Ola Ogungbemile, Customer Success Manager at PartnerStack, joins us to discuss internal buy-in, customer enablement, and how and why to get involved in the larger partnerships community.
Working with different types of partners, from affiliates to referral partners to resell models, Ola has an eye on a broad range of areas in the current partnership landscape. He’s also an active member of the partnerships community, which was how we connected with him.
He delivers tactics for success planning calls, building a partner process, creating a weekly internal newsletter with metrics and anecdotes, and more. Tune in to tap into the pulse of the partnerships community.
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Will Taylor 0:03
Howdy partners, and welcome to a nother episode of The howdy partners podcast, where we give you tactical insights to do your job in the partnerships space. Hola. Introduce yourself, what do you do at partner stack? And tell us a bit about your your role?
Ola Ogungbemile 0:22
Yeah, hey, yeah, well in Tom, thank you for having me. First of all excited to be excited for the conversation today. Yes, as, as will mentioned, names Ola. I work as the customer success manager at partner stack. Now, previously used to work at riping, where I lead the onboarding team there. So really, customer facing customer success has really been at the heart of of what I've done in my career so far. But, you know, my role at partner stack is where I fell in love with, with partnerships. And that's where that love has been kindled. And just a background in terms of what I do, I partner stack, I manage a little over 40 accounts here. And these are vendors, software vendors, SAS companies that, you know, work on different partnership models, all the way from affiliates, to referral models to resell models to working with large distributor partners. So I really get to see the whole gamut. And I'm really grateful for that, because I get to talk to and learn from a lot of partner bros in terms of what great partnership programs look like, but also maybe what not so great ones look like,
Will Taylor 1:29
I'm a firm believer that those who have conversations with multiple people across an industry, they have a very broad set of knowledge. And that gives us a lot of really robust context. And for anyone out there, if you're looking to learn more about doing better in your role, talk to people who talk to the people, so you know, reach out to Allah or myself. And also, you know, just try and immerse yourself in the community, because you're going to learn so much. That's why we of course, all respect to consultants, because they work with so many different accounts in so many different situations. You mentioned that there have been, you know, big programs, good programs, programs that need some work. Talk to us about some of the fundamentals for building the partner journey. What do you come across the most often for, you know, what a good program looks like, or even a bad program, whatever jumps to your mind?
Ola Ogungbemile 2:24
Yeah, for sure. I think for I'll just start by saying, I know a lot of what I've learned, as well as just standing on the shoulders of giants that came before me in the partnership community yet, and obviously, seeing it in real time with the folks I work with. And there's so much great advice out there about this is what you should do. These are the things to do when you first start a program. But I think it's important to just start from the beginning. That's really where it all begins. And what I mean by that is recruiting partners, partner recruitment is the first start of a program. But what I what I see is an is that partner recruitment is actually two sided. And maybe people are thinking, I'm talking about outbound recruitment versus inbound, and you're on the right track, but you're not quite there. What I mean by that is you're actually recruiting partners internally, within your org, and externally outside of your, and I don't think people actually frame it that way. Oftentimes, when you look at a partnership program, the recruitment focus is really on external recruitment efforts. But you need to pay just as much attention to recruiting partners internally, and understanding who are their ideal partners within my org that I should be recruiting into my partner funnels. And I will say, that's probably where partnerships fail from day one. Because there's so much of a focus on external recruitment, where we don't think about the people inside of our ortagus partners, but they are probably some of the biggest and most important partners to drive the engine of your partnership program for you forward. So that's, that's what I would say, is the foundational piece and what I come across that and I say what the right programs that programs are succeed yet right is understanding that internally, those folks that that help you within you know, your friends in the sales or marketing or product or at CES or are actually your partners, they are your partners, and you need to recruit them and understand what makes them tick and how to help them succeed. Because that's the only way a partnership works. It's not a department. It's a strategy.
Tom Burgess 4:39
Yeah, yeah, I think I think it goes overlooked so many times, that if you don't build proper relationships internally, whether it's marketing CX sales from a partnership lens, it it's critical. So you know, a lot of times there ers. I really like how you framed it to like the the the two paths more like, what do you look at internally because those processes are so important to helping you scale and build. Like, for me, one of the biggest relationships that I need to make as a cam is with our sales team. And so you know, I'm learning about some of our EES their background, where they come from, and just helping them understand what our partner journeys are so that when referrals come in, it's very easy for them to say, okay, you know, I understand, I understand what's going on here. I understand, like, you know, partner leads are sometimes or most of the time more warm than just leads coming in inbound anyways. So how can I capitalize and tell a story and, and, and I, it goes back to the point that I think we've said on multiple episodes, like, partnerships, right now, you will always have to be your own cheerleader, but you have to be one of the biggest cheerleaders in general. And that means putting messaging out there like talking to to sending like numerous slack messages just to like sales team, global, you know, CX or whatever your channels are, to make sure that other teams recognize that you're there,
Ola Ogungbemile 6:09
making sure that those folks in sales, if your channel account manager or your best friend's, yeah, is important from day one. And finding a way to shout from get them to shout from the rooftops about you puts the proof in the pudding, right of what partnerships can really drive for the org.
Will Taylor 6:25
And I find that interesting, because you could have answered that in you know, so many different ways. But that was the main thing that you wanted to talk about. And so I hope listeners, if you've listened to other episodes, like Tom mentioned, we've talked about this in the past, that this is, you know, one of the most critical things, and this is what policies across so many accounts as well. Good, bad, it needs the internal partnership. So what do you advise people on then if you are hearing that they're having these challenges? And maybe they didn't build those internal partnerships? How do you then get them to start building those? What are you know, what's going from zero to one look like for getting that internal partner org set up? What do you advise for the accounts that you work with?
Ola Ogungbemile 7:13
Yeah, that's a good question. I think that really starts with what, what type of partnership program are you trying to run in the first place? Right? What what's the right partnership notion for you? For instance, if you're maybe running an affiliate program, you might want to get really close with the folks in in the marketing org. Right? Understanding, okay, how can I actually tie partnership OKRs directly to what sales OKRs are, because then when you go out, and you actually do anything related marketing, related to sort of partnerships, you are going to be driving results that are tied to the OKR of the sales of that marketing or, on top of that, I think it's really helpful. Again, thinking about partnership model that you're running and then connecting with the right folks in the org to do that is they can actually help you build out your partnership strategy as well. So the best way to get alignment often right is getting people to actually build the story alongside you, because then they're part of this movement with you and they had a voice and building it. So they're more likely to actually want to act on it, because they have their hands and the engineering of actually building this out. So it's not like you're going to marketing, like you've made all this, you did all of this stuff. And then you're pushing it on them say, hey, I need you guys to do all this for me, but and we started with them from day one, and building this partnership strategy out because you want to help drive value for the OKR. So just getting alignment that way, is really powerful. So I think that's where I would start figuring out what program you're running. And then understand the OKRs within the org that are aligned to that and actually go out and build your partnership strategy with those folks. So they have a voice and that'll drive a lot more alignment. I in terms of moving the needle forward.
Tom Burgess 9:14
Yeah, I I'm a firm believer in letting the experts do their expertise, for lack of a better term. And once again, you know it partner orgs especially, just like in general, you're not there not too big. And I say that lightly. I know there's very large partnership organizations out there. But in SAS and for the most part, you're talking about, you know, one person shop or like three or four people so, you know, realistically you need to rely on marketing you need to rely on support, you need to rely on all these internal enablement, operational teams to help achieve your goals and I I love the way that you you frame it up is that It's not just me advising them what to do in turn, it's me asking for their help and, and how to their strategic input. Like, I just, we just hired Sauce Labs, a partner marketing manager, and he's awesome. He comes from RingCentral. And the first time he met, I was like, Listen, you know, there's a lot of stuff that I have knowledge and, and expertise in that I can help build. But from a different angle, you have you have, you know, to x or weaken to x, or expertise, by just knowing our roles and, and being able to build on this together. So that like when I get down the road, and we're talking about building, you know, a co marketing guidelines for our partners is inputs there, like I want him to run with that, because then we're not pigeon holing ourselves, or, you know, like doing 20 webinars a quarter, which is infeasible. I want him to put his brand on it, and all the teams to have their hands on it.
Ola Ogungbemile 10:57
No, I completely agree, I kind of want to jump in again, there, Tom, a couple of things came to my mind. First of all, I'm gonna have to steal that term, let the experts do their expertise, because I haven't heard down before. But in terms of, you know, that other piece you mentioned, there's partnerships comes in come in different shapes and sizes, I'll say I work with smaller SAS companies that are like 1015 employees as well, where I'm connecting with their VPs and C suite like VP of sales or VP of marketing. So there's also a double edged sword there is obviously there's alignment, like I'm talking with the head of the org, that's who I'm working with on a daily basis, just because of how small their shop is. But well, you also find that some of those as they don't actually have the bandwidth, they have the alignment. And that's where, you know, something that I've been working on a bit better is notice that noticing that early on, say, Hey, listen, you don't actually have the bandwidth to do this, I know you want to do you have the alignment, you might need to actually go an agency route and get a fractional fractional support, right. So someone who can work with you on a fractional basis to help you set up those foundational pieces. So even when there is alignment, the other piece is time and your ability to actually execute on the alignment you have. And folks can either obviously you can you have the resources, go in house and hire, but if folks don't have that, especially in this macro climate, you know, taking advantage of fractional resources, like an agency or consultants, is a powerful way to also execute on on your strategy.
Will Taylor 12:35
I am curious about that, in the way of a common misconception that you come across, either through setting up a program or even setting up like a PRM when they start engaging with you, what are some of the misconceptions or missteps, when you're talking to people, you're advising them? Maybe you're talking to the VP of sales, and you there's this alignment, and there's this, you know, somewhat moment of this momentum? But what do people then get wrong? Or what to get people get wrong, and then you have to step in and kind of do some work, maybe backtrack a little bit,
Ola Ogungbemile 13:13
you can see me smiling, you're smiling? I like this question, obviously, because I work in a space where, you know, a partner sack where we don't necessarily actually call ourself a PRM. We are an ecosystem platform, because we do more than just managing a partnership program. But why and know why this question? I like this question is, because I'm gonna give a bit of a controversial opinion. But before I do that, I'll start with a story. No, have a vendor or have my so, you know, relationship starts like when you whenever you whenever I get a new account, very excited, excited earlier about what we can do and what we can achieve, right. And one of the first things we do when I have got a new vendor is a success planning call. And I tried to set a quarterly basis. And in our success plan call, right, no vendor, you know, you asked me what are some of the goals or the OKRs? What are you trying to achieve? And you know, they zoned in this vendor zoned in right right away and says, I want to make a million dollars, you know, in in nine months, I want to get 50 partners, right? So I said, Okay, let's put that down. Now, what are some of the you know, what are the goals? Or what emotions are you going to do and, you know, talked about some marketing initiatives going to events, to connect with partners on inviting some partners that they have in their network and all of these things. So we were like, Okay, this looks like a good start. Let's, you know, go out and start doing some of these motions, start connecting with folks and events going out and doing that. And, basically, you know, three months go by zero revenue. For months go by, no revenue, five months go by no revenue six months go by no revenue. And, and I will say though the partners are actually ticking up here. So they're like, maybe 4040 Odd partners at this or no, but at the six month mark, you know, conversations hours of data and, you know, the finger pointing starts here, saying, you know, why isn't this working? Right? And, you know, when you're when you're pointing fingers, right, what do you what do you typically need when you're doing that other than the finger? What do you what do you need someone to point to? Someone knows Oh, and and point it to right. So you need a fall guy. And I'll preface this by saying being a PM, it's hard as heck, it's one of the most difficult jobs right or anyone in the partnership, because you're married multiple hacks. And the reason why I'm prefacing, that is saying, if it comes between, you know, in this climate, especially in the macroeconomic conditions, losing my job, or falling a finger, the software, I'm probably going to use the software as a fall guy. Oh, saying why this program isn't working. Right. So that's just to say, you know, even by that six month mark, barely made the decision to say, Ah, this isn't working. We're not generating revenue, because your software isn't doing that. Right. So. And do you know what, what's what's crazy about that story? What? That that's, that's, that's just one vendor. I've seen that movie so many times, right? And there's this general narrative, right, that basically says, you know, I bought your software, why isn't it generating all this revenue for I did my I did the thing. I bought the software, and I got the I got all these partners while they generating revenue, this, that's it right? That's all that goes into it. And that's just not true. So when there's a lie, I'm gonna come back to your initial question about misconceptions in the PRM. And what I'll actually say is that the bedrock of your program is your partnership processes and setting up the fundamentals of that, before any software, I think you need to have your fundamentals and foundations of how your processes and your partnership notion work. Before you start up, start startup program, because the truth is garbage in garbage out, right? Like, what a software does, it doesn't matter if it's partner stack or Excel or anything, is it automates your process, right. So if you have a garbage process, and you throw it into a machine, it's going to accelerate the garbage that comes out and automate. That's all a machine does, right? It's not, it's not going to make the process for you a lot of that hard work has to be done outside of the machine, right? And machine just follows algorithms and instructions, right. And this, this is something that I obviously I've been in CS, I know it's not just, it's with any piece of software, right? It's this idea of I bought the software, why isn't it doing the thing for me, right, software, a lot of software's often underutilized just because folks don't know how to use it right or don't have the right processes in place. And there's an education gap there that I'm passionate about working on filling and I have some ideas on how to do that. But process first, dude.
Tom Burgess 18:22
So it's so funny when one I remember like the mutual success plan. I when we were with partner staggered, Vinyard. I worked with Daryl love, Darrell. Darrell is the OG Yeah, man. He's awesome. But then like you fast forward, and you brought up two really good points. One. There's, I think there's a so you talked about tech either, like being underutilized. I think that's one facet. The other side I see is, there's way too much tech, like you have so much tech bloat. Like we got SalesLoft we've got chili Piper, we have Salesforce, we also have HubSpot. And also, it becomes that's where you start to see the under utilizations because you just have your your so like surface level and all your tech pieces. But on top of that, it's like okay, I can buy the car, I bought the map, why am I not going anywhere and it like it, it goes back to the idea to your point of cementing and solidifying accountability and relationships with the proper people internally, especially if you're talking to a vendor who you know C suite level or whatever it may be, like, I want to generate X by y or x to y by when? Okay, well do they truly understand one the gaps that the technology if they're purchasing technology that that solves, but also a very firm understanding that you still need to have someone drive the technology you have to have someone drive the car, you have to have your abs performing to see the true power of this technology. So it man it that's been kind of like the story in partnerships like a lot of times C suite level like let's do it. And then A year later, let's not do it, because it's clear that it is a, it's fundamentally a long term play. It just is. And so you need to have, I would say, like being able to deliver that messaging, as you're working on strategies, I think your point is great on the processes, like, I'm a partner ops person through and through. And sometimes it rubbed. Bronze, it's via the ugly head. It's what I'm trying to get at, in a lot of different ways. And just like organization, and like, like, really like figuring out and plugging the holes in something so small, early on to say, like, listen, in five months, you're gonna be happy that I build this dream G Drive folder for partner marketing assets. Yeah. Man, you just touched on a lot of good points there.
Ola Ogungbemile 20:46
Couldn't agree more. I'd love to hear your take on this. Well,
Will Taylor 20:49
yeah, I think what it can come down to is what you're measuring as well. So if they're measuring, I just need volume of partners, I just need dollars, then, like, Sure, you're going to chase the volume of partners. But that may be the wrong metric to actually focus on especially when you are implementing a new system or starting a new program. And so I think when you were mentioning, like, in that example that you gave, they were watching, potentially choosing the wrong things. Not saying that revenue is, you know, something that you shouldn't Chase or that the number of partners is something that you shouldn't Chase, but there should be the other factors. So I'm curious your take on, like, if you are asked, what's the first thing that I should be measuring? What would that be? So what did this person may be measuring correctly, that they were incentivized to chase after? What would you put in place? What would you say? Is that number one thing that people should measure when they're building the program or implementing a system?
Ola Ogungbemile 21:54
Yeah, another another great question. And I think it's, it goes back to a few things as well, again, all, what type of program are you even running? Right? You know, I can give you the cop out, answer then say, measure what matters to that program. Right. But you know, let's assume if you're running an affiliate for sorry, not necessarily, let's look at a referral program this time, right? If you're running a referral program, again, time, what you're measuring to what matters to the orbs, right. So if you're running an affiliate referral program, keep mixing those two up. You want to figure out what matters to the folks down the sales funnel, right? Because referral program kind of comes down our sales funnel warmer leads, lower in the journey there. So you're likely looking at stats that are important to your sales, you see us or to some extent, maybe your product org as well. And then and then feeding that in. So you know, what I would recommend that is treating your lunch, you know, what the OKRs are? And what matter to let's say, a, a sales org, for instance, right? And let's say maybe, you know, they want to drive X amount of revenue, or they want to increase average deal size by x. Now, you need to treat your that your funnel from the beginning, even your partner recruitment funnel. So what's the first step in an even recruiting, recruiting a partner? Right? Maybe the first thing you need to measure is how many people do you have? How many internal partners do you have? Right? So that could be just a good proxy from day one, right? And then from there, you can go to okay, what is my total addressable market of the actual partners that I have, that are referral partners in that space? But then from there, you can start to add $1 value right to that and say, Okay, this, these partners based on, you know, some estimated numbers, if each of these partners close X amount of deals, right, so let's say I say, each partner, you know, if they close three deals, they're gonna generate $300. And, you know, I find 100 partners, that's about 30,000, right? So you can start putting dollar values to that. The reason why that's important is when you start doing any motions, right? So if I, if I do recruitment motions, right? If I go out and I say I'm going to an event this week, to look at potential partners, there's 10 potential partners, I can put $1 value on what those partners can bring down, right? So I can talk to it in a way that makes sense to folk so I'll say measure what matters and all the way through your partnership funnel, put the metric to what matters to the org on that. So at the very beginning Hang on there if you're talking to the sales or if we want to talk dollars, average deal value and what whatnot. But I think the first step is probably to figure out how many internal partners do I have, and then on the external partner side, you can start looking at it from $1 value, even from the potential partners, you have all the way down to the folks that actually end up closing deals for you.
Will Taylor 25:20
Yeah, I think that's an important point where it can't just be total revenue and number of partners. Those are almost like Givens in my opinion, where it's like you, you need to do that regardless, but you've got to track more metrics to make sure that you're delivering success to those people that you serve internally. So, you know, you went through some examples, but if it's the sales work, maybe it's meetings booked advance, you know, like the speed to closing of deals, because those are going to be important for partners stepping in. And then of course, marketing. It could be things like traffic, or, you know, net new newsletter signups, like I think people need to be creative and focus in on, what is that internal partner that I'm trying to serve? And then what do they care about? What are their metrics? And how can I amplify those, not just the given data points of, we need revenue, we need more partners. Yeah. And
Ola Ogungbemile 26:19
as you said, like meeting booked all of that stuff, you can put, you know, $1 value as well on and stuff right to be like I'm in the other piece of it is there's also the qualitative side of telling stories, right? Like, even just by visibly talking about the partners, you're going after, folks might internally get excited about that, and want to help you along the way as well. So talking it out with with your org, and folks around you is really powerful.
Will Taylor 26:49
Love it. So just wrapping up, we always leave our audience with one tactical tip. So if you were to give that one tactical tip to our audience, based on what we talked about today, or anything that you just love to tell people, what is that one thing that they could implement, you know, right, when they're listening this or, you know, the next day? What is that one tactical tip that they could do?
Ola Ogungbemile 27:14
That's a great one. I'm gonna cheat here, maybe give two just because I feeling nice today. I think the first one feeds off of what we just talked about is really measuring what matters and talking it through with, with data that speaks to what matters to different departments, right, whether it's top of funnel leads, and traffic for marketing, dollar value on closed deals, for sales, thinking about the reduction in churn for CES, the increase in adoption for product, you can have you every activity, every single thing you do every day as a partner probe, you're going to attach that metric to say, We're doing this because we believe it's going to have X amount of impact. And these are the folks that we're talking to write. So I think it's really important for you to do that. And one tactic is figuring out what those data points are. And doing a weekly newsletter reports to everyone in the org, just, it doesn't have to be crazy to start, let's say you pick four metrics, maybe even three metrics, right? That Matter. And you can basically say, here's what we did this week, because we believe it's gonna remove these three metrics. And you can start telling stories, right? The couple of things that that allows is it holds you accountable, as as a partner professional as well to go out and do your thing every week. And on top of that, it gets visibility, because I think Tom mentioned earlier, you're gonna have to be your biggest market or no one really knows what you're doing. You don't want to be on an island, so needed to talk through what you're doing with the rest of the org. So weekly newsletter, just a weekly report doesn't have to be a newsletter, it actually just simple three or four data points of what you're doing, and how they're moving the key metrics for those different lives that matter. I don't have a lot. The next one here, that kind of feeds into that is with partner recruitment. In general, folks struggle a lot with partner recruitment, because a lot of times they try to just go out and cold, cold message folks, I'm not saying cold messaging doesn't work, but the success rate is a lot harder. So how can you increase your conversion rates with with recruiting partners? It's actually simple. I know. No partner hacker talks about this a lot. But but it is really true. It's to live in market, right? Living in market. Part of the reason why I'm connected with you well, today is because I live in market, and that's how we started our relationship, right? Well, what does that look like on the on a granular level? I'll give you a very granular example of that. If I have a sales so software. And maybe I want to connect with folks in sales consultants, sales coaches, folks that can, you know, talk through sales solutions. What do I want to do I want to join the communities they're in, right? There's tons of communities, whether slack communities web sites out there, I want to sign up for sales newsletters, I want to go that sales newsletters for sales consultants, right. And those folks and sales coaches, I want to go to webinars, where sales consultants and sales coaches that are aren't participating it if you go on meetup.com, there's meetups for for professionals in these spaces as well. So you can go to find folks in your city today that are having live meetups to actually meet and talk to them. go to conferences, join LinkedIn groups. The reason why this is important is that when you first of all, you're going to be plugged into knowing what the pains of these folks are, who you want to be a partner deeply, because you're engaging with them, you're listening to what they're saying, you're just absorbing information. The other piece is you become a familiar face, even before even before you asked to partner with them. Right? They already knew he was like, Oh, I saw you at that meetup, or I saw you got the webinar, you're part of this community here. And you can use that right as a fuel to actually connect with folks. Because you know, when you actually reach out to them, you're likely a familiar face. And I think a really important way to also reach out isn't to say, hey, come partner with me, it's to approach it from a point of curiosity and learning. And the way I would say, it's come from a place of if if I actually want someone to join my program, I might not start right away by saying, Hey, join my program, what I would say is, hey, I'm building and looking to improve my partnership program. And I appreciate your some of your time and actually helping me build a world class program because you are an expert in this space. And I really appreciate your time. Now, also remember, give first, right and offer to grab them a virtual coffee and maybe send them a gift card in order to in exchange for their time offer them access to your product in exchange for time. Another thing is maybe you offered to put them in a raffle for a conference or an event that matters to that group. So live in market is going to increase your conversion rates for recruiting partners. Because you're not an outsider anymore. You're living in the same space as your partners. And you understand their pain was a long winded answer. But I think it's the missing piece and a lot of programs right now that you know, you're not actually you're living in a market of your products, but not necessarily in the market of your partners. And you need to live in the market of your partners.
Will Taylor 32:44
Yeah. And I think that's, you know, we opened with you have context, you speak to a lot of people, and it's not just through your day to day role, you truly do live in market, I actually have a LinkedIn post going out about exactly that. And about, you know, how we met how we got onto the podcast. And like, obviously, there's like some roundabout benefit for partner stack because you know, exactly the relevancy to our audience for like a tool that people can use. And so like, you know, this wasn't paid, it wasn't planned. It's not like some massive strategic initiative. But when you're living in market, you just happen to have these opportunities, and these interesting conversations and all this context. So I definitely urge anyone who is listening to listen to that back again, take some notes and start actioning it. And then of course, check out what I posted. And of course, what all the posts because you'll see that he does live through this. So Oh, thank you so much for your wisdom and context and all of this information. We will catch you all on the next episode of The howdy partners podcast, and although we're definitely going to get you back on. Thanks so much for your time, man.
Ola Ogungbemile 33:56
Thank you so much for having me and excited to keep this conversation going. For sure. Thanks, everyone.