The Allbound Podcast: Refine Your Partner Focus

Joe Schramm, Vice President of Strategic Alliances at BeyondTrust, joins me, Jen Spencer to discuss refining your focus on specific partners, channel growing pains, understanding the win for your partner and more on this episode of The Allbound Podcast.

You have a history of working in business development, strategic alliance roles at very high-tech companies in security. And, I don’t know if you have a byte of information or a hard and fast rule, something that you’ve really taken with you as you’ve gone from one organization to another to really help grow your channel program at BeyondTrust. How do you help it really run smoothly?

My favorite thing to think about and to focus on is what I call “partner profiling”. So a lot of organizations, when they start to build their partner program, tend to gravitate towards easy wins, meaning if a partner came to you and said, “Hey, I’m interested in working with you,” you’d rush to sign them up without really stepping back and understanding, “Are they the right partner for us, right, based on the type of company we are and the products we sell and how we sell them?”

So partner profiling, is one of those almost religious experiences where I sit down and set out to really define the top three or so attributes and partners that we want to proactively engage and recruit and bring into our partner program. And it’s easy to get this wrong. A lot of organizations, like I said, will gravitate towards easy picking, sign up lots of partners without stepping back and understanding, “Are those partners really aligned to your market? Are they in business for a sustained period of time?” To me, that’s an important attribute is length in the market.

We’ve started to refine our focus on the partners that we really want to proactively manage — @JoeSchramm, @BeyondTrust #AllboundPodcast

If an organization has been around 10, 20, 30 years, it’s a very good leading indicator that they’ve got a big customer base and that they’ve had to reinvent themselves along the way a couple of times, and pivot as technology changes and continue to sustain and grow their business. That’s an important attribute. And then certainly, things like a good go-to market capability, so having sales people, having pre-sales people, having perhaps delivery capability or at least very good technical competence within your domain.

Profiling and identifying what those key criteria are is really, really important. And then making sure that as you engage and as you seek out partners that the ones you’re engaging with proactively, even the ones that you’re reacting to based on inbound interest, you’re qualifying against those criteria pretty firmly to ensure that your chances of success, once they’re up and running, is going to be a lot higher.

Taking it from 300 [partners] down to 15…we’re going to see more benefits from those relationships — @JoeSchramm #AllboundPodcast

Your channel business is up 100% year over year. Business through the channel has grown from 15% of the business to between 25% and 30%. I mean, is this the result of those initiatives? Are there any other great results that you’ve seen because of work that you’ve done in 2016?

I think there’s a couple of forces in play here. One is that we’re in a high growth market, right? Our market segment’s growing at over 30% per year. And so there’s always going to be organic growth with what you’ve been doing. So that’s definitely attributable to some of the growth. But I think moreover and more importantly is that we’ve really aligned ourselves to not only the right partners that can help us, but we’ve also really narrowed our focus down.

When I joined the company, we literally had hundreds of resellers in our system, and I couldn’t get my head wrapped around how we had so many. And then of course, you look back at the history of our company, and for a long time, we were a growth-by-acquisition company and we came together as BeyondTrust four or five years ago through the acquisition of four or five different companies. And with each acquisition, it brings a different partner base with it, right? And we never really rationalized that partner base.

“You really need to understand what the win is for the partner” — @JoeSchramm #AllboundPodcast #strategicalliances

So last year, we started this process; we’ve really started to refine our focus on the partners that we really want to proactively manage. That’s not to say that we won’t work on an opportunistic basis with any partner, but what we’re doing with those tier-two partners, is we’re rolling them underneath Westcon to help us manage and grow those partners so that we can take my direct team, the alliances people that we have on the team and have them spending the bulk of their time really building business with the core set of partners that we want to focus on.

Taking it from 300 down to 15, 20 is a much more manageable number, and we believe that by providing that focus that we’re going to see more benefits coming out of those relationships.

Do you have any sort of concise piece of advice that you can give fellow business development professionals who might be in a situation similar to the one that you embarked upon when you joined BeyondTrust?

I’d piggyback on the first point about the partner profiling, and say that it’s really important that you understand what your targets looks like. And then the second thing, which is really important, once you start getting into discussions and conversations with potential partners, you really need to understand what the win is for the partner. And it kind of amazes me that a lot of times, people don’t step back and ask that question or even understand that and they may assume that, “Oh, these guys are VAR, therefore, they’re only interested in margin on the sale of products.”

Well, the landscape is changing out there, right? I don’t really believe that organizations that may have historically survived and thrived on just being product-resale companies are going to survive. We’re seeing a lot of evidence that traditional resellers are morphing into a solution provider, and they’re trying to solve problems for clients that includes products, that includes services, and it may include managed services.

Trying to frame and understand the win for the partner is equally as important as understanding what the win is for you — @JoeSchramm

So the landscape is shifting a little bit, but the point being is that it’s really important for you to understand what the win is based on the partner you’re talking to. Trying to be flexible, trying to frame and understand the win for the partner is equally as important as understanding what the win is for you. So that’s my piece of advice.

To learn more about refining your focus on specific partners, channel growing pains, understanding the win for your partner and more, tune in to episode 24 of The Allbound Podcast.

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