Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast

10 - How to Create and Best Leverage Strategic Channel Partnerships

June 14, 2022 Magentrix Season 1 Episode 10
Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast
10 - How to Create and Best Leverage Strategic Channel Partnerships
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

It’s important to find partners that are right for you, but just as important, if not more, is knowing how to make the most of those partnerships. 

One way that can almost guarantee a deep understanding of how to navigate your partnerships and best leverage them is the practice of partner segmentation. That is, segmenting partners within the different markets they service. 

 Manuel Rivera shares insights on: 

  • how to identify different partner segments, 
  • what you can do to build partners’ strengths, 
  • minimize their weaknesses, 
  • how to support them, 
  • and help them grow to reach your overall goal. 

Our guest today, Manuel Rivera, has been in the channel for over 20 years. He boasts a pretty extensive background in: taking over existing channel programs, understanding the current makeup of the channel partners that are part of those programs, and trying to align those partners with the goals of the organization. Today, he develops and manages the channel sales program of Constella Intelligence as the Vice President Global Channel Sales. 

Listen for all of Manuel’s advice on creating and leveraging strategic channel partnerships. 

Read the blog: https://www.magentrix.com/articles/blog/How-to-Create-and-Best-Leverage-16-6-2022

(0:00) Introduction 
(2:07) Manuel Rivera’s background in channel sales 
(4:11) Benefits of a well-thought out channel partner strategy 
(7:15) Start by selecting the right partners 
(13:55) Leverage partnerships & know where to invest time 
(37:24) Understanding market trends is key for positive growth  
(40:15) Conclusion 

Paul Bird 00:05  

This is Partner Relationship Management: The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast.

Welcome to another episode of the Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast. I'm your host, Paul Bird.

It's important to find the right channel partners for you, but just important, if not more, is knowing how to make the most of those partnerships. 

One of the ways that you can almost guarantee a deep understanding of how to navigate your partnerships and best leverage them is to practice partner segmentation. That is, segmenting partners within different markets they service.

So, for example, partners that handle enterprise-level accounts say over $5 billion in annual revenue compared to partners that maybe target mid-market clients, or regional partners that may be better suited for small or medium sized business. 

Today, we'll share insights on how to identify different partner segments, what you can do to build partners’ strengths and minimize their weaknesses, how to support them and then how to help them to grow so you can reach your overall goal. 

Our guest today has been on the channel for over 20 years, and he boasts a pretty extensive channel background. He's taken over many channel programs, understood their existing makeup of the channel partners that were part of those programs and then trying to align those programs and their partners within the goals of the organization and specifically what that means to a Chief Revenue Officer.

Today, he develops and manages that channel sales program, as the Vice President Global Channel Sales of Constella Intelligence. Constella is a leading Digital Risk Protection software company. 

He's with us today to talk about: How to Create and Best Leverage Strategic Channel Partnerships

Please welcome Manuel Rivera. Welcome to the show, Manuel. It's great to have you here. 

Manuel Rivera 02:05

Thank you. Thank you for having me. I appreciate the time.

Paul Bird 02:07  

So maybe give us a little bit of your background thus far. You've really done quite a lot in your career so far.

Manuel Rivera 02:13

Yes, I have been working in technology for about 30 years. And most of my experience has been working with the channel and strategic alliances. 

I’m what is called classically trained, working for global technology companies like IBM, Siemens, ABB - spent a lot of time in Europe - Infosys and Synopsys, those sort of companies. 

And then what I did is I learned the basics and the fundamentals of how to work and have a successful relationship with partners and translated that into working with smaller companies and startup companies and what they needed to do to have a successful partner program.

So most of my career it's been working with large technology companies and then, the last few years, working with smaller startup companies.

Paul Bird 03:04 

Yeah, really applied that experience from the likes of IBM to really growth markets. So what about the current organization where you're with, Constella Intelligence? What's the organization's mission there?

Manuel Rivera 03:17

Yes, absolutely. 

So, the mission that we have, my mission has been to develop the partner program, develop the strategic alliances and how we are actually going to market. 

We're very channel driven so, what sort of a strategy do we put in place and execute to reach out to the market, reach out to those partners? 

Whether they're global systems integrators or they're just VARs or distributors. And of course, the MSSPs, given that our product is a SaaS and multi-tenant platform, we work very closely with MSSPs as well. 

So, developing the entire strategy and how do you work and consolidate working with the various business units, whether it's marketing, when it’s sales, and the ecosystems, services, technology and cloud. So that's been my role is to put it all together and how do we actually execute and go to market?

Paul Bird 04:11

You bring up a really great topic and you've got a lot of experience in this in taking over channel programs. So, if I'm a channel chief, you know, what are the benefits to ensuring that my channel partner strategy is well thought out right from the very beginning?

Manuel Rivera 04:26

That's a great question. And what I would say is that we all have to understand the sort of product that we're actually trying to sell and what are the market trends, what are the partner trends? 

Because we may have a fantastic product, we may have a great solution, but the market may not be ready for it with partners. The technology may be just coming out of the gate, so to speak, and there is limited knowledge and experience dealing with, sort of, this technology. 

So there's a lot of variables that one has to look at in terms of what needs to happen to make this successful. So the first thing is to understand your product, your technology, what is the value? 

A lot of companies that I've seen, they have a solution looking for a problem and that sort of complicates it. And you want to basically have a solution, have a tool, a platform, or an offering where you actually are meeting customer's needs. 

And the channel is basically a conduit to the customers. So we want to work with those partners, that third party, to provide that solution to their customer. So we have to satisfy not only the channel but their customers.

And so, we want to take a look at that. And what does that entail? So looking at the entire picture, the product, the market, the market trends, channel trends. And then understanding your value proposition, do you develop a joint value proposition? How are you going to go to market? All that comes into play.

Paul Bird 05:52

I mean, and obviously, there are times where you may come across products that simply aren't channel friendly. You know, that is a struggle that people have. Is that: is there a good fit for that channel? 

You know, we look at the channel partners, what's in it for them, right? So I guess it's that first initial assessment, that's got to be part of your strategy.

Manuel Rivera 06:12

Absolutely. That initial assessment is part of the strategy. 

Some products - we know technology is a very fluid environment. It's constantly changing. It's growing, expanding, it retracts in certain areas and expands in others. 

And products - that includes products and trends and everything. So everything needs to be aligned and understanding what is it that is in place for you to get there?

So, some products, absolutely, are not ready for certain types of partners. So qualifying that partner, understanding what their value proposition is, is key. 

So I would look at a list of partners and just because you're a MSSP or you're a VAR or your reseller, it does not necessarily mean that you are actually driving, working with my space and we're technically, in business, aligned.

So that's another thing that I will look at. So do we have a business alignment? Do we have a technical alignment? And that's actually, yes, very important because sometimes it's not and there's no sense of trying to force it to work. 

Paul Bird 07:15

For sure. And I imagine, I mean, you've taken over so many different partner programs that I wonder, after you've kind of had that assessment of the technology, making sure it's a good fit, that you've got the right market conditions. 

What would you say are some of the first steps you should take in either revising an existing partner strategy or creating a new partner strategy?

Manuel Rivera 07:37

Sure. Absolutely. That's a great question. So after I look at, you know, I developed, for example, I have a partner lifecycle management methodology that I put together. It's a three step, which is to qualify, number two, to incubate and number three, is to onboard and buy in. 

So the first, if I look at it to qualifying these partners, again is, what kind of company is it? What sort of growth mode do they have or what is their investment in the market? Do they have year-over-year growth? What’s the partner type? Is it a global system integrator? It's an ISV technology? Do they work in the cloud? 

What sectors? I may be focused on financial services and this partner focuses on health care. So there has to be that alignment. 

And after we have all of that, the most instrumental thing, again, is the value proposition. What is it that you're offering and how is it that you're helping your customers? 

Then we form a joint value proposition and once we do that, then we need to determine: how are we going to go to market? So I will look at, for example, making sure that the solution is something that your customers are looking for or actually need or have a need for.

So a little bit of lag between what the company is, what the customer wants and what's actually coming out of the gate, and technology. It's usually what comes out, it takes a little while to hit the market and until others understand. 

You know, case in point, looking at, in cyber security, for example, threat intelligence. Threat intelligence is something that most people are familiar with and everybody knows threat intelligence and dark web and entering assets into a platform. 

Or just you working with a CM or a SOR whether it's Blind, Rapid7, ServiceNow, and feeding those SIEMs or SORs or tips with content from a data lake.

But what is happening now? Well, right now there is a next level, next step of sophistication in that area which is called the Digital Risk Protection. So I ask MSSPs and I ask our partners, are you familiar with digital risk protection? They said, no, what is that about? And I have to explain: well, it’s the next level of what we're working, right now, with, threat intelligence.

So it continues to evolve that way. So if you're at the tip of the spear with technologies like I am right now, you actually have to go through this educational process and educate and help the partners understand the technology. 

Some may not just be in that space or, you know, just because they're in threat intelligence does not mean that they will adapt to this new space. They may go in a different direction. So, understanding and qualifying those is extremely, extremely important.

Paul Bird 10:12

Yeah, that is a challenge for a lot of people because, you know, you go through and you do everything you can to make sure you've got the right partners in your group. But then how can you make sure that they're truly the best fit?

Manuel Rivera 10:25

Well, understanding, again, what is there - make sure that they're in the space. 

Right now, for example, I will talk to an MSSP, I will talk to a global systems integrator and I will ask, are you in the digital risk protection space? Yes, I am or no, I am not. 

So based on those two answers, I can then go through another set of questions and say, well, is this something that your customers are looking for or have asked you for?

Or is this something that your customers will need? Do your customers need executive protection? Do they need fraud detection? Do they need brand monitoring? That sort of thing. And our domain monitoring and domain protection. 

So geopolitical, for example, that is all in the realm of digital risk protection right now. So they said: wow, I haven't thought of that, but yes, I can see them needing that. And they have asked me about this. Oh, ok. Well, that's something that we can actually look into a little bit further. Let's go into more detail. 

If this is something they say, well, you know what, not really. That's not the area that I'm going, my customers are more focused on health care and providing, for example, secure records for their customers and financial services. But they're more concerned in fraud and trying to block from outside the firewall.

So there's always these different answers that, ok, well, that's definitely not what I need. So I have a series of questions qualifying specifically for my space, my area, my product, where if I see that, again, business and technical alignment, I know it would be a good match. 

If not, it's not a good match, but it's important to go through that. I mean, you're right. I mean, you have to really understand: who is it that you're trying to align yourself with? 

Because it's not selling directly to a customer. It's getting somebody to sell for you. So there needs to be a really clear alignment of that. And we go back to the basics: value proposition, what is it that we're selling and how are we going to sell it? How are we going to go to the market? And those are the key questions that need to be answered.

Paul Bird 12:26

So you know, you have these situations where you're literally on the bleeding edge sometimes. Do you have any recommendations in terms of like a partner training strategy?

Manuel Rivera 12:35

Yes, absolutely. So, I recommend, in terms of - it all depends where the stage of the partner is. And assessing the maturity of the partner is actually very important. 

Many companies will say, yes, we are channel driven, we have partners, we work with partners. But when you look down a little bit, you peel that onion back a little bit, it's not exactly how it is, what it should be or have the requirements that you actually need to have a successful relationship. 

So, you know, in terms of training them and understanding part of the onboarding and enablement process, you have to develop a special program specifically for that. And, again, it goes back to: how is it that I can help you work with your customers?

What sort of a sales toolkit do I put in place? What sort of content do I need? Are we having some certifications? Do we need, for example, to have that certified one, two or three or a handful of technical folks that we can actually handle this from tier one, tier two customer success. 

So there's just a lot of things that go into that specifically working, trying to train that partner. But having them understand, again, the joint value proposition and how is it that you're going to market? How are you going to help them help their customers? Then can we go back to those basics.

Paul Bird 13:55

So, and, I mean, this is all great for getting started off, but once you've got those right partners in place and once you have, you know, you've identified that you've got a good, strong go-to-market partner. Let's talk about leveraging those partners and really knowing where to invest your time. 

So, you know, once you have that established partnership, what can you really do to enhance the relationship with them in order to drive the results that people are looking for?

Manuel Rivera 14:24

Oh, that's a great question. So, like you said at the - early, segmenting the market I think is very important because this gives you the opportunity to classify partners in buckets. And I actually like to do that. And the reason is because obviously there's a strategy and the go-to-market for each one of them. 

But, once we have that relationship, once I’ve identified this partner and I know that this partner is going to really work well with me, I will try to understand what is it that they're doing for growth. 

If they're growing, I'm growing. So I want to make sure that they are actually growing. And these are, again, pre-qualification questions: how much are they investing, for example, into their sales program, into their organization, how much business development, demand generation actually are they investing into. 

So I will take a look at that. Have you had growth year over year? If you had 20 customers last year and this year you have 50 or 60. You say, hey, I keep growing. I don't know what to do with these. Well, that's great. That's music to my ears. 

But once I have that partner in place, it's a lot of, I hate to say account management, but it just basically entails a lot of account management. 

It’s doing your QBRs, your weekly review and your weekly plans, your quarterly plan, review weekly, bi weekly. It's actually having your thresholds, understanding where you are with your goals, with your forecast, your KPIs and understanding what needs to happen to get to a certain place. 

I will start a partnership and the first thing I will say is like, well, what are we going to do this year? How many deals do you think we're going to be able to identify? What sort of initiatives do we do? What sort of business development do we work with? How do I actually reach them? 

So once you start that relationship, it's actually a lot of account management that way. And then measuring your KPIs, making sure that you meet your thresholds of tolerance. You know, you can't have a partnership without producing for two years, for example.

Paul Bird 16:27

That's true. 

Manuel Rivera 16:29

Yeah. So you want to keep track of all of that.

Paul Bird 16:32

So how deep from a partner segmentation will you go? And, kind of, what role does that play in getting the most across, you know, such a variety of partners?

Manuel Rivera 16:34

Good question. 

So I like to segment the market to my services partners. And this, basically, can apply - this is just a framework they can apply differently to each company, depending on their product, depending on who actually their market target is. 

So I will likely, for example, look at the enterprise, the mid-markets and the SMB and what sort of partners I need to have in each one of those buckets to increase my market penetration.

So, then I will look at, for example, well, if my product, for example, is specifically for the mid-market or the or the enterprise, well, which partners do I need? Do I need systems integrators? Do I need VARs? Do I want to go with distributors? Is my product distributor friendly? 

Many SaaS products nowadays, a few and cloud products are not necessarily SOC friendly, for example. There's difficulty working with those with a SOC. 

So you need to take all that into consideration. But for market penetration, you definitely want to say, well, if this is a plan that I look at. If I say, well, my market penetration in the enterprise is right now 5%, I want it to be 25%, 30% in 18, 24, 36 months. 

What do I need to do to do that? Well, I need to bring marketing in. I need to work and align my work with marketing. I need to say, well, what are the market trends, what are the partner trends? 

If this is something that, for example, the analysts see as a potential, a future growth? How much would that be? Is there a CGAR involved? 

So I look at all those things and say, well, based on market analysis and based on what I see right now with all this data, I can say that, yes, this is a good plan. I'm going to work with the systems integrators and they are working specifically - which ones are the ones we're specifically working with as well.

You know, we have like 15, let's say major, 20, global systems integrators. Out of those, maybe four or five are specifically, or six or seven, are working specifically in your space. Maybe the others are not, so they can go back to the product. So that's how I would do it. 

And the same, I repeat the same for the mid-market, which are more regional, which are the systems integrators who are actually looking to grow, who I can leverage to increase my market penetration? 

What does the marketing side say? What do the analysts say? And based on that, I will know how to invest those marketing dollars, specifically for that specific market sector. 

Paul Bird 19:19

Perfect. 

Well, what about partner scoring? You know, is there generally a useful application to help gain insight on where to invest your time based on like a partner scorecard or something?

Manuel Rivera 19:31 

Well, I have my own partnership scorecard that I developed, that I put together. So there's a few out there that you can actually - a lot of companies that actually work with the channel, absolutely. And I think they're very useful. 

I developed my own just because I'm very specific on what I'm looking for and I know what I'm looking for. I know what I need. And I will look at a partner relationship. I will look at a partner and know exactly the type of partner that I need to find and not waste any time. 

So the scorecards are very useful. And again, I go back to a lifecycle management sort of style, a check box and say, well, does this partner meet this certain criteria, do they meet these qualifications that I'm looking for?

This is what I need for this to drive this into the market, this product specific solution into the market. So I will definitely go with those and they're very useful, like I said. I, for myself, develop my own based on experience working with a global technology company. So that's what I use, my own scorecard.

Paul Bird 20:35

Well, you've been doing this a while, so would you say that you have some tricks up your sleeve? You know, what would you say are some more uncommon ways or ways that are not often tried in order to kind of leverage strategic partners?

Manuel Rivera 20:47

Yes, of course, there's always ways that you want to leverage these strategic partners. And it all depends on how is it that you want to to work with them, of course, and what is it that you want to to drive? 

For example, I will look specifically to a partner and think about, well, how do I actually get this partner to identify more opportunities for me or how do I get this partner to - we're going to do a POV and then explore this.

What is it that I can do to help my chances or increase the relationship with this partner? And there's a lot of things that I have done. 

I have, for example, gone as far - way back in my previous job, for example, I was working with a global systems integrator and I saw the need for my tool, they definitely could use my platform. And they were like, yes, we see it. They just weren’t - not that I don't want to say organized - but they didn't have these things, for example, that they had in place in order to drive it. 

But I know their consultants because we were talking to their consultants, their salespeople were asking for the product. They were asking to use our tool. So I basically said, well, why don't we do this? Let's just do POC right now. 

So we were doing a POC and from the POC, what I did is, I actually took a list, I said, give me your five customers right now that are asking for this. And we didn't have an agreement in place or anything.

And I said, give me the five customers that you have that need this. And I actually built, I got my technical team to build a platform customized for them, and that was the POC. So here you go, it's already built. Look at all this data and, you know, here, use it. I'm not even going to charge you.

We don't have an agreement in place. I'm not even going to charge you, go ahead and use it. And they started using it and they started providing data to their customers. So they immediately saw the value. 

So, you know, it took a couple of months of them having the POC, but they say, wow, this is fantastic. You know, two months later, we know what we're doing. We see the value and they went ahead and in signing an agreement and bought the product to work with their customers. 

So one has to have a little flexibility, you need to figure out a way to accommodate yourself, especially if you're a startup. I mean, if you're a Google and Apple, well, they state terms, right? And AWS. But if you're a startup, you need to figure out a way to be creative and how is it that you can actually get to their customer.

So I'm very much like that. I like to be - that's the one thing I love about the job in the channel is you can be creative and be flexible and let me figure out a way how to get this done. And I've done that a few times, actually.

Paul Bird 23:41

Well, it's about being creative and it's about having a bit of faith right? You never know what the results are until you tried it. 

I know early on in my channel career, you know, just to be able to understand who my channel partners were, I took a step of saying: look, I'm going to get on the road, I'm going to start in Boston, I'm going to go all the way down to Miami, and I'm going to visit every single channel partner, 50+ partners, over a three week period. And I'm going to sit in their office and try to understand what drove their business. 

So it was kind of a big risk. And I remember when I left Boston, one of our partners, more of a supplier, told me I was insane. Said: you are nuts. You're going to do like four or five a day for three weeks? You're crazy. 

And it was funny because that same person that told me that I was ludicrous asked me if he could come along the next year. 

So, you know, you're exactly right. That is exactly where you want to be when it comes to, you know, trying something different because you never know the results you're going to get.

Manuel Rivera 24:44

That's a great story. And I think that's an awesome approach to working with partners, you know, that personal, they see you’re invested into the relationship. 

The partners channel, it's a relationship. So they want to see that you're invested and you're doing these special things for them. So that's a great story. That's a great example of what to do.

So you have to be creative. I say, look, you know, you don't know what you're doing, here, just take the product, give me your customers, I'm going to build this for you. And here it is, here’s a platform, here's a POC with your customers. Look, you're starting to get data right now, look at that. And they see the value.

Go ahead and give that to your customers. Have your consultants and your salespeople use that for your customers. I'm not even going to charge you. They see the value, they see your investment, and it's a creative way of doing business. So you have to want that flexibility, no doubt. But yours is a great story.

Paul Bird 25:35 

So, I'm sure you've come across this many times. You know, what happens if you have a partner that's invested. They are trying hard, but they simply aren't performing as well as you hope. Anything that you can think of that you can share when it comes to those more weaker underperforming partnerships?

Manuel Rivera 25:51

Yes, actually yes. You know, one of the things that happens, obviously, extremely often, unfortunately, and we all go through that. And the thing to do there is - decisions have to be made based on knowledge, on facts, right? 

So I actually would look at that relationship and go back to the basics and say, what is it that we're doing here? What is the value proposition? Has that changed since we signed our agreement two or three years ago? Has my value proposition changed? Have we continued to grow the way we planned it, we said we were going to? What changed along the way? Where along the way did we lose control of this relationship? 

Because if I'm following up with this partnership, I actually know what's the direction where it's going, and I understand what needs to be done to change it.

I mean, I can't fix what I don't know. That's why, again, I go back to basics: the QBRs, what is your plan? What is your strategic roadmap and what are your timelines? What are your tolerances? Did we meet this criteria? We're supposed to talk in 30 days to see if this was fulfilled, yes or no, did it happen?

So I should be able to - if I'm doing correct partner management, I should be able to avoid that as much as possible. 

When I was at IBM, it was very interesting. I learned at IBM that, at the time, their quality assurance process was extremely strict. They basically went through - before you delivered a proposal to a customer it had to go through QA. And they wanted to make sure that everything was appropriate. Everything was in place because they wanted to avoid troubled projects at the end. 

So they had a very small 1 or 2% of troubled projects because they said, okay, I'm looking at the systems engineer you have with this project and this person only has five years experience. This person needs to have ten years experience and you need two with a minimum of four or five to be able to complete this task in six months.

So they would go as far as looking at that and they made sure, so okay, so I had to go back and look for the appropriate resources. They made absolutely certain that they would avoid being in that situation. So I actually learned that I'm going to try to avoid being in that situation as much as possible.

And it's going back to basics, understanding where we are, what's our strategic roadmap, what is it that we need to do, what has changed? So when I see those and I come to a company, a new company and I see these, I'm going to go back and say: let me just re-evaluate and see where we are. 

Many times, I can say, which has happened before, I mean, one of my previous jobs, you know, I went and started and they said: these partnerships are dead, they're terrible. We signed these guys and they haven't given leads, there's nothing. 

I said, well, you just don't sign a goal system integrator and sit back and get leads from them. You know, there's a lot of handholding here. A lot of love has to go on. 

So what I did is I actually went back to basics. I started again. And with the basics, with them understanding the value, what we were going to do. And, you know, what I did is I relaunched the relationships, I made announcements. You know, we're relaunching this relationship. We're proud to announce that we're relaunching this. And start from scratch. So it's sort of like reopening the store after renovations. 

Paul Bird 29:05

For sure.

Manuel Rivera 29:06

Yeah. Many times you can do that. Unfortunately, sometimes you could not. And, you know, you just have to make a decision whether it's viable to continue working together. But you have to make that assessment. You have to make that call after you understand the damage.

Paul Bird 29:21

So then on the flip side, if you compare looking at the ones that are tremendously successful what do you think really determines that channel partner success for the people that are doing really well?

Manuel Rivera 29:33

Well, there's a lot of things, there's a lot of variables that go into that, to making that relationship a success. That's a great question. 

And I think that the most important thing to do is to have a plan, have a strategic roadmap. And say, look, you know, here's where I am right now. It's January, February, and where do I want to be at the end of the year?

You know, normally what I like to ask is this: hey, next year, you know, when we do our yearly QBR, January, February, whatever I'm going to ask you, hey, what did we do? And I'm going to say we had a great year. We had a successful year. And I'm going to ask you, Mr. Partner, what did we do that we were actually successful, that we had a successful year?

What was it that fulfilled your needs and requirements? And those are just going to give you a wishlist. Well, you know, we did this. I wish we could have done that. I wish we - they’re just going to tell you exactly what it is. So you're like, ok, I'm taking notes. 

So they’re sort of like giving you right there a little bit of what should be part of that roadmap. Of course, within reason and within alignment of that strategy. 

But having that roadmap and again, timetables, your tolerances is actually extremely fundamental. I mean, if you don't know - the old adage from sales applies that, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. 

Paul Bird 30:50

Plan to fail. Yeah. 

Manuel Rivera 30:52

Yeah, it totally applies here.

So the successful ones have had a plan, they have looked constantly at the relationship, they've nurtured it, they've actually invested into it, they've done events. 

I mean, any kind of event that you bring it to the personal level, whether you're doing a lunch and learn or breakfast and you’re inviting customers. Even if it’s just going over there for a morning and having, you know, bringing pizza for lunch or something, you know, all those things matter.

Getting on an airplane and say, you know what, let me just be there. I'm going to be there in a couple of weeks. Let me just come over and let’s just have a cup of coffee or let's plan and talk about this. If they see the investment that you're investing into their relationship, that is actually one of the key things here.

So that's what I see with those successful ones.

Paul Bird 31:41

And is there anything additional that you can add to that? Because, you know, when you have a successful partnership, you've now reached the goal. But any ideas or any insights on how you can make those partnerships thrive for as long as possible? 

Having, you know, year over year of success with a partner. Any suggestions on things that you can do to accomplish that?

Manuel Rivera 32:02

Yes, keeping it very simple. I hear a lot in the channel that I'm going to speak with certain partners and I'm talking and they’re like - and this is something that you hear often, they say, you know what, we started this relationship great and we love it. But this company or that company or your competitor or did this, you know, now they want to do this, now they want to increase or make it more complicated by doing that.

I think the partners like and the channel people that you're - remember we're trying to convince these folks to sell our product to their clients. 

Paul Bird 32:38

For sure. 

Manuel Rivera 32:38

And they’re trusted advisers to their clients. So they're not going to - they need to make sure that what we're doing is actually proven successful. It's a good product and it’s something good for them.

So we need to keep that in mind and then have that understanding that these folks are actually taking a risk or taking a chance with us. So the ones that I want to work with are, you know, I will understand and put myself in that place and the very successful ones, you know, the simpler I keep it, having a very transparent relationship I'm going to make mistakes.

I say, listen, you know what? I made this mistake. This happened. You know, I've been in the past in other jobs, like, well, we had some sort of an issue that was a breach, you know, this happened over here. You know, that was my fault. Let me help you with this. I'm going to quickly compensate you to do this, just to make up for these resources.

Having that transparency is extremely important for the future. But again, keeping it very simple. The simpler you make it to the partner, it’s sort of like you're getting on a website to buy something and you want that one click thing. You don't want to have to keep moving from page to page and page to page just entering more data.

That's how, the relationships, you want them to be. Very simple. Keep the revenue model simple, keep the business model simple, and let them grow that way. Just because you're being successful and growing, it does not mean you need to make it more complicated or more complex. So that's what I would say, simplicity, transparency, and an investment.

Paul Bird 34:10 

So you follow your own kind of partner lifecycle management. You go through your own process for segmentation. And by the sounds of it, you keep the lines of communication open with partners. 

So what kind of challenges do you think someone would face if they're not following the type of best practices that you follow?

Manuel Rivera 34:28

That's a great question. 

I think that if you, for example, don't follow, let's say the market segmentation. I've seen companies that, for example, in the past that they're like, no, no, we're just going to do - we have 100, 500 customers and we're just going to assign account managers to everybody. You know, everybody's an account manager. We're going to assign ten accounts to everybody and just go ahead and sell however.

Well, you know, the market has changed, technology has changed, and it’s a very fluid environment. So not only does the technology grow and it's new, but we have to adapt in how we are actually going to sell it.

If we think about, for example, your global systems integrator, your Accenture, Deloitte, etc. I mean, these guys 30 years ago, what were they doing? 

They were selling, you know, many of them weren’t even there. Accenture we know is new from the old Arthur Andersen, right? And that was a consulting group, that layer. 

So they've actually gone through, they continuously go through iterations and reinventing themselves to adapt themselves to the market. And partners also do that. You know, nowadays, of course, everybody's into the cloud, MSPs, MSPs, MSPs. And now it’s MSSPs for those who are in security. 

So the market continues to grow and change. We need to grow and change, too. So if your business model is not aligned with what the market is doing, you're going to have difficulty reaching partners, having successful relationships or having partners wanting to work with you.

You know, some partners will say this is the revenue model, this is the business model that I need to do, that I'm following. 

Why? Because I target the SMB, my customers are small, I'm a small unit, I have 100, 200 customers. And we basically pay month to month. You want me to pay you up front? Well, that's not necessarily going to work for me.

So how do I adapt to those things? So again, we go back to the global systems integrators. They were doing services or consulting before, whoever remembers that, software used to be sold in disks.

Paul Bird 36:34

Client server. 

Manuel Rivera 36:36

And client server and they used to take days, if not weeks and months, to download and then install. And that system was down. 

And I mean, this was a whole operation and all of that has changed and now, of course, everything is cloud. Cloud has become the great equalizer because the SMB can buy an application just as much as the enterprise, right? Based on usage, based on seats, it doesn't matter. 

So we need to adapt to that as well. So the market changes are not only in technology, but the way business is done. So in order to be successful, you have to continue to reinvent yourself, continue to go through iterations and adapt to the market changes.

That's key. If you don't, you'll stay behind, basically.

Paul Bird 37:24

So let's just wrap up and if you think about somebody following these best practices, as you say, evolving with the market. You know, what are the potential impacts that that can make on positive growth as opposed to falling behind if you're not doing these type of things? 

You know, what level of impact do you think that makes for the CRO, who really is caring about what's coming out of the channel?

Manuel Rivera 37:49

Sure. Well, you know, it's very impactful because the CRO, and most C folks, but I think the CRO nowadays is the most impactful person in the organization because the aligning and putting the strategic direction in place of what needs to happen, how it needs to happen, it's key. 

So this person needs to obviously understand the market really well. What are the trends? What is the kind of growth that we are having? And the impact can be very, very significant. I mean, it's either you fail or you succeed. 

If you look at, for example, Salesforce, I mean, a lot of folks, I mean, don't remember, but Salesforce, you know, used to be an on prem and they sold, you know, through the Internet and all that. And that cloud came later. You know, they transformed themselves. 

IBM transformed themselves. All these companies transformed themselves. They went through this, you know, this whole transformation to sell into the cloud. And so they had to go through that transformation.

So many products, for example, that stayed on prem. You know, this happened to me also a few years ago. And a lot of the products in the company were still on prem. And they just transformed to some on cloud. And there was a cloud market. 

So there was a lot of difficulty fulfilling what the customer wants, the customer needs, especially because the channel is actually already driving that initiative. So if the channel is selling cloud and you're coming with an on prem product. Well, you know, the channel is not going to look kindly to you.

Paul Bird 39:27

Very true.

Manuel Rivera 39:29

Yes. So it's very impactful to go through these changes and understand what these changes are. And you have to continuously look at yourself and re-evaluate your strategy and how is it that you're going to get there? Because, you know, we have a three year, four strategy. 

Oh, we're going to be acquired or go public in three years. In technology, three years is an eternity. So, there has to be some other adaptation in those three years. 

So, you want to look at that leadership and say, well these guys, are they the ones who can actually adapt? Can they adapt? Do they understand that changes are going to be need to be made? And what may be good today may not work in 6, 9, 12, you know, 24 months. So that's actually very important.

Paul Bird 40:15

You know, this has been a great conversation, Manuel. Just great, sage insight and advice. You know, I want to thank you so much for being a guest on the show. It has been a pleasure talking today and having you here.

Manuel Rivera 40:29

Well, thank you very much. I certainly appreciate it. And it's been a great pleasure. And I'm glad that I was able to be part of the show. So thank you.

Paul Bird 40:42

Alright guys, thank you for listening to The Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast and please don’t forget to join us next time. For more information, please visit channelsalespodcast.com.

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Introduction
Manuel Rivera’s background in channel sales
Benefits of a well-thought out channel partner strategy
Start by selecting the right partners
Leverage partnerships & know where to invest time
Understanding market trends is key for positive growth
Conclusion