The Partnered Podcast

058: Co-selling Effectively with Marne Reed

Episode Summary

Welcome to The Partnered Podcast Episode 058 with Marne Reed, Chief Evangelist of Brand Experiences at PFL.com. Enjoy!

Episode Notes

Join host Adam Michalski as he interviews Marne Reed, Chief Evangelist of Brand Experiences at PFL.com.

Marne and Adam discuss best practices on leveraging your partner ecosystem in your sales motion - strategies, how to ensure reciprocity, and more. 

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Episode Transcription

Welcome to The Partnered Podcast! The podcast where we interview c-level enterprise partnership leaders from the world's best SaaS companies. The goal is to give you an inside view on how leading organizations drive the most partner sourced and influenced revenue out of channel sales, partnerships, and alliances. 

The Partnered Podcast is brought to you by Partnership Leaders, the community where the best in partnerships, channel, and ecosystems come together to share knowledge, network, and grow their programs. Apply to join the conversation at PartnershipLeaders.com. 

We're also sponsored by Partnered.io, the leading tool for managing and measuring SaaS partnership sales. Partnered.io helps you make more revenue from your existing partnerships. If you're using Salesforce & Slack, check out Partnered.io to get started today!

Adam Michalski: Welcome back to The Partnered Podcast! Super pumped to have Marne Reed on today, Chief Evangelist of Brand Experiences at PFL. And Marne, just to kick things off, can you tell us a little bit about your professional background and how you got into partnerships?

Marne Reed: [00:01:13] Absolutely. So it's a little crazy a journey that I've had over here at PFL.

So I've actually been with the company for just over 19 years. And I have had a cool opportunity to stand up multiple departments at PFL everything from human resources to finance. I actually took over our software developer team over about 2010, I think, and ran that for four years which was very eyeopening for me to come from the operation side and to get into the more technical side.

And in 2014 we started developing software that was externally facing. So. Marketing and sales software solutions for our own customers. And definitely came to light probably earlier than that. But realizing that that level of technical depth was not really where I wanted my own career to go.

So one of my developers at one point in time said here, read this book about API APIs. And I think that's when I was like, yep, I'm need to find my replacement. So. Had the cool opportunity to replace myself in that role. And didn't really know at that point, what was going to happen? I didn't know what role I was going to play next in the company, but you know, when we started developing out these marketing and sales solutions, it really came to light that we needed to have a partner strategy.

And so I had the great fortune of then kicking off our partner program at that point. 

Adam Michalski: [00:02:28] Awesome. Awesome. So yeah, obviously you've done a little bit of everything, which I think is awesome and I mean, really helpful when it comes to partnerships. So excited to loop back around on that. But before we go any further, I guess, for our listeners, can you share a little bit about like what PFL is and the problems that your solution specifically.

Marne Reed: [00:02:45] Yeah, absolutely. So I'm going to start with a problem because I think it will frame up who we are and what we do. If you think about what's going on in the world today, it's getting harder and harder to really earn the attention of your prospects and your customers. The world has just become like super distracted.

If you think about digital marketing, it's just exploded. And I read an article a couple, maybe a month or so ago where Microsoft. Work trends sends out a, a report that showed that email delivery was up by 40.6 billion year over year. So I don't know about you, Adam, but my inbox was a nightmare a year ago, but now it's gotten to the point where it's just completely out of control.

So the challenge that marketers have right now is, is they're doing all of this digital marketing. That's really kind of falling on deaf ears. And so they can't get that attention. So what we do at PFL is we're taking the best of the digital experience and matching that with the authenticity and the impact of automating and orchestrating direct mail.

And we call this the hybrid experience. And really what it does is it works seamlessly with our customer's tech stack that they're currently in. So their CRM and the marketing automation platforms that they're working in today. 

Adam Michalski: [00:03:54] Very cool. Very cool. And yeah, I think, I mean that status staggering, and I think, I mean, especially with COVID and everything that came along with that, like over the past year, I feel like, I mean, there were.

Very few ways for brands to get in touch with consumers. So I've definitely experienced it firsthand just in terms of all the different emails, but yeah. Solutions such as yours, I think really can help, you know, folks differentiate from the crowd. So very cool. So I think one of the things that we had kind of discussed when you and I first sinked up was just the impact that partnerships can have on sales.

So I really want to dive in a little bit deeper there and just kind of get your, you know, like, I guess we could start with co-selling. When you think about co-selling like, how do you think about leveraging your partner ecosystem and sales? And more specifically, are there any like specific sales strategies that you've deployed, you know, at PFL that have been particularly successful?

Marne Reed: [00:04:43] You know, when you look at partnerships, it's really critical that when you start developing out your relationships with your partners, it's just making sure that you understand that there needs to be equal value in and equal value out. And so I'm really explicit with my own internal teams on why we do.

And it's kind of based on the whole idea of reciprocity. And so obviously if I'm providing information on an account to you it's going to be a lot easier for me to come to you and to say, Hey, you've got an account that I'd love to be able to brainstorm some ideas on how we can Cosell or just even kind of create like a joint sales strategy.

So it's very much a you scratch my back. I'll scratch yours. But I think there's also, obviously in, in our ecosystem, it's the whole better together story. Like how do you co-create that? And really evangelize that. And that's where it kind of, my cookie title comes in is just making sure that we're evangelizing that both internally and externally.

So, and we're always looking for ways to kind of reinforce each other's value and we all know that our customers are already using all of these other solutions. And so trying to map that out and figure out what solutions they're actually using. And then. We're pulling those teams together to say, okay, how do we have a better understanding of how our solutions kind of snapped together?

Because that's, our customers are expecting that out of us. And so there's a lot of there's a lot of work when you're in partnerships to facilitate both internally and externally. So that's kind of what I always tell people when they join my team is you're going to be a facilitator and you're going to be doing a lot of internal and external enablement.

So what we do at PFL is we're developing out target account plans and really spelling out that partner opportunity in those plans. So I'm working very closely with our AEs our sales leadership, but also our existing accounts. And so, you know, they have a little form that they fill out on each one of their Account plans.

And there's a partner section that is required to be filled out. So it's a little bit of a force. But I'm coming alongside them and helping them understand, like how do partners fit into this account? Like, what does it look like together? So I'll give an example really quick of, of one that we did recently, where our CSM actually came to me and she said, you know, I've got this account that is pretty.

Maybe not low on our maturity scale, but was down there. So they hadn't fully adopted our solution and really took the most benefit out of us, which is always a little concerning because those accounts become red flags. And she said, I also can see, so we use a solution where we can actually do the account mapping.

And so she said, I can see that this customer is a customer of a partner. And I said, that's great. So we brought our two CSMs together and what we identified. That customer had low adoption of both of our solutions. And there was a lot of opportunity to map out for the customer to be able to say, here's where you're at right now in your marketing maturity or your marketing journey.

And then we actually showed them kind of that crawl walk, run step to getting more out of both of our solutions. Really the challenge for a lot of marketers now is, is they'll adopt a solution, but not fully take advantage of all of the features and benefits. They kind of do like a 20%. And so we leverage our partners to just identify what that looks like.

And then in this particular case, we actually co-created a presentation. We both brought our contacts to the meeting, which was actually different divisions, which I thought was really cool because it expanded the conversation greatly for both of us. And that customer walked away feeling really grateful that they had that level of relationship with both of these partners and both of these solutions because it showed that we actually care about.

Them continuing to grow in their own marketing maturity. So I think that was kind of a fun example for us. And, and then obviously what that does is that one CSM sees success and then she evangelize that within her teams. And then you just get more of the same. 

Adam Michalski: [00:08:35] I love that. Yeah. I think, I feel like that's a great use case.

And also like, I mean, Based upon the conversation that you abide you and I have had like you're very, like, I think your organization's very sophisticated in the way you kind of think about like the co-selling motion. And there's a lot of stuff, you know, just in that earlier statement that I want to unpack.

And I think the first one would be the reciprocity, you know? So when you think about like, I think that's something that. Is a little bit swimming upstream for most salespeople, because it's always me, me, me, you know, like how can I go ahead and be like hitting my quota? So how do you, what are the best practices that you've seen in terms of making sure that when your sellers are connecting with your partners, they are focusing on the reciprocity and they are making sure that, you know, not only are they extracting value, but they're also delivering value.

Marne Reed: [00:09:21] And that's, I would say early stage, it took a lot of hand-holding on my part to make that happen. So it doesn't just walk on its own. I would love it if it did, but it was a lot of me participating in the entire sales motion to go, oh, here's an opportunity. Like I'd have to really point that out. What I found is as if I had one sales rep that I can use as my champion and actually showcase that this sales rep is actually getting.

Bigger deals certainly more on the enterprise level. And then once he established that relationship with the other partner person the other sales rep, then they start to look at what other accounts look like. This one account that, that we worked on. And what I found is, is because sales rep tends tends to be very competitive.

When I was putting my focus on just one sale, In the beginning, then I had other sales reps saying, well, I want, how do I get in on this action? And so, and then the sales rep was helping evangelize that again, internally. Emphasize that enough, you have to find your champions that will help reinforce because if it's coming directly from another sales rep, you have a much better chance of having them understand the value.

Yeah. 

Adam Michalski: [00:10:33] That's such, such a good point. And I think like, I mean, at the end of the day, it's like, I, I feel like you've done a great job of thinking through. Not only, okay, why is this important? Why should we be doing this in the first place? You know, like the end benefits, but like pushing along all the different steps and actually bringing that to fruition, because just saying, yeah, of course we should be going out there and leveraging the partner ecosystem and deals is one thing, but actually enablement going through, making sure that they understand which partners can be helpful on which deals, you know, actually connecting them explaining what they should be doing in those conversations.

All of these things are areas in which. You know, the conversations could very easily fall apart or go astray. And I think that's one thing that like you've been very meticulous about is just making sure that like that entire, you know, funnel if you will, is very smooth. And then as you know, one salesperson goes through that funnel, they start to see success.

Everyone else is like, oh wait, like this seems to be working. Hey, now I want it. 

Marne Reed: [00:11:29] Has to be there is that there needs to be the structure. So there has to be processed that you put in place. So like I said, the account development tool that we have, you need to infuse that partner component into it. Even in our own Salesforce instance, we have partners sections that are required, you know, there's certain required fields.

And I think that that forces the motion, but then you have to be the person who's telling the story behind the scenes of like, why is this important? Why are we doing this? Definitely makes a big difference. Awesome. 

Adam Michalski: [00:11:58] And let's focus a couple of minutes here on enablement, because I think that's another piece of what you mentioned earlier in terms of that entire funnel.

That's, that's critically important. And let's start from the top. I think that one thing that that's interesting and I've seen it at organizations that I've been at is. Getting the sellers to understand the partner ecosystem and how all of those tools play together is a pretty Herculean task. When you think about it, because for a lot of enterprise sales, I mean, it might take them six months, if not longer to understand.

You know, your solution does forget about how it plays within the broader ecosystem. So let's spend a couple of minutes here because I think you had some interesting thoughts around this, on how you actually get the sales org to understand the broader picture and how they're to, or your tool, your company's tool plays within that broader ecosystem.

Marne Reed: [00:12:48] My goal has always been, I want our sales reps. More competent about the marketing technology landscape because that's going to ultimately help them sell if, because we're selling to marketers. And so we need to understand where's marketing, living, what are the tools that they're using. And so one of the things that I created was a template.

The majority of our customers are B2B SAS. So if you take that B2B buyer's journey, which we all know what that looks like what I've done is I've templatized it so that I can snap in for this particular target account that we're going after. These are the technologies that we know that they're using in order to market and sell to their own client base.

And from there, as I'm working with my partners, I'm creating that joint use case with them so that when you take that. B2B buyer's journey. We can say, okay, here's the different solutions that you're using at different stages of the journey or multiple. And then here's how these things snapped together.

And so, you know, it is very much a co-creation with my select partners that I use to say, this is how PFL and drift work together. Both. Team standpoint, but also from a technical standpoint. And I found that once I do that a few times with these reps, they start to do the lookalikes. Like I know this account looks like this account and they're probably using a similar tech stack and obviously they want to sound good on the phone.

They want to sound competent. And so, you know, that is that enablement component. I think that just helps them understand, like if you're using PFL and follows, here's how. These two things fit together from a data flow standpoint, from a technical standpoint, from an end user standpoint. And then that helps our A's just sell better.

Adam Michalski: [00:14:34] I think that's fascinating because I think that that's something that is a very, very difficult thing to get. Right. But if you can get that right, it's going to be helpful, not only for the sellers, because then they come across as experts that come across as more like consultated. Always going to treat them well in the sales cycle.

But the more cognizant that they are of the entire ecosystem, you know, I think the better that they are going to play within that ecosystem when it comes to working with partners as well. So I think that that's a critical enablement piece that's often overlooked. But again, like, you know, you've thought through all of the, all of the pieces of this journey.

So it's been really interesting to kind of get that best practice as well. Let's switch gears a little bit to a co mark. So I know that's another piece that we kind of discussed. I wanted to get your thoughts on like, you know, what are the best practices that you've seen work very well from like a co-marketing perspective or even, you know, frankly on the converse side, like what are the pitfalls, you know, that, that people should 

Marne Reed: [00:15:25] be avoiding having done this for seven years, I've done a lot of both.

I think the, in the beginning stages, I thought anybody who wanted to partner with me, that was a good thing, you know, and what I. Realize is you really need to curate who you're going to partner with. One of the ways that I do that is, you know, getting very clear on this partner, what is their ICP?

What are the personas that they're selling into? And then matching that against my own to see, you know, is a marketing effort actually gonna bear fruit for us. So I had a, a former partner moved to another organization. He reached back out and said, Marnie, I loved working with them. Spin up a new partnership and first phone call.

And he, it turns out that they sell into the head of sales. We don't sell into the head of sales. We sell into the head of marketing. And so our audience was too far apart for it to make sense for us to do any kind of co-marketing initiatives. So I think that's kind of just step one, which is the hygiene of understanding.

What does our audience look like? Do they match up even down to audience size? You know, there are companies who they have a very small account base. And so that doesn't really make sense for me to put the level of effort into some type of co-marketing initiative. So I think step one, the other piece, I would say, and I think this is critical for all components of partnerships is just put things in black and white.

It's either you're having a contract between the two of you. And so from a marketing standpoint, You know, I, in our marketing, we develop out like, here's kind of the framework for the 12 next 12 months. How many webinars are we going to do? How many events are we going to do? And then I'm actually tasked with going and finding partners to join those opportunities.

We have found that anytime we do any type of marketing with our partners and actually we have a much higher conversion rate because of that better together story. So when I reach out to a partner to say, Hey, we've got a webinar coming up in August. You know, a, can we find a joint customer success story where we can weave the story together?

And then B making sure that we're committing to certain activities. So I get down to how many registrants are you going to drive? What is your social which kind of like your launch plan look like how many emails are you going to send out? What's your social posts look like? And then obviously I have to do the same.

So it's very much a granular commitment level for each other. And then the other piece that I look at is do they actually have the resources, the marketing resources to also pull this together. So there's nothing more frustrating when you've made a commitment to pull off an event. And it turns out that they don't have the internal resources to actually stand it up.

And so it falls on my team's shoulder, which I can tell you from a partner perspective, if I'm burdened my marketing, Or my sales team that doesn't, that's really not going to go well for me, because when I come back around to make another ass, they're basically going to say, well, it didn't work last time, Marty.

So why do you think it's going to work this time? So I have to be very careful about making sure that whoever I'm bringing to the table is really good. Execute. How do you check 

Adam Michalski: [00:18:24] a that's? I mean, quick question, like how do you actually check to see if they have those resources? You check LinkedIn to see how many marketing folks they have or 

Marne Reed: [00:18:32] based off of just good faith.

I mean, it's, we just have enough conversation to say, Hey, are you going to be, you know, if we have the plan in place, like a good marketing plan in place for an event or whatever, it's just, it's, it's having that open conversation. I'm sure. I'm the type of individual that I'm very straightforward. I'm not afraid to ask questions.

I'm not afraid to hold people accountable. And I've had to do that certainly with partners and, and I'm, you know, I do it with empathy. I've had, you know, one particular partner. I can remember that. We said, yes, we're going to be able to do this. And it felt completely short on their part. And I just said, listen, until I can be confident that you're going to be able to pull this off co-marketing is off the table.

We can do these other activities over here. But until we know that you've got a more robust resources in your marketing department, we're just going to table that for now. 

Adam Michalski: [00:19:21] Yeah, I love that because I think, I mean, like what's great is you put everything upfront, you know, actually write it out into, you know, essentially a contract.

And then, and at that point there's no ambiguity, you know, and I think that a lot of folks, you know, would skip that step. And then all of a sudden you're in an area where, you know, nobody understands what the expectations are, are you might've agreed on something, but then two people walk out of that conversation thinking two different things, you know, and the benefit is just putting it down on paper and making sure that everyone signs off.

Marne Reed: [00:19:49] Agreed. Yeah, I think that's my human resources background. It's a lot easier for me to hold employees accountable when we have basically our standards of conduct our values all in black and white, because then all I have to do is just point back to him to say, Hey Adam, like, this is what we've agreed to, and this is what you're doing.

That doesn't match up with that. And so the partnerships kind of play a little bit of that stuff. Path. And and honestly, I think when you have those challenging conversations with your partner, it actually develops the relationship out more. I mean, conflict. Build relationships as long as you're willing to commit to getting through that conflict.

And so some of my best partnerships, we've had tough conversations with each other. 

Adam Michalski: [00:20:31] I love that. Yeah. It's like any relationship. Exactly. Like, I mean, if you're committed to getting through the tough parts, there's always going to be tough parts if you're trying to achieve something great, you know, but it's how you, how you, how you deal with us.

Awesome. This is, this has been great. I mean, I only have two more questions for you. The first one is so. Yeah, I really do think like you're, you're very, forward-thinking, you know, in terms of how you think about kind of the value that the ecosystem can drive to your business and the way in which you execute against that.

So I'm super curious to kind of get your take on. Where you see the future of like B2B partnerships heading and then bonus points. If you want to share like how you're applying that, you know, strategic viewpoint to PFL. 

Marne Reed: [00:21:12] I think I heard one of your other podcasts where you, you talked about how sales and marketing went from being an art to a science and that partnerships was doing the same thing.

And I a hundred percent agree with that. I'm hearing more and more that. The partnership structure is critical to the success of a business. And the way I think about it is, is it's basically going to be infused in that entire go to market motion. When I look at, when I'm developing out our program and I still have long ways to go to you know, it's, it's over every single department, you know, marketing sales to customer success, but also product.

And I think product sometimes gets a little bit overlooked in that cycle. And so I, I think, you know, the companies who aren't putting the resources to it, and I think partnerships tends to be an afterthought. I think a lot of companies think it's, it should happen. We know that we should have a partnership team, but they don't understand the why behind it.

Because it's harder to, it is can be hard to measure. But I think more and more, the companies who are more forward-thinking are realizing that it's a critical motion and that it needs to be a resource. It can't be the afterthought. It can't be the department that is constantly. Pushed to the side.

So that's my thought, which is very exciting for me. I love the idea of just being infused in every aspect of the business. But the other piece that I think about is, is, you know, there's, I'm seeing a consolidation in the space. And so you've got these companies who are constantly, maybe not constantly, but you've got companies who are just.

Acquiring each other. And so I'm seeing that consolidation happen. And I think a lot of times we're looking at our partners when we're looking at our acquisition strategy they're ones that we already have a relationship with, you know, an acquisition isn't just about like the value that, that.

Software solution or the data or whatever is going to bring to the organization, but it's also, are they a good fit? From a, I guess culture standpoint, you know, and the way I look at it at PFL where I think we're really strong at PFL is on the co-marketing and co-selling component of it. They areas. I would love to see us become more mature with is on the product side.

I look at it as an opportunity to say, okay, if PFL is enabling the direct mail channel alongside the digital channels, where are the digital channels? You know, the obvious ones are CRM and marketing automation. But what are the, all of those other technologies in that B2B buyer's journey, where it would make sense for you to be able to trigger the son of a very personalized kit or direct mail piece?

And that is where I think building out our maturity from a product standpoint, a product roadmap standpoint, and using our technology ISV partners to help influence that is, is really where I'm excited to see us go. 

Adam Michalski: [00:24:01] I love it. I love it. Yeah. And I think, I mean, I mean your point, obviously I think really resonates with me on the first point specifically where.

I think as we, you know, partnerships becomes a more of a science and there is more of that data behind a lot of this, then it's going to become overwhelmingly obvious in due time, you know how impactful it is. But I think that's one of the things that like sales, marketing, customer success, you know even product to a large extent, like it's a very like, One track type of role in terms of you understand, you could tell very quickly, like if they're producing or if they're not, whereas partnerships really influences every part of the organization.

Like you mentioned, you know, sales, marketing product, and each one of those, essentially, as you know, Becomes more of a science out there. I think there will become more standardization in terms of what are the metrics that really matter for which types of organizations and that that will become, I think, more mainstream and then that will only help to elevate partnerships.

So, yeah, I'm particularly excited about that. And I think that, you know, we're probably not too far away. That's tough. But awesome. So I guess the last question that I have for you yeah. Well, actually a two-piece question one for the folks who are listening, who want to work with, in terms of partner with PFL, how do they get in touch?

And then the second piece would be for folks who want to work at PFL and want to work with you and your team where should they go? 

Marne Reed: [00:25:28] I can make that super simple. It's me. So I, we know we have contact desk on our Our webpage and whatnot, but I love like, learning more about people and just understanding how they fit into our organization.

So because I have been in human resources and I am currently running our partnership team, I can handle both. So I know exactly, you know, where the people are in the country. Oh, you do. So my email address is marnie@pfl.com. So it's M a R N e@pfl.com. So I'm excited to, to have any conversation and just see how I might be able to partner with someone, or also be able to see how, you know a candidate might be able to fit in our organization because we are growing in leaps and bounds.

Right. Fantastic. 

Adam Michalski: [00:26:09] Yeah. Look at the side benefit of being able to work with you and learn all from the best practices that you had shared. So for our listeners, we'll go ahead. We'll link out to Marnie's contact information in the show notes. But Marty, thank you so much for taking the time. I personally learned a lot.

Yeah. And I'm excited for our listeners. Listen to this as well. Thank you. 

Marne Reed: [00:26:24] Thank you, Adam. This has been fun!

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