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How to choose the perfect SaaS partnership
HR Insights & Analytics

How to choose the perfect SaaS partnership

Prachi Goradia
July 27, 2023

Mirror Mirror on the wall, which is the best partnership of them all? 

Wouldn’t it be great if all our ‘real world problems’ could be solved as magically as this? But fear not, even though we don’t have a magic mirror (how we wish we did!) we do have a comprehensive checklist of what you should look for in a SaaS partner program and how it will benefit you!

Onto serious business now, we bring you the perfect checklist of what to look for in all the different types of SaaS partnership model out there! So what are you waiting for? All aboard! Let’s go! (Okay no more disney references, promise)

3 most important factors when choosing the perfect SaaS partnership model

There are a multitude of factors that can influence your decision to partner with a SaaS product or not. We lay out the three most common and crucial ones here:

1. Technological Factors:

As an investor, you’re going to want to partner up with a product that is technologically sound, unless you fancy calling Tech support everyday, totally your call buddy! But if you do prefer the former, look for products that have been in the market for a while and have great product specs and come from a company that believes that technology and Artificial Intelligence are here to stay!

2. Economic Factors:

Unless you have a boatload of money waiting to be spent (you can transfer that to us, we’ll get our CA to call you right away!), you would ideally want to invest in a product that is economically sustainable and will give you good returns in a short period of time. Also know beforehand what kind of digital channels they are active on and what can you offer or leverage on economically.

3. Social Factors:

Probably the most important factor in the list, it becomes important to know if their values match with those of your company or self, since the partnership is going to be a reflection of that.

Another key element here would be the amount of transparency and openness that they foster and encourage. And other than the product, what else do they bring to the table? Is it loyalty, trust and goodwill, or are they in this just for the money?

Once you have all these key factors locked and loaded, it’s time to aim and shoot! As we mentioned earlier, there are a plethora of partnerships available in the market and as much as we want to cover them all, we are constrained by time and space.

So we’ll focus on the three most popular ones out there! The holy trinity of Reseller, Referral and Integrational SaaS partnership models!

How to choose the perfect SaaS partnership

How do you choose the perfect SaaS partnership model?

Now remember, this could be as tricky as finding a life partner, with long term commitment, investment and hopes of a stable relationship. We’ve got you covered though! 

  1. Are they ready? Apart from a promising SaaS product, are they armed with all the necessary resources for investment?
  2. Are they willing enough? Or are they hesitant when it comes to entering such a commitment? Will they benefit equally from the partnership?
  3. Are they able? Are they technically and culturally fit enough to partner? Do your values align perfectly, like a yogi’s chakras?

This is always the tricky part and requires tonnes of research, including analyzing SaaS metrics but you’ll be glad you put in the hours in the long run.

After you’ve filtered the company through these lenses, it’s time to move onto the next step, the dreaded gap between expectations and reality!

The gap between what the product offers and what your customers demand

Once you’ve narrowed down your potential partners, it’s time for filtration round two: The Descent into Madness. No, just kidding! It’s time to weigh the pros of the product against the demands of your customers. No one knows your customer base as well as you. Their likes and dislikes, the functions and features that they need, the tools they are aspiring for and the level of effort that they expect you to invest.

The best way to go about this is to be honest with your own demands with the potential partner company. Some insightful questions that you can ask are:

  1. What is the most important thing to you in our partnership?
  2. What are some of the major growth drivers for your product?
  3. What are you struggling to achieve?
  4. Who are some of your best customers?
  5. Where do you expect your product to be in five years from now?
  6. In our partnership, what would the biggest challenges be?
  7. In all honesty, do you think our partnership will have a good market appetite?
  8. Where do you see our partnership a year or ten from now?
  9. What are some challenges or frustrations that you have encountered in your past partnerships?
  10. How do you propose to resolve such issues should they rise again?

These questions may seem daunting or too straightforward at first, but trust us, it’s better to get all the thorns out of the way before hand, rather than continuously cutting yourself over them later on. If they’re hesitant to answer any of these, then you already know what our partnership is going to look like.

But ideally, the result of an open conversation like this should encourage an environment of transparency and trust and help strengthen your partnership in the long run.

When you’re all set with knowing the SaaS partnership company and their goals, it’s crucial to set some of your own too. Setting both long term and short term goals will help you chalk out a definite path for growth and scalability.

These checkpoints will also help keep a better track of where you wish to go in the future and how the partner company aligns with it.

How do you set your own goals and commitments?

Everyone functions differently, some like having SaaS partnership goals stare at them right in the face each morning, some like to create motivational boards and some just want to take life one day at a time. But, unlike in life, having clear goals and expectations set out while forming partnerships becomes really important as it is the holy Bible that you will want to come back to time and again. 

So how do you actually set these goals up? Should they be just long term or short term or both? We strongly advise that you do a mix and match of both to keep track of where the SaaS partnership is going. It will also help you gauge how scalable it will turn out to be in the future.

Know beforehand what parameters define success for you and how are they different from your vendor company. No one wants to invest time and money and end up with a one-sided SaaS partnership or a place where you’re doing all the grunt work and getting very little in return.

Here is a list of common questions to ask your potential partner company:

  1. What are your core objectives?
  2. How do you measure success and what are your set parameters?
  3. How do you view the target market and what kind of potential do you see there?
  4. Who is going to do what in this partnership?
  5. Are the commitments and deliverables realistic?
  6. Are there any potential barriers? And if so, how do you propose to overcome them?
  7. How often will be communicating and keeping in touch?
  8. How will we track our collaborative success?

After you’ve outlined clear goals and commitments, it’s time to set them in stone! Draw an informal agreement of all that was discussed and get it attested by both the parties so that we don’t smell petty lawsuits any time soon.

The Role of communication during SaaS partnerships:

Now we’ve filtered and filtered and refilltered again, and have already lost count of how many times you’ve funneled this down, it’s time for some good old communication to get the ball rolling! Our top contenders for good communication ethics are:

Explore like Columbus:

After they’ve delivered a mic-dropping sales pitch, it is important for you to take your own time and preferably sleep over and let your thoughts untangle. Take this time to go over any decks or other miscellaneous material that they’ve sent over and ask them for credentials to the platform so that you can explore around and get to know the platform!

Gauge the level of effort:

Are they maintaining routine follow ups with you and keeping you interested in the product or did they forget about you the minute you left that zoom call? Are they tossing your portfolio from one person to another, with you having to explain the same things a bazillion times? Or are they more organised than that? 

Quench the Eureka moments:

Make sure to keep a record of all communication and notes of the meetings. This will help you ask those pesky questions that pop-up randomly in your head during the showers or when you can’t sleep at night. Save those Eureka moments and clarify them during the next session. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

Enabling the partnership program:

Now that you’ve selected your vendor and like the product that they’re offering, let’s move onto the next step; enabling the partner program! The three main factors to look for are Technical training, sales training, and industry exposure. Let’s dive into them individually here:

"Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up." – Oliver Wendell Holmes 

1. Technical Training:

You need to be as familiar and technically adapted to the product as the vendor is. Make sure to ask a ton of questions about the technical specs of the product, any bugs or loopholes and most importantly, the security of your customer’s data. 

The best partners get you directly in touch with their product teams, so that you can get the right information from the ones most equipped to give it out! 

2. Sales Training:

No matter what partnership you choose, reseller, referral or integration, you will have to sell it to the right people for the right price. It doesn’t make sense to just invest in a great product and then let it sit idle or worse, market it to the wrong people! 

Does your partner company have a sales training module in place or did they not bother about making one? This will again tell you about the amount of time and effort that they’re willing to invest in your partnership and will decide it’s course.

3. Industry Exposure:

After you’re equipped with your sales armour and technically skilled army, it’s time to go to battle! Is your partner giving you the detailed understanding of customisation and pricing that you’ll need to make a dent in the industry? Are they continuously up-selling their product  to you or talking about it’s drawbacks as well?

Are you confident enough to go out there in the real world and sell your product amidst a thousand others? Have they equipped with everything that they had or are you still second guessing most of it? Better to get all the hurdles right out, than tripping every step of the way.

Involvement of both parties and evolving the SaaS partnership:

How involved are both of y’all in the SaaS partnership? Or is it going to be a one-sided affair? Is your partner company genuinely interested in what you’re doing as an individual entity too?

Did you know: 74% of organizations would consider SaaS partnership automation.

A hallmark of a good partnership is the ability to genuinely listen and address your concerns, without making you feel inferior for asking them. Make sure that they treat you like a partner looking to foster a good relationship and not as an ignorant imbecile or a complete noob.

Sending leads your way:

 "It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed." – Napolean Hill

Great partnerships are formed based on mutual trust and interest. If you were to own a bakery and partner up with a butter manufacturer, you would naturally expect them to recommend your services if their customers were ever in need of bread. That’s the law of the world, a good word for another. 

And since the SaaS partnership model inevitably occupy the same space and time as all other businesses in this world, it is but natural that you would want them to put in a good word for you with their customers and vice-versa. Also, make sure that they do this purely out of goodwill and have no secret charges or agendas behind this, cause it is going to strip away the ‘good’ from the ‘goodwill’.

A few key things that can guide your partnership in the right direction:

  • Always give the partners a heads up; share information about a prospective customer; and help them tailor the pitch for them.
  • Identify any roadblocks that they face when you are handing them new leads and figure out a way to overcome those.
  • But most importantly, work hand-in-hand with them to make customer success a continuous and ever growing process.

So the test of a good partner then becomes their ability and willingness to send in any leads that they come across that might benefit you and in return expect the same from you. 

Training cycles and product updation:

The only constant in the universe and a good product, is well, change. Products do have a tendency to change and update themselves, mostly for the better. So make sure that your SaaS partnership constantly updates you about any new feature launches, product upgrades or add-ons that have been revised. 

Here are a few questions that you can ask them regarding the training part of the problem:

  1. How frequently do you hold training sessions?
  2. Are these one-on-one or are they a communal activity? 
  3. Are these training sessions real-time or pre-recorded?
  4. How will you intimate me about new feature launches?

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