Managing Talkdesk's Thriving App Marketplace: Interview with Walla Oriqat
Nikita Zhitkevich lives in the world of partnerships. He leads partnerships and alliances for PartnerStack, which is a leading PRM and partner marketplace.
Nikita shared his insights on when you need a PRM, identifying your ideal partners, strategies to avoid channel conflict, and how he sees the partnership landscape evolving over the next 5 years.
Can you tell me about PartnerStack and what makes it different from other PRMs?
As a graduate of Y-Combinator, PartnerStack has been rooted in helping some of the world’s fastest growing SaaS companies scale. Companies like Asana, Monday.com, Unbounce, Intercom, and Intuit all use PartnerStack to manage and scale their partner programs, and onboard thousands of partners into our platform.
There are a few unique aspects to PartnerStack, which has led us to becoming the #1 platform on G2.
PartnerStack is the only solution that has both the PRM and a B2B focused marketplace that connects vendors with partners. On average, our marketplace drives a 30%+ lift in revenue for customers.
We are extremely focused on partner experience, which is a big distinction for us. Most PRMs are focused solely on the vendor experience. But if both sides of this equation are not having a good experience, then it becomes a problem.
And with PartnerStack, all of your channels can be managed from a single platform - affiliate, referral, reseller and ambassador. We see a lot of companies, agencies, and resellers choosing our platform to help them consolidate their channels into a single view.
How is your partnership team structured at PartnerStack?
Our team is still relatively young, as we launched it in April. The majority of this year has been building relationships and working with both agencies and resellers.
I lead the team, and we have an incredible Account Manager that works closely with our partners, as well as a partner marketing manager that works on any co-marketing efforts we run with partners.
Our partnership team is currently focused on two core areas:
First, working with agencies and resellers that are currently reselling SaaS vendors, bringing those vendors onto PartnerStack.
Secondly, working with agencies and resellers that are looking to shift their existing customers onto a modern partner management solution.
We often work with sales when one of their SaaS prospects wants to launch PartnerStack right away but doesn’t have the internal bandwidth. In those cases, we connect them with an agency partner who we know can do it right away and do it well.
Technology partnerships are also on our radar. We have recently built a number of integrations. One of our goals in 2021 and going into 2022 will be to further build out our technology partner program and our own integration marketplace.
We also plan to enter the app marketplaces of other SaaS vendors, especially CRMs like SugarCRM or Hubspot. CRMs are good partners for us because, with the exception of Salesforce, no CRM has a PRM as part of their product offering. So our software is complementary rather than competitive. And it benefits our customers to have those systems integrated.
“If you’re planning to scale your partnerships at all, you need the infrastructure in place to do this.”
What advice would you give for organizations trying to think through who their ideal partners are?
Ultimately, everything has to come down to revenue. Whether you’re pursuing referral, reseller, or technology partnerships, you have to tie them back to driving revenue.
Especially since you need the support of other departments in your organization, whether it is collaboration with the sales team or the product team to help build integrations, the benefit to the business needs to be very clear.
For agency and reseller partners, I would advise looking to see if they power similar products to yours. I’d also think about whether the partner will continue to evolve over time in the direction you are going and whether they truly understand your product and space.
Talkdesk is a global customer experience leader for customer-obsessed companies. Talkdesk AppConnect, the thriving Talkdesk marketplace, offers a wide variety of contact center applications, devices, and services, which provides customers with hundreds of ways to customize and extend Talkdesk CX Cloud capabilities.
Walla Oriqat leads Talkdesk AppConnect and she sat down to share how her team and cross-departmental stakeholders are structured, what makes for an exceptional partner experience, and how to get internal alignment for successful tech partnerships.
What does your marketplace look like and how do customers and partners use it today?
Talkdesk AppConnect is the first customer experience enterprise marketplace in the CCaaS industry.
AppConnect started as a way to meet critical capabilities for customers so Talkdesk could be an all-encompassing product for contact centers.
As we grow, we continue to offer AppConnect as a place where customers can extend their Talkdesk CX Cloud platform and fully customize their experience. And we’ve grown a lot. Our goal this year is to grow further, doubling the size of the marketplace so that our customers truly have a one-stop shop.
Customers can use AppConnect directly—we have a one-click install experience. Customers can install apps they’re interested in, and they can try many apps on a 30-day free trial and pay with month-to-month billing. If customers want more personalized recommendations, they can purchase apps through our sales team, too.
How do you directly support your app partners?
We have a partner success team who is responsible for ensuring the support and success of each of our app partners.
Partner Success is a new program that provides high touch sales support to partners and aids Talkdesk sales in significant YoY revenue growth, improving customer stickiness while driving revenue through the AppConnect marketplace.
Each team member has a portfolio of partners that they manage, supporting their partners from listing and pipeline creation through the entire deal process and renewals.
The partner success team also works with internal departments at Talkdesk to advocate for app partners, ensuring that our product and go-to-market teams are also aligned with partner needs and input.
How do partners join your marketplace and manage their integration?
Much of our partner UX is self-service. We use Impartner as our Partner Portal to manage the onboarding process and host program guides and resources. Partners can apply, sign an NDA and our AppConnect contract without needing to go back and forth with multiple teams.
Once they are a partner, we provide them developer tools and documentation to build their 1-click-install integration.
From a developer perspective, we are also currently building a Developer Portal to offer a self-service developer experience that is all in one place.
We want developers to be able to find documents and support resources, communicate their integration updates, and to submit marketing materials all through this new Developer Portal. We’re really excited about this with a number of partners already using it. We plan to expand use further to our growing partner count by the end of the year.
How do partners go to market once they’re on board?
On the go-to-market side, we’re focused on scaling resources and finding the best opportunities for our partners to highlight their solutions.
Our team has a dedicated partner marketer who focuses on launch activities, sales enablement, marketing with partners in Talkdesk campaigns, and enabling our partners to use the Talkdesk brand to elevate their story to their audience.
On top of working directly with partners, it’s also important for us to drive awareness of the AppConnect marketplace in general, both as a differentiator to potential customers and as a reminder to our current customers.
As partners get launched, the team provides partners with templates for one pagers, data sheets, customer stories, and everything else they might want to use to promote their partnership with Talkdesk. I mentioned the Partner Portal before, and we also use that for marketing assets to deliver the information they need, when they need it, without having to wait.
How do you decide which apps to bring on next?
Right now we get a lot of inspiration from our sales team—what apps are our customers talking about? What is our product organization saying they need to better extend our own functionality? We listen to feedback from the field, and we always want to make sure customers ultimately get the apps they are asking for.
We have a strategic partner development manager, and she is empowered to go after partners in targeted categories for the business. She also always has room to go after apps our customers are expressing a strong interest in.
One of our core values at Talkdesk is about being customer-obsessed, and we always want to be truly listening to our customers and the market to help our customers to accomplish more.
Do you have advice for working across the different internal departments that go into making tech partnerships successful?
First of all, in terms of process, we love automation and believe it works even better with a human touch. Automate as much as possible, but always retain the human touch.
For deep alignment, it’s ideal to have folks dedicated to your technology partnerships across all the relevant departments. We have a marketer, operations manager, product manager, and finance team member all dedicated to Talkdesk AppConnect. Those key players help us to keep alignment all the way across the partner and customer experience and ensure we get the resources we need.
Our team works together really well.
We would definitely recommend mapping out a process and hand-off points between teams rather than winging it and hoping everyone gets the information they need. I would map out all internal processes as well as the partner UX.
While we all have our different spokes across different teams, we keep an open line of communication and meet every week to ensure everyone is getting the information they need to do the best job they can.
Whom does your team report to in the organization?
The AppConnect team itself reports to Strategic Alliances, which is under Sales.
At the creation of AppConnect, the team started out in the Product organization, and moved to Sales in the last year. Reporting to Sales has been good for prioritizing business impact with leadership, signaling that our team is revenue generating, and in turn, making revenue a top priority for us.
With a laser focus on hitting our targets, we can more easily identify gaps and prioritize getting the resources we need. For example, if we need a new product or API functionality, our first step is to create a business case showing why we’ll drive more revenue with that change, and ultimately that helps us to get prioritization.
Another benefit of reporting to Sales is that we have higher visibility directly with the Sales team than we might otherwise. We are mentioned in Sales All Hands meetings, for example, and things like this keep us and our partners top of mind when the sales team is managing opportunities and customers’ needs.
To ensure a robust and sound marketplace, though, it can work well to start in Product in the beginning when building out an initial API and marketplace infrastructure.
Do you have any advice for getting internal alignment around the value of a marketplace and its partners?
It’s really critical to ensure that leadership is aware of and understands the goals and value of a marketplace and what your team is going to do to achieve success. To drive alignment, we organized a quarterly meeting with key stakeholders across our C-suite executives to share progress to goals, for example.
These meetings keep us top of mind and keep us all on the same page. They are effective for communicating status, priorities, and accomplishments, and also ensuring we stay abreast of organizational changes that impact our work, like the product roadmap, for example.
Even broader than leadership, meet with and get in front of relevant teams and document processes—not just for your team but for any team that is touched by the marketplace or its partners.
We have so many sales processes that happen here, for example, like discounting and professional services, that we try to regularly sync with those stakeholders, and document every process.
We share resources with a lot of teams to achieve our goals: sales, operations, marketing, customer success, product, engineering, and more. The best advice is to cross-collaborate and deliver clear documentation—both are so important internally with stakeholders and externally with technology partnerships.