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“I’m definitely one of those folks on the one side of the sales org going ‘Who are these Channels Salespeople anyway?’ Not saying I’m against you. Not saying I’m for you, just saying like, ‘I don’t know who you are, right?”
Thankfully, Kyle Warren, now CEO of PartnerStart – a SaaS Partnership/Eco Consultancy company, joins the podcast to school Jordan Greaser, RevOps Therapist and founder and CEO of Greaser Consulting, on what exactly Channel Selling is and how it works.
He also shares his thoughts on how someone might get into a Channel Selling role and how the approach to selling is different from what SDRs and AEs do.
Hello, this is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. On today’s episode, we’ve got Kyle coming on, Mr. Channel Sells himself. We’ve interacted on multiple occasions about potentially partnering together. Hasn’t ever really worked out. But I’ve always appreciated his just approach to the conversations and the way he, he thinks about partnering and channel sales and all of this. And the reality is, I finally just reached out to him and said, “Listen, I’m pretty stupid when it comes to channel sales. From a consulting agency, we don’t do a whole lot with channel sales, I don’t really know much about it. Every time I’ve interacted with channel sales, I just know it’s a different world. What does it look like?” So what you’re about to experience is about 30 minutes of me finally learning a topic that I should have known about probably a long time ago. And so listen, if you know Kyle, lean in, and listen, if you’re like me, and you just don’t know much about channel sales, super informative discussion today. Or if you’re just one of the sort of regular listeners that want to know what’s going on today, I think you’re going to enjoy it. Like I said, super informative, lean in, have fun. And here we go.
Say you want some clarity in sales and marketing and SEP? Well, we have just the remedy: Our podcast, RevOps Therapy. Yeah.
Hi, crew, this is Jordan. I’ve got Kyle with me. Introduce yourself.
Hey, it’s Kyle Warren, currently serving over at Mogli SMS as their director of partnerships and alliances. Thanks for having me, bud.
Yeah, listen, we were, we were joking before we even started this recording today, like a little history with, with Kyle and I, as I think every company that he’s gone to, he has been like, “listen, we’re gonna bring you in as a partner, we then have a conversation. It sounds like it’s gonna go well, and then we never actually partner.” So this is like, this is how I know this guy. This is how we’ve connected over the years. But the kind of running joke, right, is we actually enjoy the conversations, but nothing ever happens. So hopefully this doesn’t foreshadow how this podcast is gonna go. Right? Like, like, good conversation, but like there’s no real outcome. Right?
I’m so good at my job. Thank you, Jordan.
Let’s just out you in front of everybody, right? Yeah. So on, on the note of your job, right? Well, the topic of Channel Selling, right? Before we were getting started on this, you were giving me a little bit of like, “hey, what you might talk about” and whatever else and I literally said to you, “perfect, because I am like stupid when it comes to channel selling. I don’t even know, necessarily how you all work. I don’t know what you do. I don’t know what stage of the organization you even come in with.” And in my vein, I’m always working with sellers. And then there’s this bucket of like, oh, maybe you should go work with the Channel Selling, you know, side of the org, Jordan. And then I start talking to Channel Selling. And I’m like, I have no idea what even goes on over here. And so that’s really the premise of the call, is you’re gonna educate me on how this actually works, what you do every day other than like, you know, the flirting conversations, you tend to have had it with me that never have led to dating like, like, what is Channel Selling? What in the world do you people even do?
Great question, because that’s the question most Channel Sellers get for their entire career, right? “What does channel actually do?” And I’ve got a great analogy. A guy I used to work with, I considered kind of a mentor of sorts as well named Chris Broughton. And he and I were both on the same team working with our major nationals over at Beam Software. And whenever anyone would come ask us, you know, what, what’s channel sales? What do you guys do? And obviously, this is a podcast so it’s all verbal, but paint the picture, if you will, of just two hands coming together, bridging the gap, and forming, right? Some of the really corny cliches that you’ll probably hear that I still use to this day: “one plus one equals three” or “better together,” type story, right is really what we’re selling from Channel Sales. It’s, it’s, as you know, many would have, would call the great multiplier; it’s where you are going in on behalf of XYZ SaaS company, and you’re approaching, you know, SIs, GSIs. So, system integrators, global system integrators, you’re speaking with consultancies, other ISVs as well, and you’re looking to join forces with all of those folks, and really serve up a solid solution that compliments something that you’re already doing, right? So if you are a SI, and you’re doing everything soup to nuts, or rooter to the tooter, right, and you need a complimentary piece of software, in this case, where I’m at Mogli, where we simplify and really make it easy to text from within inside of Salesforce, right native application, and you’re a Sales RevOps person; you’re looking to really help your reps, you know, have broader reach. Most people will look at your text message, will respond to said text message as well. The numbers are off the charts. And, you know, we just need to give them an extra step of the way. So you introduce a Mogli to, say, a Salesforce consultancy. And by being together, you couple, join forces, become stronger that way. And that’s Channel Sales. Another way of looking at it as well, from the channels perspective is, you’re really multiplying your Salesforce for very minimal cost as well. Which is why I believe every SaaS company in the world is doing themselves a disservice when they do not have a partnerships channel, eco, whatever you want to call it, division within and paying some attention to even the low-hanging fruit of, hey, we’re both working with this customer or client, what can we do together, improve our value prop together and really have this holistic sale. So that’s the long-term story of it. But from a day to day, it is, and I put it this way, and I’ve probably said it to you at one of those companies as well is that the way I perceive partnerships and channel is that, I work for my partners and I just happen to get a check from said SaaS company, right? But if you’re making your partners happy, if you’re giving, if you go into the relationship with the spirit of giving. And that’s what partnering really is, in means, then you’re both going to come out better, and it’s gonna work out well.
Well, this speaks to my true ignorance with Channel Sells, like, really elementary question here: are you reporting to the VP of Sales? Is there a set quota that you have or your team of partners have? Like, how does that actually interact? Or, I mean, you don’t need to tell me what you’re getting paid today. But like, how does a comp plan even work so I know what motivates you people.
Yep! Great question. Right? So, and I’m glad you asked that because I am… for the first time in my career, I have a different type of reporting structure. And I think it was brilliant by the folks who brought me into Mogli; right now I report directly to VP of Marketing or, you know, also known as CMO. Right? So that’s who I directly report to. That’s who I was talking to before you and I are having this conversation today around what are my landmines. What should I not say, all that good stuff? What should I say as well, that doesn’t get me in trouble here at good ole Mogli. But because channel spends so much time with, you know, marketing, it was just a great step. So that’s my direct report. That’s my direct line of reporting, currently, and then, of course, she reports directly to CEO. That said, every other role, though it has been a direct-to-sales reporting structure, as I’ve been in my director roles. It’s been direct to VP of Partnerships or VP of Sales. And then even prior to this when I was a channel account manager and everything else, we were still on the sales side. So we have numbers, right? So the channel team, which has been my experience, though, there may be some outliers out there. But channel team does definitely have a quota, that target number that we’re going after. And there are some really interesting KPIs that, or MBOs, whatever your company wants to determine that are specific to channel as well. And I’ll, I’ll give you a quick high-level, high-level overview. It really boils down to how much can we attribute to said partner bringing in the door for us in net new logo acquisitions, right? If we’re working with Greaser and you know, one day you do become a partner of mine at some company, right? And…
Somewhere over the rainbow, we’ll get there.
Somewhere right or beneath it as well. But say we’re working together, you’ve got a client, they’re looking to rev up there for… sorry for the pun here, their ops, and get things going, and you’re a partner of Mogli, and you bring in a net new logo, we close them; they’re using Salesforce; they’re using everything else in that tech stack. Whatever that customer is bringing, it represents by way of ACV. We’re going to attribute that to Greaser. And then by proxy, we’re going to attribute it to your channel account manager, whoever is carrying that quota that’s working with you as a, as a partner. And that’s how those numbers are figured for, for partnerships. There’s a lot of variables in there too. Lots of companies like to see number of lunch and learns, right? It’s another good example that you’re doing and educating other sales teams. How many marketing, co-branded, you know marketing collateral type one-pagers have you got out there with the partner explaining that value prop? And that’s where the one plus one equals three stuff comes from, right, and showing how Mogli and Greaser can do X, Y, and Z for you, or Mogli and Salesforce is another good example. And this is why it’s better together as opposed to utilizing a competitor or going at it alone. So those are the other areas.
So level with me though. How many, you bring in 10 partners, how many are actually worth a grain of salt?
It, man you’re gonna make me say it, aren’t you? It’s the, it… as I stutter through this because I’m really reluctant in saying it, it is the 20/80.
You know, listen, don’t say it if you’re not comfortable. Don’t say it if you’re not comfortable.
It really is that 20/80 rule. This is my insight there though. In channel though, because in sales it’s 20/80, that 80 is not spending at all right? In channel though, if you’ve got a 20/80, 20 out of 100 of your partners are really worth something. What we call that 80, or what our nomenclature is around that is the longtail, right? We call those partners that are… maybe they do a deal a year, which is not what we want. But that’s the reality, right? We call those partners, the longtail partners, and the mistake a lot of channel hordes make is in ignoring that 80. So that’s the big differentiator. In partnering, you’ve got to still pay attention to all 100%. Because you never know where that next opportunity is going to come from in partnering. And you can’t leave any stones unturned. Otherwise, they’ll just go with the easiest solution as opposed to the best. Or they’ll go with the one that’s most recently on their mind, that’s captured that mindshare, we’ll toss it in, get the quote, and roll. And you’re really doing your own partner community a disservice when, when you allow that to happen. So they’re all worth something. But to your point though, and this is the standard that I try to keep most partners to is, on a quarterly basis. What are we doing together? It’s not a “hey, hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Talk to you Q2 of next year.” It is on a quarterly basis. What of this is repeatable when it comes to net new? And then also what are we going to make sure we’re doing together to make sure there’s no churn either as we go down the road?
Is there an approval process? Beyond just you know, you’re the partner director, and you’re saying, “Hey, come on in, you’re in.” That the company says, okay, long term, this is a smart partner. And what I mean by that is, I’ve seen, especially in the economy’s getting tight, there’s a lot of solution consolidation right now. And you also see things like, I mean, shoot, I’ll even give the Outreach world, right? Originally, it was sending out a bunch of emails, doing some phone calls, whatever. Well, now they’ve got a forecasting tool, which is competing with… They’ve got Kaia, which is doing, competing with Gong competing with Chorus, and like Gong and Chorus, for example, started as solution partners, right? Like we’re going to integrate together. We’re going to do this together. And so there’s a little bit of almost a shaky ground of, you know, you’re bringing in these partners, but are they also like yeah, I don’t want to say this like queuing up to eat your lunch later, right? I mean, like how, how does that actually work?
That’s where the strategy comes in. And this is why it’s so. I playfully always say I’m a channel homer. I started off at Beam Software over, wow, sounds weird saying it now, but over a decade ago is my second career going into this world, right? I started off in the nonprofit sector and worked my way into actually having to make some money somewhere. And so I gave that, that career up and started into this, right? The cool thing about me cutting my teeth at Beam was that they were 100% partner-driven org. They still are to this day actually. All deals went through a partner. Be that a… everything from a CDW, all the way down to a camera corner connecting point which is based out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, right? And so, when you look at partners and bringing them in, it’s almost you hope they get to a place of not necessarily eating your lunch, but to a place where they are self-sufficient and able to really understand how to bring in, you know, that additional revenue by utilizing you. And not that I’m skipping over your point of even if you’re working with a similar type technology, or if you’re working with a, you know, an ISP that could perhaps even one day, do something similar to what you do. A good example of that actually, is what we’re currently in the midst of, is with… Salesforce has a texting tool, right, within, within their platform currently, but we’re still great friends in that everyone kind of covers their own area, right? And we’re still able to coexist and be totally transparent around, you know, scalability and these other things, you know, that you would have questions around, and, you know, vertical and everything else; you got to keep all of that in mind when working with similar-scoped companies if you will. But still, you want those relationships. It’s not anything you ever really want to shy from. One of your good examples, right, was with, you know, Chorus. When my days there at ZoomInfo, when we acquired Chorus, and we were utilizing Gong at the time and made that switch because we ate our own dog food or drank our own champagne, however you want to put it. It was one of those moments where I looked down, I was like, this is actually a good move for both. And to this day, I’ll still say, you know, Gong, great GUI, right, great GUI. You know, Chorus, maybe not as pretty, but more accurate in terminology, and phrasing and who’s the speaker? Right. But at the end of the day, you still want to be friends. And of course, it sounds like the channely thing to say, right? That you want to be, you know, cohorts in this, but you really do. And I liken it again to current role and position that, as we’re starting to build out our partnership program further, there is an IPP, right, which is an Ideal Partner Persona. Everybody has ICPs, I have IPPs. Saying that, in retrospect, it’s probably not the best phrasing. But, is really who you can align with in taking into account if one day they become the bigger, badder wolf doesn’t really come into play. It’s really, what’s the best thing we can do for these clients and customers today? What’s gonna be the best thing for my company, which is the growth of course. And if we can do that together, we can make this thing work. And that’s the way I see it.
I’m still stuck on IPP.
You never know til you say it out loud.
I know. I’m like, yeah, yea, yea, that’s one of those like in the head, you’re like, “hey, I got this nice rhythm” and then it comes out. You’re like…. Nah I don’t think so.
Yeah, a good example. Check this out though. Let’s take us down a rabbit hole real quick. One of those partners I gave us an example, which was Camera Corner Connecting Point, actually registered the domain of cccp.com not thinking at all about what that would be. And yeah, it made for some interesting conversation over there at Beam.. so. It’s like cccp.com, not really forward-thinking but all right. We’re here now.
Yeah. All right. Yeah, we can jive with it. Yeah. Yeah. That’s like, man I can’t even think of the example, but you hear about these brand moves of these companies that are worth like Mega Millions, right? And then all of a sudden, they come out with something and you’re like, how did that get past the board? Or like, you know, like, really? Nobody saw that?
Nobody’s on the same wavelength. They’re all like, yeah, that’ll work. That’ll play out. And that’s it.
Yeah, I like it. That’s a nice ring to it, man. So you said something earlier in the conversation where you were saying, SaaS companies, you don’t get it? Like they don’t get in the ballgame with this early enough, often enough? And like, what’s the hesitation? Right? I mean, obviously, you’re in Channel Sales. So it’s going to sound like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But like, the reality, though, is like, like, why is there a hesitation of going in this direction? Sooner? At all?
I try not to be the rainbows and unicorns, explainer of channel, right? Because early on, I felt that strain of you know, what’s the point they… Matter of fact, it gets even dirtier than that, right? It’s all the way down to, oh you couldn’t handle carrying a bag so you went over to channel, right? Those are some of the things that old school AE.
Yeah. You don’t got any real sales chops.
You’re not really a salesperson. So you just want to go out and what I like to call chug and hug right? So you go host the happy hour, drink some beers, pat your buddy on the back, and walk away with no opportunities. That is not at all the case. But that’s a lot of that pause, right? If you haven’t seen channel work properly, then you have no idea of the power of channel. And that’s where that comes from. A lot of folks take that direct route of direct sales/SDR to AE to field AE to director to VP of Sales, right? And never have met a channel org in their life kind of thing. And those are the folks who come along and have this preconceived notion of, they were going to buy anyway, right? Or we were going to stumble upon this deal without the partner. I had, at a company that shall remain unnamed, a interaction, it was a horrible kind of experience, but interaction with one of the AEs at this company. And it was dealing, of course, with the enterprise AEs who are a different breed, and I love them to death, but dude told me he was working in account with a…
But, but still, of course.
But still, of course, the enterprise AE.
It was the enterprise AE.
You love ‘em, but still, of course, the enterprise AE.
He told me, and I kid you not Jordan, he told me. “Hey, look, man, every time I bring a partner into a deal, you push my retirement back six months.” I’m like “What?” He said, “Yeah, they’re taking, you know, margin away from me, and I was gonna get the deal anyway.” And we had a prime example though, where partner was engaged at a seed level, within this org; he had been trying to sell for 18 months, and partner was already engaged, having full conversations around the whole tech stack and everything. Our AE was dealing, our enterprise AE was dealing with VP level. So they thought they had sign off, partner educated them, expedited the deal. Got it closed. And It’s the same guy, though, that was like, they pushed it back six months. We were sitting at a kickoff and I was like, you see the value in this, right? He’s like, “yeah, it worked that one time; I got you.” So but that’s the pause, right? Will it extend the sales cycle, will bringing in a partner dig up some other things that slow my, you know, time to value or close? But the reality is, when done properly, when done right, the channel relationship is an enhancement. Another cool thing about Mogli, where I am now, and we proudly say this, that 40 to 45% of our revenue currently comes from partnerships, partner-led opportunities and demos. And there’s actually a quicker time to close when the partner is actually involved with the deal. And it’s because honestly, our founder, Steven, really has this, this vision of community and working together. And so we’re not shy to say, “Hey, you know, if your account mapping or what have you, and we have a common open opportunity or common customer that we’re dealing with, by all means, let’s, let’s go after them together; let’s work this thing out. If we need to give a little, we’ll do so.” But it works, man. And that’s the duality of it. It’s either… It’s a strain, and I’m kind of scared of, if I do bring in channel, what’s going to happen? But those who fully embrace it, I have not seen a dissatisfied SaaS customer from anyone that has a good channel org.
You’ve said, I think three or four times now, when done right, when done right, which leads me to believe there’s certainly a lot of when done wrong. Right? So I mean, in your opinion, here, what is “when done right”, and what is “when done wrong”?
The ironic thing about my career is that it’s been a, a majority of the time I have spent building and thanks to again, I’m going heavy Beam on this conversation. But they were always open to trying something different. Or, you know, expanding into different verticals, when it came to the type of partnerships that we had and, and as I’ve seen that develop throughout my career, though, what I mean by “when done right” is when it’s launched, it is launched with full on support, right? “When done wrong” is when you have a partnership program just to say you have a partnership program, right? And you’ve seen them all, right? It’s just a matter of maybe it’s at the bottom in the byline of the website. And it says, like partnerships, you click on it, it’s a one page, you know, just blurb on “Partner with us. And we can be a technical partner or a sales partner” and, you know, sign up here, and you get your 10% for whatever referrals and that’s that. And slow to respond and all this other stuff, because it’s not, you know, they’re not really in it. And that’s the “done wrong”, “done wrong” is when it’s just window dressing. And it’s not a true on, and not to sound kind of like altruistic around this thing, but a belief in the fact that partnering is another really smart way and I’m going to steal it, you know, to really cross the chasm, right? And that’s like, one of our channel Bibles, right? But that’s really one of the ways, and Geoffrey Moore put it, you know, really succinctly there that you get from that early adopter stage. And really, as that technology adoption takes off, the only way to get across that chasm is by partnering and by having, you know, others that are out there on your behalf, really slinging your stuff, but if you’re not into it, that’s the wrong way. And it’s gonna smell too, right? It’s gonna, it’s gonna stink, and people know right away that, oh, this is just, you know, they’re just playing around. And “when done right” is, and I’ll say it again, when you have buy-in from leadership all the way up, gotta be C-level. And they also believe and want to see partnerships succeed, just as much as they want to see that direct sales org succeed as well.
So I guess the million-dollar question here is getting into Channel Sales. You talked about the typical SDR, AE, Director, you know, whatever? What’s the path into Channel Sales? Like where? Where do you come from to get to here?
That’s pretty good. That’s a really good question because I…
Basically like what I’m asking. I’m just confirming, right? If you can’t sell, then you come over here. Right?
Right. That’s exactly right. Right. No, not the case. It’s, so here’s my soapbox for this real quick, and then I’m gonna tell you the pathway. Here’s my little soapbox on why it’s actually harder to be an effective channel account manager than it is… And you know, I’ll take all the tomatoes all day, from every AE in the world, I got it.
Bold statement about the company.
Here it comes right? It is a much more strategic, long game. It’s like playing chess, as opposed to tiddlywinks, right? And I just aged myself there. But it really is, right? It’s a matter of what is this activity going to yield? Not, you know, by end of quarter, because every quarter is the most important quarter in your SaaS company’s, you know, history. But 18 months down the line, when this is a partner that’s bringing in 5x than what they were doing currently, that is all strategic. And it’s not a, hit it and quit it and pass it on to the account manager. And you’re on to the next thing; this is a long-term relational game, and it is damn hard. It really is. Because it is a consistency; it is a where’s this ROI? Right? Because that’s main question in any RevOps person’s mind, where’s the ROI in this relationship? And you have to be able to show value short-term, but also the long-term gains as well. So that’s my soapbox there; it is a very strategic role. And if you’re not into building long-term, lasting relationships; if you’re not into being real honest, from day one, with whoever you’re dealing with, and it’s not a, okay, how low can I get this to get it done kind of sale? It’s, uh, you know, here’s the value piece, that’s the right role. So, if that’s you, right, how do you get into it? There are a good number of inside-channel account manager roles. You’d be surprised, even if you did a quick search on LinkedIn for open channel, or, you know, whatever, you know, terminology you want to use, or alliances or whatever roles. It’ll blow you away of how many roles are open currently, even in this macroeconomic climate and what’s out there. And then also, I would also say, from a pay structure that, you know, channel is not going to, you know, look lower or less than from a direct sales or kind of role as well; it’s by no means the case; it’s on par with, and in some cases, you can really, you know, kind of hit the jackpot as well, in partnering because that partner, again, they have inroads into places you haven’t even looked yet. And that’s what’s cool about it, right, is that they’ve got that whale sitting in their back pocket, and it’s their best friend. And “oh, by the way, oh, I guess you guys did need a texting solution inside Salesforce. I’ve got my buddy Kyle, let me introduce you guys,” comes together. And, you know, the rest is history, as they say, but inside Channel account management, account management, as well as another stepping stone. And then once you get in, it’s totally up to the individual to really build. I always say that it’s such an incestuous industry that we’re in, right; it’s, I mean, here’s a really good example, and I’ll shut up here is just that. My second call when I was at ZoomInfo, I was on the line; we were building the program. I was on the line with my then-boss, Doug Diamond, awesome dude, by the way. And the second call was actually with the company I had just come from, with their CEO over at ClickDimensions. And, you know, thankfully, we were able to have a chuckle, you know, as the call opened up, because I’m on with my boss and everything. So we had a good chuckle. He said, “You had one of the toughest, you know, territories in the world. Great to see ya. And how’s the family?” and we keep moving, right? Because again, you know, once you’re in, it’s almost like the familia, right? You’re in, and you can make your inroads however you want to be that… through alliances, strategic alliances, partnerships, eco, you name it.
Well and you keep that network, right?
Right, you’re good to go. Yeah, and you got to build it, and you got to be, you got to be ready to build that as well and be all in there too. Same reason why you and I keep talking. Right? It’s still you know, how would this work? How would that play out? And thankfully, you know, you’ve been open to having a conversation, and I have access to you because I haven’t given you any BS hopefully right? Throughout our, you know, times in conversations. It has been a okay, that’s not…
Oh, on this on this public forum, I’m not willing to say whether or not you have. Yeah, now listen, man, I’ve always appreciated, always appreciated the connection. Always appreciate that. So I think that’s what you’re, what you’re talking about, right, is you don’t get into Channel Sales with it sort of a transactional mindset, like you are, you are playing the long game even beyond… You’re sort of building the network, no matter what you’re doing, is what I’m picking up here. Yes, for… I mean, that’s a whole series of questions, but we’re actually at time. So Kyle, I have to tell you, like all of these podcasts always have like a totally different flair. And I just want to say, I really appreciate you coming on today for, selfishly, just from my own education, because I’m definitely one of those folks on the one side of the sales org going “Who are these Channels Salespeople anyway?” Not saying I’m against you. Not saying I’m for you, just saying like, “I don’t know who you are,” right? So yeah. So I appreciate you coming on, dropping some knowledge on how this process all works. And, you know, I… best of luck at Mogli, and so on and so forth. Right?
My pleasure, man. Absolutely.
All right, man. Stay out of trouble.
Cool. You too.
36:19 Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.