BD By the Bay
BD by the Bay began as an in-person gathering for business development professionals interested in technology partnerships to exchange ideas and build and deepen relationships. This winter marked the first virtual edition of the event, led by a panel of industry leaders: Alan Chhabra, SVP WW Channels at MongoDB; Maureen Little, VP Technology Partnership at Okta; Matt Smith, VP Channels at Duo; and Zac Kilpatrick, VP of Regional Alliance at Okta. These panelists led a fantastic discussion on the many ways tech partnerships can add value and drive channel sales. Here’s what today’s business development leaders are talking about:
Advice for early-stage companies seeking partnerships
Young companies face unique challenges which lead most to recognize that they can’t do it all on their own. As a young company, you need other people and partnerships to continue to build a product that can thrive. Identify where your offering fits within several building blocks of products and pinpoint which partners you can work with to round it out. Find out which tech partners you can cross-sell with or sell your product on the heels of and leverage that association. Cross-selling with the right partners can help you win more logos, which increases your valuation.
If you’re wondering how to get large channel partners or SIs to take interest in your company, starting your process by prioritizing how you’re delivering value for customers will set you off on the right track. Work on telling a concise, compelling story about the added value and ultimate outcome for customers. Channel partners and SIs don’t have a way to understand your potential revenue until you align your product with a business outcome that the customer wants — and as you’re defining this, don’t forget to go to the source. Listen to customer feedback. They’ll tell you what features are important to them and what new implements they’d find useful. Leveraging direct customer or partner feedback tends to be effective.
Here are a few helpful questions to consider:
- How will channel partners make money from this partnership? If your product can drive transformational, high margin, competitive, exciting CXO-level services, your product is well-positioned to spark a partner’s interest.
- How will end customers try and love our product? If making your product open-source makes sense, doing so could be a great avenue for developers to try it out. If partners see your product in the accounts that they’re already in through your seed model, they’re going to want to partner.
- Can our product round out the partner’s portfolio? Remember that as a young company, you’re at an advantage when it comes to building products. Young companies can innovate quickly and build products faster than anyone else. It takes large companies much more time to build, and they’d rather partner with you than build the product themselves.
Setting Expectations among C-Level Executives
It’s Important to remember that closing these partnerships takes time. Much of the work you’re doing today is building for results that will become clear in six months. Communicate realistic expectations with your board or C-level team early on (and prepare to do so continuously). One concrete tip is to create a matrix that illustrates each of the potential routes to market with their corresponding timeline to and rough estimate of earnings. Identify your recommended paths, but present all of them to the C-level team and make the decision together — and continue to include them in the decision-making through any changes in your plan. You won’t hit every mark right out of the gate, but with this foundation, you’ll have stronger support and understanding along the way.
Use Tech Partnerships as the Force Multiplier
In working toward connecting with an SI, it’s helpful to think about how tech partnerships can help SIs increase their sales. Leverage the services offered by tech partners in these conversations and convey how they can impact SIs and their goals. Additionally, work on finding a concrete way to measure and communicate that added value. One approach is to partner with a marketing organization, and then run campaigns and pull metrics for any events with tech partners. Incremental revenue is key. Think about how you can transition from partners generating revenue for the company to partners as a force multiplier.
A Strong Team is the Backbone of Success
Lastly, our panel emphasized how building a strong team behind you is critical to success. Early-stage companies tend to start out with a general team until their revenue stream has matured enough to build out more specialized, targeted teams. The structure will vary greatly from company to company and expect that it will evolve over time as your company scales. The skill sets you’ll need may shift, as well. But it’s important to find team members who are ready for a challenge. The coveted hire is someone who is a “triple threat:” they know how to sell and be strategic and they understand how partners work.
Thank you to our moderator and all our panelists and participants! Special thanks to the team that helped bring BD By the Bay to life: Ron Piovesan, Senior Director of Technology Partnerships at Okta; Connie Wu, Director of Business Development at DocuSign and Todd Graham, VP at Venrock. Couldn’t have done it without you!