In continuation of our series of articles on reseller agreements best practices in the Asia Pacific, Greenhouse’s COO, Viktor Kyosev, interviews Chris Harrop, the Vice President of the Asia Pacific (APAC) region of Drift. The interview covers topics ranging from understanding the first steps to take when approaching a new market in the APAC region to why setting targets for your reseller partners might not always work in this part of the world.
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- Chris’ Background and Experience in the APAC region
- Chris’ First Steps into a New Market
- Hiring the Right People, Build a Stronger Local Team
- Tiering Partners
- Finding Strategic Partners in New Markets
- Best Practices to Incentivize Partners
- Not Setting Targets for Partners
- Conditions to Allow Exclusivity for Partners
Chris’ Background and Experience in the APAC region
Chris’ deep and extensive experience in knowing how to do business in the APAC region is attributed to his past roles in many different companies he has worked with. Chris shared his first experience of growing a regional operation was when he was part of the initial APAC team with Endeca, which is currently rebranded as Oracle following the acquisition. Thereafter, in two instances, one as APAC Regional Director with Acquia and the other, APAC Director with Confluent, Chris had the privilege to be the first person on the ground to launch the business into the Asia Pacific region. From that, he learned and accumulated a wealth of best practices in building teams and bringing products or services to new markets. With his current role as Vice President of the APAC team with Drift, he continues to explore new ways to deliver value while leveraging best practices learned in his career.
Chris’ First Steps into a New Market
Drawing from Chris’ ample experience from doing business in the APAC region, we couldn’t help but ask what his first steps are when someone is the first to launch their company into this part of the world. To that, Chris replied with 3 crucial steps to think deeply about:
- Conduct market research and validation by analyzing what’s there in the new market and apply some local knowledge to the data set
- Categorize markets into sub-regions based on the similarity of the markets
- Localize your team
Firstly, he drew attention to the importance of figuring out where the markets are and where you are going to build your business. Only once you have done your research and identified opportunities you should think about hiring people on the ground. Another factor that Chris mentioned to consider whether your product or service is a good fit for the market is to think about the industry vertical. With that, you can calculate your addressable market based on international performance.
Next, Chris shares his observations on the fragmented nature of the APAC region and how focusing only on one geography might not be the best way to start. Therefore, his method, instead, is to group similar markets into subregions like Australia and New Zealand or ASEAN. This will help in building momentum in other countries for growth in the future.
Hiring the Right People, Build a Stronger Local Team
Next, Chris emphasizes the importance of localization and strong culture fit when building new teams. He dives deeper into the value of hiring the right people and why he is very selective of who makes up the initial team. He then gives advice on how to build and create these strong local teams.
Starting off with identifying the right people, Chris points out some key characteristics to look out for. Your team member should have a certain level of commitment, flexibility, and understands how to represent not just the local team but the global team. Your team member needs to understand that being the first few people on the ground, it is going to be a small team and things might not be in place such as a difference in time zones.
But with helping your team to understand how to represent the global team, Chris encourages training your team to understand how to sell your product or service locally.
Outsource Third-party Companies for Hiring
As the conversation turned towards the topic of outsourcing sales and marketing in new markets, Chris shared how he prefers to outsource work like accounting and tax filing instead of business development.
Viktor chimed in to share that from his experience, it is usually the more mature companies that are more selective about how they outsource business development in new markets. He commented that early-stage startups tend to be more aggressive and approach new markets through a network of vendors as they lack the resources to handle all those efforts on their own.
Chris agrees that the stage and phase at which your company is surely playing a part in your business choices. He recognizes the logic in outsourcing ready-made services for startups with small teams because it makes complete sense knowing that in the startup world, time is precious and limited. But he re-emphasizes that recruiting is a huge time investment but worth that effort if done well.
Following that, Viktor asked Chris what his thoughts are about tiering his partners in his partner ecosystem and how he thinks about commissioning them. To that, Chris presents his methods from the viewpoint of starting up.
He states that it is best to receive partners with open arms, in the beginning, to build that ecosystem and have a broad set of networks. The ultimate goal is to secure two to three core partners in each country that you will invest time in. Once you have that, would he then reduce and start to focus on the key reseller partners and grow that relationship further.
Chris recommends that only when the partner program starts to mature and become more advanced, then you should tier the reseller partners based on how much revenue or leads they are bringing in for your company.
Finding Strategic Partners in New Markets
“You roll up the sleeves and you get on with it. You just have to take ownership and do it.”
Chris suggests that to find these strategic partners, you have to put in the hard work to identify a good market and focus on geography. From there, he advocates finding and further understanding what kind of partners are good for your company.
Best Practices to Incentivize Partners
Chris starts off by listing some factors to consider when
- Margin that you are selling (People or product)
- What that partner is doing for you
Chris advises to step into the shoes of a reseller and understand the motivations of a reseller partner. His advice would be to be as generous as you can to get that market going or find that partner, and not focus too much on the percentage points.
Chris shares that in the context of distributors, early-stage startups might not be at the best phase to recruit distributors. He reasons that distributors usually only work with brands that people know and most times they are only interested in the paperwork, not being out there selling points.
Responsibility of Vendor
“My view is, it's the responsibility of the vendor to do the initial selling.”
Chris elaborates about why he feels it is the job of the vendors to be present with the partner to do an initial pitch and help them understand the process. He explains that the returns of this effort will pay off because the partner is able to receive guidance which could lead to a larger volume of sales. Chris adds on to say that if customers did not love the partner’s delivery and engagement, then it is a good lesson learned to know that that is not the partner for your company
Not Setting Targets for Partners
Chris supports the idea of not setting any upfront targets for the partners as he believes in earning their trust and selling together. He understands that companies coming from outside the APAC region might be used to a formalized approach to set targets. But, he recommends that doing business in this part of the world, it is better to be more flexible, especially in emerging markets.
For more mature markets, Chris thinks it is then more acceptable to bring on requirements for the partners.
Conditions to Allow Exclusivity for Partners
Chris advises that when giving a reseller partner exclusivity in a market, it should be bounded by a time limit and a strong relationship with the partner.
“The most extreme examples you hear of in the tech industry is where someone's given unlimited, unbounded exclusivity for a particular country and then that vendors had to then go buy that company.”
Chris cautions this move because in the future when your company wants to regain control of the market, you will be met with difficulties gaining access.
Wrapping up the interview, Chris was reminded by how much partners remember their experience engaging with him and reemphasizes his choice of prioritizing relationships for the long run.
Our team will continue to interview thought leaders in the Asia Pacific to uncover the best practices behind designing reseller agreements, activating a network of partners across the region, and in general, building your go-to-market strategy. Stay tuned.
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Viktor: Great. So why don't we start, Chris, with a quick introduction about yourself not just about your current role, but also in the past? Because I think you held a lot of similar roles where you manage strategic partners across the entire APAC region.
Chris’ Background and Experience in the APAC region
Chris: Yeah, so I think my first experience is relevant as I took over the operations for a company called Endeca, it was headquartered in Boston, they went on to be bought by Oracle. I think it was my first experience in terms of growing a regional operation, I then left in Endeca at the acquisition point and joined a company called Acquia, which is in the open-source web CMS space, also headquartered in Boston, and the first person on the ground, launching the Asia Pacific, figured out new markets, spent a bit of time there, and then went on to probably next, the next place is Confluent. So headquartered in California, and recently had an IPO. Again, the first person on the ground, bringing the product, building the team, opening up new markets, and then now at Drift, doing some of that being opening up the Asia Pacific; the first person on the ground, building the team, and opening up a new market. So, I'd say this is my third time, and then obviously drawing some experience from Endeca.
Chris’ First Steps into a New Market
Viktor: Nice. It seems like you've been the first person on the ground in this part of the world a few times. So, what are the first steps that you take when that happens usually, like do you have a playbook that you follow? Or do you adapt to and try to come up with something completely new, depending on the nature of the business.
Chris: So I think what's interesting is, regardless of that technology vertical, and if you kind of look at those, they're pretty different in terms of their go-to-market leader in digital in the data space. Interestingly, I think that if you take that same approach each time, I think the view is you're not really sure where the market is. And so it is a case of looking at perhaps you've sold remotely and obviously, you're trying to meet with the customers to figure out where their challenges were in that process. You are looking at from a partner ecosystem standpoint, obviously, there tends to be a lot more critiques, there's a lot of kind of drawing in, determining which parts of the team you want to build, which parts you can maybe leverage from other parts of the world. We had the same set of activities. I would say the first part is that there's a little bit of analysis in terms of looking at what's there and then applying some local knowledge to that data set. Really, it's usually kind of pointed out with startups, there is a little bit of hesitancy, you don't want to go all-in on a particular market or location where you perhaps, you know, may not find that it's where your market is. The Asia Pacific is, whilst it's geographically large, it's a disparate set of different countries across the region. It could be that your product has similar limitations in terms of language capability that might restrict your opportunities, or that the engineering team is focusing on another area, and you can't really request an engineering effort to kind of adapt your product to your local market. So there are lots of reasons why you probably look at what's being sold, looking at the market, and figuring out where you want to sell. I would say then, with COVID, it's somewhat changed historically, if I'm starting an operation, you kind of look at the market, you think, break it down into some sub-region. So I looked at a group in Australia, New Zealand together. Look at grouping together, Southeast Asia with Singapore is a bit of a hub but not just focusing on Singapore, look at the other countries, there are Indonesia and Thailand and Malaysia and the Philippines. For example, at Confluent, we actually saw a great deal of momentum in Indonesia. So whilst there is a team in Singapore and it's building a team that we actually have more momentum in other countries. But with COVID I'm conscious I can't travel. So part of building a team is the culture, the mentality, and education. So, I think with COVID it means that remote selling is becoming much more possible and viable. even for enterprise selling. And so what I'm trying to do at the moment is localize my team, somewhat in an area where we can get together if we can, whilst also selling internationally. So COVID has changed a little bit in terms of what I do in terms of building the team. But yeah, historically, I would have hired a team, let's say Hong Kong and Singapore, and Australia. And now, I'm building a team in Sydney initially to sell internationally, and then we'll look at where the markets are, and then grow there as needed.
Viktor: All right, so essentially, you start by assessing internal learnings, what's going on at the moment, grouping markets that are similar, and then picking in the pre-COVID world, picking the hubs, where you're going to base some people and out of there you're going to cover the entire region, but now that COVID has changed a bit, the game you adapt as you're learning and you're more remote in that sense.
Chris: Yeah, I think there's the idea that you need to be adaptable, especially for even a, you know, I tend to join seriously in about surveyed, some of you have got the US operations mostly figured out, I've seen some changes there, they obviously make some investment here, to me, they're looking at the Asia Pacific. I definitely think that you want to come at this from a startup mentality, you got to figure out where your markets are where you are going to build them into. As I said, kind of going all in and saying you're going to hire 20 people in Singapore, it could be that Southeast Asia isn't the market just yet, you've got to do a lot more work there. So what's the point in hiring on the ground, so I'm much more flexible and agile, I think upfront while we're still trying to figure things out. And the obvious one we haven't talked about is industry vertical, right? So you need to map perhaps key verticals globally and then kind of determine whether they're a good fit here locally, and whether what's your addressable market based on what's happening internationally. You never really want to be driving different markets, you can pretty much follow terms of what's been successful elsewhere, and then applying some local knowledge to that and adapting.
Hiring the Right People, Build a Stronger Local Team
Viktor: Okay, cool. And, you know, what comes to mind first when speaking of best practices when you're going through this process? There are of course things that are unique to every brand, business, or vertical. But there are also some things that I guess, like golden rules that you follow, as it comes to like, building teams, finding strategic partners. What are the first things that come to mind as best practices?
Chris: I think, I mean, ultimately, you know, a company is its people. So I would say, I am very, very selective in terms of who I hire, as the initial team. I think that it requires a certain level of commitment and flexibility when you're joining a small team, that you have to understand that not everything's in place, that then the people that you can get answers from aren't necessarily in your time zone. So I would say, I have seen in terms of hires, that if you're not thinking at a startup and you're hiring, you're not as selective in terms of your hiring, it can obviously cause you problems later on. I think as you grow, you can start to hire in specialist areas. So you can say, "I'm going to hire this technical resource and they're a specialist in this area, and we can accommodate them into the team " because when they have that, I think early on, you need to be much more selective in making sure you're building a core set of team members who represent what you want your team to be, but also the global team, I think that's pretty important. I would say, then also, the kind of critical way is understanding how to sell the thing you're selling. And obviously approaching this from a sales perspective, there's obviously a lot more to kind of building the region, but looking at it purely from a sales perspective. Often, you can find that momentum that they have in another part of the world is sometimes built off of a brand that has been created. Whereas, you know, locally, you don't have that brand recognition. And so breaking down that sales process, and really understanding it, and then educating that local team and how to sell this particular product in this particular market. That takes a few quarters to kind of nail, but that's super critical in terms of building that team. So I would say that the team itself and then understanding and teaching them how to sell locally is the second point.
Outsource Third-party Companies for Hiring
Viktor: I'm sure that you have experimented with that kind of approach, but do you always hire people or do you sometimes rely on third parties to handle that market for you? Because as you said, you know, sometimes you don't know whether the market is going to work or not, so you don't want to invest. Because it takes time to find the right person and recruit them on board and teach them. Do you also outsource sometimes or you're against that?
Chris: I think for me personally when I joined somewhere, I obviously rely on my experience and knowledge, that I look at that company, and I can see whether I think what the success of that company would look like. Obviously, you're relying on what the growth globally looks like, but I feel that I've got enough experience to look at technology and a platform and evaluate and say, "I can see this working." I think at that point, I think there are in terms of certain roles I would hire. So let's just talk in terms of a sales role, I would want to invest my time into an individual to bring them up to speed, knowing that that's a multi-year investment in terms of time and energy. Yeah, so I think there are some roles like that, that I would want to hire, knowing that it's not a risk, it's a case of education and building a market. There are other roles that are a little bit more open to. So, you know, a classic one might be marketing. So as I'm building out a region, my initial team might be small. But you've clearly got to do some work at the top of the sales funnel in terms of driving your leads, sometimes that makes you a little bit heavily skewed towards marketing. If you hire a single marketing resource and you've still got a small sales team, the numbers don't quite add up. So either you're saying that to make an investment ahead of time, or I would hire an external contractor who can help me do that. So there are definitely certain roles. But other parts of the business, as I said, probably tend to leverage international teams that you know, maybe they're out of the US or in the media as a starting point. Yeah, so I think it's good because you're making me question terms of how I think knowing that your business and how you approach things, I think so I certainly wouldn't hire a local accountant, I certainly wouldn't hire someone to go and set up my business operations, I'd want to contract and have that as a third party service. I think in terms of analysis, and we can get on in terms of partners, if I'm looking at a new country and there was a service available to me to provide that analysis and help me, I think that's an interesting thing that I typically use or engage with partners on the ground to kind of gain some local knowledge and visibility into that particular new technology segment, rather than necessarily paying for that. So I tend to leverage a partner ecosystem.
Viktor: That makes sense. All right. Well, that's quite interesting. You know, I think there is also a big difference in how earlier stage companies do it versus a bit more mature businesses. In my experience, I think earlier stage companies are very aggressive, they still haven't learned what is possible and what's not and they just go full speed on new markets, but they don't have the people. So they outsource quite a bit and I think more mature businesses are more selective about how they do it, at least in my experience.
Chris: Yeah, yeah. You're right. I think definitely that depending on where they are in their stage of growth that would I agree that would impact how you go about things. You know, clearly, if you're at a startup, where you're thinking that there is an opportunity to land, grab, and win new accounts, you obviously want to accelerate it as quickly as you can. But recruiting is a big investment of time. Think back to your previous companies, you know, I hired, like, you know, 80 people, if you multiply that for each of those eight people, you probably interviewed 10. It's just a huge investment of time to find the right team. But if you know that you're growing and you're trying to hire, it's worth that investment. But I can see how having a service that is kind of already made if you're a startup and you don't have that time to invest in the recruiting or the capital to hire, makes complete sense.
Viktor: Understood. And you know, to slightly change the topic, I assume that you work for a lot of strategic partners, resellers, distributors, you know, different companies call it different things. Do you have a two-year program where depending on how much business they bring you, you will put them in as you know, golden, silver, whatever? Or do you kind of try to divide them into different groups depending on the volume that they bring in like how much commission you give them? Or what do you think about that?
Chris: Yeah so for me, partners are super important. So, when I describe a kind of a channel, to the US company, I think APAC to me is the most partner-centric region of the world. And again, because we are also distributed I think it's somewhat the same, but you've got larger markets in individual countries, whereas a successful APAC operation is where you have revenue being driven across, you know, 10, 11 countries in order to provide that consistency. And to have that when you're a small operation, you need to have people on the ground. So partners to me, you should have a partner in every deal that you're active in. I'd probably answer your question in terms of how I think about things from starting up because I think it's an effort because you need to, you also want to leverage off of the partners that you've worked with before. But if you're moving from a technology to a technology or a different value proposition, often that might not align with the partners that you've worked with before. So you're always in this constant view of who's out there. So I tend to operate early on, arms wide open, welcoming everybody, you're trying to demonstrate the value of what you're doing, you're trying to build that ecosystem. Ultimately, where I'm wanting to get to is having two, maybe three partners in each country that are my core partners that I want to invest time into. To get there, there's a lot of effort, there's a lot of people you need to talk to, there are people who appear to be interested, but you don't really get anywhere. And so that will evolve over time over a year, then you can start to make a decision. And then it becomes this balance of finding new partners and then also reducing the number of partners you can start to focus on them. And so at the moment, with Drift, for example, in other companies, it's been very much led to collect these partners. From my experience, and at Acquia, through building a partner ecosystem, it felt like at times, I've got a lot of partners to work with and then a new partner might emerge and I'm like "Ah do I have the time" and what I've learned is that partner that you might think, "Oh, do I really want to meet them is it worth the investment?", they can become your best partner that you've ever had. And so you need to continue to think that you've yet to meet your best partner and you need to keep going. Because of the partner ecosystem, the reason why it's successful is you obviously grow your team exponentially, you can't invest in one or two partners, the whole idea is you want a broad set of a network. Also, knowing that it's about relationships, so you're going to have maybe a relationship with one partner, those people will leave what was a good partner one year is going to change. So I would say in the first few years of building a partner ecosystem, there's a lot of change, there's a lot of kind of figuring out who is going to work for us. And then after that time, you start to consolidate and start to tier these partners, your partner program probably becomes a bit more advanced, you've probably got different levels of partner program tiers. You might start to consider, "Okay, is this based on the revenue or the leads that they're bringing?", however, you want to structure it, but I would say early stage, you're really still figuring that out. And you don't really want to place too many restrictions on building those relationships in my view.
Finding Strategic Partners in New Markets
Viktor: I like that approach that you know, you start early on trying to welcome everyone. Slowly, you start identifying the best, but you always have the mindset that you don't know, tomorrow, you may need someone much better, right? That ends up being really good. And plus, you know, people change, I see it all the time. We're in the business of having a lot of partners, like hundreds of partners across the region, and whenever a person changes, it resets the whole thing. And again, you need to build the relationship so I think that makes a lot of sense. And where do you find these guys? Where do you find partners, what are the best practices to find strategic partners in new markets?
Chris: That I think this is probably common across all the answers I'm going to give. I mean, there's no magic bullet here. It's just a grind. It's a grind where you roll up the sleeves and you get on with it. And this goes back to also being a startup. There's a link kind of working your way through things. You just have to take ownership and do it. So I think with partners you know. I think again with APAC because there's a broad set of countries that just want to say, "Okay, where do we think is going to be a good market for us? And let's focus on that particular country, the geography." You then identify, perhaps, globally, what kind of partners are good for us? They could be based on certain activities. So for Drift, I'm looking at demand generation, or ABM, account-based marketing. Those people have worked in marketing automation technologies. And so there is a bit of effort in working through LinkedIn Sales Navigator, looking in Google searches, drawing up lists, reaching out to them, engaging them, having these initial conversations, seeing if there's a connection. I think an important point is an early stage, you're probably looking at. And this isn't meant to be dismissive as a term, but boutique partners in that they are of a size where you can talk to the founder or the CEO. Yeah, and so you can engage because then you know that there's a connection there. I think, ultimately, you want to be engaging with the larger global systems integrators, you know, Deloitte Digital's, your Accenture, as soon as you're building out those more boutiques where you're connecting, you also have a longer-term strategy to engage the larger players. But those can take two, three years, even if you have an interest in a product at an architectural level and try to coordinate a group building up, creating an engagement with a partner who understands the value. There's no immediate switch for that, you just have to kind of just work and slowly build. What they're looking for is kind of first to be second, in terms of like, how do I get to market once something's that thing and you need to kind of demonstrate that there's a thing with all of these boutique partners first as a starting point.
Best Practices to Incentivize Partners
Viktor: Yeah, I completely agree and that's also something I think I have learned is that if you find the right partner, the right size, not too big, they can be really hungry and they would be willing to do a lot more than some larger companies that you're just one of many. At least that's what we have seen with many of our clients across the region. How do you incentivize them? I understand every business has different margins and they think differently about what is okay to give away and what's not. But, we recently had a question where one of our clients actually asked us, where do we start? Is it 20%? Is it 30%? What is the standard in APAC? Do we start with more and then as the brand builds up and we get more and more traction and big logos, we start, you know, decreasing the margin, what's the best practice there?
Chris: So there's a number of factors that feed into that you've got, obviously, you know, what is the margin of the thing that you're selling, said the thing you're selling is people, your margin tends to be a lot less than we need to factor that in. If you're selling a product that you have a margin on, you can obviously be more generous. You would also want to factor in what that partner is doing for you. So, at the low end, it could just simply be a simple referral where a partner has made an introduction and it's a lead and you want to pay them on a referral basis. But then that partner might not be involved in the sales cycle, they're not involved in the contracting. And so you probably want to have a little bit of a sliding scale of everything from just give us a referral through to, you're going to help us sell this product, you're going to be engaged throughout the sales cycle. And then also, the last part is, you're going to be involved in the contracting process. And that could be you know, we're contracting directly and you're assisting to get the signature, you're going to figure out who the economic buyer is who the stakeholders are, you're going to help us kind of coordinate the business value, or the way we're doing this is on a reseller side, for a reseller, you're taking the ownership of that contract, that means that's worth percentage points as well. So I think your that range that you're talking to, I think is dependent on those and you could go at the low end of that referral through to ease you said that 20%, 30% but if your product or whatever you're selling can watch it more, my recommendation would be early-stage build momentum, be more generous with that as you're building out these partners. Because if you have a partner that sold your product a number of times in year one and year two, that is going to build up your market that's much more valuable to you than the odd percentage point that wouldn't have kind of driven that figure. From a partner, they're going to see a reseller discussion with a new partner often is, How much money can I make from it?" The reseller is the one where they think they can make them more. So they start there, but do they really want to be a reseller? So I think when you're hearing reseller discussions, it's really that they're trying to figure out, like, how much can I make off of this deal? And I would say, early-stage be as generous as you can, it's much more valuable to get that market going or find a partner, than worrying about percentage points.
Yeah, and I think then, obviously beyond that, you get into the distributor realm. And so on the distributor realm, you're talking, 2-3%, in terms of them reselling. But that way, a distributor really only works when people know the product and they know what your company makes. I'm just going to buy a thing, which obviously doesn't really work for startups in the early-stage because no one even knows to go to the distributor to buy the thing. So that's a much longer-term and perhaps it just removes the complication of selling into markets where there's some level of complication selling into their country for tax rules, or currency issues, or things like that.
Viktor: Yeah, but even if your brand is big, most partners are not exclusive partners just with you, right? They work with a lot of other solutions and they have a lot of other things going on in their lives in business. How do you make sure that they actually deliver in like, how do you activate them? Because that's challenging, like, a lot of startups we work with, you know, they're like, "Oh, you know, my go-to-market is I'm just gonna connect with all the big distributors, and that's it, and they're gonna take it forward." And six months later, there is not a single sale, right, because these distributors work with a lot of other companies...
Chris: I mean a distributor in my experience is not gonna sell for you. What they're gonna do is if you've sold and you've got a customer who's willing to buy, and you're like, "Okay, here's the paperwork, this is how much you're buying for, this is your margin", that person is just working through the paperwork, that's all they're doing, they're not going to be out there selling points. So if you want someone to go to your clients and help you see that sales process, that's a very different model. My view is, it's the responsibility of the vendor to do the initial selling. So if I'm selling into Singapore, for the first time, we will identify the prospect, maybe the partner can point us in the right direction, and an account that could be interested, but we will do we will engage them, we will do the initial pitch to them, we will understand that discovery will work. And we will keep the partner involved and so we will like them to see the value. I think just roughly like if you give a partner, one deal, and you show them how it works, and you show them that they can make money from it, it's fivefold in return, obviously, other clients, but I think my recommendation from a vendor perspective is you own that first year with that first partner, you've got to find it, you've got to sell. Because if you put yourself in their shoes, and I talked to lots of partners every time, what they really want is a technology vendor who's just going to give them leads and give them stuff to sell, right? We know that it's not quite that someone going into a new market, you're wanting guidance on their local market accounts and what those connections and there is a bit of give-and-take, but to go in with your hands like this and say, "Can you give me an account to work?", it's not going to work. So you have to do all the work yourself as the vendor in the first one. But literally, it's one and a good partner will return that with five opportunities for you, once you've shown them how to do one.
Viktor: Nice, that's very consistent with what we hear from people like you that are more experienced. And I think that's the big difference between people that have done it for a while and people that are just starting. People that are just starting expect that money will come to them and opportunities whereas, you know, people that have done it usually would break their back to just deliver the first few deals to the partner. So the partner sees there is a potential and just to kickstart it, and from there on it just starts working. Or if it doesn't work, you know, at least you validated out early on it, you can just move on with someone else.
Chris: Yeah, we refer back to the discussion earlier where you're going to put some investment and time into a partner, but maybe they're not the one so maybe you go out and you seal a deal, you bring the partner along and then through that process, you kind of think "Will it really help me" and at delivery and engagement the customer doesn't really love them. It's like "Okay, lesson learned, that we thought they were good, but they're not the right fit for us. Let's move on." I think then also being willing to say " Well we made the investment in a company but it's not working. Let's move onto the next one." As I said, maybe the next one that you're meeting on a Monday 430 happens to be the best partner. So I think just being aware and figuring out who's going to help grow your business, but giving them the opportunity is kind of the key part of it.
Not Setting Targets for Partners
Viktor: Nice, okay. And in the interest of time, I'll ask you one final question, unless you have anything else you'd like to add because of course, that's going to be very welcome. Do you set targets for your partners? Or because the nature of the relationship is that... I mean, it's pushing pull, I guess, right? You know, sometimes you're helping a lot, and sometimes we invest a lot, sometimes, you know, they take the lead. So do you give them targets in order to get more commission? Or do you just invest in each of these relationships until you validate who is any good? And then, you keep on working with them, and the rest you just remove from the network?
Chris: So I would say, there's no targets upfront. Based on everything we talked about in terms of earning their trust, selling together. I think there's always, especially for a business outside of APAC coming into APAC, there is typically a more formalized approach. But that's based on years of activity and so I would just recommend much more flexibility as you're not setting targets, again, put yourself in their shoes, someone stands up to you and says, "I want to partner with you, but we're requiring you to make half-million dollars for us. They'd be like, "That's great, but I've never heard of your company before. I've never worked with you before. How do I do that? Why are you asking me to commit to this?" It doesn't make sense. So I think typically that revenue or those requirements are brought on by more mature markets who are more advanced in the partner ecosystem than we are here locally. And then you're trying to layer that in terms of that startup work that you're doing.
Conditions to Allow Exclusivity for Partners
The only other topic I think probably worth it was around exclusivity. I think, yeah, I mean, exclusivity. Again, putting yourself in their shoes, what they're saying is that "Look it's great, you're obviously making an investment in us, we're investing in you. But we're setting aside time from these other products that we're learning to invest in you. We want exclusivity in this market", I think you need to really balance that out. I mean, the most extreme examples you hear of in the tech industry is where someone's given unlimited, unbounded exclusivity for a particular country, and then that vendor had to then go buy that company. You know, after a few years, because they're like, "Well, we need to get access, but we've given them this unbounded exclusivity." So if you are, you definitely want a time limit. And I think also, its relationship, right? You want to say, "Look, I appreciate you making the investment in our company and helping you sell, we're going to make that investment. I'm not going to give you exclusivity, but what I'm going to commit is I'm not about to go and find 10 other partners in the country, and it's based on relationships." So I'd be super cautious about exclusivity. But if you are going to do it, definitely timebox it so that you know that after, let's just say you've given someone Japan for 18 months or something that you can go in afterward. Maybe just say, "Well we're going to do that for 18 months to allow us to build that market up. but I'm not offering anything more than that 18 months."
Viktor: Yeah, one of the people we interviewed shared that what he does is that he gives an impossible target. Let's say, if $2 million is an impossible target at first glance and given software given you know, the nature of vertical, he just gives that. If the vendor commits that they're gonna hit that he's like, "Great because no one else can." And then he signs an exclusive because at least that person feels that it's very rare that you stumble on a good partner that can actually justify an exclusive agreement. So either you agree with an impossible target, or we don't do it.
Chris: Yeah, I guess I'm much more in a relationship, right. I think what I've found in my experiences, I run into the same people in the software industry partners. And so that partner is going to remember how we engaged with them last time and I think I would rather have a relationship where there's a basis of trust that we can build on than setting a contract. Yeah, I guess I have a slightly different approach to it.
Viktor: It's a long-term game, right? At the end of the day, even though the region is vast, I'm sure that you end up working with more or less the same people.
Chris: I mean, I'm getting old now. So it's amazing how many times it's like someone I've met when they were the technical lead for one of my clients who's now like, you come across these people and they remember how you engage with them, what you talk to them about... People remember this stuff.
Viktor: Yeah, absolutely. Especially in Asia, which is super relationship-driven, at least I feel that way. Whenever I work with people in Europe, the conversation seems very short and very straight to the point and when you do it in Asia, there is a lot more about just understanding that person and building trust. So, at least that's my experience.
Chris: Yeah, we're all humans at the end of the day. So it's how we operate. But yeah, so I think partners are super important. Resellers, to me, tend to be a discussion about the pilot trying to figure out where they can drive revenue from it, and you need to show them how you do that. And if so, reseller discussions really then say, "Well, that's how I see I can make some percentage points." But if you can show them another way, that's also okay. I think I'm open to reselling or doing direct or whatever works. Again, I don't want that procurement, I don't want to be in the way of sales. So I'm actually open to different models. And typically, it could be because the customer only wants to operate in their local currency and my company won't do that, so a reseller really helps. It could be that it's wrapped up as another part of the project and so I'm open to it from a reseller perspective, but I think there are other mechanisms to build value into the partner margin that you can use as well.
Viktor: Nice. Alright, well, since we're kind of running out of time, I guess, you know, we can wrap it up here, unless there's anything else you'd like to add.
Chris: That'd be great. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.
Viktor: Thank you so much. That was super valuable, I learned a lot. So I personally learned a lot. So just for that reason, I think it was time well spent for us. And I think you know, a lot of other people are gonna feel the same way. We're gonna be coming back to you with the final article. If you have any comments, just let us know. We, of course, are going to be very flexible and make sure that it's a win-win at the end. You're happy with the content, we're happy with the content and then you know, we're gonna promote as much as we can. Hopefully, something good comes out of it for you also, not just for us.
Chris: Happy to help. Thanks very much for the opportunity.
Viktor: Thank you so much, Chris. Have a great day. Bye.
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