Howdy Partners #22: Developing Your Ideal Partner Profile

Howdy Partners #22: Developing Your Ideal Partner Profile

Multiple Contributors 27 min

On this week’s episode, Matt Doong, Director of Business Development at Electric, joins the pod to discuss ideal partner profiles.

Developing an ideal partner profile from scratch can be difficult - connecting the dots between the customers who are going to buy again and again and the service agencies or partners who can lead you there is key. Matt shares perspectives from his sales experience that factor into this equation.

3 key takeaways

  1. Treat every new partner with the most respect possible.
  2. Never judge a partner by what shows up on paper. Some partners look great on paper and turn out to be a nightmare to work with. Some partners are the opposite.
  3. Your IPP is never done.
  4. Revisit your IPP often.
  5. Focus on the core aspects of the foundation.
  6. Matt’s seen countless people make the rookie mistake of not focusing on their foundation enough. Make sure you have operational efficiency from day-one.

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Full transcript:

Tom Burgess 00:19

Howdy partners, welcome back. Early Thursday start this time we got Ben we got Matt excited for Matt to unleash some IPP stuff on today’s call. But how’s everyone doing? Ben, how are you?

Ben Wright 00:32

I’m good. You might hear a dog barking in the background here. I’m actually in in Boulder, Colorado at the moment on. Yeah, I told you I’m only now just realizing that I’m up the road from you. 40 minutes away, while I advise for a company that basically so I’ve been here for the last kind of two three days just hanging out and, and taking in the sights and yeah, it’s beautiful, beautiful spot. So cold but cold. But good is probably my summer.

Tom Burgess 00:57

Yeah, it’s been a little chilly in Colorado. Ben, we can we can talk afterwards about why you haven’t texted me for a meet up because I’m literally 40 minutes down. But that’s fine. Yeah, it’s I love Colorado. Boulder is a fun spot. Matt, nice to meet you. Welcome to the pod.

Matt Doong 01:15

Thanks so much, Tom. Ben, appreciate you including me on this. While you guys are in really cool spots. I’m actually in New York City. If you can tell behind me, it looks like it’s super dark. The typical New York City inner unit apartment, I have no idea if it’s sunny. I have no idea if it’s raining. It looks like it’s raining all the time. But nonetheless, here and ready to make it up. And

Tom Burgess 01:37

you and Matt, you and I share us a very, I guess similar thing about our work environments. Like I’m in the basement you can’t see right now. But all I have is a tiny window. So my vitamin D levels have, like, just plummeted. Whether it’s sunny or not, Colorado gets like 300 days of sun. So I feel your pain. When I go upstairs. It’s like, what am I doing? Like? Should I be up here? So anyway, Fun little fact there.

Matt Doong 02:05

Yeah, I need a vitamin D lights. simulator. Yeah, it’s current. I don’t know if you guys can see it’s currently behind me. I don’t know why, for some reason, I think that you can use it to keep plants alive.

Ben Wright 02:17

Oh, for sure. Well, I was I was just about to ask you. We don’t We usually launch a song on Spotify me. And so for the people that are just listening in that has a great collection of plants behind them on the on the screen. And I was just about to ask how are those plants grow with? With no with no light?

Matt Doong 02:35

or fake? And I’m still trying to figure out what might have been the light is actually going to work? Or am I just like thinking it’s the placebo effect probably. Hey, well let you know in a couple of weeks.

Ben Wright 02:47

Probably I’ve probably been dabbling a ton, as you said, but we’re we’re pumped out now on me and Matt worked worked together previously, so I’m really excited to get him on. Matt would love for you just to dive in and give all the listeners a little kind of history or break down on you and really your experience in in partnerships.

Matt Doong 03:07

Great. Thanks, man. Hey, everyone, my name is Matt Dong. I’m currently the director of business though. And then electric. Electric is a IT software and services organizations for small to medium sized businesses between five to 500 employees. Throughout my career, I’ve spent the bulk of it as an individual contributor, AE doing sales, selling software and services, whether it’s HR marketing, outdoor, ibert, advertising engineering, to a lot of different personas primarily across the C suite. So I did that for about eight to nine years. And then over the past year, I’ve spent building the business development go to market lane at electric, which was a way for us to acquire customers at scale for less money. So it was a really exciting initiative that was started by our former CMO, Andrea kale, who built the function with me and gave me the opportunity to do it so pumped to be here. Cool.

Ben Wright 04:05

Yeah. And I think it’s very fitting given your background and the introduction around the topic, we’re going to we’re going to kind of jump into today, which is ideal partner profile, covering everything from how you define it and and kind of how do you grow with the ideal partner profile? And so I know you came in to pretty much nothing program and built and scaled it into into something pretty, pretty big. And so I think if we start from kind of step one, when you came in, and you were looking at, hey, we need to go out and recruit partners. What was your thought process in terms of like, a good partner fit for electric and how did you build out that the ideal partner profile

Matt Doong 04:46

the way that we can frame this is really just around my background and ultimately how this ties into business development and partnerships, and then tying it then to have come up with the IPP strategy. So just a quick run through primary way throughout the course of my career, mainly when I where I was for the first five to six years at ADP doing small business and mid market sales. I’ve experienced the motion of leveraging partners to get referrals to sell deals. And at ADP, their primary go to market lanes for partnerships are CPA firms, consultancies, as well as brokerages. In addition to doing that at intersection, which is an outdoor media company, their primary source of revenue as it relates to partners is advertising marketing agency. So I’ve done it before as an individual contributor and felt very comfortable with the motion, leveraging partners to get referrals, selling the referrals, keeping those relationships to get more business. So the way it worked that electric, when that role opened up, I saw the job descriptions like shoot, I’ve done this before. So the way I approach IPP was interesting, right? As a person that has sold electric over the course of my career, I sold about like 20 Plus deals for over about $1.3 million in ARR. So I’m very familiar and comfortable with selling the electric product and knowing who the buyers are. And what I looked for was primarily services organizations that provided complimentary services and software to electric. So organizations that are consulting CFOs HR people, providing IT support, all the way down to insurance brokerages and property and casualty brokerages that sold Cyber Liability Insurance out also stretching as far as private equity and venture capital, just trying to figure out what types of partners will ultimately have conversations around electric or something related to it. Alternatively, using that as a way to really expand reach across multiple verticals, because you never know, right, you got to test and see what actually works. So that’s what went into v one as we develop the IPP, happy to go into more details about each type of partner and then the value proposition because each one was unique to things

Tom Burgess 06:59

I will one I’m in the middle of like we just completely revamped our program at SAS labs. And the IPP was one of the big selling points to me actually getting the job. So I think this is very relevant. And there’s two things one, your your close relationship to being an AE and being in front of customers, you know, people, people that are getting into partnerships and discussing what like why an IPP is important don’t, don’t always think about what their existing ICP is, and how then like, you come back up a layer, like everyone everyone thinks like, Okay, we’ve got to figure this out. For you know, channel partnerships or tech partnerships, and tech is a little bit harder to really dive into because it’s just more broad and speak. But when it comes to someone like channel partners, that the ICP helps to drive everything. So like developing an IPP from scratch can be difficult. And I actually, I don’t mind that approach, because that’s somewhat of what we did here. But you’re ability to connect the dots between the customers that are going to purchase your software again and again, versus the service agencies or the partners that can help lead you there is so important. So one point is like, it’s awesome that you have the experience from being in sales, because then it just lends itself so nicely to say like, I know, my CP, I know how I can sell these customers. Let’s bring this back up a level, I know the partners I need to target right away. So that was that’s really cool. I appreciate that sentiment.

Matt Doong 08:33

Yeah, I mean, you keep it simple, right, straight up, like what you do is you’re just targeting companies that sell to the same customers and same personas and figure out what the value proposition is and why they want to refer electric. So that’s ultimately how we created it.

Ben Wright 08:46

Yeah, that’s it. I think like, again, this topic tends to get over complicated, but what you’ve just said, there is probably the most easy way of describing it. And that’s why I think having Andrea involved from a CMO position intimately knows what your ACP is, and what customer you’re trying to sell into. Gives you a really good direction, I think from an ideal partner profile, right?

Matt Doong 09:08

Absolutely. And just just for clarity, the way that it’s structured, and electric is a lot different than a lot of organizations. The way that we were built is mainly Andrea owned all go to market lanes to drive top funnel. So it was really interesting and a wonderful learning experience and something that was a ton of fun to build.

Ben Wright 09:27

Cool. Yeah. And I think like anybody that’s listening to this having a singular person, really, at the C suite level Shepard, everything can be really, really helpful because I know electric does a lot of CO marketing with partners, right? And so having Andrea involved from the top and supportive of that is really helpful in in just actually driving go to market with your with your partners later later down the line. And so and so yeah, I think that’s a really important just side note is where possible, really tied into your CMO. Intimately understand your, your ACP and kind of to kind of go from there. And so I think more broadly, Matt, you talked about how you defined electric. And we’ve gone into a little bit of the, the strategy behind developing an IPP, anybody that’s net new into a program and is looking to do this? What process should they follow?

Matt Doong 10:18

Yeah, I just think a lot of it comes down to being very specific about who you sell to the types of customers, and then the personas again, tying back to your ICP. And then what are the partners that surround those types of organizations, because ultimately, at the end, the day you want to build an ecosystem, and once you’re able to build an ecosystem around each and every customer, that is going to drive a ton of value, whether it’s related to revenue shares, which I think are are great, but not the most exciting. I think most companies care about just creating a sticker environment and being seen as a hero or champion to their customers, when they’re recommending something that’s completely outside of their scope. So that’s ultimately where I see a lot of value in these types of strategies and approaches outside of just direct customer acquisition strategies.

Ben Wright 11:07

And I’d love to quickly just dive into that final point you made around like, it needs to offer value to both sides. And so you mentioned a couple of your profiles that you have electric, and you mentioned, like the private equity company, right? What is the value for the private equity company of bringing in electric and, and kind of pushing you to their customers,

Matt Doong 11:30

solver for private equity. Let’s give an example using electric right? For the these firms that do mergers and acquisitions, we want to work with private equity firms that are representing the merger side. And ultimately, what they’re looking to do across two organizations is integrate systems and create operational excellence across the board. So you could think HR, finance, ops, whatever technology in addition to it. So those are the core pillars of what you think about a foundational business operation. So when you have that messaging, what makes it easier for private equity firms to digest once once you have it make it easy for private equity firms that digest like the value proposition. Ultimately, what they’re looking for there is the ability to find standardized pricing, best in market pricing that they can go to their portfolio companies with. So all the portfolio companies are response for doing is evaluating the solution, seeing if it’s a fit, removing the need to negotiate because they know the costs per user per month is within their wheelhouse and expectations are clear up front. So on the business side, you create deal velocity, and you create more predictability from a forecasting standpoint, on the private equity side, they’re more there, they can also forecast costs as it relates to different software and services that they need to pay for across the business to ensure that they integrate to especially during an m&a for example.

Ben Wright 12:56

Well, there’s more efficiency, cost savings, all the things that actually they’re gonna they’re gonna really care about. Yeah, love that. Yeah, so important, the things that when you’re looking to plan and think about the things that make them tick, what their metrics on and then try and align your product or service to, to those things. So let’s change gears a little bit, we’ve, we’ve kind of gone into it upon a profile, how to define it, what it means. The second part it becomes when you’ve signed those partners. So you’ve developed an ideal partner profile you’ve taken on and again, all these private equity firms. How do you really kind of dig in or focus efforts on the partners that matter? Instead of like spreading yourself too thin? And trying to be like, you know, white glove for everyone? Like how do you think through prioritization of pawns,

Matt Doong 13:44

people process, and then prioritization, to build structure as it relates to each individual partner management strategy. So the way I think of these things is capacity models across operating models that we have as a business. So, for example, just to give you a little bit of context, I have channeled business development reps, a team of three of them, what their response we’re doing is acquiring partners, walking them through electrics pitch, like ability doing the SDR stuff by prospecting organizations within our IPP, pitching the electric partner program, signing them up, and then enabling them to refer and then going deep and wide and using that as a way to drive results. So when you think of it holistically, the reps will get to a certain inflection point where they have a good number of quality partners. I think 50 to 75 is realistic. Obviously, there’s a lot of different variables that go into it like size, contact relationships, you name it, there’s no right way to do it, but some things that take into consideration and then oftentimes, instead of focusing on new partner acquisition, you can just start focusing on different aspects of the operating model. It’s like Hey, what is your partner referral rate, you have 50 partners can you hit the for example 17% referral rate that we’re expecting, which is one referral per partner per month, when you go further, you’ll hit a certain inflection point where you don’t even acquire more partners per rep. And then they’re responsible for just focusing on two aspects of the operating model that are just lower, it’s like number referral, or partners referring to the first is a number of partners referring across your active partner portfolio. And the second is how many referrals per referring partner, and then from there, the prioritization just comes down who’s the most engaged.

Tom Burgess 15:36

In the one, as you’re going through this, like it resonates, it should resonate with every part and professional to some degrees that, you know, it’s, it’s not your typical relationship building. And I think in all the good sense, like, you need to be very honest and transparent. With every partner that you’re introducing yourself, do, you know, it’s interesting to see that you’ve got, you know, these, these channel reps that will carry them through, you know, sign up through activation, or enable them that’s, that’s, that’s amazing. That’s actually what we’re trying to do here with a couple of channels CDRs to some degree, but then, you know, like, as you start to look at the ecosystem, I saw, I keep referring back to this post, and I can’t remember who posted on LinkedIn. But like, if a if a partnership isn’t working, just be like, upfront, like, you don’t need to triage it, you don’t need to have all these like, crazy course correction calls, like just call a spade a spade and be like, Listen, you know, things are slowing down with you guys. That’s totally fine. I’m here to help when you’re ready. But it’s, it’s, it’s the game of necessity. And so if you’ve got partners are actually like dominating the system, like focus, focus, they’re, like, capitalize on that gold, and really drive the value because like, if you’re a numbers based, like you’ve, you’ve got to be able to cut back, especially when you start to talk about capacity. So I like that point.

Matt Doong 16:49

Yeah, for sure. I think at the end of the day, like everyone is gonna want to partner with you. Yeah. And if they’re not willing to make things happen, it’s kind of just like, what you say is a lot different than what you do if they’re not doing the ring. And that’s like not showing up the results. deprioritize and push out a quarter, you don’t need to focus on every partner referring I think that’s unrealistic, especially if you go deep, and why there’s so many different people you can talk to, from a CSM to an am to an AE to their managers, directors, all that important in marketing, um, you can get super freakin creative, which is awesome about this type of role.

Ben Wright 17:20

Yeah, I love that. And Matt, one, one, just quick point. So you’ve got a, you’ve got a partner VDS kind of underneath you, when would you get involved in like a partner was really producing and maybe add some like executive level touch point to the relationship to maybe, you know, pump it even more like when when would you say like, there’s a point for you to kind of get involved in the relationship and maybe take it to the next level?

Matt Doong 17:41

Early. And often. I think every new partner, you have to treat them with the the most accurate, the most respect possible. Because you never know, someone might come in and look on paper like, I don’t know, this might not be a huge opportunity. But there have been instances where you judge a book by its cover, and then you realize, like, oh, shoot this, this this, this company is referring a ton. And not only are they referring a ton, a lot of them are qualifying. And because they’re qualifying and we have a 30% close rate for BD source qualified deals. I mean, those are legitimate and salespeople want that. How do you get more? So that’s why you never want to assume that an organization that might not look great on paper is not a great partner, because that’s never always the case. I’ve seen good ones too, like on paper, like oh shoot, they have 1000 plus customers, great contacts, and they’re just like, I could give two shits about you guys.

Tom Burgess 18:36

It’s so it’s so funny. I like just my experience on the HubSpot ecosystem. You know, like you look at every agency that comes from a channel perspective, and it’s like HubSpot agency HubSpot agency. Like that’s great. And it’s so funny that you mentioned that because I’m like, looking on paper and a couple of these partners and like, Oh, crap, this partners like completely global top of the space and they do nothing versus, you know, some of those more scrappy partners that that I think it lends itself to speaking on the mindset of your partners like the the paradigm shift that needs to happen, where if you see on paper, that they’re adaptable, and they’re completely bought in on scaling their business around strategic partnerships, hit that hit that pedal and go for it, versus the ones that are kind of on the fence, they almost, you know, going back the idea of seeing you as a vendor versus an actual Alliance like it in the partner professional space, you have to have a keen eye for that. And it’s really tough to do it up front. And it’s really hard to not judge a book by its cover when you start to see like you know, you’re in this ecosystem we know we know these agencies, but you really don’t until you get to know them and I think that mindset understanding lends itself so nicely to be like you’re gonna surprise me like do it right now and show that your body and and let’s run.

Matt Doong 19:49

Yeah, I take 10 scrappy partners that are looking to grow and scale fast over 10 reputable brands that have market share, because those ones typically the hardest to work with.

Ben Wright 19:59

Yeah, yeah. I love it. And I mean, like, it’s always the way with people that don’t understand partnerships that are like, Hey, we should go off to Deloitte and we should go after a center, and we should go off the lake, when in actual fact, that’s going to take you like a year, year and a half to actually activate. So I wholeheartedly agree with that point. Um, so we’re kind of coming up on time. So we’ll end with with kind of a final point or question here, Matt. And it’s around refinement of ideal partner profiles. We started off describing the process you take and what makes a good a good partner profile, how often are you going back reviewing that? Updating, etc? Like, what process? Do you have

Matt Doong 20:33

the so my process is that the verticals remain the same, the key characteristics evolve over time. And then vertical lists constantly grows because you’re having more under opportunistic ones you take into consideration. Here’s what I mean by that. Now, it sounds super cryptic, right? No, I love for example, electric, the five that we focus on our financial services firms, insurance brokerages, it consultancies and HR consultants, and that is a separate category for opportunistic, but let’s not focus on that. Now. Primarily speaking, initially, when we started focusing on financial services organizations, I was just like, yo, let’s hit up outsource CFOs, let’s hit up accounting firms, CPA firms, like those big rate, over time we started seeing was that management consulting was pretty interesting. You can even categorize those as financial services, some may, some may not. They do think about CPA firms that do sock to audits, that value proposition is drastically different than ones that don’t do it, but have business consulting services. So a lot of that has been a part of the evolution of how we think of the key characteristics that go into what we deem as the Financial Services vertical. And a lot of it comes down to being dynamic when you’re looking at the data. Like we’re very, very specific in terms of how we track these things under partner accounts in Salesforce, we have different categories built out. So when you look at the data, you’re like, oh, shoot, we have 180 partners, and then 45 of them happened to be financial services and require them over the past three months. Like how do we get more of this and how to build on that database?

Ben Wright 22:08

I love that. Well, I think you made an important point, which is and I was actually reading no in the background, which is like, and this is the point to think about CRM hygiene can be really important there because you’re putting like categorizing the subcategory of partner around like, so you can look back at the end of the year and actually say, hey, like management consulting firms, for example, generate the most revenue and our partner program. And so in the following year, my partner PDS go out and capture another 50 100 management consulting firms instead of you know, P firms that haven’t really generated a ton of a ton of revenue for us. So I thought that was a really interesting point, because I’m not sure many people do that to be to be can

Tom Burgess 22:49

now preach, oh, my gosh, CRM hygiene is so important. But I actually really like Matt, I really liked he brought up the idea that like, your, your verticals, like your, the vertical should be the same, but the characteristics when within each will evolve. And that’s critical to think, think about because, you know, to Ben’s question, your IPP is never done, it’s never completely set, you always need to be going back. And there’s no there’s no right or wrong timeframe to say like, Hey, let’s go back and audit this figure this out. But I do think it’s critical to think about that when you when you’re in this ecosystem type play, each ecosystem, potentially has those differentiating characteristics. And honestly, like, as your product scales, and as your product grows, that’s a really good time to come back and say, you know, has our pricing model change has have we added sock to compliance as a as a SaaS company like, those are really important things to think about and how it how it can alter your approach and who you’re trying to target. And what your IPP is,

Matt Doong 23:48

yeah, even if you think of the ICP perspective, or just like product perspective, that should change as often all the time. We’re evolving fast, like primarily from a services business that provides software to fully software as we make that evolution that’s going to completely impact the types of verticals we focus on on our go to market messaging. And then it ultimately it’s just, again, going back to the theme of being dynamic, and then also being able to diversify risk by having partners across various lands and just being being able to change the messaging as a whole. Can I make last one last point before we leave? That’s a little off topic. This goes back to what you were saying then around CRM hygiene. I think one thing people don’t do enough especially early stage when they’re trying to prove something out is they don’t focus on the core aspects of the foundation. That’s the number one thing I prioritize process structure technology tools, operational efficiency from day one. If you don’t have that you’re gonna build a great program and that shits gonna break down over time because you just don’t have the right tools or systems or processes in place. So be good to your cross functional leaders build tight relationships, that’s ultimately going to pay dividends over time.

Ben Wright 24:58

Love it. Great point. Well With that, Matt, really appreciate you having on having you on Tom. Great to see you again and we’ll be back next week with the other episode.

Multiple Contributors 27 min

Howdy Partners #22: Developing Your Ideal Partner Profile

On this week's episode, Matt Doong, Director of Business Development at Electric, joins the pod to discuss ideal partner profiles.

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