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Partner Sales with James Urie from Close
Partner sales are a powerful way to scale your go to market efforts. James Urie, senior partnerships manager at Close, joins the Pipeline Meeting podcast to talk their affiliate, expert, and integration programs, and all things partner sales.
Where marketers come to talk about sales. For heads of marketing and founders who support a sales team. 15-minute interviews with go to market experts published every Monday morning.
James' partner sales responsibilities run the gamut, from identifying partners and to co-marketing and helping them succeed. He shares his insights building this program, including:
- Ways to partner: Close offers three distinct partner programs: Affiliates, experts, and integrations. James walks through how each works and how they are incentivizing and engaging growth levers that were previously underutilized.
- Integrations: This is a hot topic and an increasingly important one in the SaaS (software as a service) world. James shares an example of their partnership with QuotaPath, how they identified the opportunity, executed on it, and how it's going. (Hint: It's going well!)
- Incentives: Several times in our conversation James talks about incentivizing partners and how financial motivation is an important part of the equation for partner sales... But it's not the only one. Sales support and training is another important consideration.
- Complementing vs. Competing: One area we explore is that it looks like to have a complementary partner sales relationship versus a competitive one. Product roadmap, customer base, and other factors come into play.
- One to Many: When it comes to integrations, if you build one, chances are you are going to build another. So how do you know where to start? And how does that affect your sales and go to market motions?
Welcome to Pipeline Meeting, where marketers come to talk about sales. Whether you're the head of marketing or a founder who's supporting your first sales hire, we'll talk about qualifying your inbound leads and finding new ones with cold outreach. Learn more at introcrm.com/podcast.
[00:00:20] Harris Kenny: Today we have James Urie who runs partnerships for Close. James wears a lot of hats, that includes co-marketing. Bringing on new partners, helping them go to market.
[00:00:29] Who does Close partner with, and does that ecosystem look like?
[00:00:33] James Urie: The way that I think about partnerships just in general at a high level, like a synonymous term would be synergy, right? Whether that's affiliates, integration partners, experts that have synergy with what you do as a product. Us being Close.
[00:00:48] We've been very heavy on the affiliate program, to begin this.
[00:00:52] We had a number of sales agencies, sales consultants, that were already using our tool, but at no advantage.
[00:01:02] They weren't getting commissioned on any of the folks they were sending us. They didn't have a dedicated resource for someone to talk strategy. It was a no brainer to initially go in and start to stoke the fire on those relationships a little bit more.
[00:01:15] Incentivize them and pay them, give 'em another stream of revenue in their business to continue to be a Close customer. Continue to bring new customers to Close and build their process around Close.
[00:01:27] We gave that a lot of love initially, started curating these relationships with these sales consultants and giving them more resources and building these relationships and helping them be more successful, helping their clients be more successful.
[00:01:39] That naturally evolved to, to experts, right?
[00:01:41] So these discovered folks living in the ecosystem of Close that were just total gurus. They really understood what they were doing when they set up not only Close, but a lot of automation around Close, getting tools to communicate with clothes and building tech docs on behalf of their, their clients.
[00:01:58] And so it made sense to naturally evolve in that direction and create an experts page and give our partners even more love. Hopefully we can send them some new business by people just organically visiting that experts page on our website.
[00:02:11] Or, our success team or our sales team saying, Hey, you know, we, we have Michael over at Alice, who is just an amazing engineer that can help you do X, Y, and Z.
[00:02:21] Harris over at Intro who can help you manage that inbound sales funnel, outbound sales. It's really nice to have these partners to point to when we have leads asking.
[00:02:32] Harris Kenny: The first example affiliates, that's a content partnership essentially, where you're finding a like-minded company who, there's some overlap or some connection between what you talk about online or what service you deliver or whatever, and what this tool is, right?
[00:02:46] James Urie: It's that and it's also just raving fans of Close. People that tell their network about it all the time, they can still get paid. It's also the sales consultants, sales agencies, that are referring these people, referring their clients, and they're also getting paid from that affiliate revenue.
[00:03:02] Harris Kenny: What are like integrations and how does that work?
[00:03:04] James Urie: Integration partners. That's been like more of a priority for us. And that's where, again, the term synergy is huge. We're a sales CRM and we're a specialty tool. We don't do everything. We're not an end to end solution.
[00:03:18] We rely on other tools that live within our sales ecosystem to play well with. And we wanna make that easy for folks that use Close to integrate with these other types of platform that have synergy with Close.
[00:03:32] This could be a Quota Path, where you're tracking commissions, goals, these types of things. That is extremely synergetic with what we do.
[00:03:41] And so that would be one example where we went out and we approached them and we built a really high quality integration together.
[00:03:49] And now what that partnership looks like in practice is I'm gonna train my sales and success team on it. We're gonna get on a call with Quota Path.
[00:03:57] They're gonna kind of run us through a demo, do some Q and A. Talk about, Okay, great. When someone's interested, how do we put them in touch to you? What's the best channel to get them to you? And then you can even offer perks. Like some companies will say, Hey, for every person that you refer to us and there's a meeting booked, we'll give that sales rep or that success rep.
[00:04:15] 50 bucks, a hundred bucks, a gift card just to in incentivize them, which is not always necessary. Some teams like to offer those perks just to really incentivize folks to recommend them.
[00:04:25] We build the integration really well, thought out, integration with a partner. Then we train our team on it.
[00:04:32] We train their team on Close, and then sometimes there's perks involved. And then we're just trading leads.
[00:04:39] Harris Kenny: If I'm thinking about integrating with another tool and there's someone like you, James Head of Partnerships, who's sitting on the other side of the fence at the company, whose product I'm interested in working with, when should I start building, when should I reach out?
[00:04:52] How do you think about that dance of execution versus planning and strategy?
[00:04:58] James Urie: I think if you're gonna build an integration with another platform, it makes sense to approach the partnerships manager out of the gate. Because you might be building an integration for one, one person who has this really weird use case. And then you build this integration and no one else can use it.
[00:05:14] I would get on the same page with the, with the partnerships manager and ask them, this is what we do, we're gonna build an integration. This is how we're gonna build the integration for this person, or this is how we're thinking about it. Get their perspective on your initial thoughts on building it, and then ask them about patterns and trends they see and where they can fit more of a customer need for them.
[00:05:34] Then you're solving a problem for their customer base, and then it's natural for their sales and support team when they come up against that. Well, do you integrate with this or do you do that? No, we don't. But we have an integrations partner. They do it really well. This is how they do it.
[00:05:49] By the way, you're gonna get a 25% discount by being referred through us. I would approach the, the partnerships manager and sort of get on the same page and try and find a good common ground where you can collaborate and work together.
[00:06:01] You're gonna have far more production in terms of leads getting thrown over the fence.
[00:06:07] Harris Kenny: Close is an interesting integration partner, or company to integrate with, because you do have a lane that you operate in.
[00:06:16] It sounds like there's benefits potentially in starting with a focused provider like Close 'cause you can say, this is Close's opinion on the market, this is therefore their product roadmap. Therefore there's things they are very unlikely to do.
[00:06:29] I can just come in and do that thing and ride alongside them and, and not worry that they're gonna announce this as a new feature and kill my company immediately.
[00:06:37] James Urie: Exactly. Exactly. And there have been folks where they've approached me where they are considering building an integration or in the process. I've had to be honest with them, we're gonna have that in the product in the next year. I don't want you to waste time and energy on something that, you know, might eventually push you out of the product later down the line and you come and you acquire these customers and then you get pushed out.
[00:06:59] I've definitely told people no. And I think that is the duty of a partnership manager to tell people, no, you don't want them to waste two weeks, you know, building an integration if you don't feel like there's gonna be enough value.
[00:07:12] Harris Kenny: You mentioned before, Mike at Alice, alice.dev, what they're doing is they're working with legacy data from old systems, old proprietary discontinued systems. There's just not a universe in which Close is gonna put engineering resources towards that.
[00:07:26] James Urie: Never.
[00:07:27] Harris Kenny: I do think that there's something about realizing that if you do one integration, you'll probably do multiple and it probably makes sense to start with one that you feel like you can start without doing too much work.
[00:07:38] Do you agree with that?
[00:07:39] James Urie: Yeah, a hundred percent I do. I would go quality over. You know, quantity every time on an integration. Anything really, in my opinion. I think you go out and you find, you know, not every API's created equally either, right?
[00:07:51] You go out and you try and build this integration and you're like, You might hit a bunch of roadblocks and not be able to execute it in a fashion that you were hoping to.
[00:07:58] Find high quality integrations that you could build first, where you feel like there's gonna be that synergy and you can pass leads off to one another.
[00:08:05] And then if you can build, you know, a stack of tools around your tool or incorporate your tool around something else. In a really high quality fashion, and you have lower volume, then it gives, if you're doing, you know, the sales as a founder or you have a sales team, you're doing the sales, then you have all this in your back pocket.
[00:08:26] You can recommend an entire tech stack and people love recommendations, especially when there's a no code seamless integration. So go out and build those high quality integrations around your tool and then train your sales team on them and then go out and try and train their sales team on the integration with you.
[00:08:41] Harris Kenny: How do you deal with these questions that people have, maybe they don't realize what your product does, right? They come in from the outside and they say, Oh, I need this, this, this, this, this, that of Close.
[00:08:51] And you talk to 'em and it turns out they only needed two things and you already do both of 'em, and they didn't realize it. How do you, as this partnerships, but also salesperson, articulate that stuff when people come in with these sort of imaginary requirements that don't matter.
[00:09:04] James Urie: I think that's on the salesperson, to be able to communicate as an expert. And you gotta make, you gotta be able to make recommendations, and also sometimes tell people what they don't want to hear.
[00:09:14] Sometimes people are trying to really fudge integrations that don't matter. You gotta push back and instead of being like, yeah, you can do that via Zapier, or, you can leverage our API, like, why do you need that?
[00:09:26] What value does it add to your business? Because there are like really soft integrations that, like, I don't see a real purpose here.
[00:09:34] I think it's on, on the salesperson to speak to that person as an expert.
[00:09:39] Ask questions, dig a bit deeper, and then once they have a, a much clearer picture of their end goal, then make integration recommendations. And then also make sure that you address all the, we've already got this natively, you don't need to worry about that at all.
[00:09:53] Harris Kenny: Yep. Yep.
[00:09:54] If someone wants to subscribe to the James Urie show, whether it's your podcast, your LinkedIn, where can people find you to learn more about how you think about sales.
[00:10:03] James Urie: Connect with me on LinkedIn, James Urie, U R I E. You can follow Close on LinkedIn as well. You can subscribe to our newsletter that will surface any of the podcasts that we publish as well. And then if you have any sort of just specific questions like, feel free to fire at me at email@example.com.
That's all for now. You can find show notes at introcrm.com/podcast. The theme music for Pipeline Meeting is by Neighbourhood Vandal and it's shared under a Creative Commons-Attribution, or CC-BY, license. If you learned something, consider sharing this show with a friend. Thanks.