Episode 77: Sam Carlile on Partner Enablement as a Strategic Force Multiplier

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs today. I’m excited to have Sam from Integrate join us.

Sam, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization.

Sam Carlile: Yeah. Thanks, Shawnna for having me on. Obviously, I’m Sam Carlile. I am the global director of sales enablement at Integrate, which is a business marketing software company that helps organizations really drive revenue and results through the top of their marketing funnel efforts.

Personally, I’m a father of two boys. I still play ice hockey somehow. I’m an ice hockey goalie and I play around here. I like Formula One and fly fishing. So that’s me in summary, Shawnna.

SS: Well, I’m so excited you’re able to join us today, Sam, thank you so much. In fact, you have recently said that you’ve used sales enablement as a strategic force multiplier for organizations, and I think that that really resonated with me. I’d love for you to explain to our audience what you meant by that and how sales enablement can help organizations achieve greater success.

SC: Yeah. That’s a great question. I think typically sales enablement can be a force multiplier whenever we’re able to identify gaps and be able to build appropriate material to address those gaps, and measure success. Another way that you can have even more impact is be in tune with your sales force and be able to identify these pockets of excellence so that really you can take what they’re doing, those actionable items that are repeatable. I would say, be able to put those together into a program to be able to deliver an impact even faster than just the traditional ways of building programs.

SS: Absolutely. Often when I think about force multipliers, I do think about partner and channel enablement. I think that can be a way to accelerate revenue for an organization. Now, given your past experience and partner enablement, what are some of the unique challenges of delivering enablement programs to partners?

SC: Partners is for sure another force multiplier for organizations. And I think that for your sales groups, teaching them your own products is complex enough, right? I mean, that’s already a very difficult thing.

Typically, sales reps have the ability to sell a lot of different products or at least be able to achieve a ton of different use cases. So, the products are complex enough. Then with partner what can be a challenge is they have to understand the products on the other side, right? What are the partners that you’re working with, what are their products? It’s a very difficult thing to be able to learn.

I think then also you have to be able to speak to how you engage with those partners. Having really solid rules of engagement is going to be able to make that transition a bit better. You just speak to how we work together versus against each other. Now it’s almost like everybody’s a partner, so it’s sort of like frenemies. You find different use cases that you combine on and what products you’re going to stay away from.

And if you have solid rules of engagement, those will all be worked out. I think that just understanding if there’s a partner in your deal, in your accounts, where are the opportunities to work together? For sure it can be a huge blind spot, but it can definitely be a force multiplier if it’s done properly.

SS: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Now, oftentimes, organizations will have a partner or channel arm. But oftentimes, enablement – especially partner enablement – isn’t one of the first things that they’ll set up for that partner arm. So, what are some of the few key indicators that an organization is really in need of partner enablement as a specific function?

SC: I mean, sometimes that could be difficult to gauge. And it depends on the size of the company. What’s the product suite, right? I’ve worked in the open software world where a partner’s going to be one of the most important channels. I think that you have to understand that with partners, your deals are going to close 69% faster, and they have a conversion rate of 50% higher. So, as an organization, I think the earlier you can begin to work partners, the quicker it’s going to help your company scale.

You have to understand what your partner organization looks like. Who’s doing the enablement now? Do you need to be able to build a specific partner sales enablement function? And I think that understanding the ROI and to build a team to understand how much growth is out there that’s possible.

I just think that there has to just be clear goals and metrics that the partner team would be aiming to achieve. If you could align and build those clear goals and metrics, I think that’s when you would be able to say that it’s a function that would add value to an organization.

SS: Absolutely. And now within your experience, what are some ways to ensure that partner salespeople have the right training, tools, and messaging when you might not be able to connect with them in person as often as some enablement folks are able to do with their direct sales force? How do you go about making sure that they have what they need right at their fingertips?

SC: Right. And I think that this is a very relevant question now with it being remote, right? If you don’t have them in person, how can you be engaging with these partners? I think first you’ve got to have the clear rules of engagement for the interactions, just setting up the right expectations. You have to have those partners speaking on your calls. There should be some sort of weekly revenue acceleration call that you’re hosting and you want to make sure that partners have their say.

If you have that partner sales enablement team, it could be a team that you’re working with or if there’s a partner team that’s out there getting partners, these are great partners that you can have within your organization to be able to get those partners on to speak.

And then I think also it’s important for us to go on our partner calls. I can remember we had a large partner at a prior company it was great to get on their calls to be able to understand and share success and speak about updates about our products. But there just has to be that sort of partner knowledge exchange. I think those are the keys to be able to bring those partners together.

SS: Absolutely. Now, not only getting them together, but oftentimes I think one of the challenges with partner enablement is just adoption. How have you ensured that you’re able to get adoption of your sales enablement initiatives with your partners? Would love to provide our audience maybe with a few tips on how to just kind of gain mind share with partners for enablement program.

SC: Yeah. How can you get that adoption? I think that the biggest thing on that is that you can’t make it up. You’ve got to share success. There has to be real success that has been had with that particular partner, right? You have to have real examples of where we work together well, and we win. And I think that that’s what has to be shared with the sales force so they understand how they can have that same success. Sharing success is going to be first.

Then it has to be real. I think it has to be relationships that are managed from the top. It has to be supported by executives and cultivated all the way down to having fields in Salesforce. That’s really important, reinforcing that partner presence. As a sales rep working with partners, you’re really essentially just looking at what your accounts are, going through those, finding out which partners are in those accounts, then finding out which partner is furthest along in your deal, and then that’s the partner that you work with to be able to combine with.

Even if you’re not involved in the closing cycle, you’re not quite making as much, you can work bigger with partners because you could have this deal over here and then continue to another deal. You work with another partner. So anyway Shawnna, I kind of started to get tactical there at the end, but I think that just being able to share that success, it has to start with that.

SS: I think that’s a fantastic place to start. Now, a lot of organizations don’t just have a partner channel that they sell through. A lot have a combination of both partner and direct sales teams. I’d love to know, how is your approach to sales enablement different for partners than for internal sales teams, and then when an organization does have an internal team and a partner team, how do you balance enablement resources to support both adequately?

SC: I think the balance and the resources are probably the toughest part of that question, but I think that as far as approaching training, you’re not doing it, high level, any different. Your approach isn’t any different. It’s just more of it. What I see done so much with partners is each company is so busy talking about what their product does. My product does this, this, and this. Your product does that. If I see an opportunity for your product, I’ll bring you in. If you see an opportunity for my product, you’ll bring me in. I think that that’s basically how it is.

The thing that can be difficult is you have to understand, what is our combined solution, right? Instead of viewing it as partner A and partner B, what is our combined solution that’s going to be more valuable than we can do on our own for our customers. I think that being able to focus training more so on that versus separate, is what you get bigger deals and then you build a stronger partnership with that company.

SS: Absolutely. Now, as a closing question on the partner enablement side of things, how have you gone about measuring the success of partner enablement programs? What are some of the key metrics for you on that front?

SC: That’s great. That’s exactly where I was like, now the metrics is the second part. So, I can give you an example. We had the largest partner that the company has ever signed. I was put in charge of that partner because originally, during the signing, it was a huge deal, right? It literally made the stock go up $4. It was a huge partnership. But again, in the beginning, there just wasn’t the success.

It just didn’t translate to the field. So, putting in those rules of engagements that I mentioned before, that’s something that you can drive metrics on, like understanding that who’s on the accounts, what’s the percentage of accounts they’re on within your territory?

I think there are metrics to be given there. Then being able to connect those dots and build sessions. Where you’re getting the two partners together, right? So, then there can be presentations and ways to be able to drive metrics there. But I think that in order to measure success, it has to be something that’s tactically happening in the field. And I was able to take those tactics and increase the volume from $7 million to $52 million within the first year. And it was really just about the sales reps working together versus working separately. But I think that it’s easy.

Metrics sometimes are difficult to be able to find within the partner organization. So, we mentioned things like those sales fields within the Salesforce. Some of those are the ways that you can capture the percentage of partners on a deal. What is the speed to close, does that increase our velocity any within deals when working with a partner? But those will be some of the metrics that I would look to look to drive and that I’ve had success with prior.

SS: Fantastic. Well, thank you, Sam, for joining us today. I really appreciate your time.

SC: No problem. Thank you.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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