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Building Meaningful Connections with Co-Selling with Alex Buckles

Building Meaningful Connections with Alex Buckles - podcast image

In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Alex Buckles, Co-Founder and CEO of Forecastable and Founder of Pathways for Autism, which helps people sell in partnership with other vendors to deepen traction, penetration and integration to extend customer lifetime value. Join us for an engaging conversation about developing and implementing new, effective go-to-market strategies.

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If you missed episode 223, check it out here: How You Can Grow Your Company Even When Facing a Recession with Patrick Hudgins

What You’ll Learn

  • Why SDRs aren’t an effective long-term solution
  • Co-selling as an efficient go-to-market strategy
  • The multifaceted benefits of partnership

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. About Alex & Forecastable [03:25]
  2. The Functionality & History of Forecastable [07:28]
  3. Why Traditional Outbound Sales Models Are Breaking [13:05]
  4. Building Trusted Relationships [15:17]
  5. Common Pitfalls in Building Out a Partner Selling Strategy [19:15]
  6. Pay if Forward [26:34]
  7. Sam’s Corner [28:36]

About Alex & Forecastable [03:25]

Sam Jacobs: Welcome to Sales Hacker. Today we’ve got Alex Buckles, the Co-Founder and CEO of Forecastable, which helps people sell in partnership with other vendors to deepen traction, penetration, and integration and hopefully extend customer lifetime value. Partner-based co-selling is the way of the world and Alex walks us through it. He’s also the Co-Founder of Pathways to Autism.

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After serving in the Marines, Alex spent years in various enterprise roles with a focus on sales. Alex is also focused on building a scalable infrastructure enabling every individual with autism to be in the workforce and financially independent. Alex, welcome to the show.

The Functionality & History of Forecastable [07:28]

Sam Jacobs: Tell us about Forecastable.

Alex Buckles: It’s a SaaS platform that enables sales reps to more effectively co-sell with their partner ecosystem. We focused on helping sales reps win big deals, enabling them to build visual representations of the buyers where they can indicate who’s a supporter, who’s not, where you get executive alignment, power, influence, and authority. You want to work with your internal collaborators because there are lots of people involved with an enterprise deal. Once the deal is closed, we transition to customer success. That buyer map turns into a map where you can see where we’ve got executive alignment, and then you can cross-sell more effectively. Instead of having a closed plan, you have a customer success plan where you document the milestones that need to be achieved throughout the life of the contract.

There’s a lot of attention in this partner co-selling space, especially in partner tech. It’s been a wild ride, primarily because 100% of large enterprise B2B organizations have this co-selling problem and with the economic downturn looming, CROs are looking for lower customer acquisition costs, higher net revenue, retention, and lifetime value. Forecastable delivers all of that in droves. Whether you want to take more control over your direct sales and success motions, or you want to nail your partner co-selling strategy, we’re absolutely the horse to ride.

The core of the product is buyer mapping. If I’m looking at three or four vendors, we’ve got three or four different close dates, we’ve got three or four different next steps, we’ve got three different opinions on where there’s power and influence and authority. We take those co-selling partners and give them a single foundation, regardless of what CRM they’re running in the background.

Sam Jacobs: Tell us your origin story.

Alex Buckles: After the Marines, I ended up selling cell phones. I was learning to upsell, cross-sell, and all that good stuff that has served me well throughout my career.

My father was a CEO of a software company, and he gave me my first professional job as an enterprise rep, the sole rep for the company for six years. I learned from that experience, wearing a lot of hats, and having to build a website, manage customer support, and work with a product team.

We started an insurer tech company, built an amazing product, and ended up in litigation. We ended up with the freedom to continue building our business, which was our only goal.

At that point, I had no money left, I had three kids in diapers, wife divorced me. It was awful. At Adobe I did exceptionally well. I realized that there wasn’t a lot of process around enterprise selling. I started building these org charts manually, and training other sales reps on how to do it. That’s when I went back to my other co-founders from the prior startup and here we are five years later.

Why Traditional Outbound Sales Models Are Breaking [13:05]

Sam Jacobs: Traditional outbound and sales motions are broken. Why is now the time for partner-based selling strategies and ecosystems?

Alex Buckles: The direct outbound sales motion is breaking as we speak. That’s the kind of motion that everyone’s been running, let’s hire more SDRs, let’s get more training out there. Let’s do a whole ton of outbound. But the SaaS industry is going to quadruple over the next five years, it’s not a model that’s sustainable.

Partnerships are at the forefront right now because it’s not inbound or outbound anymore. You want to build on the trust that your partners already have with customer accounts that you want to get into. That will get you much further faster than any type of cold outbound. That’s the direction that the industry is heading.

Building Trusted Relationships [15:17]

Sam Jacobs: What’s the strategy for building an ecosystem so that you can benefit from those warm introductions?

Alex Buckles: If you can integrate and add value to this customer, we can introduce them to our partner ecosystem. Now we have multiple hooks, and when those customers come up for renewal, they’re less likely to churn. We call it a supernode, or the sun, all these partners revolve around that sun. Get as many hooks as possible in there to reduce churn. That’s the focus.

There are lots of ways to do that. What is your “better together” story? If you reduce churn, and customers are happy, that will get you into the customer success organization, and get you a lot of business. When you’re engaging with a customer on a regular basis, your success indirectly impacts your SaaS partner, because if you fail, then they may assume that all the tech might be bad too, and then they may churn. But you can be very proactive.

In my last company, I told the sales team I want you to go to each SaaS partner enterprise. I want you to ask them what their top 10 net new accounts are for the year, let’s go build buyer maps for these top 10 accounts. I want you to book meetings with each of those AEs and walk them through your strategy. We use that same strategy for customer success. Go into your existing customer relationships and be apprised of new stakeholders, new initiatives and problems. That earned us a lot of business.

Common Pitfalls in Building Out a Partner Selling Strategy [19:15]

Sam Jacobs: What are some of the common mistakes people make when they try to build a partner selling strategy?

Alex Buckles: Pick partners where you’ve got a strong go-to-market story, or that strong Better Together story and decide what you try and impact. Churn obviously takes longer to realize the results of that but you can get started in a week. We have a systematic process on: Here’s what a good deal looks like, and which stakeholders should be involved. We know what a good buyer map looks like. What are your co-sell and mutual success plans between multiple partners? We’re taking everybody’s individual close plans and merging them into one co-sell plan. That’s the process. You can test it out with one partner, see what happens, and scale it from there.

Pitfalls happen when you stop following the plan. If you’re not actively engaged, that’s where it falls apart. These co-sell motions are already happening in the field, and with our technology in place, we can pinpoint exactly where the deal fell apart and who was responsible.

There are many reasons a deal could fall apart. Number one is preparedness. If somebody’s product is serving the customer’s needs better than ours, that’s stuff that reps can’t control. It’s making sure you understand who every stakeholder is. Every stakeholder in the buying committee has their own selfish reasons why they want to choose one vendor or another. It’s up to you to figure out what those interests are and cater to them. If you follow the plan and you cater to each stakeholder’s needs, you’ll win.

With the economic downturn, people are looking for lower customer acquisition costs. Partnerships deliver that. Over the last 10 years, it was marketing automation that dominated, and CRM the decade before. This is the decade of ecosystems. There’s going to be a major transition from a seller-centric process to a buyer-centric process. A third of buyers desire a seller-free experience, and that number jumps to 44% for millennials.

There’s so much technology available for buyers. They need to be smarter about their evaluation process. The second you realize you have a problem and feel the urge to go make a purchase, you should stop and say, what are my real requirements? What are the considerations for every stakeholder involved in this decision? Let’s make this a formal objective buying process and invite multiple vendors to the table to answer our questions. That’s the direction things are going, buyers will completely control cycles, and sales reps will be more in the business of guiding and gathering information.

Sam Jacobs: Buyers prefer a seller-free experience. As a consequence of that, they might have a preference for something that’s actually suboptimal to their interests.

Alex Buckles: Sellers add a lot of value. Most buyers desire a seller-free experience because nobody wants to be sold to. If you’ve got a sales rep that’s doing their job properly, they’re adding tremendous value. More seasoned buyers will value that experience over a seller-free experience.

Pay if Forward [26:34]

Sam Jacobs: One of the last things we do is pay it forward and hear about organizations, ideas, books, content, anything that’s had a big influence on you, that might inspire us, or give us new or interesting ideas.

Alex Buckles: I’m going to recommend a consultant, his name is Simon Bowen, and you can visit him at modelsmethod.com. He’s developed the most advanced method of selling or communicating value that I’ve ever experienced. It’s frankly changed the way that I sell permanently. It involves deep thinking about your product service and the value that you’re delivering. When you combine that with leveraging and using visual frameworks, it’s a different way of selling. That skill will serve you for the rest of your career.

Sam’s Corner [28:36]

Sam Jacobs: Hi everybody, Sam’s corner. Love that conversation with Alex Buckles. He’s a member of Pavilion. We just spent a week together in Ireland, doing cool stuff like climbing off the western coast in the Aran Islands.

The direct outbound sales motion of hiring tons of SDRs, pummeling people’s inboxes, their cell phones, their LinkedIn inboxes, there’s got to be a different way. If technology can help us to go-to-market in a more efficient way, that’s what’s going to win. SDRs spend three to six months ramping up, you’re good at your job, and you’re immediately quitting, want to get promoted, or become an account executive. The actual act of generating meetings and the productivity associated with that is not great. There’s pressure to invent new kinds of go-to-market strategies. And partner co-selling is one of them. That’s not necessarily new, but it’s effective.

The harder it is to rip out a complicated set of workflows, products, and solutions, the more likely they are to renew. It shows up in churn reduction, which extends the lifetime of the customer and pays for itself many times over. There are a lot of interesting ideas circling around this partnership concept, a lot of interesting ways that two companies can deliver a better solution than just each company on their own.

If you want to reach out, you can, Sam at JoinPavilion.com, or find me on LinkedIn. Alright, I’ll talk to you next time.

 


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