PartnerUp #98 - Thinking Like a CEO as a Partnerships Professional - Kim Walsh on Winning the Trust Internally

What is up PartnerUp!?

Today we’re joined by the incredible Kim Walsh, former VP of Go To Market Partnerships at Hubspot.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got an absolute BEAST on the show today! From incentive structures to ramping team productivity to the importance of outsourced metrics, Kim shares the secrets of how she scaled the Hubspot partnerships department. When she started the department was at 1 million in revenue. Now it’s at almost 400 million.

If you’re a partner pro, this episode will have you nodding your head while simultaneously scribbling notes as Kim sheds light on the challenges and triumphs of proving out a groundbreaking partner program. She knew she’d have to continually prove her worth as she influenced everyone from sales ops to product and worked with them to make Hubspot faster and better at its core objectives.

Share the episode with your commentary on LinkedIn or Twitter and we’ll highlight your commentary. We love to hear your thoughts on each episode, and always comment back or respond to emails/dms. Hey! We’re real people.

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Full transcript:

Jared Fuller  0:11
All right, what is up partner up? We're back, Isaac back to back nights recording we we screwed up the schedule and for the first time and I feel like since we started recording partner up together, we released a podcast episode two days late and then a podcast episode a day late, so we're not doing that anymore. Good to have you back back to back nights my friend.

Isaac Morehouse  0:31
Yeah, you know, we could do this every evening, Jared. Why not? No, I I am like you. I hate. I hate getting off schedule on content stuff. So to all of our loyal listeners out there, who I know are just refreshing their podcast app, like maniacally waiting for that new episode to drop. Sorry, we made you made you wait.

Jared Fuller  0:53
Sorry. Sorry, we weren't there with you Tuesday morning on your run. Speaking of runs, we were just talking about a joint friend with our guest today. I'm super excited to be welcoming Kim Walsh here kind of a legend of the several different programs at HubSpot revenue and partner leader. And today I want to talk with you, Kim about driving revenue together. So, Kim, welcome to partner up.

Kim Walsh  1:16
Thanks, guys. Thanks, Isaac. Thanks, Jared. Thanks for having me.

Jared Fuller  1:20
Absolutely. Absolutely. So, Kim, for those of you those of the listeners out there that aren't familiar with your history. Let's start just a little bit there. You started formally on what side of the org? And then how did you end up in partnerships?

Kim Walsh  1:36
Sure. So I started at HubSpot a long time ago, left a year and a half ago and started in the sales org started as a individual contributor and a seller myself and they were about maybe 80 100 People at HubSpot. And yeah, I sold in the SMB segment, that mid market segment and then started an experiment on the upmarket enterprise side.

Jared Fuller  1:59
And what was the inflection point or the forcing function that got you from sales to partnerships? There's, you might have heard rumors out there that like, I don't know, this is an old Salesforce joke or channel joke that, you know, partnerships is where salespeople go to retire. Doesn't look like you're retiring. So like, how do you how did you get kicked out of the the revenue team and over to the lowly partner team? Yeah, I

Kim Walsh  2:22
mean, great question. So in running that, partly running like the enterprise app market team did that for five years. It became the number one team globally for HubSpot and Oh, so you

Jared Fuller  2:35
were kicking butt? Yeah,

Kim Walsh  2:37
we were kicking butt. We had a

Jared Fuller  2:37
lot to prove. And then you went to partnerships. I thought that wasn't the way that was supposed to be.

Kim Walsh  2:41
I know, right? Well, I got asked to do it. So that was a big honor. But serving like startups and founders and I would largely say as a byproduct of being at HubSpot, the two co founders were very, very supportive of partnerships. It's not a secret how the HubSpot agency partner started where Brian partner program started when Brian said no to it, and then the guy named pica Pooja was like, I'm gonna run it nights and weekends and created just a phenomenal agency partner program that so many of us have, you know, just benefited from but so, HubSpot loved partnerships, and our team was doing really well. And they were like, Kim, you're entrepreneurial, aren't you? You helped us build up market and enterprise, can you go help us figure out how to run a partner program that sort of startups and founders, I was like, Sure. And there was this guy named James stone he was selling. He was a account executive at HubSpot, and he had got the program from like zero to 1 million, and they needed someone to scale it. So James wanted to go back into sales leadership, and I wanted to really be like creative. And Brian and I kind of said something a lot, which was like, think outside the button. And for me, they were they asked me to run the partnership side and help build and scale a new partnerships, or immediately, I was like, I don't know, does it take me away from revenue? Why I was like, and I cried, I didn't want to leave my team. But I put faith and trust in, you know, the two guys asking you to do it. And I dove right in and did it for six years to provide

Jared Fuller  4:20
some scale real quick, Kim impact, you know, beginning of that six years impact at the end. I see I see a number on LinkedIn, that's a really big number. So like some people like oh, yeah, I've helped I think you've had as big an impact as you know, I've seen from the outside in having partnered with HubSpot multiple times. And you know, you're you're naming the ecosystem, but just to put some scale on that.

Kim Walsh  4:43
Yeah, so again, this guy James ran it from like zero to one and my team to get from one to N gets like over 300 million, maybe 400 million now it makes a significant portion of HubSpot revenue. But you know, it's all that that team they've done An awesome job since I've left,

Isaac Morehouse  5:02
you said something interesting when we were chatting before we hit record. You said you didn't want to leave the revenue org, and you didn't want to be a cost center. And that's like your, your goal. And I find that really interesting because I've come across some people in the partnership space, especially if they're in a, maybe a company that's like, yeah, we want to have partnerships, and they kind of believe in it. But they don't really treat it seriously. They're kind of in that in between zone, right? There's the companies are like, super skeptical, and they're like, You better prove your worth. And then there's those who are all the way bought in but that in between, we're like, yeah, okay, we need to partnerships person, here we go. I've run across a few who almost dry call it like the it's like the nonprofit mentality, where it's like, Okay, here's your budget, the beginning of the year, now go do a bunch of activities. And they're like, Yeah, my job is to just do partner stuff. And then they're not thinking they're basically thinking, I'm going to spend my budget, and I'm going to go to activities, because that's a partner people do. They're not thinking I need to be driving revenue. So I just tell me about that. That mindset, what is that? switch flip do for you?

Kim Walsh  6:02
Yeah, so great question, I think a couple of things. One is just a byproduct of the culture at HubSpot and starting experiments, right? It wasn't experiment, I, it was known that if you were starting an experiment, you were going to be lean on resources. So what that meant is that we needed to figure out how to get additional resources. And largely, I took on this role as well, because I wanted to work on the skill set of like influencing my peers, influencing leadership and influencing, you know, growing a team. So like north, south, east and west, and I knew we were always going to have to prove our worth. And there's no better way to do that, then prove that you are productive, efficient and making the company money, right. So LTV to CAC is a big one. And we anchor on basically like if we put $1 in this business, how many dollars are we going to get back? And we needed to prove that out. And when I took the role, I said one thing I was like the number one thing you're always going to hear from me is that I'm probably going to be under resourced. And I'm going to ask for more. And we're going to have a specific ask every quarter. But I'll make sure to like treat you as my board. And you reserve the right to say no or yes. And I was always competing against quota carrying headcount,

Jared Fuller  7:19
the Kim Walsh compass of influence right like that north south east west, I think the unpack that a little bit further. For any listener out there that is in a partner function. I've been saying this a lot. And it bears saying again, because to hear you say that Kim and how you had to think about it coming from revenue into partnerships, is that I often advocate that the partner leaders job is to not focus on their own initiatives. It's to build that muscle between, you know, leadership and these other departments. And you felt like you were competing against quota carrying headcount. So like that influence there. When did that become? Well, actually, this is actually a good follow on question. Because this phrase gets thrown out a lot built a global business, you know, business, was this a business unit, a department like when did it go from, hey, this is a side experiment to, hey, let's start working together with other parts of the York, right? Because sometimes in the beginning partner tests or experiments, they're like, Hey, you're an island. Here's your lead pool, you work it, you close it with the partner, you service it, you figure it out, versus Hey, let's go work with everyone else.

Kim Walsh  8:30
So first guiding principle from day one was we never wanted to be on an island of our own. How could we be in service to HubSpot mission as a company? How could we be in service to solving for enterprise value? It was always how can we be on other people's agenda, or M spot knowing what the company's Northstar and mission was that it was first and foremost, we needed to know where the where HubSpot was going every year. From there, it was like how can we be in service to all of our colleagues to our customers to HubSpot, we actually do it in the order of like company, our strike customer, company, team and self. Those are sort of like our guiding principle pyramid. And we just like inserted it we really every single week month planning cycle was like we are not on an island of our own and how do we get off of it? Because it wouldn't have been successful if you're not servicing customers in the company, and others.

Isaac Morehouse  9:34
Being aware that you're competing against, you know, quota carrying headcount, what are you bringing with you when you're going and making your argument when you're like, hey, I need more resources that what like what were the proof points, the narratives or the data that you found were the most compelling and that you could lean on to make that effectively? So my

Kim Walsh  9:53
experience and bring in building the enterprise sales team, or the up market business was that we also had to prove that business out right because HubSpot served SMB and midmarket customers, and you know, we want to kind of serve the lowercase E on that, or uppercase M. So it was the same playbook. It was the same unit economics. It was productivity per rap, you know, and I knew that the only way I would get funding, and we said this word nonlinear growth. When HubSpot was transitioning to appeal G company, we always wanted to grow it more efficient and be more productive than we had done in the past. So what that means is our productivity per rep metric, I knew what it was in every single segment of the business. We aimed and our Northstar was 4x, more productive, then a traditional quota carrying rep. Why? Because one, it would pull HubSpot to average up on the productivity and efficiency of quota carrying person, our partnership managers were quota carrying as well, they had a quota. We had a team quota. But we had a quota because we always knew that we needed to be 4x more productive than a sales rep in a segment in order to continue to show our worth and yeah, be a revenue generating. So we always wanted to like compete against HubSpot growing X amount year over year, you know, we want to like 2x 3x 4x that growth.

Jared Fuller  11:29
It's interesting any, any sales leader that I end up liking, like having carried a team and a number before is like at the end of the day, it does boil down to these very basic go to market, you know, principles, numbers, unit economics, like PPR, right. Like everything I think about in terms of annual planning, I don't care what size the company has five quota carrying reps or 500. I'm just thinking PPR right? revenue equals headcount times productivity, that's it. And b2b SaaS revenue equals headcount times productivity. So you know, if we're stuck with headcount, or if can we scale headcount? Like, what's the productivity? And how do we impact that and I think just listening to you, Kim, any partner person, go back and listen to how Kim was talking about her business, she's talking about, like a VP of sales, like a CRO. And if you're not familiar with how to talk and operate at that level, and impact things like productivity, it sounds like a vague, empty word, until you recognize like, oh, shoot, I have, I have these 1020 3050 people, and they're not productive, they're not making their money. How do I focus on that problem as a partner person? Not the well, my partner's over here. And like the stuff in the ecosystem, that's equally important, but you know, right now driving revenue together, that's that's the challenge. Because if you can make your your ad is far more productive, and partner pill them that way versus trying to help your partner by virtue, it's it's just it continues the cycle. When do you feel like that started to shift where the productivity started to show off, like higher win rates, ASP, I mean, there's three buckets higher win rate ASP, do velocity that came outside of the, you know, partner programs, where it's like, Hey, we're starting to touch other things like, you know, startup that maybe went and graduated to, you know, upgrading somewhere else, or working together, from your team to another one.

Kim Walsh  13:17
Yeah. So we had like the traditional playbook of like, the way that we looked at HubSpot business in terms of unit economics is the same way we looked at the whole go to market partnerships or unit economics. So to build on what you're saying we also really broke down CAC, right like, how much does it cost to acquire a customer in this motion. And we had low marketing costs, because our partners would share the benefit and who HubSpot was on our behalf and all of these trusted communities. That's what a partnership does, right. And that was really effective for us. So we anchored when, when the productivity per wrapper per partner manager was debated at times, we knew we could lean back on CAC on, you know, cost to acquire a customer. And then when that ever was in question, we leaned on the two most important metrics, which would be gross revenue retention and net revenue retention. And that those two metrics were always what got us the funding of because it's all about how are we acquiring the customer? And then to your point, Jared, like, are they staying with us and growing, because we were taking a significant hit in the startup program, specifically habit chocolate, the other buckets of partnerships. But with the startup program, we were taking a hit because HubSpot for startups customers get 90% off on your 150 off on your to 25% off on going they never pay full price that's by design of them taking a bet on us early on. But you know if those customers left HubSpot at that point in time and went to someone else, the unit economics wouldn't work. And our CFO would have said, why the heck do we have this thing? The answer's no. But the gross revenue retention and net revenue retention, were like pretty we're, I would say to the team's credit, everyone was always pleasantly surprised by the health of the business, which is where we focused.

Jared Fuller  15:21
One of the things that I experienced was having held a number in the board holding me accountable to CAC and a CAC, LTV benchmark, right, like showing up to the board meeting and they're like, Hey, here's, you know, they're ever the first time I got asked to figure out CAC LTV. And I was like, how do you do that? You know, like, it could actually get a little complicated, you know, as you start to scale and can fluctuate wildly from quarter to quarter, especially when you don't have everything dialed in. But you go through that process one time and you go, Okay, this, this is how I instrument my business, from operating plan to execution and aligning, you know, actual executives and venture capitalists that know what they're doing. How did you go about understanding CAC LTV, you know, early on that was representative of the partner programs or even later stage right there was like, Hey, here's the CAC LTV when it's partnerships, and, you know, my remit versus CAC, LTV of the direct business, because oftentimes those things can feel very convoluted. And I feel like a lot of partner people wouldn't feel empowered to just go figure that the heck out. Yeah. If they hadn't done it for a sales direct motion in their previous lives.

Kim Walsh  16:31
Yeah. Great question. I would say. Obviously, I was pulling a lot on my experience of being a revenue leader and building sales teams and proving out those unit economics and,

Jared Fuller  16:45
okay, I'm gonna interrupt you right there, Kim, real quick. Imagine you didn't have this partner pill. You were your head of enterprise sales right at HubSpot. And your partner counterpart came to you and said, Look, I really want to partner with you. I'm trying to figure out I know that partner deals do this, do this, do this. Can we work on CAC LTV together to like build the business case? Like hey, objectively, is this better for our business? Would you be more receptive to that then like come on, Kim, let's just work with partners. Let's work with partners can come on cam. Let's work with partners. Oh,

Kim Walsh  17:13
of course. Right. And I was gonna say like this. The secret that I did one is I we hired this woman. Her name is Marissa Roxon. She's since left HubSpot, she's now at notion. She was our unsung hero. She basically came from a management consulting background, she, she was in a partner manager role. And I was like, whoa, this person is so talented, she had mastered the partner manager role in a period of like, let's say eight to nine months, and it was like, wait a minute, do you want to do more? Do you want to go into like our first ever rev ops, Biz Ops, like, you know, woman of all trades role and help partner and figure out how to run this thing? And that was yes. Right. So that was like, in being a sales leader. I always had rev ops or sales ops. Inside the team, there was someone who really came from a management consulting background and had that skill set to that was like the number one secret of like, oftentimes, there's people in your teams that have multiple skill sets. So I pulled on her skill set, and understood that that was a strength of hers. Number two, the secret, I think, to your question. And my point of view is, it's really important never to run our own metrics is like, who in finance and on the finance team can be influential, because it has to come from them. So I never we never rent weed, like we knew how to do it. And we did it because we wanted to be gritty about it. But it was really important that when the homework was done, when the check and balance was done, it was done from our finance team. I love that. We use want to take all the heavy lifting off them, it was like what can what do you need? What can we serve you? What did what information do you need to plug into your calculator, but at the end of the day, it had to come from them. Not right. Because we don't like check our own homework type thing. Their finance org that I owe a lot of, you know, coffee, wine, coffee. Thank you. Yeah,

Jared Fuller  19:19
totally. And I think that's, that should be a clarion call to everyone out there. Like you have to instrument your business. You know, if everyone's out there trying to drive revenue together, you have to have a command of your business. And if you can't figure it out on your own, which you probably can't, absent having had that experience of trying to figure that out. I mean, you certainly need access to metrics that are typically not just at the tip of your finger, you know, in a partner leadership role. So partnering up with your sales org, and your finance team to go hey, let's let's get this little baseline for like our partner program unit economics CAC LTV, because whenever I hit four to one at a drift, I basically showed up to the board meeting, and I said, Hey, I maintain four to one and I just do whatever the hell I want. I mean, literally, I That's what I said. I don't need to ask for everything. Just give me four to one and let me

Kim Walsh  20:03
go. What they say back? Yes.

Jared Fuller  20:07
Right. And then it was like, Oh, I had a lot more freedom at that point because it was agreed, okay, Partner Program. Now we understand your unit economics. That's where we graduated, quote unquote, from an experimental business unit. Yeah, to an official program was whenever we prove that we were past four to one, you know, on the CAC LTV side. Whatever partners were involved in direct deals.

Kim Walsh  20:30
Yeah, that's awesome. Right? And then you're like, to your point, you got the yes, you're autonomous. You're an entrepreneur, you're running your business inside of drift at that moment in time. I mean, what an amazing what an amazing run, what a cool place to be right. And I would say, similar experience at HubSpot super time, yours

Jared Fuller  20:49
is way bigger. We yours was way, way, way bigger. It's just the insight I can relate to. I think it's great advice, Kim, like focusing on those unit economics, benchmarking, your CAC, LTV, we get lost and mired in all these partner details. But at the end of the day, the board is looking at those numbers, the VCs are looking at those numbers. The founders are looking at those numbers, you need to orient your partner business around that to

Kim Walsh  21:10
absolutely, and then let great people like you inside an organization go run that business. I'm

Isaac Morehouse  21:17
so I'm curious for both of you, when you're How do you keep the waters from getting muddy? So if you're working with sales, like okay, we're going to you know, at some point, we're working on these partner deals, and we're gonna work with AES. So they're, they're closing those deals? Who gets credit? Right? How do you track that? No, no, we we influence this with our workout partners. And the A's are gonna be like, No, I did all the I did all the real work, right. I mean, I know, it's like a classic question. But I'm just curious from your How did you go about addressing that and making making a claim that was believable by all parties that wasn't taking anything away from the sales team, but that was showing that the you know, the role that your team played?

Kim Walsh  22:00
Yeah, I think that the key thing there, right is like you're not taking anything away from the velocity of the company or the sales team, you're not distracting, or there's, you know, the other thing I didn't mention, but now I bring brings an interesting point. Whereas basically like, Kim, go run, go create this, go to market partnership. Org, don't create any friction internally or for our customers. Like that was really my like remit and I was like, okay, so what that meant is like, do not distract our sellers, and be additive to them. We did a couple creative things. One we like, had the ability to get pretty, pretty creative with their incentive comp plan. So at HubSpot, for example, if you were a account executive and you sold a startup deal in your one, when that startup renewed at 50% off in year two, you got the quota retirement of the change and the delta in the monthly recurring revenue. So that was pretty cool, right. And like, early in the program, what we ended up doing, there were some reps and like, you know, some great number one reps that are obviously like, you know, willing to take the risk. They're like, Yeah, I'm number one. I just want to do everything. This is a good idea. Not everyone thought that some people were like, I'm not touching that. But the ones that did, they would walk into the following year and that month, because they were on a monthly quota and have no they would have like 100% quota retirement. It was like about like, we kind of like educated the company around like building your annuity, like invest in startups, because they'll go on to grow with us over time. And then okay, what's in it for you wrap is that, like, you know, you'll come in here in month 13 And have free quote, retirement. Like, that's great.

Jared Fuller  23:45
That's why I see a lot of account executives and partner people and people at HubSpot, they're 910 years, you know, like, I have lots of tenured people that were there for a much longer time that many, you know, startups and b2b SaaS,

Kim Walsh  23:56
yeah, so that was like, that was something creative and cool that we got. And I would say, you know, if you're listening, like how do you get that done? I would be transparent and say, I could get that done because I record directly the chief sales officer, if you don't, how do you get that done? As you influence Reb ops, you influence sales ops and you influence you know, the person like your CRO or whatnot like, and most CROs and CSOs I think the great ones like take a long term view and I would say that's probably the difference is that we really took a long term view on this thing so when if you ask like how long has it been since we started this this partnership org at HubSpot 2016 was a long time ago.

Isaac Morehouse  24:45
Yeah, I imagine to it to your to your point earlier about you know, trying to make everybody else's life easier. If you have something like this and you're just you know, hey, let's let's try to incentivize the reps to you know, sell these discounted startup programs. by giving them some, you know, some quota later. If you do the math and work it out and say, look, here's what this was gonna look like, here's how many we're going to need to do. Here's what the so that you've kind of like done the homework first and said, Look, I've run the numbers this is gonna work this is going to be fine as long as we have you know, X amount of retention, blah, blah, blah like so that you're not just putting the work out you're not just coming with an ask you're coming with a solution or a proposal, you know that just the difference there.

Kim Walsh  25:29
Yeah, and to your point like that probably the the number one turning point in the entire like go to market partnerships or was when our VP of product or VP of growth two people one Mike peachy the other Chris Miller, future yet said yes, we we believe in what Kim saying, We believe in the future. This is good for HubSpot. This is good for all of us. It's good for our customers. We they said yes to helping us build the self serve version of like our plg version, right. So that was really a monumental moment in time where, again, to the remit from the CEO at the time, don't create friction. Startups and founders. And if your partners are doing a lot of like the CO selling for you, they don't want to be sold again, why do they want to be taken through your sales process? They don't. So if they want to buy, let them buy, right, and that was our motto is like we don't sell here we help and we let you buy if you want to buy. And then we focus on, you know, the Win Win between the partner and us, which is like their company grows, their startup grows, their founders learn how to do go to market, like, that's really where we spent a lot of the resources and calories and partnering with people internally of like, how do we actually like help companies grow, and founders and startups and then, you know, entrepreneurs like that was really our angle. And also like building that customer acquisition? plg self serve motion was a total game changer. If those guys would have said no, I don't think we would have had really like a business like a finance would have ran, which was which happened once like I remember, I was like, Whoa, there's like this team in finance. That's like running this analysis on this business. And it might not be good. I'm like, let me like I heard about I was like, let me see like what's going on? So like, those are the when we when I talked about like unit economics and leading on CAC, it was so critical that those guys on the growth product team are like, Yeah, let's build it. You know, let's give you a unique code. Let's let these people buy without any friction. It was game changer.

Isaac Morehouse  27:54
So you talked about the you know, the CAC and working with partners on acquiring new customers? How much were you? On the service side, like, okay, these customers in order to retain them. You talked about net dollar retention, they're going to need help utilizing this tool in ways that we're not going to do internally. So what was your like, what percentage of your time? I don't know if you think of it this way. But how much time were you focused on partnerships that are getting our product through our partners into the hands of new customers versus partnerships that are attaching a service partner along with the products to make sure that the customers know how they're doing it? And like, do those priorities compete at all?

Kim Walsh  28:35
Yeah, great question. And I would say that I learned a ton from this guy named Brad steel at AWS activate I think he was one of the first people who had started AWS activated Amazon, they were seven years long, when I asked him for help and got introduced to him and you know, it was really about his advice to me was can build your own business inside of HubSpot. What that meant was like have a cross functional team that basically mirrored the entire company. So that's what we did. So every month we had our like monthly review that was a weekly review a daily review and it was an entire company so it was house marketing doing like attract engage delight. And then the functions within those three pillars like house marketing growth doing how's our acquisition and our signups? How's the monetization going? How is our what's our win rate and our close rate and our work rate and our productivity per rep? How is our how's our like renewals and onboarding and customer success? So on the whole, like delight side of the business, that's one where we started every single monthly review in our cross functional business, and it was the most important thing because that was it. We needed to retain and grow this segment of our users and our customers. So, renewals. You know, we largely were like experiment here. Like, we wanted to automate everything as much as we could at HubSpot, right. A lot of SaaS companies do and need to do now more than ever, we need to do more with less. And it was like, Okay, how can we automate renewals? We didn't want to like we had someone who was like, a, like I would call like fractional renewals. So like she came in, she worked on a segment of our of our business, but it wasn't her full time job. But it was like, let's automate these renewals, let's put everything in app. Let's have them renew, then let's do onboarding in a really automated way. And then it's like, okay, well, what's the CMS book of business? Right? So it was like, you know, today you have, we have tools like the CSP tools as an example where like before, as a CMS, you could manage like a two or $4 million business now you can manage like an $8 million book of business on CMS, like, all of these different type of automation across both the front end and the back end, was really where we just like we wanted to build the speedboat at HubSpot, like it was like cups, I was getting bigger. And it was like, let's just like automate and build a pretty fast speed boat and experiment and fail fast. So yeah, that's kind of like what we did

Jared Fuller  31:18
a good pivot from that part of the conversation around success and retention. Maybe we'll turn to your remit around strategic like tech partnerships. Like when did tech partnerships start to come formally into the play playbook? Because I've shared this story in the partner hacker handbook on how I built the first alliances with Panda doc and HubSpot, that led to HubSpot investment. And for me that aha moment, that black swan moment that Chris Voss talks about, like negotiating with Brad coffee, I'm trying to sign this like big, big deal. And the aha moment was, look, Brad's like all I care about is taking Free Trial signups from CRM and converting them to paid and turns out moving a deal to closed one was the most influential product activation, right? Like, if you move to do the close one, you were like, 7000 times more likely to pay than someone who didn't write. Okay, cool. Panda Doc, I can help you close deals. So it was like this really tight, tight thing. And because of that, we were able to drive a tremendous amount of business together that helped on the activations, their stories, just like this for the retention side, right, how you product value can not just activate potential customers, but save would be customers. Your as you started to just touch tech partnerships, and going away from the not away from but inclusive of Tell me Tell us a little bit more about that. Because I'm curious how your your experience from enterprise sales, building a startup program, and then starting to touch the strategic, you know, tech partnerships played out?

Kim Walsh  32:47
Yeah, I mean, kind of like what you're saying, right, Jared? Like anytime we could build an integration, or get like, stickier with partners, was key. But the key question was, who's gonna build the integration Them or us like, that was really where we always had to create this almost like menu of value of like, who's worth? Like, who should we build an integration to? Or who should we convince to build an integration to us? And that's, I'll pull on, like, you know, my experience at Apollo, we've launched partnerships with Gong, you know, like, you can do a go to market partnership, you can do an affiliate partnership. But I would say like, if you can, and then like a tech partnership, you then you can do an agency partnership, like the ones who were like a trifecta or a partnership. In each one of the buckets. Those were the home runs, because it was like, oh, okay, you want to go to market together. You want to cosell together, and then you want to build an integration? Because when you build that integration, it means there's value for your joint customers or joint prospects or

Unknown Speaker  33:51
the full stack partnership

Kim Walsh  33:52
right there. Yeah, like that's the best. It was like, oh, yeah, like that was the win every single like in the monthly reviews, like, Hey, we've got a partner that's in multiple partnership buckets, so that there's like cross pollination, across all of them. The partnership, one is the stickiest.

Jared Fuller  34:12
Definitely, what stuck out to me is how much you think like a entrepreneur, board member, you know, rev leader like VC like, can operate at the level to instrument the business. And that full stack partnership thing. I mean, anecdotally, you know, tacitly like my experience, the stuff that's only ever worked for me is exactly what you just described, right? And because I started on the marketing and kind of the product side, like I figured out I sales was just who I was, is my DNA, but like, I didn't sell anything. I was just like products, marketing, hacking, you know, like, Let's build stuff. This is fun. Oh, sure. I can sell it. I can sell it before it's even built. But what I realized is that so many people don't understand how to identify product value. So how are you thinking about placing those bets like It's a really hard thing to come alongside as a sales leader and truly be influential to that product person's like, Look, you don't understand the level of effort. You don't understand these things. I was lucky in that I'd run dev stand ups, I'd manage PMS. I knew that part of the business enough to be like, Hey, I know you have like limited resources and budget, I can speak API. How did you go about identifying that and identifying which ones? Or was the product team? Like really identifying, hey, we need these areas was their strategy. How did that work for you?

Kim Walsh  35:32
Great question. I guess it kind of viewed my role as like a mini CEO that I got to like, try it on or GM, right, where I sat with, like, we were like, Should we move our desks and sit with product? Spotlight, I would sit in the front row when you know, Peachie was running the growth team. I went to his kickoffs, I was a part of his team. Not not like not everyone in my group because they were executing. But me so I had to big really understand. And what we wanted to do as a team, which I think we we did were pretty successful. Like we felt like we were building a product inside of HubSpot that could help spa HubSpot be better and faster. So we thought of ourselves as a product team, with a lens of go to market efficiency with a lens of plg and self serve. We never thought of ourselves as a sales team or partnerships, or we were always just like, how can we be a product and in service to making HubSpot better and faster.

Jared Fuller  36:39
So you were identifying holes and figuring out ways to plug them versus trying to find where they're what like, the opposite is often true, where it's like, Hey, I got a partner, where can I slot it in. And it's like, that's not how product really necessarily works. Like you have to be close to the customer close to the product, and understand what can actually generate enterprise value for your organization. And then you can call your shot and actually launch something creative, or innovative. Like, I don't think I've told this story explicitly. And I don't think I've mentioned this name on the podcast before I want to give a massive shout out to Joel Barna. I'll make sure I send him this episode, he was a first sales engineer at drift. So he was on the product side. And I'm, you know, immediately same thing as you came, I'm like, I gotta make sure I'm friendly with product because I'm gonna have some big ass. So I spent a lot of time with him. He was a great liaison, because he just transitioned over. And I was like, what are what is like super sick, that no one knows about the only you know about Joel, he's like, I got to show you this thing we can do with Marketo. Like, we haven't productize it. But here's what we could do. And basically, it was taking the entire Marketo lists to where the drift bot on the website could change dynamically based on the list. And that might not sound cool to anyone's like, oh, Jared, this is lame. No, for the first time ever, the marketing automation that powered your email inbox could power your website, every single person that got a different email could get a different experience. And that I was like, That's massive innovation. So not only did I pitch drift on it, I pitched Marketo and Adobe proper. And then that turned into like one of the biggest things that we ever did. From the willingness I guess, moving from Curiosity, like, hey, Joel, what do we got here? What's What's the pain? What's interesting, what's unique to courage, like, Okay, I'm gonna go risk my career, and like, put this in front of a LEUs in DC, and then have the conviction to go and try and sell that to Adobe two and a $50 billion company. That's exactly. I've always felt that way too, to hear you say, like, Hey, I felt like I had to be a part of the product or it's like, resonates so much. I know why. Kevin Linda hands on one who connected us for the audience. And I know why Kevin was like, You're gonna love Kim.

Isaac Morehouse  38:55
Thing? Thanks. Well, it's interesting journey, as both of you were talking about Kim's like, Hey, I was in those product meetings. I was a part of that team. I was right there with product. And Jared, you given that anecdote of going to somebody in product and saying, Tell me, tell me something cool you're working on what it makes me think of is, it's really common in every company to say, hey, we can't be too much in the weeds. We're in our own product all day. We're not in the market enough. And that's a problem. All of that's very true. But for those of us who are in the market, if you're living in market, in sales, or in marketing or partnerships, sometimes the reverse can be valuable, too. Maybe you should go live in the weeds a little bit more with the product team, go be interested in them and be curious because because they're not in market like you. Your job isn't just to scold them and say you should spend more time in market. They're freaking building stuff in the garage, right? You go in the garage and see what they're up to and say, Oh, I've been out in the market. I know what's valuable to them. And you guys have some really cool stuff back here that you don't even realize the power of right like I think that's a that's an important thing, an important reminder

Jared Fuller  39:59
Yeah, follow up follow up on point on that Isaac, because the the idea from Joel wasn't like, hey, we need to go do this and turn it into, like, you know, a new integration with Marketo. What it was was man, we don't have access to this was called the Munchkin cookie and Marketo. We don't have access to it. So we can't do this. But if we could, it would be so sick. And I'm like, That's my job. Like, I could get access to it. I have no idea what it is. But I'm gonna figure it out. You know, like, that's where he had a problem. He was like, this would be so cool if we could, because I think it means we could do this. And from what I hear, it's just there's not enough value in our marketing automation integrations. Right. So like, that's why we're not investing in them anymore. I'm like, Ah, okay. So we need to be able to do an identifier, like you just, it all starts to come together, if you can be entrepreneurial like that, and think of your integrations as a product.

Kim Walsh  40:50
Well, like, I don't know, this is like, pretty fun. And I'll just say, and you could edit it, but it's kind of like, we were like, the little engines that could you know, it's like the difference between partnership people that are like, entrepreneurial, and then partnership, people that are like, pretty, like, the opposite of entrepreneurial is like, you see the possibility and you go, there were times where I'm like, wait, we're gonna, like talk ourselves out of freaking trying people like, can we just like be The Little Engine That Could or like, how do you know what works? If we don't try? I just, that's like, sounds like, that's why we like to do what we like to do. And then you got to run with it. When the board was like, yeah, go you're like, Okay, sweet. Thanks. This is amazing. Let me go out of building like a cool business. Right?

Jared Fuller  41:36
No, I think this is a really inspiring no to start to wrap on. Kim, final thing from you. I think your outlook and perspective on driving revenue together, having seen multiple sides of it from the corporate strategy, the cross functional, the sales, the partnerships, product, as we just mentioned. And then ending with the anecdote on The Little Engine That Could what would be some parting advice for the folks out there, because there's a lot of folks listening to this right now that men have been recently laid off the the tech round of layoffs impacted. I'm not sure that it impacted partnerships, you know, more so than other departments, but it sure is felt like it a little bit. Or people that are sitting like right on that chopping block of like, shoot, if we don't figure this out with sales, you know, in the next quarter, two quarters, like, I'm going to be in that same spot, what would be some of your parting advice to maybe having the courage to go think the way that you thought and operate the way that you thought across these different units and you know, become the command the CEO of your business?

Kim Walsh  42:36
Yeah, I mean, I can't it's kind of timely, because I'll share a little story where JD Sherman is stepping down as the CEO of Dashlane. But he was HubSpot, president and COO, and an amazing mentor to me. And I remember when I was crying when I was leaving the enterprise business, because I didn't want to leave my team. And he drew this like, little like, you know, two axis graph. And he was sort of like, Kim, often times in a career, you know, you got like two by two, or this little graph. And he was like, if you chose, like innovation and courage and experimentation, you can kind of have an interesting career that, you know, the concept of like leapfrogging a certain amount of time. And that to me was like, Ah, okay, like, he's like, it could fail, and you could end up at zero. Or it could be really great. And it could be like, you could learn a ton of different skill sets that you wouldn't have learned if you stay where you are today. So, you know, I don't have like, I don't know if this is like great advice. But like, I'll share that he sent that with share that with me in that moment, where I was like, why would I do something that I'm uncomfortable when I'm like sitting here in a winning team right now. And that discomfort and that courage that I had, and him sharing that little like belief? It was everything for me seven years ago, I'm still thankful to him this like this day, right? Like, almost makes me cry of like, if you never would have drew that I never would have done it. Literally, I would have done it. So like, what makes you uncomfortable? What do you have the courage to do? Be bold? Try something like, don't be afraid of the failing because it might work out or might not, but that's okay. I think I don't know, I think I don't know. All right.

Isaac Morehouse  44:33
That's amazing. I love that story. I can just, I can tell you, I've I've had a few moments like that in my career as well, where you kind of start to master something and you're like, Alright, I'm on top of my game. I'm really good at this and people know that I'm good at it. And then you get some opportunity to take a massive left turn. That makes no sense to most of your friends around you because they're like, Well, I thought you were you know, but you just kind of know All. I mean, partner hacker was that for me, Jared could tell you I'm like, I'm not. I don't know, I'm b2b space. This is all new stuff. So there are those moments and I'm totally with you that like, take those chances and bet on yourself when you have an opportunity to be pushed into something new and uncomfortable. It's I don't know, I don't know how to say it. But to say like, in your gut. You kind of know, you kind of wish it wasn't true. You're kind of like, but it's gonna make me uncomfortable. And I'm already good at what I'm doing. But you kind of know, deep down. This is an opportunity I have to take. I have to go for it. Yeah, I

Kim Walsh  45:35
was super. I think that's an awesome point. Isaac, like I was super scared, it is freaking hard. I think that it like reminiscing now with you guys. Like, the only thing that really helped me was kind of like, I think what we're talking about here, like I knew, and I know, I am entrepreneurial. And I'd like autonomy. And I'd like to build something. There were moments where like, in the sales or like I made all the dials or I made I did all the demos I needed to do I like hit my quota on indeed leading indicators or activity metrics. And I remember Hunter, that chief sales officer and I was like, I am now in an Oregon in a role that like there's too much to do in a day. So I need to like prioritize, as opposed to like, I did all the checkboxes. Like, if you're maybe maybe that's helpful, or for someone listening, like, if you don't, if it's exciting to you that there's a lot of on check checkboxes, it could mean a moment of courage and a moment of like a little bit of a risk taking and betting on yourself. It's freaking scary, and it's really hard. And there were moments where I was like, What the heck did I do I want to go back to being a revenue leader. But it was like, the best thing I ever did was I'm glad I didn't.

Isaac Morehouse  46:52
I just love how much do you think like a CEO? I really do. I love that you think like, like the company's objectives are your objectives. You want to understand every element of the company like just seeing that from a high level that you bring that to everything? That right there. That's that's the superpower. That's the superpower versus just you know, hey, let me execute on my little area.

Jared Fuller  47:12
Yeah, there's the Kim Walsh, clarion call for all you partner up listeners out there. Wow. That's definitely one to start and save in the library as you're coming up against as I like to say, stolen from Jersey Grigorik hard choices. Easy life, easy choices. Hard life, right? Like, for better for worse. A lot of folks are sitting out there right now are staring down the barrel of what very well might be a hard choice like going and having hard conversations and going you know what, I got a master unit economics, I got to figure out how to partner with sales deeply at the CRO level. You know, like I reported to this VP of sales or whatever, but like, I gotta figure out how to change comp plans. Right? Like, if I don't change the comp plan this year, I'm screwed. How do I do it? How does a comp plan created? How is it operating my like those questions, start unpacking them get curious. And then as you get scared, come back and listen to this episode. Kim. That was phenomenal. I'm so glad Kevin connected us had a blast on this show.

Kim Walsh  48:07
Thanks, Isaac. Thanks, Jared. Thanks for having me. Thanks, Kevin.

Jared Fuller  48:10
Partner up peace out. We will see you all next time.

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