In this talk, Kelly Benish, Global VP of Strategic Partnerships at Uberall, will explore the importance of authenticity in fostering successful strategic partnerships and how relationship building goes beyond sales tactics or transactions.
Strategic partnerships are a cornerstone of success in today’s interconnected business landscape. It requires an authentic approach, one that focuses on building relationships founded on trust, value alignment, mutual investment, and strategy.
So, let’s dive in and discover how leading with authenticity can unlock the true potential of our partnerships.
[Transcript] Think About Strategic Partnerships Like A Pro
Although transcriptions are generally very accurate, just a friendly reminder that they could sometimes be incomplete or contain errors due to unclear audio or transcription inaccuracies.
We are back to live; the second session of the marketing track is next up, Kelly Benish, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Uberall. Kelly, excited to have you.
Thank you so much, Armando; it’s so good to meet you, and thank you all for attending. I really appreciate you being here.
Yes, and your hot take is, ‘Think About Strategic Partnerships Like A Pro.’
The floor is yours.
Thank you so, so much, Armando, and one fun fact about me is I’m actually one of a hundred and one top Partner Professionals in the Marketing Space for the United States, but my dogs could absolutely care less.
In fact, I am a very proud dog mom to a beautiful and perfect rescue dog named Foxy. She’s a bit older, and I’m also a mother of a young Dutch Shepherd puppy, which has more energy than a bag of weasels, basically. I’ve also asked them both to be quiet for this presentation, so I’m hoping that they have their active listening skills on today.
I’m the Global VP of Strategic Partnerships at a company called Uberall. We’re a SaaS technology platform, and we work with about 500 Partners globally. Some of my background, I’ve been in the industry for about 15 years; I’ve really trained, and also have been pitched by thousands of sales reps throughout different Strategic Partnerships organizations.
I worked on the SEO agency side, the Pure Play agency side, I worked for media startup consultancies, pretty much anything that you could think of, I’ve worked for them.
I used to change jobs a lot. I’ve been in my current role for about six years, and some of my main findings are around Partnerships and being really intuitive in order to be a pro, basically identifying and qualifying your partners effectively, but then spotting for pitfalls that will, in turn, potentially hinder your success, and then also building trust.
Sharing knowledge, teaching, guiding, and creating best practices, and aligning mutually so that your partners don’t have to go out there and hunt for this.
When we talk about relationship building in general, it’s not purely sales. It’s not simply about closing deals or driving sales. It’s really building those meaningful connections and creating long-term value by opening up the lines of communication, active listening, and really creating a personalized experience for your partner.
A lot of these partnerships are very research-intensive as well. It’s not a one-and-done transactional sales process that’s reserved for lower-cost and commoditized solutions. So after the initial qualification of prospective partners, which I like to use MEDDIC qualification for.
Once the needs are assessed, there’s a timeline, we’ve identified a budget, and it’s time to understand how things really work for your prospect on their side.
So, asking questions like, ‘Have you worked with other strategic Partners in an outsourced solution like mine in the past? How did that look like? What did it take? What resources from your side were needed?’ Understanding if you’re replacing a solution, why are you replacing that solution, and why are they choosing to stray from that solution?
Definitely take those learnings and learn from what they did wrong. A couple of assumptions can be made if they are working with a partner already for what you’re about to replace, so they’re already educated on what you’re doing, right? Now they just need a guide on how to replace that.
Also, understand if there are any risks or threats, specifically if you offer a solution. Are they thinking about building it versus buying it, for instance, strategic partnerships are many times introducing completely new business models right?
So there’s a lot at risk here. When I say educator and guide, you have to be both of those things to your partner, you need to help them identify best practices, go-to-market strategy, education and training for their teams, credentialing, marketing support, and more. You have to take your expertise that they’ve hired you for from your hat and put it into their head.
So this is where really developing your partner playbooks comes in handy and guides the partner with best practices in the industry specifically so that they don’t have to experience known pitfalls and can follow the best way forward.
These playbooks should always include all the success factors and criteria that they will surely need through the process, and your job is to really make it easy for them and do all of the hard work and heavy lifting on their behalf.
So it’s easy; it’s just to set it and forget it. They’re really engaging with you, much like it can consultancy, to lean on your expertise.
So many times, this is going to require you to wear many hats, seek advice from industry friends or existing Partners even build that expertise.
The purpose and goals of the partner playbook are really the partner program overview, the benefits, the partner onboarding process, partner enablement, joint business planning, partner relationship management, marketing and co-marketing, sales collaboration, support and escalation, performance measurement, and reporting.
Relationship building and strategic Partnerships is not a pitch, it’s a mutual alignment. You’ve already agreed that they have a need, and you can potentially fill it, so now it’s just looking at the path forward on how to do that.
Map the path effectively and always provide a thoughtful approach, so exercise empathy, accessibility, always be there if they need something and already have the answer, or seek the answer from others that have done it before.
A lot of times, in strategic partnerships, it’s building the plane while flying it, so make sure that your plane has a sturdy kit that you can build from. Understand their needs, their challenges, and their aspirations, but most importantly, actively listen to what they need.
What I often put forth is a mutual investment. So, understanding what are the goals and stretch goals for the revenue and the partner. Agree on mutual daily activities that need to be accomplished from both ends to hit these and during the sales process create an onboarding plan.
This is something that you build together, and then you assign tasks to one another to make sure the momentum and responsibilities in the relationship are completely mutual. Learn who your stakeholders are on their team and get them involved early on.
An evergreen problem that I face in partnerships is a lack of development support and integrations, for instance. So, understand, basically, how they are going to integrate with you early on and make it personal.
Ask them for a reverse demo of their platform to better understand how they work and what’s valuable to them. Take a look at the metrics that they measure and overall what’s needed to create a view of success around the project.
Understand who your stakeholders are on their side; who’s going to project manage the integration? Basically, how do they work? What’s their view of success around this project, and how are they going to Market it?
The biggest point with the mutual investment plan of action or the onboarding plan, is to hold them accountable, and this is also a great way for you to overall assess their interest in moving forward. Their level of engagement and commitment to the partnership.
This also usually sets the tone moving forward from day one, and you can get a good understanding during this process if they’re likely to be a good partner and pitch in and make you successful in helping them expand upon that partnership.
So you then equip your post-sales team with all the information they need to be successful, and it’s a seamless handover; it’s all there, and it’s already been agreed upon.
The other major point here is to map out timelines and, milestones, other success criteria. If you’re rolling out in a pilot mode, for instance, first, before moving into that partnership, make sure your marketing team is involved, and they can help you create case studies.
Sometimes to create that case study, it also involves that partnership’s data if they are a POS system and they have transactional data or Roi data, pull that in.
The other thing that you should do is really create those deep partner profiles for your partners. This will be your IPP, your ideal partner profile. Understand what their ideal customer profile is and how you can help them get more customers. How they sell, what they sell, how much support is in their Network, and then understand also who they’re hiring and any recent news about the company.
I have a partner network, for instance, that I’ve built over the last 15 years, and I look for opportunities to introduce these partners to one another based on the solutions that they offer.
Strategic Partnerships are always about problem-solving and creating value and opportunity. Also, think about it like an interview: What characteristics are you looking for in a new partner? Get to know them through a specific line of questions. What skills do you want them to have? Take into account the value of your time also.
Strategic partnerships many times require longer sales cycles, which can take months to years. So when you think about it, really regarding the justification of your time, one of the obstacles that we face these days is not many opportunities to get in front of at conferences.
So go to meet them, go to their town or city and suggest a two-day meeting or a one-day meeting or a lunch or a dinner to start and couple that with meeting other partners.
Tell them when they’re not being fair, be bold and share openly with them, also be vulnerable. One of the best team-building exercises or activities I have with partners is karaoke; it really allows your partner to let their guard down and be vulnerable in front of you.
It’s almost a trauma bond, especially if they haven’t done karaoke before, but it instantly makes you feel more comfortable around one another. Always ask for feedback about the relationship, always ask them what could have been done differently during the sales process, during the onboarding process, and really be intuitive.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to lose sometimes; in being vulnerable, acknowledge that winning all the time is not realistic. Sometimes, your partners will be a good fit for another platform out there or another partner and make that recommendation because as much as partnerships are strategic alignment, they’re really a joint business venture.
So you have to put your entrepreneurial hat on and make sure that there is as much of a good fit for you as you are for them. And any questions?
Hot Takes Live
Catch the replay of Hot Takes Live, where 30 of the top SaaS leaders across Marketing, Sales, and RevOps revealed some of their most unpopular opinions about their niche.
These leaders shared what lessons they learned and how they disrupted their industry by going against the grain (and achieved better results in the process).
Love it, Kelly. Thank you so much for that. I think there are three things that stuck out to me specifically, which I particularly loved.
Number one, I think it’s a joint theme between you and the team from the previous session, and I’m guessing we’re gonna hear more about that throughout the day, but this idea of understanding the things that they care about.
Understand what they’re trying to achieve. It’s like instead of being ‘me, me, me.’ ‘Us, Us, Us.’ It should be ‘You, You, You.’ Right? Like that’s where most of your time investment should go.
That’s the first thing, and then the second thing is this idea; it’s funny because most people kind of throw it out there, like, ‘Oh, let’s do a partnership,’ like it’s the easy solution for some of the biggest problems that they have and it doesn’t work like that. Right?
But, at the same time, it’s one of those situations where you should know the proverbial one plus one equals three. Right? It’s that idea that, if there is a joint alignment and an actual complementarity, then lots of interesting things can happen with the proper investment and time.
That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right, and a lot of these strategic partnerships are millions of dollars of investment. People’s jobs are on the line, and it’s a joint business venture, like I said. You know helping them map things out, making it really easy for them so they don’t have to go hunting for these answers.
Right, and also, they take a lot of time. On average, what would you say a well-thought, well-executed partnership plan takes?
That’s such a good question! So it’s taken me, on the lower end, six to nine months to put in place some of these strategic partnerships. My longest partnership sales cycle was 3.5 years, and you know what? They’re a partner for life.
So wherever I go, they come with me, and that’s the other thing about relationship building. It’s with the person, not the company. Right, so it’s really important to keep that in mind.
Yeah, speaking of, would you always recommend the ‘proof of concept’?
I love a ‘proof of concept.’ I would say that’s more for companies that are onboarding you for the first time; they haven’t worked with a company like yours, where you need to demonstrate the value.
A lot of times, you can show proof of concept through other partners that look like them, which is really important to have those ideal partner profiles built out and all of your data in one place so that you can create meaningful case studies for them.
Right, so Tory says, ‘Karaoke as a Trauma Bond has me rolling,’’ and I think lots of people. And one question from Vincent, which is very active question-wise, thank you for that: What are your favorite words/code approaches to initiating introductions for partnership if no prior engagement was had?
Oh yeah, so in that deep partner profile, and also, I have an email address for my BDR; if anyone has any questions, you can find me on LinkedIn, too if you have any questions about this.
I can send you sort of a template of how I initiate those introductions, but basically, I keep relevant, like in Google Docs, I keep relevant details about my partners and what they’re looking for.
I align with my partner experience team when they’re doing QBRs with these partners to understand what their future roadmap is as well, and it’s basically just listening to them and finding out what they need, right? Good Revenue ideas, good growth ideas.
So, I’ll reach out to them. First, I’ll outline the value of said partner that I want to introduce them to and how much integration time it would take for them.
Basically, map out a mini RFP for them, answer their top questions ahead of time, and ask them if they would like an introduction because as much as I want to make that introduction for them, I want to be respectful of their time and prioritization.
Then, once they give me the go-ahead, I will come back and make the introduction, and typically, it’s a lasting partnership. Whether it’s sharing ideas, too, on how to do things better or an actual integration, they’ll come back with feedback to me, so I appreciate that.
Yeah, because I think they were double-clicking on that proof of concept versus a structured way of having a partnership conversation. My hunch is that what most people underestimate is, essentially, back to your statement about being joint businesses or business initiatives. You’re essentially building a joint business case.
There is a go-to-market element to it, there is a strategic element to it, but there is also an engineering product element to it, there is a sales support marketing element to it, and there are a lot of moving parts.
Exactly, exactly, and you know, helping them map that out, how it’s going to look, what the experience is going to be like for their customers, they want to test drive that even if it’s conversational before they launch it.
Yeah, and just in general, I am guessing that you would recommend using that broader, higher-level initial conversation as a way to explore the opportunity as well as online on the outcome, like the potential outcome that you might be looking for.
Exactly, and you want to vet them just like an interview, right? If you’re interviewing with a company, you want to make sure that it has good leadership, it’s got a good direction, it’s the right role for you, and so a lot of times it’s asking them really hard questions early on.
Like, ‘Have you deployed something like this before?’ and ‘Why are you replacing it?’ or, ‘What failed in the past?’ or, ‘What is this solving for?’ but being completely transparent from moment one and testing the waters on that.
Yeah, that’s what I was thinking as well. Right? Like an easy way to start the conversation is just having a conversation with a partnership person and asking, ‘Hey, is like we’re thinking this’.
‘How does that sound? Is that even interesting? Does that resonate with you guys? Is that along the lines of what you have been thinking on your end?’
Exactly, exactly, and this is what they really need. So, a lot of times when I have those conversations, it’s not us. They needed something else, and I’ll make a recommendation from my network, and I’ll sync them up, and there we saved six to nine months of time.
Right, yeah, because on the other end, it’s not only their investment, but it’s your own investment. Like internally, you’re gonna have to chase people and make sure that they are allocating you time for this to happen on your side, right?
Exactly right, exactly right.
Alright, Kelly, thank you so much. This was awesome.