Howdy Partners #45: The Journey to Partnership Success - Lessons from Alicia Gan

Alicia Gan, Partnerships Manager at AfterSell, joins the Howdy Partner posse to share tips for building a strong partnerships career.

She unpacks the agency partner program she’s building at AfterSell, how she’s leveraging Twitter to find potential partners, and how to bring energy and focus each day as a partner professional.

Alicia, Tom, and Will also discuss co-marketing, how to scale trust, and the particularities of partnering in the e-commerce space.

Here are 3 key takeaways from the conversation:

1️⃣ Tap into the power of the partnership community: Alicia highlights the growing partnership community and emphasizes their willingness to help. Leaning on connections and partnerships for knowledge and support can be incredibly helpful in your career.

2️⃣ Bring your expertise and knowledge: Alicia emphasizes the importance of leveraging your previous experience and knowledge to drive successful relationships and partnerships. When joining new companies or programs, don't be afraid to bring your unique perspective and insights to the table.

3️⃣ Focus, perseverance, and building connections: Alicia shares challenges and learnings from her partnership journey. She encourages professionals to stay focused and not get overwhelmed during the first days and weeks of a new job.

Subscribe & Listen On:


  • How to stay focused on what you’re doing. 2:47
  • Where to find tech partners? 7:47
  • The value of knowing your company’s maturity. 12:05
  • Bring your own personal and professional voice to the partnership. 18:33
  • The importance of cold outreach. 20:18
  • Advice for a partner manager. 23:19


Will Taylor 0:03
Howdy partners, and welcome to the howdy partners podcast where we give you tactical insights so that you can do your job better in partnerships. Today's guest is Alicia, you may have seen her on LinkedIn. She is a LinkedIn influencer, the partnership springs, and her and I chatted before but Alicia, once you introduce yourself, what are you doing? Where are you at?

Alicia Gan 0:24
First off, I want to say thank you to you guys for inviting me to this podcast. It is first time ever on a podcast. So that's kind of exciting. So yeah, currently I'm, I kind of hold a position as a partnerships manager at Octa. So where I am kind of responsible for overseeing a lot of the partnerships, I my role involves kind of like building partner programs, which just recently launched because I'm pretty excited about establishing some of the solid foundation implementing efficient system, I would call it. Yeah, although there was some, I guess, groundwork that was kind of done and it was in place. But I'm here to really just make sure that they're in progress and refining those systems and have a user workflow.

Will Taylor 1:10
I love it. And I see if you look at you know, Alicia is LinkedIn, you'll see that she's also an advisor of sorts. So she's very knowledgeable, she's sought after. And so what we're going to talk about today is you started about two to three months or so ago in this role. We're going to talk about how that's been. And what I'm curious about is when you started, what did you do on day one as the new partner manager at after sell?

Alicia Gan 1:35
So that's a very good question. Honestly, there was a lot, or at least a ton and extensive onboarding, I think that's like the first thing that you would be doing and really understanding the product features. So I kind of received like Mendes support from one of our co founders Arman, who kind of guided me through the entire product journey, it's a lot right there, become through from the tech side. So they really just discussed that. So throughout that whole week of my main focus was kind of like immersing myself into learning and I guess he coming familiarized with our product features, I think, as a partnership, you've really got to understand your product, before going through the next steps by selling it or really just telling your partners what exactly we're doing. So that it makes sense into their services. You know, can we do some integration implementation, or just, you know, any partnerships of that sort. So, a lot of that, and then really just joining my team, my sales team and kind of observed their call, where they kind of conduct demos, you know, like further enhancing my understanding on the product and action. So that way, I can do that the same for a partner.

Tom Burgess 2:47
i So it's funny, in, in the two partnership roles that I had, they were both very different. Because when I started at Vid yard, I had previously worked on, you know, the service agency side. So I was at a HubSpot agency. And I knew the big yard product, which was unique in the sense that when I joined Vinyard made it very easy for me, like I know the product, like I don't need to necessarily go through product training. And then fast forward to starting at SAS labs, like, didn't know the product. So just two unique journeys. But I think it was hard for me, just having some of the partnership experience and knowing that I was coming in to help kind of build this program out to really like, put the chains around me and hold me down, like, get me through the HR stuff, get me through the onboarding. So I'm curious, like, how, how did you? It's hard to find focus. So I guess there's Are there any tips or, or aspects where it's like, Alicia, how do you stay focused on what you're doing? It's day one, it's week one, you know, how do you not get so overwhelmed? If you have that experience before to start saying, I know we're going to do like, just break that down? For me?

Alicia Gan 3:54
That's, that's a really good question. I have had a lot of like, you know, like you said, you've done in two different sets company before I also had the same problem with that being said, agencies as well. And a lot of time during onboarding is the most hiring week ever. But with after sell, I'm not sure what was it that was different was that they had everything prepared for me, like they knew what they needed to show us because I think that's exactly, they look at me as like a customer. If I came in, I needed to understand what it was all about. So they had the proper demo, they had the proper presentation. It didn't felt like those proper HR we came in you need to go through this and that and there's a deck you go through all by herself. It was a, you know, our founder or founders themself coming into Hana and you know, get their hands dirty and make sure that I really knew what I was doing. So that was really nice. I felt great. And that's where I felt like, there are certain things that for sure it's missing, right? Because it came in, they really tell you exactly how they would present it to the customer. So I would kind of help them built that flow in that sense. Like whenever newer onboarding newer members join us, we'll have to go through this and that, and also making sure that we added certain things so that they're aware of what to expect, right? So I came in really just all products the whole week, it's all about products. And I was like, hey, it's actually not that bad. You know, I totally forgot about the Shopify partners need to go into the dev. And it just being a back end tech. I'm like, I am losing my mind. I'm not sure what I was, like, helped me guide. But the team was so friendly. And my question was like, How do I see it? I'm like, I'm so sorry, if this is really redundant question, but they're like, no, actually, I love this question. Just F. So it's been great really asked the question, right. Whenever you have, even in partnerships in general, if you have problems, go to Tom go to well, like us, they're happily to the restaurant, if it takes few days. They're just busy. But there's a great part about partnerships.

Will Taylor 5:57
I agree yet, everyone is so connected. And that's how we got connected as well. Yeah, the show where I forget, who reached out, but we eventually talked about, you know, agencies, partnerships and all that. And here we are, you know, sharing even more knowledge across the podcast zactly. And so, you are two to three months in, what are you working on now? And I like asking this question because it gives people a gauge of you know, what to expect in the role, but then also, they can kind of not compare, but really understand, Oh, I'm two to three months in the role. Where should I be? What should I be thinking about? What should I be working on? It's going to be different across most organizations. But now that you've got, you know, your feet under you, it's a product and all of that, maybe introductions to partners, and you got some stuff going? What is it the thing that you're working on now, a month to month, three or so? What's the next phase that you're entering into?

Alicia Gan 6:55
Yeah, so right now, we've launched our agency partner program, which was, you know, awesome. We successfully awarded our existing partners and also the newer partners, right? So I want like to cut like, focus on the lines of like, I guess the guidelines, you know, especially when they go through those next steps, what would it be lunch to learn? Would it be going through a knowledge space, a lot of all these things, real details that we need them to understand before being an expert. So if they are an expert, so we want to make sure that they have the kind of go through a least complete, like, brief, like a short quiz. I think I believe a kendo and some people like gorgeous has the same example. It's just really just to make sure that they are familiar with what we do. Because those questions even myself, when I took it, I was like, Oh, I didn't know the slides. This is something that is additional information. It's just gonna help them to at least be certified. That's it. Right. So on top of that, I'm also kind of like actively sourcing additional agencies, just going around here and there. I would say, Twitter right now, surprisingly, is the next best place to find. I know well, it's not your, your I don't know if you agree with me. But I am. I don't know, it's just like a great place to find agency partners. Maybe that's that's one way. But I feel like tech partners are on there constantly, too. So when you're seeing something or whatever, just like be on top or theory, thread, I guess, which don't want to make misunderstand this whole thing. There is another app called thread right now, which I am getting very confused. But that's one way that I'm keeping in touch with newer, newer agency partners. And they're aware and, you know, I get messages like, Oh, you guys are actually very popular recently, you know, I love to chat, which is so much easier for me. And I would say another thing right now is the next phase you call it which is focusing on the call marketing with tech partners, because we were kind of focused on the agency side, the program rate, but a lot of the tech integration site we have not really touched it is we want to make sure that we're pretty, you know, kind of nailed down, make sure it's solid on the agency side with a great system and flow, we're slowly getting into the tech. So with that were kinda like leveraging on platforms like seeing reveal. We are also kind of like I tend to fIying though, it's shared merchants and flooring opportunities for cross selling right, even on our app itself. And additional works are like developing compelling case studies, right to showcase the value and our combined sort of offerings that we have and results basically,

Will Taylor 9:38
that's cool. That's a lot that you've got working on. But it sounds like the cadence was made sure you have some process in place to validate that they know about your company to a certain degree and that there is some level of enablement available so that as you're starting to, you know, go to the Twitter, find the agencies, bring them in, you're able to To effectively onboard them, I have a quick question with the Twitter side of things. Because I, because I actually, when I was at mailshake, I was like, Oh, that's a good place for like smaller businesses and like outreach agencies. And there was like this niche community and it was like this. I think it's called like the money community. And I'm wondering if that's like, it's if it skews a bit to the like, e comm. Agency worlds? What are your thoughts there? Is that like, the persona that's there? Or do you think that you could find tech partners or like Mar tech partners?

Alicia Gan 10:41
Yeah, I mean, I've I've actually kind of come across a lot of the partners right now, even from tech perspective, or agency. And I, not too sure much on that side of things, whether it's money scared, but it's a lot of the at least I'm hearing from tech partners itself, right, I've also heard from their advice was to make sure to be a little bit more active on there, because you will, at some point, find merchants that need you guys, but you're not there to help them out. So I feel like that's one way to kind of like navigate who our audiences are. So in terms of agency partners, yes, a lot of them are there to really help add educational stuff, their experiences, and aside from all these chaotic, whatever's going on in there, but it's not that's what not what I'm for, but rather really connecting with a newer agencies that I've never come across before, even on directories, you won't be able to find them. So these are a lot of things that I find very useful. Aside from that Twitter is just about, I feel like I used to use it, like when I was 12 years old, and now it's just like me talking about my day to day life. Right, right now, I'm just like, What am I talking about Twitter, I don't know what to say, you know, whereas with LinkedIn, we know we're trying to be professional, we're sharing some insights, just like yourself, well, and yourself, um, you know, you guys are just trying your best to really help other partners. So Twitter is a whole new world,

Tom Burgess 12:05
you've been scrappy enough to find your own channel. And I like this is where, you know, company to company, program maturity, you know, whether you're just starting, or it's been in existence for two years, it shows the value of having, you know, new professionals join companies and say, like, Listen, this is where I'm finding value right now. And it seems like your role includes both like, activation management, but also that acquisition side, which is important. So you're gonna have to, it's so hard for partner professionals to try and be stretched in different areas. So like, when you have critical roles underneath your, in your your onus, like Twitter's working, so like, stick there, and I think what what it shouts out is like, when you get to that two to three month mark, in a partnership role, it's kind of, it's kind of time to start seeing like, the rubber hit the pavement type thing, like, you know, this is where, you know, my, the background that I have, and what I've known from being on the agency side, what I know from like, process and operations and, and enablement that needs to be in place, you should know the product by that point. So now you start to develop your own hypotheses around how do we make this super worthwhile for partners, whether it's tech agency, you know, affiliate, whatever it may be. But, like, at the same time, you should always be thinking like, how do I make this as efficient as possible for myself so that I'm not just dead in the water three months later, because I, I'm having so much manual activity, like I'm doing it myself, like, there's a lot to say about like advocating for a lot of internal enablement and internal understanding of what partnerships is because there's so many departments marketing sales, CX, that play a significant role or should play a significant significant role in driving partnership success that it's so important to, like really focus on on those areas. It seems like you've got a good rhythm now, but there has, there has to be examples of like, roadblocks. Friction, heartache. So talk about some of those challenges. And and how do you approach overcoming those?

Alicia Gan 14:20
Yeah, so one of the key tasks in hiring right now, right? It's delivering product features demos, right? As like you said, I've already probably familiarized with a product and whatnot, but I have not gone out and be like, hey, we'll end on this is the product I'm going to show you and showcase that to you. And I did that with the first partner of the day itself, or the first third week of my, you know, my role, and it was really nerve wracking. Because, you know, first off, you're trying to make sure that you're doing the right thing. I had nobody around me and just making sure that I was saying the right thing and I was getting pointing the right features and they make sense. But again, most partners, you don't need to go through the detail part because they're not the client facing team or the tech team. But I would like to use this opportunity be like, Hey, by the way, I know this. And I know that and I want you to at least know a little bit so that you know if in any case, integration makes sense, let's talk about it. Yeah. So that is one thing about it. I kind of like overcome that by doing it more often, even if that partner tells me like, oh, yeah, if you if I don't want it, it's fine. Talk to my team ace. Okay, great. But if in any case, d would like to, for me to showcase our showcase the most simplistic the front end, which is like the demo account, which is not even inside our tech, which is all the backend stuff. So that it's like good enough. They're like, oh, cool, that's really nice. And when that kind of like reaction I've been getting, it makes me feel way more comfortable myself. I mean, all about this, like, presentation, your like public speaking, and everybody should at least have a little bit of that you're kind of showcasing something you're working on something, you will have to eventually tell people, what is this you're doing? What are these products and features? And yeah, and that was one of the biggest challenge because again, I would say I came a lot more on the service side. So as any more SAS and tech, I don't really have that sort of like, expertise, right, or knowledge and Shopify changes a lot of things. So with now, with that being said, now, I feel more confident when I do my demos, and I feel a lot more happier. And I feel like I know what I'm saying. It's not just like, I'm bullshitting and saying something just so that, you know, I'm saying

Tom Burgess 16:45
like, Thank you, Alicia, like, thank you. So there, I really want the audience to hone in on two things here. One is, you don't know what you don't know. Right. Like, and I think that lends itself nicely to a theme that we've talked about, which is like, partnership managers. If you're not approaching relationships in like the honesty and transparency mode, you're already at a loss like I can, like, especially when you're just getting introduced to partners, like be upfront with them, like, like, they might know more about your product than you do. And I think that's that lends itself so nicely to scaling and just like building that trust environment that you so desperately need. And then the second piece, which I really liked, because this is what I I've done on on in both my SAS partnership journeys is like, in enabling on product or enabling on you know, positioning and go to market skills. You know, there are, and I hold him in this in in the telephony space with just call because telephony can be very cumbersome or like very technical. But there are certain features that your partners and let's just use agency or solutions partners here, they're just not going to care about and I'll I'll you know, talk about some examples, like if I'm working with HubSpot agencies, and I'm working on a specific product that has kind of a pseudo feature where I know HubSpot is going to be way more viable in terms of like building that out. I'll tell them that, like, what I'm not doing is saying this, and this is kind of where you need to take off the sales hat. like it'd be more like advisory and consulting is like, listen, we have this feature. I, knowing your ecosystem, I'm actually going to recommend another solution, right? Like, I want to show you how this feature works, just so you understand and see the value. In the same vein, I'm trying to help prescribe a better solution, knowing that you have access to you know, XYZ tools. So I I'm that one, it makes it way more efficient, to you build a lot of trust, and three, you start to really bring in your own kind of like personal and professional voice to it. And I cannot stress enough that like this is where partnership managers, whether you're you're you're a partnership manager, you're an enablement, like partnership professionals need to remove the lens of like, I'm advocating for our product. Versus I'm advocating for the partner here. In most scenarios like yes, it's it's leveraging, potentially on your background, like if you have partnership experience, that's a big positive to entering a new partnership. But more importantly, you know, your personality and your profession ality is, is a reason to develop your own brand and your own voice to help make that team, make your role make your partnership stronger. So completely advocate for yourself. And honestly, like that two to three months mark, is when your voice should be heard.

Will Taylor 19:34
That that leads nicely into the next question. So we're talking about these learnings. And so what helps you hit the ground running like what's what's, what was the main lesson that you're like, Okay, been through this before or I know this is a common pitfall. I know that this is, you know, an error that a lot of partner people make. What were you conscious of when you were starting this role where you're like, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to make sure that I avoid this This thing and allow myself to hit the ground running in this role. So what was that either from like a specific lesson or just something that you are conscious of entering into this new org.

Alicia Gan 20:12
I love this. So pretty much maintaining like an active and connecting presence in your community. Right? When I first started, I really was so scared to like connect with anybody because you know, you have a profile picture you have your experiences on like, oh my gosh, these people are way more experienced than I am, like, who am I? Who are they going to talk to me? No way. So that's who I am. I was like, probably a partnerships exact, I don't even know if there's that bowl specifically exist anymore. But I was like, there is no way like, these people are not gonna respond to me. So I just tried my best to this is one part, the crucial tip to avoid is to cold outreach, right? I eat that the most it's because, you know, you try to go and connect with all these CEO Bounders that you think that would be the best, I guess the best person to reach out to because they don't have a partnership person. But I think ideally usually is between like salesperson or maybe AES, just because they should know better whether this service applies to their current client or their future clients. So things like that. And I was just going around on Twitter, on LinkedIn. I mean, I wasn't that active. But I was just trying to reach out and imagine for a person who was in LinkedIn trying to reach out to a bunch of founders and CEOs, and they're like, zero response is zero. If and if they were to respond. It's bad. It's so bad. They're like, No, thank you. To me, I might, okay, I'll take a pinch of salt. But it's so bad, because then what's next to me? Right? And right now at this stage, I'm just like, wow, these are some of the lessons I've learned so much that I still continue doing in my second job. And I'm like, No, this is not working. And I think one really, really bad example was that I didn't ask for help. That was one problem. And I feel like these days, partnerships have so much opportunity to do so we have people like well, we have people like Adam, like yourself, Tom or anyone else. And just to go out and be like neck with them, follow them consistently look at their post, it's always very knowledgeable. And that's where you start reaching out and be like, Hey, can I speak to you for 15 minutes and have a chat, learn something? And I didn't do that. Back in the days, I was just like, what was I doing? And, and I just continued doing what I was doing that I thought it was correct. And it never worked. So partnership didn't work for me until I think probably the third year that I saw myself, like there was something growing, there were something that I put a groundwork to it. And I just learned all by myself. And then throughout the way I also connected with people like well, with, you know, a little later, I know what was a little later. But a lot of you guys were just somewhat slowly in Florida kind of adapted and kind of grew my connection. And I felt like that's great, because it's not only going to help partnership, it's going to help with a lot more like friendship, you can meet them now you can actually do a lot more things. And if you need a real help, there'll be there and it's just, I don't know, if they're better than friends. I don't have friends. Oh, no guy

Tom Burgess 23:18
neither, I don't know, new friends,

Alicia Gan 23:20
new friends, I can't meet any of your friends. So they are our friends.

Tom Burgess 23:26
Two things worth kind of calling out there. One is that we and we've talked about this in the past, the partnership community is growing, it's strong. But they're also like Barry willing to help and like live example that today, former guest of the podcast, Mike Atlantis, you know, we're like, very much entwined with Salesforce, getting up on the AppExchange. And just having a call with him today was like the most refreshing eye opening experience because he he's done that and all that to say like, Don't shy away from like, calling for help or asking for help. And and weed with that. Like, hey, you know, Michael, I need help, like, we need to understand what we're doing. What are your tips, and it was, it was the most I would say like, just amazing discussion for 30 minutes. And we walked away with a wealth of knowledge that we didn't know and how we approach it. So point there is like lean on, lean on your connections, build new connections, utilize partnerships, the network that you have as a resource, not you know, like, just, they're nice to have. And then the second piece is like, understand that that your previous previous experience, and this is probably tapping into more of like the listeners that have had partnership roles have probably been at a couple companies or at least you know two, but partnership partnerships in the foundation of driving successful relationships and partnerships is all routes driven. You know, so like what I carried from Vinyard to Sasa wasn't just call still sticks. And so you'll start to develop this, this rhythm of knowing what's worked in the past and what you need, regardless of the product, regardless of the current program, like come in, break down barriers break down walls to say like no, like, my experience has been X, you know, like, especially around process like automation, just internal tack like, don't don't enter a new company a new role with just like pushing everything that you've experienced before in the past, because that that is where that experience and that knowledge that professional development is so critical to where you're going now. And I would expect every partner professional to ingrain some aspect of what they know, into a new company into a new program. So kudos to you, Alicia.

Will Taylor 25:46
Agreed, and we did not pay her to fluff us up and say that we're influencers and all that, but thank you. We're flattered, Alicia, we always leave our listeners with one tactical tip you talked about a lot today. But what is one that you would leave them with? If they asked you, I need one tip to help me What is what would that be for a partner

Alicia Gan 26:07
manager? Oh, man, that is so so hard. This is so hard, you're just putting me on this little spotlight, I would just say okay, follow our will. But the that is true, guys. It's just really building those strong relationships, right? Like, it's just, it's not you're gonna lose anything by following these people. Just saying follow them. Make sure that you keep if you don't want to connect, don't worry about that. Just follow them and look through their contents. It's just going to help you so much more. But you know, I want everybody to remember this is that building successful partnerships, it actually takes time and effort. We all know that right? And this kind of tips that we're laying out today. It's just a strong foundation that we can build through so and I think this is a great way to drive mutual all these like growth and success together.

Will Taylor 26:59
A great, best way to end it. Well. Thank you for being here sharing your wisdom and thank you listeners for another episode of The howdy partners podcast. CF folks. I

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