Your sales team carries a lot on its shoulders. Not only do sales reps have to know the product they’re selling, they also need to become tech problem solvers — keeping up with the SaaS industry and how products across ecosystems evolve and interact.
That’s a lot of context for a salesperson to learn from scratch, especially with all the cool tech integrations you’re building into your company’s ecosystem.
At an organizational level, you should invest time and resources into educating your sales team about your customers' tech stacks — not just your solution. As a partner manager, you can work with your team to develop a training process that points your sales reps to the right products and resources to accelerate the sales process and drive retention.
When your sales team is aware of the wider integration ecosystem they will:
- Know how your product fits into solution-selling
- Tap into the pain points of their opportunities and leads
- Show value by giving value. Make informed tech stack recommendations, becoming more consultative and irreplaceable to customers
- Be a resource when customers need help decoupling their all-in-one solutions for more customized tech stacks
Your team should know your product, the other products people love, and the products that fall short.
How to Train Your Sales Team
The easiest and fastest solution is to build onto your preexisting sales training to include information about your company’s partner ecosystem in the context of the current SaaS landscape. Plus, you can build in recurring training to cover your latest tech integrations — which should include everything from messaging, to value add, and co-selling processes.
Jake Wallace, Head of Strategic Partnerships at SignEasy, says his team dedicates time during the onboarding process to teach their sales and customer success reps about the company’s tech partnerships — a process he carried over with him from his previous role at AWeber.
Wallace says, “During the back half of their week two training, they’ll have demos led by the customer success managers. It’s focused on our top partners—how we integrate with Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams and Outlook, and Dropbox, and we keep it at a high level.”
Image courtesy of SignEasy
The tech stack training doesn’t stop once onboarding ends. They’ve created a system for one to one support to help their sales reps implement what they’ve learned.
“We all get buddied up, so every new hire has a buddy who’s there as a resource for ongoing support,” says Wallace.
Meanwhile, Ryan Sholin, Director of Business Development and Partnerships at Automattic (WordPress VIP), says his team provides their new hires with documentation for quick answers and gut-checks to help them with common tech stack questions.
“If the question, ‘What do you have for personalization’ is asked—and it frequently is—you can go to our little quick reference chart and get a quick answer and know what to tell the prospect or customer. And then dig deeper and get into the details and get a referral going if necessary,” says Sholin.
However you choose to implement tech stack training in your organization, consider how you can set the foundation early and build on that foundation in the long-term.
Tips for Developing Your Tech Stack Training Program
Help Them Master the Solution-Sell
As part of your sales team’s tech stack training, you should help your reps understand the what now of partner account mapping. As a partner manager, you know the value of your partner’s products and the potential ROI working with a partner can get you — but do they?
If your sales rep sees they share a prospect account with one of your partners, do they know what to do next? They should understand the value of teaming up with an integration partner and have everything they need to jump into a co-selling motion with confidence.
You should teach your sales team about the logistics of working with integration partners, including specific co-selling processes like when and how they should reach out to your partner’s sales team, the messaging for selling your product and your partner’s product together as a competitive solution, and any competing solutions or potential conflicts.
They’re no longer selling just one product, they’re selling two.
In another instance, if your sales rep shares a prospect account with your partner’s customer account, your rep should know to go to your partner to seek an introduction or to get more context about the account — the best stakeholders to talk to, the company’s budget, and so on.
Additionally, knowing how types of products (customer relationship managers, project management tools) and how specific products work together (like HubSpot's compatibility with Wrike) can help your sales rep navigate the sales conversation more purposefully.
As an example, if your sales rep’s prospect has invested in multiple customer relationship managers (CRMs) across departments — let’s say their sales team uses Salesforce and their marketing team uses HubSpot — and the product they’re selling is a partner ecosystem platform (PEP), they can use that context to build a better sales pitch.
Now, not only can their PEP help their prospect achieve better partnerships, it can also help them consolidate their leads in one place — keeping colleagues from different departments on the same page regarding outreach, sales, etc.
Teach Them About Product Functionalities That Conflict With and Complement Your Product
Could the tools in your prospect’s tech stack hinder the sales conversation? Perhaps your omni-channel marketing automation platform overlaps in functionality with the prospect’s current help desk software. Your sales rep should be able to pivot the conversation to focus their pitch on the value of using both products together — specifically mentioning complementary use cases — or the value in replacing your competitor’s product entirely.
Is there friction between your product and another product during particular workflows? For example, maybe your video management platform isn’t compatible with TikTok. Your team should learn how to anticipate and manage workflow conflicts their prospects might have — including offering a workaround if one exists.
On the flip side, if your product works well with other products — tech partners or not — your team can learn to speak knowledgeably about specific workflows to support their customers.
Litmus, an email marketing software, allows customers to share email previews with anyone they wish, regardless of how many seats that customer has in the platform. Talking about how they can plug the email preview link into Wrike or another project management tool would be a good way to highlight this feature and contextualize it within the prospect’s workflow.
Prepare your sales team for a variety of circumstances that can arise from the prospect’s unique tech stack.
Help Them Build Trust Through Consultative Practices
Do your customers call your sales team for advice about products outside of the one you offer? If they do, maybe it’s because they trust them.
If your sales team can show their customers value beyond your core value proposition, it can go a long way.
In fact, they just might:
- think of your sales reps first when they have a question requiring a high level of product expertise
- think of your sales reps first when making product recommendations to people in their network
- and think of your sales reps last when they need to remove products from their tech stack due to budget cuts
Ryan Sholin says he looks for partnerships that go beyond the standard plugins so that his team has relevant, top-notch tech stack recs in their back pockets.
Sholin says, “We're saying ‘here's a solution that works well on VIP, that our customers are interested in, that enterprise publishers and marketers need, that our team understands the value prop of.’ When our customers say, ‘What do you have for SEO,’ we can have an answer and say, ‘Here’s an enterprise-grade solution.’”
As an open source content management system (CMS), WordPress VIP acts as a “central hub” that welcomes other products to build on top of its product. Sholin’s team can help fill out their customers’ tech stacks by building a vast partner ecosystem — including tech and channel partners — and using their ecosystem as a database of sorts for making trusted product recommendations to their customers.
“‘Go in and sign a contract with Botify, let us know when you're going to run your scan, and congrats.’ We just demonstrated our expertise. It’s the difference between 'here’s a plugin from the ecosystem that people use' and 'here’s an enterprise solution that works and that people find successful,' [emphasis added]” says Sholin.
In some cases, his team develops relationships with businesses that may not fit into their typical technology partnerships roadmap.
Sholin says, “We’re also looking at what else enterprise publishers and marketers need that might not fit into that box. So we're talking a lot these days with translation companies that our larger enterprise customers use or ask about all the time. Some of them have integrations, some of them don’t.”
Show Them How to Decouple the “Almighty” All-in-Ones
The Salesforce's of the ecosystem may serve as the best solution in some capacities, but in others, your customer may just want something a little different — a best-in-breed.
It’s possible that as ecosystem giants, or supernodes, grow from fledgling startups to $24 billion businesses, some of the functionalities of the products within them become outdated, less affordable, or less customer-friendly.
The result? Customers sometimes ask their reps for product recommendations that can help them decouple their all-in-ones.
Kyle Kramer, Director of Partnerships at customer.io thinks that, in many cases, a specialized product can outweigh the benefits of an all-in-one — particularly in the email service provider ecosystem.
Kramer says, "[The all-in-one clouds] are highly customizable, but the solution there is to have an engineer with a typically high bankroll to facilitate that customization. The other option is to find a tool that’s customized in that manner and connect the tools in an underlying tech stack.”
If your product is a best-in-breed, your sales rep should know how it can replace or fit into their prospect’s all-in-one.
Plus, when an account manager or sales rep can be the one to provide a quality recommendation that saves their customers money and improves their workflow, their relationship with that customer goes up a few notches (worth it).
Do you give your sales team dedicated training for tech stack knowledge? We’d love to hear your tips about training and processes that help your team become experts in SaaS. Send some of your tips our way by tweeting us @crossbeam.