This conversation is transcribed from our podcast Between Product and Partnerships, a podcast brought to you by our group the SaaS Ecosystem Alliance. It’s focused on bringing together product, partnerships, partner marketing and engineering leaders to discuss how to build support and scale SaaS ecosystems. If you're interested in watching or listening in on this conversation, you can access the video here and a link to listen on podcast platforms here.
Kalen Kimm is currently launching the partnerships program as the Strategic Partnerships Director at Jebbit, the leading software to capture zero-party data. Kalen has worked in SaaS partnerships and sales for the past 10 years and in this interview with Liz Garcia, the Community Manager of the SaaS Ecosystem Alliance, he shares his thoughts on:
- Why sales teams should be leveraging second-party/partner data
- Best practices and pitfalls for enabling sales teams to leverage partner data
- Processes, systems, and technologies he has used in the past to help with tracking partner influence and attribution within the sales pipeline
- Advice for quantifying the value of partner influence within a burgeoning partner program
Liz: I wanted to have you on today because you have a lot of different experience in sales and alliances, and I think you're one of the perfect people to talk about the topics that we're going to be speaking about today. Can you give our audience a quick intro on your background and your experience?
Kalen: For sure, I've been in partnerships now for going on 20 plus years. I started way back when .coms took off and I’ve been doing SaaS sales partnerships for the past 10 years. Most recently, I was at UserTesting, they went IPO, then I moved over to Jebbit. Now, I'm really launching the partnerships for Jebbit.
Liz: Nice, I really want to pick your brain on how sales teams can leverage partnerships and alliances along with what that enablement can look like. I also wanted to talk about how to track success. I've seen a lot of people talk about the challenges of success metrics.
Before we get into all of that, I want to hear your thoughts on partner data. Now more than ever, we're seeing that third-party data isn't what it used to be because of data privacy.
Why should sales teams leverage partner data or second party data? What are some best practices that you've seen for enabling sales teams with that data?
Kalen: That's actually one of my favorite topics. We at Jebbit actually make a software to create quizzes that captures what we call, customer-first, zero-party data. This whole concept is very relevant to what we do, just direct consumer, business to business.
On the partner side, it's interesting. one of my counterparts over at SmartRecruiters posted a very timely, relevant post on LinkedIn, similar around this topic of how to leverage partner data. It's not something that is entirely new, but it's fairly new, partly because of privacy laws, but also because of the technology that we have at our fingertips now.
People like me that started 20 years ago, selling hardware chips and then shifting the SaaS ecosystem, it's a little bit of a different partner play these days. I'm a huge proponent of Reveal, we also use Crossbeam. Just having the access to that alone is extremely valuable.
Using Reveal, they have this solution called 360° mapping. It's this feature where you can go and do a search across both your databases, and discover prospects that are using multiple partners. That's such a valuable tool to be able to force rank top down and show who's got 10 partners in there. That tells me I can go tell the salespeople and educate them that a prospect knows how to buy MarTech, they've got budget for it, they've got a propensity for using tools. As opposed to the bottom of the list where they've never bought anything before. It becomes a way to quickly go out and prioritize your prospects.
Liz: I'd love to hear more about how that process of collaboration plays out once the data is available.
Once the tools are used to find this information, what are some ways that you've seen that collaboration happen with sales?
Is this something where sales would take ownership of looking and finding this data? Was this a situation where the partnerships team would get this data and then enable sales in some way? What are some of those ways that you've seen partnership teams enable sales to get more leads or close more deals?
Kalen: Until they get it, the top line answer is, it kind of depends and it changes over time. I've evolved for the last couple of years on how I approach it. When I first implemented Reveal back at UserTesting, it was very much about me going out and doing the research, and then going and talking to an individual account executive about a field mapping call around two or three accounts, which in itself is extremely valuable to have those conversations.
At that point, I would turn the ownership over to the account rep to follow up. If you take a step back, and think about how to scale this, it's got to move beyond me as a bottleneck and even just the account executives, and it really needs to become a culture of ecosystem.
I met with one of our BDRs last week. Jebbit is fairly young in its partnership growth. They just implemented Reveal not so long ago; we've just implemented a PRM. It's not yet muscle memory for a lot of the sales team. This BDR I ended up having a conversation with about one account we wanted to talk about.
Then what was supposed to be a five minute conversation turned out to be a 30 minute power session, because I opened up Crossbeam, and we're showing them where Crossbeam sits in Salesforce. It sounds silly, but he had no idea that even existed there. You can see the light bulb go off. And he's like, “Wow, I could take the combo value prop messaging, and I could actually use that in my outreach to prospects.” That level of conversation changes the dynamics entirely.
Liz: That's also something that came up in a clubhouse discussion that we had on tracking partner influence on sales. One of the panelists pointed out that sometimes you don't even think of taking that time, but realizing that if they're responsible for messaging the "Better-Together" story, they have to have a really clear vision of how to articulate that story and why the partnership is making your solution better.
Kalen: I'm totally guilty of this. As a partner rep, you kind of have to be ADHD, just by nature, because you're in so many different conversations. I have 1000 tabs open right now. You have to be a salesperson, obviously, you've got to be a matchmaker, but you also have to be a teacher. I think we forget that sometimes.
Liz: 100%, that's a really good point, I want to transition a little bit.
After the sales enablement, after we know who we can pursue, how can one actually track successes, including partner influence and attribution on sales? What are some of the biggest challenges with tracking influence and attribution?
Kalen: It's funny, this is probably the thing that I lose the most sleep around. When I look at it, there's the logistics of it, but then there's also the philosophical part of it too. I've been around for 20 plus years, and a lot of the CROs in the space have been around 40 years. I think we tend to get caught up in needing net new source and that becomes the end all be all. I think we lose track of the importance of the influence.
The first challenge is getting people to buy into the concept of why it's so important and actually giving it the value that it deserves. Because it is extremely valuable, I mean, I can get data. Let's just say from these tools, or even more so in these conversations, we're talking to the rep and one of our partners, and they tell you, “You're talking to the wrong person. You need to be talking to this lady over here, because she's got the budget.” That kind of knowledge is invaluable.
How do you track that? How do I track it when I'm not involved in the conversation? I don't have a God's eye view of every single deal and every conversation that's going on, that that in itself is very challenging. The other aspect of it is, it's a human factor. You've got egos and comp plans involved.
I had a conversation with an account rep on a particular deal, where I think I had two or three partner conversations going on about this account. We've got a BDR calling out on it. That account had been in a marketing event. Then all of a sudden, you get the meeting. Who gets the attribution?
I'm lucky enough to to work at Jebbit, where we have a very healthy cross-functional collaboration, where we all take some portion of credit for that. I know that certainly there's organizations where I mean, it comes down to fistfights practically.
Liz: That second point, it sounds a lot more challenging to think of any processes or systems that could alleviate that. I'm interested to hear more about some of some of the ways you've tried to tackle that first point that you made.
You can't be in every conversation and you don't know exactly every touchpoint that's been had, every sales call, or every lead. What are some ways that you've tried to tackle that uncertainty or try to create processes to overcome that?
Kalen: The simple one would be putting fields in Salesforce, the easiest being “partner influence” with a simple “yes” or “no”. Then go in and educate the organization to how to actually use that field. Let them know that there is no shame or harm to their comp plan for using that field. Take it to the next level and allow for multiple attributions.
We use recording software. Previously I used Chorus, here we use Salesloft. I'll go through and actually perform high-level keyword searches on partner terms, and go listen to sales calls. I use that as one way for me to at least find the attributions to give an impetus for education. I'll reach out to the account exec or BDR, and say this conversation happened here, you did a great job, or here's how it could have gone a little better.
Here's a follow-up that we could have done. But sadly, part of it, too, is just a time suck, to go out and find attribution.
Liz: I like that example of using the video recording software. That's a good point. You can have the tracking in Salesforce, but manual tracking can leave room for human error.
Kalen: Yeah, absolutely. We also use Slack. So we've set up Slack channels with our partners. So that's been a good way of collaborating where all people can see what's going on. So that has been helpful. And then we’re actually in the process of implementing a PRM. Where I think that's going to help a lot too, as well.
What ways do you see the PRM helping with some of the challenges that you're currently currently still experiencing?
Kalen: Part of the issue is the siloed nature of the conversations and visibility. By making things more transparent, less siloed, that's going to help.
Are there any other processes, systems, technology, or even other examples that you could give on how you've tracked partner attribution, influence, or even sales enablement? How do you use the data to enable partners?
Kalen: I'll tell you about a funny story. I've mentioned this 360° mapping capabilities and the idea that CROs need to have net new source. We're all calling on the fortune 500. I mean, it's no secret. To actually get a truly net new partner source deal at this level, especially when we're talking to enterprise, doesn't happen a ton. There's a ton of influence.
I was running the 360° mapping report company-wide. Bridgestone came up, which shocked me. I assumed that there would have been a customer. They had been tagged to a rep that had left the organization a year ago. They basically just been sitting out in the ether, with nobody calling on it at all. Using that data to go find these gems, if you will. I mentioned earlier, it's a matter of now teaching other people to do what I just did.
You mentioned part of the role is also being a teacher. Are there any experiences you could share where you felt teaching went really well? Versus experiences you're looking back on and you wish you would have done something differently?
Kalen: The one that I mentioned happened a couple of weeks ago; it's too soon to see what's going to come from it. I can tell from the light bulbs that went off, it's going to be nothing but great success for them. Historically, I've seen in-the-field mapping calls go right, where the two sales reps hit it off, and facilitate the sharing of knowledge back and forth.
I can think of one particular instance where that particular rep introduced us to two accounts. Then a discussion went internally at the partner from there; I had another sales rep from the partner reach out to see if they could replicate the same success. That's what we're striving for.
On the flip side, I've been on calls where it's, you know, both our sales guys have been in the business for 20 years each and they end up telling each other how they should be doing business. How could you do better on calls like that? Sometimes I think the train just leaves the station.
Liz: We've spoken a lot about the many different layers and different technologies that can be implemented and some of the challenges that are there.
Is there any advice you would have for other programs who are just starting out, and how they can show the value of partner influence on sales?
Kalen: I think it starts with you. You have to first get the tools in place. You're going to get your CRM implemented, you're gonna to get tools like Reveal and Crossbeam implemented, then I think it's a matter of not just running the reports, but to your point finding the success stories. Then bringing that back in house and not just educating, but evangelizing.
It's interesting, I'm as guilty of it myself, I get caught up in the quarter rush and sell, sell, sell. It's really important to go and build champions internally, from the most junior level BDR all the way up to the top level execs. I would say, especially the top-level execs, because they're just as busy, if not more busy, and so focused on sell, sell, sell, that you truly need to educate them on the power of data and partner influence.
Beyond that, don't get caught up in issues with egos and comp plans. We spend too much time thinking about how we're going to get paid and how we're going to get the attribution, sometimes you get the conversations going, get them in place, and make them happen. Those issues will sort themselves out at the end. As the saying goes, “Revenue solves all problems”.
I'm interested to ask if, if there's a specific thing that you're tracking to show to show partner influence? Are you looking at average sales cycles? Lead conversions? or a mix of them all?
Is there anything particular that you're looking at to show that value?
Kalen: All of that is being tracked, at a high-level we start with number of deals brought in from a partner, number of deals, and tagged influence. As we get more data, we are able to track things like the average time to close. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Liz: You're looking at all of those things rather than one particular thing at the moment?
Kalen: Go back to, you know, the charter. We roll up to the CRO. At the end of the day, the one thing we are looking at is dollars. How many dollars can we attribute to partner influence in that new source?
Liz: Great advice, Kalen. It was great having you. Where can our audience connect with you on LinkedIn? Anywhere else?
Kalen: Definitely find me connect with me on LinkedIn. I am on the SaaS Ecosystem Alliance, Slack channel. And of course, if you're wanting to talk Jebbit, job-related first-party data, I'm happy to do so.
If you enjoyed this interview, check out our Youtube channel and subscribe for more content on all things APIs, integrations, and technology partnerships. If you're someone who is working on building and scaling SaaS product partnerships, we invite you to apply to be a member of our community and network with other leaders like Kalen working on this at SaaSecosystemalliance.com.