, by the way, you know, we are going to bring. One of our partners in the deal. Like, you know, the prospect would be very upset and is not going to understand why. But if early stage in the sales cycle, you explain why the value of that ecosystem, I mean, it’s a win win for the customer, for the partner and for software. And with that approach, for sure it’s not enough. But with that type of approach and for the matures, it’s a very good starting point. I would say.

Tori Barlow: Let’s shift a little bit to the partner type mindset and this goes a lot into quality over quantity, especially in this day and age of the economy and goals within bottom line revenue for indirect. So what type of partners are you working with specifically in the US? And did you have a different strategy with choosing partner type based on region? How did that work?

Edouard Payennville: Yeah, so we do have three three types of partners at play software really, especially in the US. Again, for the reasons that we know. So we are 100% partner driven in the US. So the first one is really the what we call the referral partners. So think about all the business consulting firms, all, you know, the consulting companies that are very early in the sales cycle talking mostly to seek. So for our market, it’s all about, you know, communication director h.R. And cio, CTO to talk about, you know, the future of their digital workplace in the hybrid world. So we talk a lot with referral batteries. First of all, to understand the US market because they do have tons of insights that we need to collect, but also they are talking to hundreds of potential customers. So we are partnering with those type of partners. That’s one. The second one, which is the biggest category actually for software, is system integrators or local system integrators or global system integrators that we work with. And it’s really here to implement proof of concept before the closing of the deal, but also to implement and deploy the solution after the closing and also manage the run and do the services afterwards, because our solution does require quite a lot of support and, and managed services to to have the solution working properly.

Last but not least, we are for just a few weeks and few months now opening a new market, which is the upper SMB and mid-market accounts and to drive penetrate that that specific market. We are working with more distributors and VARs that are more like volume oriented. So that’s a new ecosystem that we are driving and I think we are quite happy to see that all the investment that we’ve made in the past, especially when you think about our online resources and partner center, is giving them, you know, lots of autonomy again, and those type of volume machine, the big distributors, especially in the US, they do like this type of self-service approach. So those are the three categories that we have for sure. We are continuously looking for new partners, especially for the new products that we are launching in the markets. So we are not there yet, but the existing partner ecosystem we do have in North America is really strong right now.

We are continuously looking for new partners, especially for the new products that we are launching in the markets. So we are not there yet, but the existing partner ecosystem we do have in North America is really strong right now.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, Now I think that that’s really helpful and it’s so dependent on the type of goals you have as a partner organization, the types of partners you want to focus on, and not biting off more than you can chew because it really is that quality over quantity right now. And then as a bonus question for those based in France, what are some important things to remember when getting your program off the ground, specifically in France? And I know I’ve had conversations with folks like Alexandra Le Booth who leads up Sodexo’s partner program and is so well versed in the French market for partner appetite and and what are some things we need to remember when launching it, getting buy in? Are there certain tactics there to think about again?

Edouard Payennville: So as a recap, I think, you know, the first one is we need to have that as a strategic decision of the company. So starting they want to think about it and think big. I think, you know, step by step maybe a good approach, but at the end of the day, you need to anticipate and when you build a partner program, you need to think about, you know, three, three, four years time frame. So you need to anticipate those type of investments. That’s one. The second one I will say is we need to build a trust, be honest, be transparent, especially when you are operating globally and we are as if you are a French company. I would say that, you know, for for North America, it’s absolutely critical that you have that type of conversation very early with your ecosystem. And we said that also being honest means listen to the partner and the ecosystem feedbacks is something that we do. Not only we are running customer user club, but we are also running partner users and we always listen to our partner feedback because they do have tons of feedback about, you know, the market, the competition, the pricing, the product, the features and you know, running this type of conversation, not only with myself as the. Chief says Officer Abbott was always a chief product officer or CTO. To listen to the ecosystem is absolutely critical when you are a French based company and where you are operating globally. I mean North America is such a different market in terms of culture size, velocity for sure. So you need to be prepared and you need to collect those type of feedback on a regular basis, because if you do not do so very, very, very fast, you’ll be lost and you lost that trust that you build with your ecosystem. So those will be the piece of advice that we give to the ecosystem.

Tori Barlow: Think Big is so important this year. Thank you to our guests, Ed Ward, Chief Sales Officer, Hal Software. 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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