Co-selling ("collaborative selling") means working with someone from another product company 🤝 to sell both of your products at once.

Why do this? Wouldn't you both be fighting over limited budget? Isn't it hard enough already to close a deal without complicating things? 

🤫 I'll tell you a secret: in most cases, your product is not the solution the prospect needs. It's a part of the solution. 🧩

And at the end of the article, I'll air some dirty laundry 🧺


An all-too-typical story
Wisdom from the partnership trenches
How to develop co-selling relationships
My dirty laundry about co-selling and partnerships

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Here's a story I see frequently (YMMV, just go with it):

An all-too-typical story

It's 3 weeks until end of quarter. A warm lead comes in for a prospect that loves your BI product. It has all the latest and greatest visualizations and features they need. You have great industry-specific use cases. The price point is just right.

It's perfect. 

You ask, "Sooo, which data warehouse do you use? Let's set up a trial or POC"

To which the prospect replies, "What's a data warehouse?" 😓😩

And you realize this slam dunk deal just turned into a 6-9 month, education-heavy, drawn out ordeal. 👋 Goodbye, deal that could have put you over quota.

If only there was some way to accelerate that timeframe. But how? 

Co-selling, my friend. You partner with a rep from another company whose product or service compliments yours. 

Maybe your partner's "Warehouse-as-a-Service" turns those 6-9 months into 3 weeks. And bam, you've closed a deal together.

And to me, the most important part: the customer is better off for it. You've thought outside of yourself to bring a solution to their real problem. You've earned more than quota--the permanent trust of your buyer, and a new friend from the partner company.

This will happen more and more. It will be necessary eventually.

With literally thousands of data products on the market, they will become more and more specialized. And thus less and less of a complete solution to anything!

Check out the most recent "data tooling landscape" from Matt Turk:

Wisedom from the partnership trenches

Ian Parker, an account executive from Fivetran, has seen a lot of success in co-selling with partners. 

In the tech landscape we (Fivetran) operate in, there is no single "silver bullet" solution that really gets it done; working with partners is key to success. We simply don't win alone, we never have. Working with partners creates different entry-angles into deals, and also helps the deal size increase since there is a deeper knowledge & ability to service the prospects goals.

Think about his two results:

  1. He can get and close deals that otherwise wouldn't
  2. He gets access to bigger deals already underway

Simon Murillo runs the partner relationship between Sigma Computing and Snowflake. This has been a fruitful partnership, and he's learned a lot from doing it. 

Simon was gracious enough to share some of this thoughts. Read on, and I'll come back after with some ideas on getting your co-selling relationships going. 🤓

Partnerships are essential to business. As a Field Alliance Manager at Sigma Computing, I know the value of partnering and co-selling - it is a key component to the initiatives I lead. Through my time at Sigma Computing, I’ve come to value three key aspects of partnerships that bring success to our team and our partners
  1. Reciprocity
  2. Patience
  3. Trust
As a partner manager, an underlying principle you must operate in is reciprocity. The first step to a successful partnership is understanding your partner's objectives and how you can support them in achieving their goals efficiently.  To create a win-win situation for those involved, work with partners like you would a prospect in a sales-cycle. 
Patience is a virtue, and that is definitely true when working with partners. Developing fruitful partnerships does not happen overnight. In fact, it will take time to develop. If done correctly, the wait is worth the time and the value you will be able to add to your organization. It’s most certainly a game of chess, not checkers. 
To speed up the process, learn how to answer: “What are my partner’s goals, where can I create value, and how can I get them to where they want to be in the quickest way possible?” Understanding your partner's goals will remove noise and establish credibility. 
The faster you can answer those questions, the sooner you will have a mutually valuable partnership and trust will start to be built.
Trust enables the partnership to move forward, grow, and become a two way street, where both partners are benefiting. How do I build trust? I focus on bringing valuable information to my partners attention, stay focused on their goals alongside mine, and follow through. 
The benefits of partnerships are endless. We operate in a world where not a single business or person, only uses a single piece of technology to accomplish their goals. So let’s lean into each other, understand how we complement one another, and create partnerships.

How to develop co-selling relationships

Find some buddies

Identify products or services that are complimentary to yours. If you are in a large organization, these are probably already identified. Then identify who sells into your same territory, size of company, industry, etc. 

I've found that reaching out on LinkedIn is easy. 99% of the people I've asked have agreed to have a video intro call.

Bring way more value than you think necessary

If you can bring deals to the table, you create a desire to reciprocate.

I honestly wish I could do this better. But Datateer does not have the deal volume that most of our partners have.

So I have to find ways to be extremely valuable. And it always pays off (when I do it right)

"If you would take, you must first give. This is the beginning of intelligence" ~ Lao Tzu 🧠

I dunno if it made me any smarter, but giving first does is indeed the right thing to do. Here's what that looks like for me:

  • Giving my time away for free to consult or educate prospects and customers. Even if there is no opportunity for Datateer!
  • I write up entire articles and pitch them to the marketing teams--not asking for a lot of their time in planning sessions
  • My marketing team has to be willing to carry more than a "fair share" to get content produced and distributed.
  • I lose time developing ideas that ultimately don't go anywhere

Even more value: know next steps

The worst way to end a 📞 call is "Okay, well, reach out anytime"

Actually, it's pleasant in the moment. But I've had almost 100 calls where I didn't have a clear plan going in how I could help.

And so they ended pleasantly, but the relationship did not progress. 🛑 😢

I learned a lot from Cole Tilley, Account Executive at Matillion. Towards the end of our first meeting, he said something like:

 "Okay, here are some things we could try that have worked for me before: 1. let's get on Crossbeam and share prospects 2. let's compare industries of our top prospects and 3. let's run a joint campaign with the BDR team. Which of those sounds best for you for a next step?

Classic, it's almost like he was using his sales experience to build a relationship with me.

Lift each other up

This is another action that will look different for you than it does for me.

👍 After co-selling a deal, I was talking with our shared buyer. "<My co-seller> genuinely cares. I was impressed at the time she put in behind the scenes on this deal. I think you can rely on her in the future too."

It's the kind of thing that can feel cheesy to say. But it was sincere, and well received.

💪 Several times I've called someone's manager to tell them how grateful I was for the partnership, and how helpful my partner was on a recent, specific deal.

I send thank-you notes with a See's gift card to anyone who sends me a referral. Even if the deal wasn't qualified and didn't go anywhere.

Simple things that are not expected or necessary. But they go a long way.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ~ Jesus

🧺 My dirty laundry about co-selling and partnerships

You'll know something about me that only my closest partners know: I'm terrible at maintaining partner relationships.

I'm serious. I've been an engineer most of my career. I'm an introvert. I'm undisciplined and procrastinate too often.

Some people are natural at building and maintaining relationships.

Some people are great at navigating corporate hierarchy to find their way to the perfect strategic relationship.

If you are like me, maybe you have some concerns of your own abilities to do this.

I'll tell you this: it works. As lacking as I am in talent here, even I can put together co-selling deals, bring value to my new customers, and make some friends along the way. 

I want to learn with you how to sell data products better. I want to research and write about topics you care about. Submit something here, and let's keep learning together. 

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