Are global brand partners the key to international expansion?

Getting global partners to sell your product to their clients? It sounds too good to be true. 4 SaaS sales experts give us their view.

In June we staged our first Sales Confidence conference at HereEast, in London’s Olympic Park. We called it SaaSGrowth2018. We had over 200 SaaS professionals in the audience, watching more than 30 of London’s foremost SaaS experts share their knowledge. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our SaaSGrowth2018 articles series.

Enterprise questions

Our first panel discussion of the day was about successfully navigating, negotiating and selling to FTSE 100 and enterprise accounts. We had 4 terrific speakers share their tips, then afterwards we had a round of questions, moderated by Hannah Godfrey from Winning By Design. You can read what our speakers thought were the essential qualities of an enterprise salesperson here.

Our next question came from Roger Tomlinson of JC Chapman.

‘What is your view on building partnership programmes with recognised global brands to push your products out to their clients?’

Ben Kiziltug

Our first answer came from Ben Kiziltug. Ben is Regional Sales Director at Stack Overflow, the community for online developers to share their knowledge and build their careers.

Ben has some experience in this area. He told us how using global partners is effective when you’re expanding into an area where you have no previous relationships. However, this endorsement came with a warning.

‘The danger with it is that they will never be able to do as good a job as you can do of it. It’s quite scary to lose control of it.’

‘Consider it as a leg up, an opportunity to test your hypothesis. Is this something worth investing in? If it comes out positive, try to do as much of it as you can on your own.’

Tom Castley

Our next answer came from Tom Castley, RVP Account Management EMEA at Apptio, the IT business management organisation. Tom is a long-time friend of Sales Confidence and loves to shake things up with his views on the SaaS business.

Tom was even more positive on brand partnerships.

‘I’m always looking for it. I’m institutionally lazy. If there’s an easier way to do something, then I’m all over it!’

Tom echoed Ben’s warning with an analogy which may confuse the younger members of Sales Confidence nation. Ask your parents (or grandparents)!

‘It’s like in the Generation Game when they get the expert on to ice the cake. Then, the contestants have a go it looks like someone’s thrown up everywhere!’

There is a way around this, however.

‘Find simpler use cases. Time to value. If you don’t have a solution that has 2 or 3 months’ time to value, you can’t expect a partner to sell it. If it’s a slow burn, 2-year process, partners are not the way to go.’

Brendan Walsh

Next came Brendan Walsh. Brendan is VP at Zuora, the SaaS software creator powering the subscription economy.

Brendan pointed out that success using partners depends on the stage your company is at.

‘As an early-stage company, we prefer the direct sales model. We like to sell them, get them live, customer service. We like to bring them on that journey where we cross-sell and upsell.’

‘In the legacy world, I think the partnership model is perfect. You build your products, give it to your partner, they get a reseller discount and take it to market. You can see this evolving in the way partners such as Accenture and Deloitte are working on new solutions they can wrap around your services to take to their clients.’

Hannah Godfrey

Hannah, our moderator, has experience working with global partners as well.

‘It’s a delicate balance, especially if you’re selling through marketing or advertising agencies. Managing your partnerships in the right way is key. They require a lot of work.’

Over to you

We’ve heard from 4 experts. Now it’s your turn. Have you worked with global brand partners when expanding internationally? Was it effective? What did you do to ensure its success? Let us know in the comments below.

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