By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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This week’s show is called Are Partnerships Your Next Growth Engine? ” and our guest is Brendon Cassidy, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Co-Sell.io.

It seems to me one of the still underutilized go-to-market efforts is partnerships. I ask Brendon to talk a little bit about what he’s seen in the market.

I also ask “why have referrals been so difficult?” “Why has this been a perennial challenge for sales organizations, not just to do, but really do consistently at scale?”

Some people will use the term partner marketing and channel marketing interchangeably as if they’re the same things. Brendon tells what he sees as the difference between having a partner referral introduction approach and what a lot of people think of the sales channel channel approach.

This and a lot more!

Listen in now and/or read the full transcript below.

Matt: All right. Well, hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Thank you so much for joining us. We are in our new format doing these live on LinkedIn Live. So for those of you that are watching us in the middle of your workday in the middle of March in what is here in Seattle, a beautiful day. Brandon, I can just barely tell, we might be getting to spring here in Seattle. It usually comes a little late this part of the woods, but it’s sunny and nice and I’m here for it. So if you’re watching live, thank you very much for doing so. If you’re watching or listening on demand, thank you very much for following us, continue to be excited about the audience that we’re building around the Sales Pipeline Radio podcast. And if you like what you hear today, no pressure, Brandon, you will like what you hear over the past 240 or so episodes are all available up at salespipelineradio.com. We’re featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing each week. Very excited today to have with us the co-founder, co-CEO of CoSell, Brendon Cassidy. Brendon, thanks for joining us today.

Brendon: Yeah, happy to join you. Thank you.

Matt: So if the name sounds familiar, he has been associated with what it looks like about half of the companies in the sales and marketing technology space as an advisor, as a consultant, so excited to get your perspective and maybe let’s start there broadly. It’s been a hell of a year as we come up on almost a year since we all went into our holes. What’s the last year been like for you? And what have you seen in the market that maybe the pandemic has changed? Things that maybe we can look forward to that’ll be advantages moving forward?

Brendon: Yeah, the last 12 years have been much like the current real time now, which is I’m in my cottage in the backyard working obviously remote from the company that I worked for as well as my clients. And unlike many, I actually do look forward to someday interacting with people maybe in a work environment in person. I know everybody’s like hey, it’s remote forever kind of thing but I’m actually like when it’s safe, I’d love to be able to interact and maybe collaborate with people in person. But not yet, not safe to do that yet, but someday I think.

Matt: Someday, someday soon. I think we’re seeing a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. Very excited to see some of the advancements, both in the vaccine as well as the distribution strategies. And I have considered myself lifelong to be an introvert, but this year has tested that. I do miss getting out and seeing people, I love my family dearly. I have cherished the time with them, honestly, instead of being a hundred thousand miles plus on the road. But there’s certainly been some silver linings in these clouds as well.

One of the reasons I was excited to have you on, and not only with your experience and expertise in this space, is also to talk a little about CoSell and what you guys are doing there because I think this year has changed the way a lot of people think about their go-to-market strategy.

Literally a year ago, we pulled everybody out of the field: we didn’t have sales people making calls, we didn’t have events we were doing, you couldn’t even do your own events so it changed people’s go-to-market strategy. But a lot of people continue, a lot of the companies we talked to continue to have a very direct sales model. And it seems to me that one of the still underutilized go-to-market efforts is through partnerships. Talk a little bit about what you’ve seen in the market. Clearly, you’ve seen something similar given what you’re doing with CoSell, but talk about the why there and what opportunities you’re seeing.

Brendon: Yeah, I think broadly speaking, I think the shift in sales towards whatever you would call it, inside sales models I guess, has been ongoing for 10 years or more. So I don’t necessarily think, and obviously in a pandemic when everybody’s working remote, everybody is both a field sales and inside sales person. You’re a field of one essentially wherever you are held up, whether that’s a home office or whatever. But yeah, so I don’t think any major shifts there. I think the shift away from traditional field sales has been going on for a long time, really longer than 10 years. And obviously the technologies that enable that motion or that go-to-market motion have also evolved over that time.

Obviously, the focus on outbound, brute force sales development: Outreach, SalesLoft, ZoomInfo and that motion, there was a time 15 years ago when sales owned none of that. And the entire demand gen responsibility was essentially viewed as marketing’s responsibility. And so that shifted over time, almost entirely from one camp to the other, now where you see that go-to-market motion owned by sales most of the time.

And so I’ve been personally for 10 years, honestly to be frank, wanting to solve this problem which is the fact that introductions, referrals, relationships are the easiest way to go-to-market and get into accounts and put your best foot forward and generally speaking, nobody does it. And I wanted to figure out a way for people to be able to do it, maybe not all the time, but that that should be core to how we go-to-market, that should be core to how we sell and market. And it’s essentially been ignored and for this, this is the one idea that I felt personally passionate enough about to commit all the way to. Here we are.

Matt: Awesome. Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Brendon Cassidy, he’s the co-founder, co-CEO of CoSell.io and you can find him, believe it or not, at CoSell.io. Why have referrals been so difficult? Why has this been a perennial challenge for sales organizations, not just to do, but really do consistently at scale?

Brendon: Well, there’s a lot of different reasons why, but first off, most salespeople don’t really know how to play relationship angles, I’d say. So there’s an art and a science to it but on some level it’s as good as your network potentially or your network or your Rolodex and the people that you know. And you very well may have the network to do it much more effectively than you do do it, but you don’t I think generally is the theme for most salespeople. And I think we’ve moved into this separation of church and state model around sales where you have the SDR demand gen side and then you have the sales side. And the demand gen side is expected to fully book an AEs schedule and the AEs themselves don’t do a lot of prospecting. So the concept of a full stack account executive or a full stack salesperson has essentially gone out the window.

And I get it and certainly you should have a dedicated SDR organization no doubt, that’s table stakes I think. But in that, most salespeople don’t know how to play the angles, most salespeople don’t know how to look at an account and say, “You used to work for a Microsoft, right? And I want to get into Microsoft CRM organization.” And how do I find, not just fine than identify the angles, but play them. That could be a referral, there’s a lot of things that could be, but we don’t do it, generally speaking. So this is one small step in that direction which is saying, “Hey, like there are people around us that can get us know our customers, that can introduce us to our customers.” And if we’re not doing that, we’re not doing our best, period. That’s my opinion, so yeah.

Matt: And sometimes, even something that’s a good idea, we need a process, we need a system, we need a platform to help facilitate that on a more consistent basis.

Brendon: Yeah.

Matt: I think most good sellers I know have a system for prospecting system for selling and sometimes it comes down to a set of processes and checklists, sometimes it’s just a list of things you’ve got to check off and do every day. And even most successful people still need those reminders and that infrastructure around them to be successful at doing that.

Brendon: Yeah, I think that on some level, prospecting can’t just be a numbers game. And when we say, “Every problem has a brute force solution,” which is just more emails, more cold calls, whatever it is, that’s not true and there’s a cost to that. Meaning you can only inundate the market with your message so many times in a one-to-many approach. And there’s a huge advantage to saying hey, what is our absolute most strategic path into some subset, at a minimum, some subset of our customers? And if we can up level our game there, meaning hey, we know that we’re getting into 20% of our deals through referrals, you’re in a much better position in those deals vis-a-vis the competition who is maybe in the door through a cold call or some other way. If you’re in the door through an introduction, a qualified introduction from somebody that the prospect knows, you have an inherent advantage from the word go.

Matt: Now, some people will use the term partner marketing and channel marketing interchangeably as if they’re the same things. Can you talk a little bit about what you see as the difference between having a partner referral introduction approach and what a lot of people think of the sales channel-channel approach?

Brendon: Yeah, I think I look at it not in maybe traditional terms around what is a partner strategy or what is a channel strategy, but I look at it as there’s so many of us, there’s so many companies in the sales cloud or the marketing cloud or the support, literally, there’s thousands, right? And many have a similar go-to-market motion as we do. They’re trying to get to the same buyers with the same methods and all the rest. And so the basic premise of CoSell is hey, if I can find a company that has a parallel go-to-market motion with me, meaning they are selling to the same people I am but we’re not competing against them, why would I not want to join forces with them and say, “Hey, where can I help you get you into an account and where can you get me into an account?” It’s the lowest hanging fruit I can possibly imagine from a sales and marketing standpoint in the last 20 years.

Matt: Absolutely.

Brendon: And we don’t do that. And so that’s what we’re trying to automate. That’s how we think about it, we don’t think about it in terms of partners, we think about it in terms of people that have a similar go-to-market motion and a similar target buyer that we don’t compete against and if we can help them and they can help us, why are we not doing that? It’s crazy.

Matt: Yeah, it is crazy.

Brendon: It’s like saying you’re at HouseValues and I’m at Zillow or whatever it is. I wanted to give you a HouseValues reference there by the way.

Matt: Wow, homework.

Brendon: And I bet you don’t get that every day by the way.

Matt: No, definitely not.

Brendon: By the way, HouseValues, the amount of talent that came out of HouseValues, crazy.

Matt: Yeah.

Brendon: You can put the trajectory of the Seattle tech scene, at least in the sales and marketing world, people coming out of HouseValues went to Jobster, to DocuSign, and a lot of these companies up there so was pretty impressive. Anyways, I’ll move off that.

Matt: No, that’s all right.

Brendon: What was I saying again?

Matt: Yeah, you were just talking about the importance of those CoSell opportunities basically.

Brendon: Exactly. So for instance, I’ll just throw two companies out there, say Outreach and Gong. You don’t think of them as competitors, maybe they do compete at some point and there’s overlap, I’m not trying to get into how that space plays out or consolidates over time. But here’s two companies hey, we’re selling to the same customer, noncompeting solutions, so what if I could find out hey, where do my prospective customers overlap with your existing and vice versa? Why would you not do that?

And the alternative is to say, “You know what? I don’t want to do that. Let’s go send another 10,000 emails.” And that seems to be the mentality and changing that behavior for me is the most important thing I could do in my career. I was early at LinkedIn, 15th employee at LinkedIn, built the corporate sales org there. EchoSign, we were acquired by Adobe, Talkdesk, Gong, on all these companies I helped build I viewed this as the most important thing I can do in my career. I’m not saying guaranteeing my success in any way, but it’s ambitious.

Matt: Yeah. You got my brain thinking about the HouseValues alumni network now. What’s interesting is there’s a lot of people that have obviously moved on to great things, you’ve Ian Morris who’s moved on to new companies, you’ve got Nikesh Parekh, who’s running Suplari, a great procurement as a service firm. You’ve got Marina [Esa-co-go 00:14:08], who was leading RealSelf and helping them grow valuation for a while. And then you have Scott Smith, shout out Scott Smith, who’s still there Brandon.

Matt: So HouseValues became Market Leader, sold to Trulia, Trulia got bought by Zillow, Zillow sold Market Leader. And then recently, Market Leader bought Top Producer, which was a CRM competitor to House Values back in the day and Scott’s running that whole empire now. So shout out to Scott and everyone else who’s [crosstalk 00:14:39]-

Brendon: Yeah, I bet the campfire stories will probably go for a while on surviving all those transitions [crosstalk 00:14:45].

Matt: We are awful at getting the alumni group back together. There was a couple, three years ago. There was just an any and all House Values, Market Leader alumni event at their new office building that was super fun. Even [crosstalk 00:14:57]-

Brendon: I think surviving being the acquired and surviving all the different layers of post acquisition change, I think that’s in and of itself an art form. But yeah, basically the concept is really like… There’s a guy named Riley Divine, actually that was at House Values when you were there. One of my best friends who worked for me at EchoSign. He’s now the top rep at Outreach and he’s been aligned with me that this has to happen, this idea, this product.

And part of our rationale for it in talking to Riley years ago is even if you just found one salesperson, Riley is at Outreach and he finds one rep at Gong and they can find out where their overlaps are, just four or five introductions and referrals into accounts and into deals, it’s meaningful, right?

Matt: Very meaningful.

Brendon: When you’re playing at that level and I think it’s how do we move away from this brute force, let’s just blast the world and scorch the earth mentality to sales and marketing and start moving towards let’s be super targeted and super strategic. And maybe we don’t have to empty the holster every time we want to win some customers.

Matt: We got just a couple more minutes here.

Brendon: By the way, I’m not a gun owner.

Matt: No, it’s all good.

Matt: We’ve got to wrap up here in a couple of minutes with our guests today, co-founder, co-CEO of CoSell.io, Brendon Cassidy. And we’re talking about just finding those couple of deals that get things going. Let’s talk about the chicken or egg scenario here.

Someone told me once that partnerships don’t create deals, deals create partnerships. And I know a lot of people say, “Hey, let’s work together. Let’s do our account mapping. Let’s come up with this great strategy of how we work together.” That’s all great and finding good, but sometimes you get those one or two deals where you go-to-market together and all of a sudden you’re like okay, there’s juice here, this really works, it validates things. In your experience, what’s the chicken and the egg? Do you focus first on deals or do you find those like-minded partners and build some structure behind it?

Brendon: Yeah, certainly this can’t happen without some partners on some level. So what we’ve seen a lot of the time is a lot of times it’s two VPs of sales for company X and company Y. Because the sales leadership community has become a real community over the last five or six years. So a lot of us know each other. And so it’s like, “Hey, I know Matt. Matt runs sales at this company. I know he sells to CROs.” And then I reach out, I’m like, “Hey, maybe we can help each other.” So it really starts with that level.

I think when it’s just a partnership manager level initiative, that’s not good enough. This has to be an initiative that has the full support sponsorship of sales leaders. Oftentimes, that’s where the partnership side reports. And certainly we’re not the first to come into this arena, there have been some companies that have been here, raised money and created real progress or momentum for themselves. I review this as a referral, this is about driving referrals and introductions through people we know, this is not just about partner enablement and I think if you’re just selling a solution to partner managers, you’re not getting it done, in my opinion-

Matt: Right, right.

Brendon: Because that’s not selling into the power really, quite frankly. And so that’s where we’re going here is the intersection of sales leadership and the partner side of the business, which to this point has been mostly unmarried just because most VPs of sales don’t view the partnership side as accretive and they’re coming your way.

Brendon: So I would tell any partner manager listening; VP of sales is coming. So this is going to have to be a joint effort between the partner side of the business and the sales side of the business because the sales side is the only way you can really get distribution for this. You can’t get it through a single partner manager trying to mine deals through partners while you have 30 salespeople over here going their own way. And so that’s my take on it and that’ll be a shift because to this point, most partner managers want to just use this as their secret garden and it ain’t going to work no more.

Matt: Yep. Yep, good advice.

Brendon: We’re looking forward to being a big part of that behavioral shift.

Matt: Yeah. Well, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far from CoSell, so definitely folks check out CoSell.io, lots to learn there. They’ve got a great blog and podcast as well so learn more about making this part of your regular motion in your business and your go-to-market strategy. Brandon Cassidy, co-founder, co-CEO, CoSell.io. Thanks very much for joining us today.

Brendon: Yeah, thanks. Glad to join you, thank you.

Matt: Absolutely. Well, thanks everyone for listening and watching. We’ll be here again next week. Every week, Thursday at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern live on LinkedIn. And thanks everyone for listening on the podcast as well. This is Matt Heinz. You’ve been listening to Sales Pipeline Radio.

 

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