How CrowdStrike, Nasuni, and Pluralsight scaled their Cloud Marketplace Strategies

Victoria Celis, Cloud Marketplace Manager at CrowdStrike; Lauren Guidry, Director of Global Deal Desk at Pluralsight (formerly A Cloud Guru); and Paul Horn, Director of Microsoft Alliance for Nasuni joined Tackle for a webinar about the opportunities of Marketplace and scaling operations to match Marketplace success. 

Each of the panelists discussed the benefits (and realities) of joining a Cloud Marketplace, the challenges they faced and the lessons they learned along the way.

Why Join Marketplace

For Nasuni, part of the initial decision to join the Cloud Marketplaces was a matter of meeting customer demand.

“When our customers are asking us to be able to purchase something via Marketplace, we listen. And I think any good technology company would take that approach as well. But as if that wasn’t enough, our large Cloud Provider partners also came to us and said, ‘Hey, we’d love for you to do this,’” said Paul. Nasuni started with AWS, then rolled out to Azure Marketplace and Google Cloud Marketplace. 

Read More: Landing Your First Dollar (and Many More) on Cloud Marketplace

The need to facilitate a faster sales cycle was a common theme for the panel. 

“We had the shortest sales cycle in the history of the company just this past year, 18 minutes from when one of our sales reps finished a call with a customer. I’ve never seen that before, but that’s what this technology allows”

“We had the shortest sales cycle in the history of the company just this past year, 18 minutes from when one of our sales reps finished a call with a customer. I’ve never seen that before, but that’s what this technology allows,” he said. “And so as you can imagine, our sales leadership loves that.” 

Paul also talked about setting the company up today for a scalable future in terms of automation. Though Nasuni doesn’t have enough private offers to require full automation right now, as the business matures and evolves the goal is to get to that point. 

Victoria also pointed out that the shortened sales cycle opened up opportunities to work with buyers who needed to meet their Enterprise Discount Program (EDP). 

“If they have an EDP, then that’s a win-win for us,” Victoria said. “And it’s the easy way to accelerate the sales cycle because they can burn down that commitment with this transaction through Marketplace.” 

Ramping Up on Cloud Marketplace

Cloud Marketplace ramp up can vary widely between organizations based on resourcing, business strategies, and even when the company first got started. The reality is that different approaches work for different organizations—there’s no one size that fits all. The one thing they do have in common is that it’s a multiyear journey.

CrowdStrike, which created its first listing on AWS Marketplace in 2016, took nearly two years to get its first private offer. But Victoria explained they spent much of that time focused on legal and evangelizing the benefits and plans for Marketplace across the organization—no easy feat, especially in the early days of Marketplace. After the first private offer, the company completed 100 more that year and has completed 2,000 private offers to date, adding new team members, programs, and motions alongside the Cloud Providers. In 2021, CrowdStrike brought on Tackle to help further operationalize the process and enable CrowdStrike to scale across multiple Marketplaces. 

Read More: CrowdStrike’s Five Year Journey to Cloud Marketplace Success

The team at Nasuni went with a different approach to both joining Marketplace and also to how the Cloud Marketplace fit into their overall business plans.

“Initially the way we started was, ‘let’s get one deal in’,” said Paul. “Land that first deal, figure out if you’ve got kinks in the system you have to work out, and make sure that for future transactions, you’re constantly learning from the current transactions you’re doing.” 

Nasuni’s Cloud Marketplace sales motion is exclusively based on private offers. Paul sees Marketplace as another route to market. The team isn’t as focused on how many private offers they have, they’re looking specifically for large strategic deals. 

“We’re actually seeing a large portion of our business shift towards Marketplace. We’re no longer measuring a number of deals, we’re measuring in millions of dollars that we’re transacting. And so I’d say it probably took us about eight to 10 months to make that shift more towards the revenue based model,” he said.

Read More: One Team, One Dream: How to Align Sales and Alliances for Revenue Success

Scale the Process

Though the Cloud Marketplace maturity of each company varied, all three panelists had to figure out the first step towards operationalizing and scaling the whole process. 

“When I came in May of 2020, there wasn’t a scalable existing process for how to do any  Marketplace transactions from a private offer perspective,” said Lauren. And it’s not a small amount of business. According to Lauren, Pluralsight is seeing 100% growth year over year in Marketplace transactions with about 50% of new business coming through Marketplace. 

“That is a huge thing when you’re trying to think of scaling business and what that sales cycle looks like,” she added. 

With that in mind, one key focus was operationalizing a better service-level agreement (SLA) as a way to facilitate the shorter sales cycle.

“I think the overall challenge of this was there was no process,” she said, mentioning she was receiving requests for private offers via Slack, which was tough to track and manage. 

Lauren used a Google form to create a basic repository to start. Eventually, that evolved into a CRM tool with case tracking that produced SLAs. This created a standard SLA for Marketplace private offers that enabled the business to handle hundreds of private offers and even offer a 24-hour turnaround time for a buyer to transact. 

Scale the Team & Document the Process

Marketplace doesn’t just involve one or two teams at a company, especially when it comes to scaling. Lauren shared how the complex process started with learning everything she could and figuring out how to share relevant information with specific teams. For example, sales teams need to understand the product and the process, but they don’t need to understand the cash flow of how each transaction will impact the finance team. 

“On a granular level, really providing confidence to your sales team that ‘yes, there is some complexity,’ ‘yes, we know here’s a known issue’ so then your sellers are able to confidently go into those conversations with their customers,” she said. “Even though they might have a blind spot to AWS Marketplace, they are confident with what the transaction will look like. And it really makes it seem very seamless for the customers as well.”

She had to consider how each team from sales to finance to CRMs to outside vendors like Tackle fit into the process. And, of course, how it would all scale. 

“Make sure that you’re zooming out at a scalable solution so that if you go into a brag moment of 100% growth, the existing process that you have is going to fit in year over year, doubling that,” she added. 

At Nasuni, Paul is also focused on sales enablement and creating a strategy that adapts to the ever-changing Marketplace. 

“Everybody is learning about Marketplace at the same time and that includes the Cloud Provider sellers,” he said. “[Our field sellers] know enough about it to be dangerous. And then we come in and help them connect the dots to get to the finish line. With our own sales team, we do a lot of enablement. Usually once a quarter, we’re doing updates on Marketplace so that everyone has the latest and greatest and understands what they’re doing across our entire sales organization.”

In addition to sales updates, the team also conducts a quarterly review and updates the offering once or twice per year. Paul added that the reality is that everything is constantly evolving and changing, so the key is to set up a system that can respond to that and execute on any necessary changes.

Once you have a process, write it all down.

 In hindsight–always 20/20– this is one of the big mistakes CrowdStrike made. 

“One thing that I think would be helpful and I wish we would’ve done better is documenting the process, actually writing it down,” Victoria said. “So instead of having to copy it, you can copy and paste from whatever you already have on the side on how to create a new offer, how to send the template over to your customer, how to switch them to invoicing, or how to find their invoice.”

It became apparent when one team member left, taking all his knowledge with him because documentation wasn’t in the day-to-day process.

Advice for the New-to-Marketplace Crowd

Beginning a journey on to Marketplace can be intimidating. There are a lot of moving pieces, a variety of players, and a lot of decisions to make. Strategy, scaling, and KPIs are key to success and that can be a lot for some organizations to take on. In addition to building great relationships with Cloud Marketplaces and third parties like Tackle, the panel offered some advice for beginners. 

Lauren recommended organizations beginning their journey spend time to really hone in on KPIs and identify company goals before pushing forward. 

“Is it important for you to utilize Marketplace to facilitate one-click SaaS purchases? Is it because you want to increase your sales cycle? Maybe you want to advance the procurement and utilize a combined contract that’s AWS and you as a seller company,” she said. “Once you find a running path, it moves, it’s quick. So there’s no slowing down. Once you’re on Marketplace, it is speedy.”

Victoria added–in addition to document everything–to consider firm KPIs when it comes to scaling the team. For example, once the company gets to 100 Private Offers per month, it’s time to add another team member or third-party organization. This will help scale the team and the process. 

And, at the end of the day, Paul’s advice was to just get started. 

If you’re on the verge of trying Marketplace, jump in without a doubt.

“If you’re on the verge of trying Marketplace, jump in without a doubt. Everything that I’m seeing from our big Cloud Providers is showing me that it is going to be the direction that they will be going in the future. It’s where resources are going to be based, investments are going to be made,” he said. “And if you’re not there yet, I’d say don’t waste any time, get there, get transactable. It could be private, it could be a public offer, but whichever route you end up going, dive in with both feet.”

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