How Gong Wins by Surrounding Customers with Partners

How Gong Wins by Surrounding Customers with Partners

Will Taylor 6 min

Scrolling through LinkedIn, it’s hard not to see Gong and its well-positioned brand.

What I saw this time though had a bit of a twist: Gong’s “Partner Month.” I immediately thought to myself: “Well, that’s interesting… a whole month? Just for partners? Heck yeah!”

To find out more, I spoke with Eddie O’Brien (SVP of Partnerships), Eran Aloni (EVP Ecosystem & BD), and Craig Hanson (Senior Director of Market Strategy) - all well-established professionals executing on the partnerships ethos.

But this isn’t just some feel-good story about who I got to learn from; it’s a tale of what happens when you listen to the customer, pay attention to their needs, execute on driving value to them, and never doing it alone.

In conversations with each of these three, one thing was clear: it’s all about the customer. 

Who are they? What surrounds them? Who else are they speaking to? What larger problems are they having? How are we helping them? Where can we help them more? Where can’t we directly help them? Who do they trust?

Notice… that none of these questions are focused on “what can we get from them?”

Your relationship with your customer is the most important thing as a business.

More than how good your product is, more than what marketing you do, and more than what suave salespeople you have. The customer will inform you of what their problems are, how you can or cannot help, and who else they trust.

That’s why Gong is doing so well. Period.

And they have the results to prove they are doing well.

Gong had a lot of innovations they were ready to share with the world. Market developments, product releases, enhancements, and new content initiatives… They wanted to tell the world about all of this in a humble way. In comes Gong Partner Month, where they:

  • Launched their first Partner Powered feature, Recommended Contacts (an exciting milestone for Gong)
  • Reached 34,000 sales leaders and reps to bring awareness to the Gong partner ecosystem
  • Announced more than 40 new partners
  • Exceeded target of new partner applications and pipeline
  • A 50% attendance rate for webinars
  • An increased close rate with partners involved.

These are numbers companies dream of.

How did they do it? All with the power of partnerships, of course.

What’s the secret sauce?

Go deep, not wide.

Dig into the customer needs. Then dive deep into your relationships with partners. The Gong Collective has over 120 third-party apps - described as being double what their competitors offer.

Going deep into customer needs calls attention to just how many resources can be brought to the customer experience through partnerships. A program like Gong Partner Month reinforces those lessons.

The best part about all of this is that it still benefits Gong. Not just from the benefits listed above for performance, but one shining fact:

Working with partners gives customers a glimpse into the art of the possible with the Gong platform within the ecosystem.

Partner Month simply helped to deepen and highlight that value so that everyone can incorporate it better.

Why now?

It was the right time for Gong.

The platform has grown from one product to a multi-product suite that is expanding across the organization. It’s now essential to bring in the ecosystem to serve those customer needs. The North Star is always the customer’s need.

If you want to be a leading company or platform, then you need to bring in not only everything you can bring, but also the ecosystem of partners that can expand those needs to strengthen the customer experience. - Craig Hanson

As a company scales, the need to work with partners who are already inside of the customer accounts becomes even more important. “A company’s growth into larger customers requires partners,” says Eddie O’Brien. “On average we work with 7 partners to deliver on customer value and change management.”

Gong is in the company of giants when it comes to its approach and investment in partnerships. Eddie recalls his previous experience at Microsoft and the success achieved by doubling down on the ecosystem to drive company-wide success.

What you can do

Eran Aloni said you need to get scrappy if you want to partner up and win:

It’s hard to start a partnership motion if you don’t have the seeds out there. It’s hard to build when there was nothing there to begin with. Start scrappy, prove the value, and the results will follow.

Create strategic alignment. No program thrives where it doesn’t align with what the company is trying to do and the way the leadership team thinks about the ways they are going to achieve those goals.

Partnerships are a long-haul investment - it won’t fix your pipeline problems next month, but still set specific goals for the short term. Show them you are committed to investing.

It’s hard to do anything substantial otherwise.

Craig Hanson said:

Biggest aspect for strategy is to focus it on the customer. Not only how their needs can be met with your product - but how their experience can be enhanced through the ecosystem of integrations and solutions that you offer...

You’ve met some needs… but what about their unmet needs? What are their core metrics? Ask: “How else can we help them?”

When you pull back and stop thinking about your own product and own company objectives, you focus on the customer and their situation, and that naturally brings you to the partners they engage with and the ecosystem they are within.

Eddie O’Brien mentioned:

The last thing you want to do is try to verbally convince executive teams and others that partnerships is the way to go. You never win that battle with PowerPoints and docs. Start simple - show the value, the ROI, the impact on KPIs.

Be data-driven

Go for segments sales is not strong in. Convince others based on actions, not words. Make sure you’re very clear on 3 things:

  1. How are you generating net new incremental revenue (sourced)?
  2. How are partners making deals faster and ensuring Sales is closing them (influenced)?
  3. Have engaged relationships with the other teams - don’t let one human do everything (talking to you partner managers out there)!

Not only that, but each of Eddie, Eran, and Craig pointed to one person for the genius work - Matt Schroyer who leads Partner Marketing at Gong. They expressed how proud they were in the program, that it wouldn’t have happened without Matt, and that it all came together so well.

I didn’t get to interview the conductor behind the scenes who mastered this blueprint. Maybe that will come in part two ;)

Will Taylor 6 min

How Gong Wins by Surrounding Customers with Partners

Gong's story is a tale of what happens when you listen to the customer, pay attention to their needs, execute on driving value to them, and never doing it alone.

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