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Invest in People, Build Relationships

Aptitude 8's CEO Connor Jeffers, joins Barrett King on, "Partnerships in SaaS", to discuss how like all relationships, relationships with partners evolve and change over time! 

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Speaker 1: (00:07)
So when you interact with partners, as you described them in terms of those different dynamics when they move from the affiliate stage, the like, just do something for us, you know, high five and thank you. Maybe we pay you a little bit, or we give you a cool badge, or whatever it is they move towards co-sell. In your experience as you have been a part of those, you know, those progressions, is there something in that, that foundationally has worked very well for you? I e like, to the point you made before around the approach you take to those relationships, putting the customer first. When I talk about that transition away from thank you for your service, take care and have a good day to how do we work together? How does that communication change?

Speaker 2: (00:45)
Yeah. Uh, I I think one of the main things that's, that's hard here is like, it's a very different business model to say, I'm gonna be an affiliate and I'm gonna sell stuff. I'm gonna source stuff. And I, I think it's really hard to be all things to all people, and I think it's even harder to satisfy different metrics that people are gonna evaluate you on, right? Like I, I think, and we struggle with this even today with, with HubSpots, we have constituencies in HubSpot. Like we, I don't have a team that goes to market cold calls, SMBs books a demo shows them, HubSpot converts them. And there's other partners that do, and those partners are beloved by certain groups at HubSpot and their organization. What I do have is our, my sales team is solutions architects. My sales team is enterprise salespeople, and they co-sell and manage these larger scale operations and deals and know how to navigate a buying team, know how to scope and manage a solution, know how to communicate, how we're gonna manage that change management.

Speaker 2: (01:38)
And the reality is we've overinvested on, on that part of the life cycle. And I think where we're, where I see a lot of hubs, hub partners struggle is they're like, man, we're really good at this affiliate model and we're not so good at the co-selling models. Like, we're gonna become really good at that. And then they stop being good at the affiliate model and vice versa. And I think you kind of have to pick a lane. And I think similarly on the partner lens, what I see a lot of organizations do is it's really hard to manage those as different types of partners. I think that you see the more mature that these software companies become, they end up creating more and more types of partners and designations and tiers and all this other complexity. And ultimately the end goal, I think for most of them should be, do I look at you and measure you on your ability to bring me business and bring me leads and that's my north star?

Speaker 2: (02:22)
Or do I look at you as somebody who's going to help me sell into accounts I can't sell into on my own and retain customers that I wouldn't be able to retain and create use cases and, and, you know, prove that this is possible to a customer segment that I'm struggling to do that on independently. And I think those are two different types of partner and I think it's really challenging to try to be both of those. And so we really look at ourselves as, uh, really that partner that's more on the upmarket thought leadership and we don't source a lot of deals. And there's people in the partner organizations we work with that are like, we really wish you'd go out and, and sell more stuff and be more of an affiliate. Uh, and I think that as you see those ecosystems mature, uh, I think if you're internal on the partner side, I'd look at them in two different lenses. Uh, and if you're external on, um, a service provider or an app provider or whatever else it might be like, pick a metric that's gonna be your North star and check with the partner team that you're working with that they, they care about that metric. Um, but figure out how you're gonna drive that metric forward and, and have that be your guiding principle. Because ultimately you're gonna show up in a spreadsheet and you should also have the relationships. But if you wanna win that spreadsheet, you gotta know how it's sorted.

Speaker 1: (03:32)
I love the call out of Pic Lane and the call out of the North Star. And I think the thing that resonates with me, even as I think about my conversations with peers and folks across the industry, it's the idea that as you scale the value conversation becomes more relevant. So when you're early on in building a program, you can say they do things for us, they being the kind of proverbial partner and us being the provider, right? In that sense. I think that as you get bigger, what I hear most common, I'm curious for your thoughts on this, is the idea of what's the value that they deliver to us and to our customer and in return, what value do we give to them? And it's, it's such a subtle shift, I think in many instances away from the concept of the tactical to a bit more intrinsic i e what you described, which is they help us elevate our voice within a market that we don't actually capitalize. Now they help validate we can do a certain kind of work. So as you've gone through this transition and you're starting to, to move, you know, the businesses that you've built around, even just HubSpot for that example's sake, uh, what's one lesson that you've learned in this transition that, you know, you think everyone should learn at some point, whether it be in their life or in their professional career? Yeah. Um, I'm curious if there's a takeaway there.

Speaker 2: (04:38)
I I think it's, I think it's pick, pick a cons. Like pick a con, this ties to the North Star concept, but like, pick a constituency. Pick who you're gonna make happy and, and pick who's gonna love you. Because I can tell you right now that there are corporate sellers and people on the corporate team and people on sort of the, the business human house that are like, man, we think aptitude date's awesome. They make this great content. They prove out these use cases. They co-sell, they, they like work with these bigger customers and like we are winning big deals because of them. And that's so awesome. And there's people on the partner team who are like, they don't source that much new business for us. like, like they source some, they upgrade a lot of stuff, but like they aren't bringing in logos and there's other partners that kick at that and are so good.

Speaker 2: (05:17)
And I think you have to kind of pick which constituency you're gonna serve and who your advocate's gonna be. And you, you should also, I mean, I think you have to listen cuz things change, right? And, but you, and I think that this is the same if you're, if you're an employee and like you're in an organization, an organization doesn't have to get that big for there to be people with conflicting interests and conflicting needs. And I think you really, it's very bad for you to be of mediocre value to a lot of different people and it is so much more valuable for you to be an irreplaceable asset to somebody and not very useful to a whole bunch of other folks. Uh, because at, at the end, and we think about this even in our customer relationships, like our end goal on the customer side is making our client on the services end look amazing so that they see us as indispensable is the most valuable thing we can do. And it's better because you can't have a relationship with a company. You have relationships with people and make yourself indispensable and a prime shining star to a person. And that is way better for you than like, we're a really good partner in all of these respects and we do okay on all of these metrics versus I have somebody who would fight tooth and nail and, and bring me into any conversation because they see that I make their life significantly better and make them more successful.

Speaker 1: (06:35)
Yeah. So invest in people. It's the kind of core ethos there. Yeah. That's such a good call out. Um, alright, I love a little curve ball here at the end real quick. What's one thing that, you know, like your, in your experience, one thing that the business did or your team did that really surprised you in the last, let's say like 24 months that has turned out in a positive way, something that your, maybe your initial reaction was like, whoa, what, what are we doing here? What is happening and how did you take sort of that experience, turn the corner and drive towards something bigger, greater, you know, whatever it might be in terms of results?

Speaker 2: (07:08)
I feel like we have so many of those all the time cuz we're like a young and dynamic organization or something. Uh, I think

Speaker 1: (07:15)
That could be your catchphrase by the way, right there to be clear, young dynamic.

Speaker 2: (07:19)
It's just like everything's changing all of the time and like get used to it. Uh, it's sort of our mantra. Um, I think something that happened that I was really, really opposed to, so our, um, we invested really early in, in people ops. Uh, we have an incredible director of people ops, um, that hi hires people, retains people. We've had very, very, very little voluntary attrition, uh, even in, in sort of the chaos that was the market, uh, not so much now, but, but a couple months ago, uh, over the last year. And something that she advocated for really strongly at the outset was like, we need people, ops infrastructure and we need like a legitimate H R I S and we need, uh, like OKRs and a performance platform and like we were buying all this technology and implementing all these things. And I'm like a very, uh, move really fast organized stuff later, like, chaos helps us thrive.

Speaker 2: (08:05)
And and she is the organizer and, and the, uh, she finds all the details and, and documents them amazingly. And I think it was something that I was like, man, we're spending so much time on this, uh, documenting of stuff or like creating these different systems and I feel like it's just like not a good use of time and energy and it is paid off to just such an insane degree that like, as we've grown and scaled and we've added headcount and people are like, wow, these onboarding videos are amazing. Like I really, I'm getting up to speed really quickly. I understand how to use the business systems and tools and we have incredible data into, uh, people in compensation and performance and achievements and all these other things. And I think that's something that I look back on and I'm like, man, I really like pushed back on us spending time and energy here. Cause it just felt like not a priority. Um, and instead I think it's become something that has really been a cornerstone to what the business has been able to achieve, uh, as we have really incredible people infrastructure, um, that makes sure that we are on top of all this stuff and, and support our our people as much as we possibly can.

Speaker 1: (09:08)
That's great, man. I, I love that again, the call out of people first. And it sounds like, you know, uh, that greatness begets greatness. If you're investing in the right solution, infrastructure, people and process, you're going to produce something that your customers love and ultimately helps you grow a really successful business. So, uh, cheers to you. It's been a great to, uh, have a conversation today. I've really enjoyed our chat. We'll have you back on soon. For sure. Hey, folks wanna connect with you on the socials. Where do they go? What's the best way to get in touch?

Speaker 2: (09:32)
Yeah, link LinkedIn's the place to be. I'm, I'm acutely reachable, uh, much to all the folks in my personal life's discontent. So feel, feel free to reach out to me. Uh, I try to post relatively consistently, put out some of our content, uh, LinkedIn's the place to go and I'm, I'm pretty accessible, so feel free to gimme a shout.

Speaker 1: (09:48)
Sweet. Awesome. Now again, great conversation. Again, this has been partnerships in SaaS. If you enjoyed this episode, like and subscribe and we'll see you next time.


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