Taking the first step can be the hardest part of a journey. That’s often true when selling on Cloud Marketplaces. Frank Ciccone, Alliances Director at Avaya, recently joined Tackle’s Cloud Marketplace Office Hours with CRO Don Addington and Director of Growth and Renewals Rachael Wright to hear his experiences and advice around landing the initial Marketplace deal—and others soon after. Prior to joining Avaya, Frank worked in global alliances for Verint, where he focused on building co-sell opportunities with AWS and launching Verint’s SaaS in the Marketplace.
Here’s what we learned.
Making First Contact
Getting field sellers comfortable with bringing up Cloud Marketplaces as a new go-to-market channel in their customer pitches takes time and training. “You’re going to have some misses before you get hits, no question,” Frank said. “Reps will have to ask customers new questions about their cloud strategy, if they are moving workloads, or if they have any enterprise commits. I sat in on all our early calls until everyone felt comfortable.”
What if customers don’t know the answers to these new questions—doesn’t that just cause friction early in the deal cycle? If that’s the case, according to Frank, “you might not be talking to the right people. It’s okay to ask for someone else who may know more about the cloud strategy and budget and can get a deal moving.” And it probably doesn’t hurt to engage with other stakeholders in the buyer’s organization, which can give you a leg up in the long-run.
Don mentioned a pattern he sees among successful Marketplace vendors. “They have someone who speaks cloud on both the Provider and customer levels. It’s usually an alliance manager who knows the most about a given cloud and the incentives. Your sales reps don’t need to be experts, they need partners like Frank to chime in on pitches when cloud comes up.”
Adding to the sales reps’ potential early discomfort, Marketplace selling can flip the script on traditional processes, as procurement moves from last contact in a transaction to first. “[But] you’ll have more success in Marketplace selling if you start with the CIO and procurement and ask them questions about their cloud strategy,” Frank said. “Then you go to the Cloud Provider to set up a co-sell motion, which is very different from what sellers have done. It takes some getting used to.”
Sellers Buying In
Getting buy-in and aligning stakeholders from the top down is key to success with Marketplace. “Talk with your sales leaders to figure out who you are and how you will transact before you get started,” Frank said. “Marketplace is a transaction vehicle, a co-sell model, a way to align your solution with the Hyperscalers. We quickly realized just about all our deals would come through Private Offers, not a public listing. Even if you do public listings, it takes some energy.”
Don emphasized the risk of putting too much on sales too soon. “Supporting reps in the earliest deals makes all the difference for getting them on board,” he said. “Don’t overburden them or expect them to know how it all works. Early failures are kryptonite to a Marketplace program.”
Frank recommended choosing a handful of influential sales reps who would recognize Marketplace’s potential, have a good chance to score the first deal, and spread the enthusiasm across the team.
He also offered advice for what not to do. “Don’t sweep in on a low-in-the-funnel deal that’s still in the commit stage and try to move it to Marketplace. You’re likely to do more harm by losing the trust of that sales leader. Look higher in the funnel instead.”
Money is always a prime motivator, so preserving reps’ commissions is a must. “We worked with finance to treat the Cloud Provider’s transaction fee as an expense so it doesn’t reduce the quota retirement and commission of our sellers,” Frank said. “Compensation drives activity. Once they realized they weren’t going to get dinged on the transaction fee, the co-sell ecosystem started to open up very quickly.”
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Prospects of Least Resistance
To find the first customer, Frank suggested online sleuthing. “If you’re considering a public company [as a prospect for Marketplace], check their financial fillings, their 10-Ks, and their press releases, because they may be announcing strategic relationships with the big cloud companies. Search your customers’ names and pick the biggest ones with the largest budgets and existing enterprise discount arrangements.”
Another tactic? Pick the brains (and contact lists) of the Cloud Providers. “I joined reps for introductory meetings with Cloud Providers and pitched them on our joint value proposition and problem we solve for the customer,” Frank said. “Then we would ask very direct questions around their customers’ enterprise commitments. Most of the time, they were very willing to share.”
When it comes to getting additional lead generation help from Cloud Providers, Frank advised a three-step approach. “First, check your status in the partner portal to make sure you’re in good standing. Second, have an annual business plan with the Provider and agree on how much revenue you will drive together, with Marketplace being a portion of that. And third, measure performance to drive accountability and make sure Providers are living up to their end of the deal.”
“I had a customer who asked their AWS partner manager to help them craft an internal elevator pitch,” Rachael said. “It came out in AWS language, which was good because they had a consistent message for selling. Having the cloud partner manager put their skin in the game and get creative with you can go a long way.”
Know the Players
Don discussed the value of maintaining strong ties between revenue teams and alliances and channels, who tend to lead the motion to Marketplace deals. “We advocate strongly for educating sales leadership on what Marketplace means and where the benefit is. We try to pull in the CRO and VP of Sales very early to show them how valuable these partners can be for a Marketplace program.”
Getting familiar with everyone involved and how they can help you is critical. “When you understand the ecosystem that surrounds the Cloud Providers’ direct services you integrate with, you’ll find a whole new go-to-market route that didn’t exist before you were on the Marketplace,” Frank said.
“We learned in our early conversations that there were partners we didn’t know we needed to recruit,” he continued. “I’m talking about a new layer of System Integrators (SI) helping customers solve issues with the big cloud provider services. In one example, we discovered an SI was running bootcamps for an AWS service and our competitor was involved. We didn’t even know this SI existed. Eventually we reached out and established a relationship that allowed the SI to re-sell our Marketplace offering via Private Offers with a negotiated discount. We then started getting leads from the SI without doing anything.”
Spread the Word
“Getting to that first deal, that first dollar from the Marketplace, is the hardest step,” Frank said. “But once you start to have success and the sellers from the Cloud Providers start to get quota relief because your solution was sold to their customer through Marketplace, then you’re going to start to have a multiplication factor and leads will start coming in.”
Don talked about the value behind touting every victory. “Register all the deals you can, close them out, and celebrate your wins,” he said. “Get the stories back to the Cloud Provider to let them know what the deal looked like and the impact on their consumption.”
Register here to join us every 2nd and 4th Thursday for Office Hours. And if you like what you’re reading, schedule a demo to see how Tackle can help you land your first dollar—and many more— on the Cloud Marketplaces.