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Chapter #01: How to onboard your early partners as a growing SAAS start-up?

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Abhishek Mohanty

       
In conversation with Prerna Singh, VP - Channel & Alliance (APAC, MEA), Yellow.ai


Tell us about your journey with yellow.ai. What were the initial triggers for you to start the partner program?

 
The process certainly begins with pinning down the objectives of the program, the fundamental reasons why the company needs a partner program. With a strong ongoing customer pipeline in place already, the timing was just right to have a well-laid-out partner program. Coming to the essentials in order to create a successful partner program, the key is to design a win-win model for both the company as well as the partner. 

A growth channel driven by the partners goes much beyond the deal numbers; it’s one of the most credible channels for propelling recognition for a growing tech company.

 

How did you and your team manage to convince the first partners to come on board on yellow.ai’s Partner journey?


For any tech startup, onboarding its first set of partners marks the most challenging phase of building a successful partner program. Think of it somewhat like a restaurant which makes great food yet struggles to get customers till it receives a handful of good reviews. It then becomes necessary to develop an end-to-end solutioning and a genuine business model which clearly conveys what’s in there for the partners and how the model can bring success for both parties. Lastly, even as a growing business we place our focus on finding sustainable partners for a long-term association rather than deal-based number crunching.  

 

What are the doubts and dilemmas, the initial partners have in advocating a budding startup/ product? 

 

While collaborating with our Initial partners, we focused on a few areas of potential concerns and started working on them right from day one. While laying the foundation for a partner program it goes a long way in creating the rulebook.
 

“Transparency is key while trust-building.”

First and foremost is building trust and that is best achieved through well laid-out solutioning frameworks and genuinely designed business models which take both parties’ growth into account and are not one-sided at any given point.

“Don’t wait. Communicate and keep conflicts at bay.”

Secondly, it’s crucial to watch out for any possible conflict in terms of lead-clash or others and proactively communicate to mitigate any such situations. Such situations often crop up due to a lack of commitment from either side and thus it is important to keep a check. 

“Own up your mistakes so you can own up the success tomorrow.”

It is absolutely necessary to take complete ownership of the leads provided by the partners and make sure that they live through the process till deal closure. This way you are setting your stage for future associations built on solid foundations of trust and credibility.

It’s also equally important to keep a keen eye on the results or the conversions so you know what are you driving home out of this in-lieu of your efforts and also helps you litmus test your partnerships from time to time. 

Business alliances must always be synergistic.”

Lastly, #growingtogether is the mantra we follow wherein we constantly work towards creating a win-win solution for both parties so we can grow together while delivering results. 

 

Nurturing the first partnerships - any tips, words of caution, or best practices that you may want to share. 

 

The flagship partners of any start-up are not just the fruit of the early efforts by the in-house partner team but they also happen to be the first cheerleaders of the brand. Hence, it is imperative to nurture the first partnerships with utmost willingness and clarity. Among some of the best practices, a significant one is to create an enabling knowledge platform for your partners to know your product inside out so they can go out and run the show in terms of onboarding customers. How well you equip them with resources, real-time information, technical support for the initial deals etc. will determine how high they can hold the baton for you in terms of gaining visibility, business growth and validation.

 

Loyal customers as potential partners - Does it actually work? Is there a process in head-hunting for partners in the market?
 


Yes, it most definitely works! Your first happy customers are your best ambassadors who can advocate your product to the world outside. In fact, they are your best bet forward when presenting the use-cases and the success rates to other potential clients because the same has worked for them in the past. Your first customers can bring in a real-time user perspective to the pitching process than just a partner-seller one. Apart from this, they can also be speakers at potential webinars, events, etc. for the brand.

 

Do you have a partner ‘WOW’ moment? Would love to hear about it.

 

I guess when you are starting the process, every partners’ onboarding journey remains memorable for times to come. And Microsoft is one such key partner for us. A partnership that has now evolved into a long-standing association. Microsoft has not only given us the first few deals but also helped us in breaking into the arena and quickly expanding to the various verticals in India. It still stands as yellow.ai’s active ambassador and has contributed significantly to take the company’s partner program to the next level.


 






 

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Abhishek Mohanty

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