27/02/2017 | 27:47
Building a Channel is a Marathon
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Greg Goldstein, Senior Director of Global Channel Sales and Development for ON24, joins Jen Spencer to discuss mid-market and enterprise consulting partners, business planning for channel managers, partner exit interviews, and more on this episode of The Allbound Podcast. Jen: I'm excited to have you with us, and I wanna share a little bit about ON24 before we dig into channel questions. You guys are the global leader in webinar marketing solutions that drive demand generation and customer engagement, which sounds exciting. I know you've recently joined the ON24 team, but you've spent the last 12 plus years developing channel programs for software companies. Can you tell us a little bit about ON24, about your value proposition, and what brought you to this new team? Greg: Absolutely, for sure. ON24, as you mentioned, is a leader in webcasting technologies. Our overarching goal is to help marketers generate more leads and pipeline, as well as keeping existing customers up to speed on an organization's current deliverables, services and other offerings. Our platform is really about interactivity. It helps companies drive better engagement through that interactivity, and although interactivity and relationships are crucial, it's really how the platform can gather the data from those events, whether they're live events, on-demand events, or even semi-live events. And it's really crucial that as organizations spend time and effort to create these webcasts, that that data is pulled back into their organization and shared with their CRM and marketing automation platforms to really help the sales team just get more actionable activities and information about prospects and customers that they're engaged with. Jen: Well, being a revenue-driven marketer myself, I can definitely see the value there. So let's talk about channel. When you look at those overarching goals that the ON24 team has for the year, that you have, that the executive team has, what role do you think your channel is going to play in helping achieve those goals, both in the next 12 months, but then, looking ahead to even the next five years? Greg: That's a great question. As a channel person who's been in channel for 12 plus years, what's really crucial is, when an organization gets to that inflection point where they realize that channel is really that lever that's gonna help them extend their revenue stream, that they look at where they currently are with their channel. I think that like ON24, they realize that the channel is going to play that pivotal role. So how do you develop a channel in an organization that maybe not necessarily had a consulting partner channel but are looking to do that? And so, ON24 has several different channels, but specifically to this question, the consulting partner channel that I was brought in to develop is something that's going to help open up the market in the short-term and long-term. In the short term, it's building out a channel program that will provide our new partners with a webcasting solution that they can include into their marketing stack. And that's something that we'll talk about a little bit later. But there's this new stack, there's a CRM component, there's a marketing automation component, and then there's the webcasting component that really all tie together to create a unified vision of people, customers and prospects that are engaging these organizations. So my goal in coming to ON24 was to create a channel and create channel partners' success programs that will help these partners develop the tools that they need to be successful. I think in the short-term, the ON24 new partner program, which we've titled SuccessOne, will give these new partners the tools to be successful by also providing ON24 the leverage of having a new and unique devoted channel that will help expand the brand that ON24 brings to the webcasting space. So for short-term, we're gonna be very focused on the partners, but in the long-term, the goal for the SuccessOne program is to really provide ON24 as an organization a larger route to the consumer market than they ever could before with the direct model. Jen: So right now, I'm going to assume that you've got revenue goals that are associated with your partner program. Is that an accurate assumption? Greg: Yeah, of course. All channels will have revenue goals. With the new SuccessOne partner program, this is really a buildout of a brand-new type of partner that ON24 really hasn't engaged in the past. These are mid-market enterprise consulting partners, and of course there are revenue targets. But when you're building a brand-new channel from scratch and you're coming in with a unique new line of business, the most important thing for a channel is that you have the enablement training and go-to market strategies encapsulated into a concept that partners can digest and execute, which is something that overrides the short-term revenue goals. It's really the enabling goals which are playing a more pivotal role. Jen: Got it. So these new consulting partners, how do they differ from, or do they differ from a more traditional value-added reseller? Do you still have those VAR type of partners at ON24 or are you pivoting a traditional VAR program into more of a consultancy type of partner program? Greg: That's another great question. So ON24 has a series of different types of channels, as do a lot of publishers. There's ISVs, OEMs, VARs. In the software world more, I like to call them consulting partners since not a lot of consulting firms like to be called value added resellers. They're truly consulting partners. And so, we do have ISVs, we do some OEM, we do have SIs, and those programs have been with ON24 for quite a while. Those programs will remain as they are. I'm working with the teams that are supporting those partners to look at their strategies, their go-to market strategies, their enablement strategies, their onboarding strategies. And there will be some enhancements to those programs. My goal is to come in and bring in those mid-market, like I mentioned, mid-market and enterprise consulting partners. These are the partners that their predominate core practices revolve around CRM, marketing automation, and ERP. This is a new type of partner, consulting partner that ON24 hasn't truly engaged in the past. But in my history and in my experiences working with either publishers from GoldMine to Sage to SugarCRM to Act-On, these mid-market and enterprise consulting partners are truly the trusted advisors of the target audience that ON24 is going after. Jen: So I wanted to ask you about that, about, some of your past experience. Some of those past experiences that you've mentioned, I mean, you've helped build some pretty phenomenal channel programs over the years, like you mentioned Sage, Sugar, Act-On. So when you first join a software company with that goal of either creating or further developing a channel program, where do you start? Greg: Well, there's a lot of ways to approach this, and I think everybody who's been in channel will look at it from a different perspective. I think, most importantly, if you're channel person, you're looking at an opportunity based on how a partner would approach it. I think there's probably five pillars or five major buckets that you wanna look at. First is, what's the market for that opportunity? What's the market for that platform? Is it a market that is on a growth curve, is it in a maintenance curve, or is it kind of on a downswing? Now, that's a really crucial point when you look at, can a channel be built successfully around the product or services that the publisher is going to market with? That's number one. Number two, fit for the partners. Is it a technology or a solution that the partners in your ecosystem aren't easily adaptable to? The market that I specifically fit into are more those partners that fit around the business applications, the CRM, the ERPs, marketing automation, those consulting firms that are out there to solve the problem for their consumers. So that's the second thing. Is there a fit for a partner channel for that service? Third is what's the current ecosystem of that channel? So if you're talking about webcasting or marketing automation or CRM, what's the channel like? Is there a robust channel? Is it a product that's in demand, that partners realize that they wanna go out and they wanna exploit those needs in the marketplace? So is there a fit in the ecosystem for that product? Fourth is partner profitability. Does that product or service provide the partner with a revenue stream with not only product sales but also in consultative services? These are businesses like all other organizations that have to profit, and they have to be able to utilize their staff to be profitable. So some products have a very low cost point but a high services rate. Other products have a really high price point but very little services. So you have to kind of weigh where you're at with margins and consultative services to really determine, is this a good fit for a partner? And fifth, which to me is one of the most important ones, is partner commitment and organizational commitment. Does the publisher, or is the publisher committed to the success of a channel? If you have an organization, and ON24 has absolutely opened its arms to this new concept of building out a new partner channel, are they committed to doing this? Building a channel is not a one-quarter or two-quarter event, it's a marathon. And a marathon has many steps, right, as you know. It's enablement, it's recruitment, it's onboarding, it's building a strategy that helps partners be effective. But also, are partners committed to this? Do the partners realize or understand or need to be educated that their consumers need that product or service? Do they need it, do they want it? If they don't need it, do they need to be educated as to why they need it? There are a lot of partners, Jen, that look at products and go, "You know what, that's too far ahead of the adoption curve from my install in customer base." That's another component that you also have to consider. Where in the adoption curve is that product or service? So those are pretty much the big five. Jen: These are all great questions to ask before you start digging and building out a program. I mean, you started a company, how do you go about getting answers to all of those questions? Do you have any tips for folks who might be in a similar situation? Greg: I'd been doing this for a long time and that question has come up before. How do you find these questions out? How do you find out if it's an opportunity for a channel lead or a channel sales vendor? My best response is, go talk to partners that you have a great relationship with, find out what their customer base, the spectrum of applications that their customers are using, find out what they're asking their prospects. A lot of the times, partners don't do the due diligence in their own business development. One of the things that I've done in the past, and this is how I gather a lot of this information as to, "Is this a viable product," is when I coach partners or when I build channels, when I work with channels, I require partners to do exit interviews with companies that they've won deals and lost deals. I don't think enough partners in this industry do exit surveys. Why did we not win this deal? Was it based on price? It should never be based on price why you lose a deal. I think exit surveys should ask do you feel that our organization provided you with the information to make an educated response to whether this application fitted your needs? When you start having partners that are at that level of competency of their own organization, go ask them, "Does webcasting fit your profile of applications that your prospects or your customers are asking for?" You really got to out and ask the questions to determine if it's the right fit or not. Jen: That's a really great point, and some of those activities that you're bringing up are good activities, I think, for even direct sales teams to be doing as well. I think, having that open communication with your partners, and when you're saying talking to them, I'm assuming you mean actually either face-to-face or on the phone and not just sending out a survey. Am I correct in that assumption? Greg: Absolutely. As much as I love technology, I am all about that personal touch. In the 15 years that I've been in this business, I have a Rolodex of, gosh, 300 to 500 partners that I know personally. It's been a long time in this industry, and I have another 500 that I can communicate with via electronic means. Communication is key. You really need to be able to understand what makes a partner tick. For all of us that do channels, channel partners are unique individuals, just like they're unique organizations. They all have specific needs that they need to satisfy, whether it's an application that they need to provide to their customers, or how they go to business and how they go to market, how do they engage their customers and prospects. Knowing your partners is not just sending out a survey or assuming that you know what they want, it's asking those questions. I'm a big, big fan of beta testing, and I've been doing that since I started in channels. I will come up with a channel strategy and I will bring in two or three of my closest channel allies, channel partner allies, and ask them, "What do you think of this strategy and can we pilot it with your firm?" Whether it's a marketing strategy, a sales strategy, whatever it may be, being in channel is a great opportunity, because you can test things, you can do A/B split testing on channel strategies. Never assume you know the answer, never assume, always ask the question and get a better response. Jen: I think that's great. I think even from a consumer perspective, when I think about some of the technologies that I use, whenever I'm asked to try something, to be a beta to provide feedback, honestly, I feel special. I feel like, "Wow, my opinion really matters." I feel like I'm truly a trusted partner in that relationship. So it's a win-win, I think, for both parties. Greg: Absolutely. I can tell you, there's dozens of partners that I've worked with that have followed me from even my days at GoldMine to Sage to SugarCRM to Act-On and now to ON24, that have followed me from publisher to publisher because I've made them money. When you make a partner money and make them successful, they trust you. In this industry, being in channel, being a channel leader, trust, integrity, there is nothing more important than that. If you go down that straight path with a channel partner and you tell them the good, the bad, and the ugly, then you're gonna be successful. Remember, these partners that are selling applications, especially when they go from the old-school on-prem perpetual licensing model to a new cloud deployment with software as a service pricing model, their models have changed. That paradigm shift for them, a lot of them had a little trouble with that shift. And now that they've adopted to the new model and the new modern channel partners that are more assertive and aggressive with building out their practices, looking for those new platforms that fill their customers' and prospects' gaps in their solution stack, those are the ones that will be the most forthright with the channel leader to tell you, "You guys need to think about going to market this way, because my customers and prospects are looking at it from a different perspective than maybe the publisher's looking at it." And that's where that relationship and that conversation, Jen, is crucial in building out a successful channel. Jen: So Greg, I have one more question for you, but it's actually two questions in one, I'm totally cheating. So, okay, so the first part of the question is, what do you think is the biggest challenge for sales professionals overseeing a channel program? And then my second, tying it to this question, question is, what do you see is the greatest opportunity for those same leaders? Sometimes those challenges and opportunities can be one and the same. Greg: Yeah. The challenges and opportunities are the same, it's the same coin, opposite sides, where with partners, I always do, I try to do personal business development with my top partners and those partners that raise their hands. And I'm a big fan of old-school SWOT: strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat. And I really think not enough channel sales people, channel managers, channel leadership really understand where the partners are in their specific lifespan of their consulting firm. So when you say challenges, I'd probably say understanding what the partners are actually looking to achieve from their own perspective. As a channel leader, I know what my company's looking to do. I know exactly what I am trying to do, build an effective selling machine that is self-sufficient and competent. Okay, so challenges, there's a lot of lackadaisical attitude in channel today and I don't personally understand it. I've been around for a long time and I've seen the most effective channels flutter when the day-to-day business development requirements are taken away from channel sales people. The channel needs to be understood, listened to, and when they have an issue or there's a gap in their go-to-market strategy, they need to be addressed. So I would say, the education from a channel sales perspective as to what each individual partner needs to be successful is probably, in my opinion from a business development standpoint, Jen, a big challenge today, a very big challenge. Jen: Why do you think there's inertia in the channel? You know, because you touched on it, and I see it too. There's a lot of, I don't know if it's inertia, apathy, or if it's just this thing that exists in a company that folks maybe don't seem to wanna dig into. Do you have any thoughts on why that is? Greg: Well, I'll use a phrase I use when I'm bringing on partners, and I mentioned a thing called channel self-sufficiency, which is something that I strive for, for partners to be self-sufficient. I really think there's this phrase, and I use it in a lot of my marketing and a lot of my recruitment, is competency breeds confidence. And I think today there's been a move from, in some areas, from publishers to not bring in people that have strong business backgrounds to manage partners. I think that is where the latency in success is happening, is you have channel sales people that don't take their role seriously. They don't understand the fact that they need to know business, they need to know business development, they need to know marketing, but on top of it all, they need to know the product that they sell. That, right, I can tell you numerous experiences where I've been at publishers where the channel person did not know their platform. I'm sorry, you can be a business development person, you can be a channel marketing person, you can have the best business strategy concepts in the world. But if you can't sit there and have at least an advanced sales rep's skillset around the platform you're selling, you're gonna show weakness to the channel partner. Jen: Or because you... Greg: You need to...go ahead. Jen: No, sorry. I'm stepping...I'm trying to finish your sentence. I just let you finish your sentence. You're making, you're a business adviser in a way, you have to be able to communicate the value of your product or platform and show that channel partner what value that's gonna add to his or her own business. I mean, I agree 100%, you have to know how these systems work and you have to have that business acumen. I haven't had anybody kind of put their finger on that before. So I'm just kind of like bouncing in my chair a little bit. Like, this is it. Yes, Greg. Like, I agree 100%. Greg: A couple of years ago, I did a dramatic change in direction on how I did business development and business planning with partners. And again, lots of publishers, lots of experiences. Business planning with partners is something that is overlooked. And I did an absolute 180 in my strategies. I actually tore up all the 20-page business plans that I had used in the past and I moved to something that I call the a la carte strategy where I actually have between 20 and 25 topics that a partner can actually choose from for their coaching. Of course, there are some mandatory things that I require, and I do a triage level of 1 to 4, right, 1 means we're working on it now, 2 means we're working on it in 60 to 90 days, 3 and 4, putting them in the parking lot. But for partners that get my business planner with my team, they look at us and go, "My gosh, you guys really wanna understand what we are as an organization and where are the gaps." When you bring that type of channel leadership and channel management to the partner ecosystem, they're gonna pay attention to you. They're gonna give you that mindshare, Jen, that you need to be successful. Remember, and this is where channel managers and channel leaders kind of drift off. The top consulting partners, partners at the top 1%, Microsoft partners, Salesforce consulting partners, NetSuite partners, Sage partners, you name the publisher, their top partners, aside from those core applications that they sell, are selling another 20 to 50 other applications. How do you make yourself front-of-mind and get mindshare so that they represent your product before they think about another application that ties into Great Plains or Dynamics or Salesforce? It is showing them that you're absolutely professional and that you're there to help them make money. You're there to help them be successful. You show that with your documentation, with your tools that you provide, your business planning tools, you're gonna get their mindshare. You're gonna get 25% of their marketing time. You're gonna get 25% of their sales time. You're gonna get 25% of their operational and organizational mindshare. You get those components, you get that type of mindshare, you're gonna have a successful channel. But you need to be hiring channel managers that are more business related than they are trying to sell software or sell services. I know that's kind of a shift in thinking, but in my experience, the best channel managers that I've ever had on teams of mine were those that were able to sit down and do business planning and understand what it takes for a partner to be successful. Jen: I think it's really great advice, and I'm excited to see, the growth of the ON24 partner program, this whole ecosystem, as you dig in further. But before I let you go, I know I kind of riddled you with channel questions, I do have a couple of more personal questions for our listeners to get to know you a little bit better. Are you open to answering a couple of easy questions? Greg: Absolutely, absolutely. Jen: Alright, okay. So first question, what is your favorite city? Greg: Favorite city, well, I'm a little biased. I'm gonna say the city that I live in, which is Newport Beach, California. Jen: Well, you just happen to live in paradise. We can't all be so lucky. Question number two, are you an animal lover? Greg: I am. I'm a huge animal lover. I have two crazy dogs that, love to sit in my home office and love to voice their opinions when they don't like what I hear. I also love horses. My little daughter is all about ponies right now. So we spend a lot of time up at a local ranch and she can pretend that she's a cowgirl and really enjoy that. Jen: Lovely. Question number three, Mac or PC? Greg: Oh, that's the big question. I am currently six years on Mac, spent my first 10 years in the industry on PC, and I can go either way. Jen: Really, there's not like one thing you just love more than the other? I mean, if I stuck you on a plane for five hours and I had one in one hand and one in the other, which one would you take? Greg: I'm going Mac. You got me on that one. Jen: Awesome. And last question, let's say I was able to offer you an all-expenses-paid trip, where would it be to? Greg: Wow, all-expenses-paid trip. Gosh, that is a great question. I would probably have to say, given that I have a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, a Disney cruise. Jen: I hear those are really great. Greg: If it was just my wife and I, I'd probably say Montreal. One of my favorite towns is Montreal. Jen: Nice, nice. Well, I hear Disney cruises are pretty great for adults too, and they've got some daycare too. So that might not be such a bad trip. Greg: Exactly. Jen: Well, Greg, thank you so much for sharing your time, your insights with us today. If listeners would like to reach out to you directly, what's the best way for them to do so? Greg: I recommend that you connect with me on LinkedIn. You can find me on LinkedIn, Greg Goldstein, and I respond quickly to messages. And if you have questions about channel, questions about anything, in the industry, I'm always open to giving advice, having dialogue, conversation, love chatting. So if you wanna reach out, LinkedIn. Jen: Perfect. And we'll go ahead and include some social media links to that when we publish this podcast as well. Again, Greg, thank you so much for your time. It's been a pleasure. And we look forward to delivering another episode of the Allbound podcast next week. Have a great day, everyone. Thanks for tuning to the Allbound podcast. For past episodes and additional resources, visit the resource center at allbound.com. And remember, never sell alone.
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