Coriena Hipple Merejo 31 min

Howdy Partners #75: Prioritizing Operations or Relationships? Striking the Balance in Partnerships with Coriena Hipple Merejo


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[Music]

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Howdy Partners and welcome to another episode of the Howdy Partners podcast

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where we give you

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tactical insights so that you can have better partnerships. Today we're going

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to be talking

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about the topic of striking a balance between having relationships with your

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partners and also

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having the proper operations in place so that you are generating revenue. There

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's a narrative in

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the market that there are two types of partner people. One is the relationship

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type and the other

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is the operations type. Luckily today we have an expert in both and so without

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further ado I am

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joined with Karina Hippel-Mareo who comes from Pipetrive and a background in

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customer success

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and customer service so she not only has the expertise in managing

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relationships but in her

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previous role at Pipetrive she also ran the operations. Karina why don't you

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introduce yourself

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and tell the audience more about who you are and why this topic is important to

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you. Thank you Will

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for this opportunity really looking forward to diving into this subject and I'm

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pretty passionate

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about it because you can't have one without the other. If you have great

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relationships but the

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operations don't support and vice versa and how that came to me was I started

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out in call centers

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early stages of my career and came across the friction of when operations does

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not work.

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That comes out in the customer interactions it comes out with your your CSRs

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that are taking the call

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right so as a people person I wanted my team to enjoy their work feel good

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about their work and

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be able to do their best work so that's when I started diving into operations

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and once you go

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down that route it's like you know you start getting involved in projects and I

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found that you know

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that I loved doing them both because a good running operation allows you then

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to more you know to

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focus on the relationships which are the reason why we're doing any job that we

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're doing is about

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the people. I love it and one of the things that I've thought about along that

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same vein is the

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best partner people are project managers because project managers they are able

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to clearly identify

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what needs to be done who needs to do them you know they have the operation

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side but what I think

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the claim to that being so important for partner people is the fact that it is

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clear communication

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and I'm a big believer that if you are clearly communicating something then

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that means people

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on the other side will better understand it and more easily receive it and you

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do them a service by

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respecting their time and energy and efforts by organizing this information

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alongside them and so

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what was I'm curious you mentioned you know having that experience where you

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then decided I'm going

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to take this on what was the impact of that you know you mentioned having

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people enjoy the work

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that they do what do you have any like metric impacts or even some anecdotal

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impacts on

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how this realization then impacted the the team and the overall business sure

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the first like I'll

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say notable I was working at a student loan call center and what would happen

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is you know we'd all

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be part of the hiring process of bringing in new phone reps but you wouldn't

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know like who would be

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on your team until after they'd gone through training and been assigned and we

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were finding that

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you know it was an intense training so six weeks of just all this information

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and then it's like

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get on the phones and these people were not they weren't ready they it just

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they just weren't ready

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to do it so I started diving into the why they weren't ready and I pitched a

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transition program

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right so basically they would come out of training beyond the floor and I was

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the transition manager

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and they were doing the job but we would have intervals throughout the day

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where we would stop

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and talk about certain topics and there was a curriculum around it and

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basically we increased

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retention by about 25% because there was such a high turnover of people coming

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in and filling

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overwhelmed so we increased the retention and then also reduced handle time and

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increased quality

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you know each cohort got better and better and better because people just felt

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supported and

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you know more confident going into the role which is what anybody wants right

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so that was

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my first word like aha like okay this isn't just about like the feel good of it

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there's here's the

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results that I can then continue to get resources for this program. Awesome and

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so that then led you

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to becoming the global channel leader at a I would say popular tech company and

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so what's your

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superpower in this why from customer service and you know that team building

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and the operations

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that you built why did you get led into the partner and like channel side of

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things and

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what was that inspiration to push you into that area and or you know again that

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superpower that

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you have that made you a good fit for that kind of role. That is a great

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question and it's one of

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my favorite stories because I think it highlights you know my genuine concern

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for people and really

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wanting to make the working environment for the people that I'm you know

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responsible for

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the best it can be and having curiosity so once again I started out a pipe

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drive managing a

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support team I opened their floor to office they had that time did not have an

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office presence in

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the US so we opened that office it was all new team members and so hiring the

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right people first of

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all and then helping them you know get into this role and I was learning along

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the way and I like

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to remove friction because that's to me is what operations is all about right

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so as soon as you

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start seeing friction you know where's this friction coming from and one of the

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biggest frictions that

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support folks had was with partnerships they didn't understand it which is you

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know common they didn't

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understand it and I didn't either so I just started digging into that friction

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and getting to know

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the people who were already in the partnership team understanding what they

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needed from support

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what their partners needed from support and it was uh it just it became a

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project of its own

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and in the doing of that project I ended up in front of Patrick Paul who was

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the former VP

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and those conversations of like hey here's how I think we can make this better

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happen to uh I think you you talk about increasing your what is it your surface

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of luck

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for opportunity you know where those things meet yeah the luck surface area so

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my curiosity in

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wanting to help make remove friction for my team and then consequently remove

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friction for the partner

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team happened to coincide with the head of that department moving on to a

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different department so

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there was an opening and you know I guess in that conversation with Pat he was

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like hey I think I

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have an opportunity for you if you're you know if you're interested and yeah so

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that's how I

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moved over into heading up the program and channel operations of hype drive

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following my

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curiosity in trying to remove friction nice and you are clearly solving a pain

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for the team that

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you are initially working with where you know they either again didn't have the

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understanding or

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the operations in place to best assist you know clients and partners and you

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know themselves in

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that interaction and so that's that's very unique I would say because I you

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know I haven't heard

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too many stories about support teams or service teams that are so aware of

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partners that they

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experience these problems it's usually of course you know sales and marketing

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and maybe success

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as well but support is a very unique place to identify a challenge in the

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business and then from there

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grow into into the role so you've adopted the idea of nearbound and I think it

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's safe to say that

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you really enjoy the the concept and so where does this fit into where does

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nearbound fit into

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all of this for you so you know you've been doing this for a while and you know

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you've had this

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curiosity and then you learn about nearbound what does it mean to you and how

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does it play into

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all of this in your interactions so I'll kind of step back to the scenarios

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that I've been talking

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about one of the core things for me is just listening right being present

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because I think we've all

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been in a situation where somebody was listening to respond like to to waiting

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for their moment to

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interject what they already wanted to say versus really listening to you and so

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that was a skill

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that I have cultivated and that's why nearbound I feel like I connected so

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deeply with it because

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in order to do nearbound you have to genuinely care about people and you have

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to be listening

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you're not going to know how to connect these other opportunities or have the

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relationships right

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I think one of the things that I enjoyed most so like kind of going back to me

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jumping into

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channel as you said like pretty unique to come from support and jump into that

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role and I'm really

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a lifelong learner I just love to learn so I was looking for resources and then

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I went to a in partner con in Soljared and got down the partner hacker track

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and just you know

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PLX summit and that like all resonated with me because it was just giving

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vocabulary to how I

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already operated in my world and helping me to to understand the ecosystem and

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understand channel

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and then and take what I already felt good good at and strong at and putting

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those pieces together

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in a impactful way that would have you know like a network effect of just

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relationships and and

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outputs and sales and you know people trusting you because they know you

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understand their problem

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and you build a reputation of delivering and saying no to things when it's not

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the right thing

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like oh I don't have this answer but here's somebody that does so yeah I feel

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like nearbound

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was just a very natural progression for me because it just aligned with my core

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values

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yeah and in the business world I feel like it can easily get lost this idea of

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relationships and

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being present and actively listening because you know and I think of the modern

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state of sales where

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a seller is probably very stressed to hit their quota and all they truly know

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is maybe the old

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playbook and they're going to try those tactics because that's all they know

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they don't want to

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think about anything else because they're probably too stressed so when they

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try and

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receive the information from the prospect and I don't have data for this but I

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can only imagine

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that you know 80 percent of sellers are somewhat falling flat on their face in

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terms of active

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listening and making sure they're truly understanding and listening to

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understand and then bringing a

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solution that actually helps versus having their own desires and drive get in

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the way of what they

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say next or how they move the interaction forward and I think that's probably

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one of the primary

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challenges that a lot of sellers have when adopting a partnerships mindset and

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thinking about oh well

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we can't solve this but our partners can and they don't always have that light

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bulb moment and it's

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not to say that you know they're incompetent or anything like that it's simply

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one the playbook

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wasn't given to them previously because it's still being built and two the

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economic climate is just

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so stressful that I imagine it it makes it even more challenging to be present

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because it already

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requires some mental resources for that and so I would agree that the words

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near bound from what

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you said it resonates and the whole ethos of it is focused on that idea that we

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're all kind of

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already living through of this you know being present and actively engaging and

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trying to deliver

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value and generate genuine relationships because I think we all felt the pain

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of what happens when

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we don't build those genuine relationships it becomes you know the the trope of

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the corporation

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that doesn't care about their employees or you know their customers and the CEO

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just gets paid

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you know more and more and they lay off people and all of that so I mean that's

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still gonna happen

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you know in the in the market and whatnot but I think we as individuals who are

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in this interaction

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are feeling that and trying to trying to change that and so I think the with

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that same vein the

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idea of a business trying to grow at all costs and truly be the you know growth

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engine that their

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advisors and investors all want it can you know at scale potentially lose the

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the whole I guess core

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reason a business exists which is serving the client and making money while

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doing it so I think

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there is an evolution happening in the partnerships and channel space and that

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evolution is focused

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on not just having quality relationships with partners and the people that we

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work with but also

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really making sure that it is operationally sound and also driving what that

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business

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needs and wants which is the the growth and so the the narrative in the market

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like I started

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the episode has been you know there's the relationship partner person and the

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operations

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partner person and so which would you say you lean more towards because you

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know when I think

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about you from what I know about you I don't know how to to you know classify

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you not that I should

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per se but like what would you say you lean more towards is it operations or

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relationships

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well it's really tough because I love them both but if you're gonna force me to

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choose

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I would say relationships because operations would be irrelevant without them

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right you wouldn't even

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need an operation if you didn't have a customer really you know some some

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relationship that you're

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protecting that you're trying to grow and I'm just a people person I think by

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by nature

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so yeah I would I would say relationship I really like the sentiment that you

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just mentioned there

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where you were talking about how you know there's if there is no relationship

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there are no need for

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operations and I think that's a very important piece to understand because

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if we only focus on operations then it does become that you know lifeless

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corporate business

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interaction which people are tired of and they don't want to engage with that

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you know if they're

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spending eight plus hours a day and having their identity blended in with the

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workplace which is

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happening much more often in modern times they don't want it to feel like it's

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in inputs and

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outputs they want to feel like there is a relationship there and I would

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venture to say that operations

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help to enhance a relationship and what I mean by that is you know I talked

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about clear

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communication and you know having a step-by-step procedure if you are creating

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this environment

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where there is clarity and we both know the direction that we're heading in

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then it's going

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to be easier to engage and it's going to feel seamless and effortless and we

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can

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focus more let's say on that relationship side of things and we'll also be

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getting work done which

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is going to be important to both of us and then you know we both don't fall

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into that trap that

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sellers fall into where they you know again are so stressed that they can't

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even focus on the

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customer's world and so I like that that there's this blend of the two because

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yes you need to

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develop relationships but you need to know how to action those relationships

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and so

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what are some of those operations that you would say more partner people need

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to focus on let's say

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they're the relationship type and they're trying to make these relationships

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work together between

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their businesses what kinds of operations should they be thinking about more of

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in terms of you know

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generating revenue or generating value for end clients well this is a little

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bit of the scenic

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route but I'll give you a couple examples one one of the things that that I

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focused in on early on

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was you know partner account managers I know they're called different things

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different places but

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in order for them to be able to be present and focus on quota and the things

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that matter to them

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there's operational supports that need to happen so one of the things that that

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we did was

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really educate the operational team on how the sales team was measured how the

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partner

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channel managers were measured and then have that sales mindset I think it's

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really important that

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the operational folks have a bit of the sales mindset like understanding that

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if it's at the

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end of the quarter your partner account managers may not be as responsive

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because they need to be

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focused right understanding that if you are responsible for CRM hygiene and

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automations and

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such like you know what are your partner account managers doing administr

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atively manually

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that could be automated so by having those conversations by listening by

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understanding

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what makes someone else's work easy you know you can implement that and then on

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the partner front

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you know this is where listening really and I'm probably going to say

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some some things that my people don't want to hear but it's the truth we create

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these

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great programs right but if they are not if you're giving partners things that

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they don't want

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or value it's not going to incentivize them to the behavior that you're trying

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to incentivize

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so that like that's first and foremost and then the other thing is I have seen

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where programs are

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designed you know somebody have this cool idea these tiers we're going to give

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them this this this

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and this right but if you do not have a good operational foundation to execute

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on the program

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your program is only as valuable as your ability to execute so I could go on

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and on like there's just

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you really have to look 360 and that that's why having partnerships baked into

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your organization

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is the route to success because when you try to duct tape them onto the side

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then you don't have

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the tools and the you know the company buy-in and the resources I'm pretty

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passionate about this

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topic because you know the old saying stuff rolls downhill right so if you don

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't have that

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operational support and you're not supporting partners customers are not

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getting a good experience

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either neither are you know the relationship between your partners and your

22:22

sales team like it all

22:24

you know it all goes together and so you have to think ahead and take that

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pause and really

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do your due diligence do your little listening tour uh minimally understand

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where your friction

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points are because people will tell you follow the friction you know what

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people say they're

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frustrated about that's you know that will lead you to uh your most you know

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list of priorities

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operationally and that you'll have plenty to do you'll never run out of things

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to do if you listen

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to people yeah there's uh there's already so much to do as a partner person and

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if you're focusing

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on the right things then you're gonna of course move the needle and uh what

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came to mind you mentioned

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that was um how in certain tools there's like you can gamify and give partners

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points that they can

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maybe redeem and you know some partners might care about that but that's

23:21

probably not aligned

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to their overall business goals that they actually do care about like it's not

23:26

a nice to have it's

23:27

it needs to be a need to have and then they'll start taking action within the

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partnership so I

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completely agree there um so what would you say is your claim to fame um with

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your work at pipe

23:42

drive are there one or two examples you can share about the impact that you had

23:46

maybe a project

23:46

that you implemented or um you know an impact of on revenue or efficiency and

23:53

onboarding or whatever

23:55

it is what is that claim to fame that you would say this is what I'm most proud

24:00

of uh from working

24:02

with the pipe drive team. There are so many I I'll I'll narrow it down to um I

24:12

think the first

24:14

impact coming into the the partner team was really just going back to like what

24:21

the partner

24:22

account managers needed was looking at the recruitment process and the onboard

24:27

ing process

24:28

and we were able to reduce that time by more than 50 percent just by

24:34

implementing

24:35

uh some automations with the CRM making sure that you know the assets were

24:42

aligned with the goals

24:43

of the partner account managers so that was that was a good investment of time

24:49

of really going

24:50

piece by piece you know stage by stage and looking holistically at that process

24:55

and that was you

24:56

know a team effort I think when you hire the right people and then you leave

25:01

them alone you know

25:02

the subject matter experts and you let them do their job so uh I take credit in

25:08

that I that I

25:09

gave the space for that to happen right but this was like really a team effort

25:14

um so that I think

25:15

and then we instituted a partner advisory council and where I feel like my my

25:25

part in that um

25:27

apart from coordinating the event and and and the administrative piece was

25:35

getting the right

25:36

people that partners wanted to talk to and product is always at the top of that

25:40

list because

25:42

and and it's such a win-win so we talk about you know nearbound and

25:45

relationships and

25:47

I think nobody wants to feel sold people feel good when it's you know like that

25:53

you don't mind

25:54

giving something when you know like you're getting value right so the partners

25:58

would come to whatever

25:59

the location was and we would have like a two-day event and bring the product

26:05

team in because the

26:06

product team would get this amazing intelligence if you want to improve your

26:11

product talk to your

26:13

partners because they know what your product can do what it can't do what it

26:17

needs to do you know

26:18

what it should do and they might even be able to tell you like how you know how

26:23

to solve it like

26:24

these partners really dive deep into these tools and they're a wealth of

26:28

information so listen to

26:30

them and that and creating this environment not just where there was a lot of

26:34

talking but um and I

26:37

think this is a key of of operations is that the actionable points so we would

26:42

have the conversation

26:44

you know the the product VP would come in and lead segments and we did

26:48

workshops but then at the

26:50

end of it it's like you have all these ideas okay partners let's vote if you

26:55

only had like two votes

26:57

of what you want to see on this roadmap and they would you know they would mark

27:01

it and then it would

27:01

be like transparent to everybody this is what you said this is what you agreed

27:05

these are the most

27:06

important things and then the product team could go back and then to see that

27:11

on the roadmap it wasn't

27:13

just um a strengthening of trust with the partners imagine the impact to

27:20

customers who the partner was

27:22

working with seeing that their partner had an impact on the roadmap that

27:27

improved their business

27:28

output like I would say hands down that's probably like my most favorite uh

27:36

accomplishment that I

27:38

got to be a part of facilitating that's awesome that is the gold standard in my

27:43

opinion of partnerships

27:45

because your partners will then be more incentivized to engage because they're

27:50

they feel heard they

27:52

also know the value much better because they were the one that gave the idea

27:58

which was likely

27:59

inspired from the customers world that they know and it's related to the world

28:04

you know your partner

28:06

and so they're going to be much more inclined to be aligned with that value and

28:14

therefore bring it

28:15

to their customers because they simply just understand it more so lots of

28:19

benefits there I love that

28:22

I think more people should be having these partner advisory boards and I think

28:26

it's if it's not being

28:28

activated within the partner program it's a big missed opportunity because like

28:32

you said yeah

28:33

there's so much valuable input that you can gain um so just wrapping up here we

28:40

are going to move

28:41

on to the tactical takeaway what is the one daily or weekly practice that you

28:48

either recommend to

28:50

others or you would say has helped you be successful and it's something that

28:56

people can implement

28:57

again daily weekly right after they listen to this episode what is that

29:02

tactical thing that you did

29:03

that you feel helped I would say um on a weekly basis trying like if today's a

29:13

meeting day to the

29:15

best of your ability try to have meetings and tasks separate so if I'm in

29:21

meetings all day I could

29:23

focus on listening because despite every you know people want to say they're

29:28

great multitaskers the

29:30

reality is we we really aren't we do best for ourselves and for others when we

29:36

're present in the

29:37

moment and we're listening and we're focusing so separating that and then in

29:42

the scope of meetings

29:45

it can be easy to just talk and talk and talk don't let that meeting go without

29:51

having an

29:52

actionable takeaway and then you know and a time frame to follow up I think

29:58

that was that alone was

30:00

probably the single thing that multiplied results not just for me but for the

30:08

teams that I worked

30:10

with being the person on the call to say great point what's the takeaway and

30:15

then at the end of that

30:16

making sure that it's like okay who's owning this action what's the time frame

30:22

for this like

30:23

you know relationships are valuable but if you don't have that tactical

30:30

um clear ownership and time frame and action then you will not move the needle

30:39

and you'll

30:40

just keep having to have meetings we've all been there about the same thing and

30:43

it's like if if

30:45

everyone owns it nobody does so uh that would be my my single valuable most

30:52

valuable takeaway

30:54

I love it I've written about that before um you know people are busy if you don

30:59

't have a clear

30:59

next step they're you know good conversation probably but they move on to the

31:03

next one and then

31:05

they immediately forget because they don't know what they're doing when they

31:08

need to do it by how

31:09

much of a priority it is so I love that I uh the viewers or audio listeners may

31:15

not have seen me

31:16

nodding my head but it was I was like a bobblehead because I was like yep yep

31:20

this is this is it

31:21

that's one of the best things that you can do because that's going to move the

31:24

needle

31:25

Karina thank you so much for your time and your wisdom this was another episode

31:31

of the Howdy

31:32

Partners podcast and of course go implement the tactical takeaways from today

31:37

and we'll see you

31:38

on the next episode

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