Howdy Partners #8 - Partner Activation & Enablement

This week, the gentlemen talk about setting your partnerships up to achieve success through early activation and proper enablement. The first days, weeks, and months are hyper-critical for strategic partnerships.

Get a glimpse of how you build the enablement journey from the ground up while avoiding common pits where stall happens.

The path to enabling partners successfully can be daunting, but you can level your game up with pinpointed structure, relationship awareness, and setting expectations.

3 Key Takeaways

  1. Activation and enablement for your partners is fundamental to their success in your partner program
    "Activation and enablement is the lifeblood of how you build their knowledge and confidence in your product and in their knowledge and confidence in being able to to position your product."
  2. You're the guide. You're not there to do everything for your partner.
    Ensuring buy-in at each step is important. Make sure you have homework, and ways for partners to show they're actively engaged in your enablement. If you want them to succeed, you have to lead them to put time and effort into the partnership.
  3. Think of proper activation and onboarding like integrating a partner into your business
    A true partner is an extension of your existing departments. If you onboard well, they'll be able to sell well.

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Full Transcript:

Will Taylor  00:20

How do you partners Welcome to another episode, where we will be giving you the tactical information to be successful in your role? How's it going, guys? Or should I? Should I ask how it's going? I hate small talk. And I feel like there's good and bad things going bad. And how's it going? I'll start with you.

Ben Wright  00:42

Yeah, I'm right. I'm busy as we all are. But apart from that, I'm looking at my Windows sun's out in Utah. It's not too hot. I think we've got like, an 80 degree temperature today. So yeah, a lot of things to be to be happy about. I think so. Yeah. fairly, fairly good. I would say seven out of 10. Seven out of 10 times. It's passing. Yeah, exactly. Tom.

Tom Burgess  01:06

I'm a little bit warmer over here in Denver. Just, you know, we get that that warmer breeze, it's 94. So Ben and I are enjoying some some balmy, summer days out here in the mountains. It's been dry, though. We don't have a lot of smoke from wildfires. So knock on wood that sticks around. But yeah, it's been busy. I breaking news, I actually lost my job last week. I'm sure we'll touch on that later. So I'm on the market. Hopefully not for long. But it also gives me a lot of time to focus. Myself family and howdy partners, of course.

Ben Wright  01:41

Yeah. And if you're looking for a great partnership, the annual team. Well, now you've you've got somebody that you can go and recruit. So I mean, we both give awful, awful recommendations to Tom here. So I mean, this is probably going to come out in like, a few months time. It doesn't just go unemployed, then we've got a serious problem, I think at this point. There we go.

Tom Burgess  02:03

Hashtag ad. Yeah, August 11. Just timestamp. And now whenever this launches, we'll see where I'm at.

Will Taylor  02:10

I love it. I said I hate small talk. And you guys went right into weather so amazing. Well, today, we are talking about partner enablement, focusing on activating your partners, why it's important and the things that you can do. And I know Ben, just like the other episodes, you're in the thick of this right now building your program. So

Ben Wright  02:33

very, very topical. For me. I feel like every episode is, is a challenge to vent a little bit little to me.

Will Taylor  02:39

There you go. Yeah. And Tom, you're the perfect man for this year. You've got the enablement chops and the passion for it as well. So let's dive in just at a high level. Tom, tell us why activation and enablement for your partners is fundamental to their success in the partner program. Why is it so important?

Tom Burgess  03:01

That's a loaded question. But I think it's, it's really simple. It's the lifeblood of how you build their knowledge and confidence in your product and in their knowledge and confidence in being able to, to position your product, I think it's, it's really important for partners to understand that you're not you're not a vendor, right? Like we talked about that a lot like their, their, their opinion and understanding of who you are, as a company is either going to be on one side, like, hey, they're a vendor or no, we're strategically aligned together. So I I believe that the activation phase in those first couple of months is really important for you to kind of set that that paradigm set that mindset for your partners to see you as an extension of their team and a product that they can build around. Right. It's not you we're talking about the HubSpot ecosystem. We talked about Adobe, we talked about Marketo Salesforce, but how is your product now somebody that's irreplaceable in what they're doing and how they're going to market. But it's it boils down to this is the time and the most critical time for you to help build their knowledge, build their understanding, and build their go to market strategies to be successful with your product.

Ben Wright  04:13

And, and I think like when we we start from like the ground up, so you start a brand new partner program, you've signed your partners and now it's time to activate them. Viewer going in and and starting from the ground up, like what are some of the core things? What are the things that you need to have? What are the things that you need to build in order to create like this best in class enablement program?

Tom Burgess  04:34

Yeah. So I think it's pretty philosophical. And this is something that I focused on a lot when I was, you know, Vinyard are interested in other organizations. From a from an education standpoint, there's certainly like a rhyme and a rhythm to starting with more of the standards, right. Perfect. One is, is is your product training. So how are you helping the partner organization To understand how to use your toolset, whether that's across live training calls three to four weeks, like videoredo is roughly broken down over three courses where we go through the basics like your admin, setting up integrations, adding people in just really like the high level, like, Let's build the ecosystem are kind of like the shell of the product. And then let's get into some more like, how do I actually use it? You know, how do I build CTAs? For my videos? How do I send this out to get tracking, and you just kind of you, you, you keep building upon that. And so to me product training, no matter the product is critical, because, one, that's how they understand how to then position and use it. But it also builds some of the back end trust, right? Like this, this partner organization is now seeing like, oh, you know what, I know that externally, my success is going to be built around how I how much I can sell this product, how much can I build this within my clientele, etc. But to do that, they're going to start to see, oh, man, my organization is actually scaling and growing because of this product as well. So it builds that that authentic kind of piece on there. But it also builds like the humbleness factor like, Hey, listen, X client. This is how we succeeded with the product. This is how he has succeeded with Salesforce sales, loft, outreach and why it's important to us, we know that it can do the same thing for you. The second piece in row sorry, go ahead.

Will Taylor  06:25

I was just gonna ask like, I think it'd be good to talk about the difference between a lunch and learn and the actual activation itself, because I feel like they may be interchangeable in some people's minds. But I have an opinion on the opposite. So what are your thoughts there on the difference between those two or you know, why they should be different?

Tom Burgess  06:48

Like a launch and learn and actual activation?

Ben Wright  06:54

So I think and again, I think me and you have a similar perspectives on this, like a lunch and learn where I say like, Okay, I've just signed up this really cool partner, can I get in front of your sales team and buy them a freaking sandwich? And I'll sit there and talk about the products, right? That in some people's mind is how you activate a partner, everything's gonna be solved in that 130 minute session, while people are half involved in like, they're off the webcam? Yeah, they're eating their sandwiches you paid like $20 a person for DoorDash? on mute. Yeah, exactly. Or in comparison, like a really cool activation program, where you've got a pool, you've got a certification, they will have to complete that train. So maybe just like 12 point, just explain, like, how you fill out your program? What are the things that creates success? I guess, and what what kind of what kind of things do you do to create that success? Right?

Tom Burgess  07:47

So I, it's really important here to kind of we've talked about this a lot to is put put the put responsibility on the partner side, right? Like as an enablement, professional. I'm not just here to hold your hand, I'm not just here to do everything for you, I'm gonna help train you and guide you. But you've got to put in the effort. So building out that milestone, kind of like what what does the next two to three months look like in terms of what we're doing here? What are the milestones to get there, right. So by week four, we just talked about it, I want you guys to be fully adopted, on our product, meaning, whether you're going to sit and we're going to do a lunch and learn to help me activate you on product training, or a built out automated videos or automated playlist inside of an LMS, you're expected, or like, we want to set this milestone where you're achieving X results by when. So to me, it shows once again, the buy in aspect, because I'm not just going to spoon feed you, that's not really how a successful partnership works. And to me, what I'm trying to build here is some report some trust, and you're also building that same thing, because we are equals, we're putting efforts together. And that to me is activation. So really like setting the timetable, setting clear expectations, I think there's a layer of building and some rules and responsibilities, right? As my, as this new partner team comes to me, who am I interacting with? Who's my main point of contact? Who's my champion? That's really key, like almost in the kickoff phase, before you get to anything else? Who can I rely on who can I hold accountable? And so how

Ben Wright  09:21

would ya, and I guess what we're, I'm interested in this and we'll reference that and start like very topical to the program I'm building out of them. And how would your advice differ to somebody starting a brand new program where you're late on? manpower, right? There's one of one or two of you. And like, potentially not a massive budget for enablement in comparison to like a sales force that has unlimited budget can create a massive LMS with training, content, all that kind of stuff. How can somebody that's just starting in partnership program from the ground up, still feel enabled? Which partners are you

Tom Burgess  10:00

So, honestly, I, I don't see them as any different aside from someone having maybe a little bit more money to spend on technology to buy something like an LMS. I mean, if you guys ever heard of Google Docs, that you can, you can, you can bootstrap and be a little bit like you can build your system with duct tape and baling wire, and it will still serve the same purpose for when you do have the money to then purchase something that can be a little bit more shiny, be a little bit more automated, you know, that there is there is absolutely concerns around, you know, just capacity and stuff like that. And that's why I think, especially as you're starting, you've got, you've almost got to put in the time and the effort and get a little dirty, like so I would be I would absolutely be doing you know, product trainings, or how to sell this product live with my partners to almost, you know, walk the walk and talk to talk. And then when you start to advance, you take a step back, and you're like, you know what, I can absolutely automate this piece. And, and here's the other thing, too, we're not talking about like, go out and get a video license, go out and get a loom license that can be free.

Ben Wright  10:59

It's a great point, as you were saying that I was I was actually going to ask you the question like, Is it as simple as recording some product? And like sending it to your partner management saying, hey, I want you to list all of your sales reps, I will track who's watched. Every person is good.

Tom Burgess  11:12

That's exactly, exactly right. So like I think they're, I think there's a big tendency to think like, you know, what, I don't have the resources. If I'm thinking like pie in the sky, what my perfect enablement, or activation structure looks like, people tend to get caught up in the thick of thin things. And like, I need so much budget to be able to pull this off. You don't you? You absolutely don't. There are so many resources and tools out there where you can record a video track that recording, have someone check off like a checkbox on that Google Doc, when they've completed it. Now you're Yeah, and

Ben Wright  11:43

I, I'm also in my mind, or because this is something that we need to figure out over the next couple of weeks as the enablement piece. And as you were sort of talking about that, like, even doing a little bit of incentivization, where it's like, hey, for the first, or every person that completes or watches this video and answers a couple of questions, we're going to give you $10 per dollar. Because then, for me, like instead of doing a lunch and learn where you're saying, I'm going to pay for lunch, right, I'm already going to invest this money, but there's no actual give from that team really apart from just turning up to the meet and sit in the background. I would rather stay I will give you a $10 DoorDash gift card if you go in and do these actions for right like and that's a really, it's really simple, but not one that I considered from like a loom video. But as you were talking, I was like that would make so much sense just from my current draft and Ableman program

Tom Burgess  12:33

perspective. Yeah, and what you're doing is building synergies on both fronts. And I, I love the idea of being able to incentivize, like, I think incentive is a incentivizing is one way that you can kind of like, almost buy your buy in or buy your way into, like making sure they're doing it. I think I think I would also recommend being really bullish on what you're asking them, right? Like, what are the tangible takeaways? What are the home? What's the homework, that you're expecting them to give back? Like, if you want, if you want your partner's to succeed, they're gonna have to put in the time the effort so like, you know, go heavy, like ask them like, what did you? What's your feedback? How do you like, what are three ways that you can tangibly see your team using this product in the next 30 days? And and, and get their wheels turning? Because that's what enablement is? Right? You're you're trying to help them think outside the box, educate, and etc.

Ben Wright  13:22

Yeah. And I also think, like, another thing to consider would be, and I feel like this gets lost in translation, sometimes where you're working one on one with a partner manager, because one of the things that we do when we launch a new technology partner is we run like an incentive over the first month for their sales team to say, hey, any leads that you refer to Help Scout you get $100. Even in that onboarding enablement piece, you can introduce that incentive directly to the sales team, which I think is far more impactful than like you telling your partner manager counterpart, and maybe not even getting kind of passed on and stuff like that. So you've gotta be thinking about all the different kind of flows that have come off that that loom video which would be that would be really interesting to do some data capture, right? Because that's one of the things I really want to do is when I sign up upon I get in that whole list of scsm Any communities and I can run my drip campaigns every month. So you could also do a data capture element where it's like I need your email to give you that $10 gift card and then place them in a in a drip campaign so every month they're getting content from me right like I love that. I think you got my wheels turning a little bit here which is which I like it.

Will Taylor  14:27

I wanted to layer in some a conversation I had shout out Chris Lavoie at gorgeous, he will literally say to the partners, sales reps, or CSMs. I'm going to pay your rent. Yeah, giving them that perspective of if you do this, like we're going to give you in your spare for whatever and it's going to have this result that immediately makes them think you know I want my rent paid. Like that's something that is highly incentive incentivized. And so when you add that perspective, just like you were saying, Ben, if you can tie it to like their individual life or like their individual role, if you want to be more general then that gives them that perspective. And then they immediately can connect the dots. So I love that to tie that point. You guys

Ben Wright  15:18

tell a lot of gorgeous though if you're if you're living in somewhere like London, you got to sell gorgeous for them to be paying your rent off. But I guess so like it lands from just like an impact or like a big, epic statement perspective. But I'm telling you, I have to sell like 100 grands worth of gorgeous to pay my salt lake for sure. Now, this is a this is cool as it's I think final question, or at least one of the predominant questions is toolings. We talked about food like Bootstrap ways of doing enablement. When you reach that really kind of mature program, we talked about the sales forces, you mentioned a PRN what are the kind of things that a PRM can bring to that enablement program, which would take it over the edge.

Tom Burgess  16:01

Yeah. So a PRM to me should serve a couple of different purposes. One, in a, in a technology or technologically savvy organization, you know, there, we talk about tech fatigue, and like, you know, you're adding kind of like to that list. Tech organism or partner organizations have the tendency, and I think we'll and I can tell you firsthand from our time, Vinyard, like there was a lot out there, and we're trying to simplify and be concise, to me a PRM is, is if you think about in the right way, is the only piece of technology within reason that you can expect your partner to access. And that PRM should include the ability to, you know, submit leads, get paid out, on on commissions, etc. But when you start to layer in this, this kind of partner success hub, where you've got the potential to have this LMS, this Learning Center, which, you know, most large organizations have that internally already, now, you start to build the evolution of why partnerships can scale and can scale efficiently. Right, so we talked about the idea, you know, you can bootstrap programs and present a really solid activation plan so that your partners are succeeding after month three, and you can use Google you can use loom you can you can spend $0, on that, really, as you do start to scale, you know, you're and you're efficiently trying to push a lot of processes, operations, and just, you know, support, we know, we can talk about the different hats, that enablement wears throughout a day to day. But as you start to go upstream, having that PRM in place is really the important piece of technology. The other, the other one that we we talked about all the time is going to be crossbeam. So product training is really key and activation, like make sure they understand your product. The other piece is like how do they actually sell your product? How do you position it? How do you go to market? What, what, what avenues do I have? So that's where like something like a cross beam comes in really handy. There, you know, P RMS, like a partner stack is kind of like the the new wave because now you can actually buy an LMS on top of that, and we're not leaving every ecosystem. Yeah, there's a there's a lot of, I don't know, I'm drawing a blank, there's a lot of other ones and I can't remember what they're titled. And

Ben Wright  18:11

on I think we use previously, they've got old bound as one right like this, we actually use honestech. That helps Cal primarily for our affiliate. It's a big affiliate partner program. But we have added like a few modules to it, where you can now do lead registration. And we're also considering like the LMS module, so it's becoming more of like an all encompassing PRM solution. I think originally it was just like that affiliate. The the toady broad Crosby, I think is really an interesting one just to touch on very quickly, because I think outside of, for me, the fastest way to activate truly activate a partnership is to get a quick word, right like is to get that first like, Hey, this is what we're going to do. And for me, like if you can get crossbeam, you can figure out a prospect that a partner is currently working on, which is your customer and get them an intro and help them to close that account. There's nothing, there's nothing more kind of momentum shifting than that activity, like you can do all the training in the world, right? You can give them all the incentives that you want. But ultimately, like the thing that's going to really ignite that and activate that partnership, is that first Yeah, it has to come from you helped help to influence so I love the call out across beam because that's definitely a core component of all right, yeah.

Tom Burgess  19:32

And yeah, and just just to kind of wrap that piece in crossbeams, great. And you're right, like you can see the idea like you can lead a horse to water but you can't force it to drink. So you know, getting that quick win. Set early is key because now they're like, oh, you know what, I can do this, like we can do this. And that can take months if you just kind of go down the training route of like, you know, hey, let's really break down these barriers break down your sales process and you just put a boatload of time into like getting one lead. That didn't even close. So I think the other piece here too is like, if I could recommend, you know, like we talked about being bootstrapped, right, as you're, as you're thinking about spending money, I would absolutely recommend your first dollar going to a PRN, because that really ties everything together.

Ben Wright  20:16

Hey, here's a question for both of you. And I guess we're getting up on time here. So it might be the final one, does a tool like crossbeam, negate the need to train a whole partner sales team? And let me add some, some clarification to that. If you're working directly with your partner manager, you have all the pertinent account information you can see directly like, okay, these are the prospects that we want to go after, is it as easy as the partner manager, just handling the relationship with their sales team and getting them to give you account information and introductions,

Tom Burgess  20:51

I, I really hesitate to use that as like a solid approach, because then you're just kind of like, you're not taking the training wheels off, like you're just kind of keeping the training wheels on for them and being like, hey, yeah, we might have a prospect. And essentially, what you're saying is like, hey, let's just take all the leads will handle for you, right, like, don't even worry about it. And what you're doing is you're not, you are turning that salesperson into like, kind of just like a middleman instead of like, helping to helping change their paradigm to be solutions oriented versus just like, like, here you go, and I'll make my money. So I really, I really believe that being able to help infiltrate, and train and help kind of like, educate and change their paradigm makes them a way more just a way stronger salesperson in general, because and the other side, too, is the time spent in training for them to essentially sell your product for you. And all your ad net that needs to do is get them in so like, your ad is gonna love it. Because like now they're like, Hey, I'm just gonna make free money on my end. So you're, you're extending your sales team by training them versus the other way.

Will Taylor  22:00

Yeah, my my opinion, there is, it's like, you will be drying up the well, if you only give, you know, the little pieces to pick up, which, you know, might not be little, but it's at least you know, this simple data that they can use and take action for and share that might get some wins. But in terms of the long term, I think of enablement, and the proper activation and onboarding as really integrating into the business, where you become an integral part of when I'm a salesperson at my partner's company. And I'm like, oh, I want to you know, make some extra money or, you know, deliver even more success to this client, what do I do, I go to this partner, and that's then having you integrated as a part of their go to market. And as a part of their overall solution, which I think is like the whole point of a partnership. And the other side of that, like I mentioned, is, it's more of a, hey, let's, you know, get some quick wins. And it is a good tactic for that. But it's not a long term strategy, in my opinion, because it doesn't bring in that empowerment or that knowledge, or that enablement of, here's how you do it, when you know, I'm not around to kind of thing.

Tom Burgess  23:17

Empowerment is a great way to describe this, build trust, build empowerment around that.

Will Taylor  23:24

And I'll wrap up that thought up with like, if you've removed crossbeam, or like, if you ran out of data, what then, you know, what, what does the partner do at that point, they don't have the know how, of, okay, this is integrated into my business or my go to market or, you know, I know what to say when a customer says this other thing that highlights a problem they have, they won't be able to do that hand to hand combat. And so, you know, you probably won't remove the tool necessarily, but, you know, maybe you get promoted or, you know, another salesperson comes on and it's like the there's going to be you know, a broken telephone at that point of losing the actual momentum and the long term benefits. Any final thoughts before we know good point for the wrap up? No,

Ben Wright  24:14

I haven't I haven't got opinion either way. No, I think I think this has been good. Like I said, I've got some food for thought here as well. Instead of just doing like some crazy content creation play, go out and just record a live video and you know, maybe set up a Zapier or some type of automation that then kicks off form and then collect the data that way like that would just be an easy way. And maybe I can show that maybe that can be the gateway from this from this dialer. Or the

Tom Burgess  24:41

nation decklists creation 101

Ben Wright  24:45

Yep, love it. 100%

Will Taylor  24:47

Awesome. Thanks for the time guys next episode we are going to get an enablement expert who is also just as good as Tom but I would say you know, even further immersed into the enablement space I'll dangle the carrot but We'll leave it at that. We will see you on the next episode of howdy partners.

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