Did you know that 80% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as the products and services that it offers? As a growing company, building strong partnerships with strategic customers can quickly become one of your biggest assets.
In this session, Box Head of Strategic Sourcing & Procurement Ops Linda Chuan and Certa Founder/CEO Jag Lamba will share key lessons from their partnership that companies can implement in their own customer success strategy—including how to build trust with large companies as an early stage startup, maintaining trust through challenges, learning from your customers to get ahead of the competition, and more.
Certa was still an unknown startup three years ago when Linda walked past their booth at a conference. She had recently been hired at Box, and her first big project was to upgrade the internal user experience for vendor onboarding and management. Box was already in the midst of RFP reviews for the project, but when the Certa team asked Linda if she wanted a demo of their “supplier lifecycle management solution,” it piqued her interest. This company knew and understood that the supplier engagement process is more than just the onboarding piece; an ideal solution takes you from the beginning to exiting and potentially terminating that supplier.
Jag and the Certa team understood that by taking a chance with a startup, Linda was putting her decades-long professional reputation, as well as her new job, on the line. So they made an effort to really lean in and said, yes, we’ll do whatever you need to gain confidence, which basically included an extensive proof of concept.
Then after the proof of concept, there was a bake-off between the two finalists and an implementation holiday, which meant no license fees if they are unable to implement. So no payment until the solution goes live. Jag acknowledges that these terms may sound unusual for many startups, but he was hyper-focused on what he felt was needed to give Linda and Box the confidence to go with a startup.
This was successful because Linda wasn’t just looking for a supplier. She was looking for someone willing to partner with her, who felt that her success was just as important as their success. And Jag and Certa were able to demonstrate this by customizing their solution and showing Box how they could help them with just two weeks to prepare.
Linda sees her relationship with suppliers like dating. You can’t just date, become engaged, then never speak again. You still have to continue to have date nights to get to understand each other better. In business, there has to be continued investment in the partnership. As Box grew, there were new requirements, a new and bigger scope to be had. And because Certa was able to prove that they were a partner with Linda and Box, it was also able to grow with Box’s needs.
Jag reminds CEOs that as a startup working with a larger company, you’ll have to be prepared to do what it takes to make your partner a success. You’ll have to take steps such as providing your cell phone number to the implementation team to make sure that if there are any issues, you’re immediately available to help.
Delivering on what you committed to is absolute table stakes. But what else does a company need to do, especially if you take a chance on an early-stage company, to maintain that trust?
Linda says, be agile, listen to your client’s needs, and be able to deliver on what you say you can deliver. If you say that you can do it, come through.
Now that Jag and Certa have built this trust, when Box has a new procurement need, Linda goes to them first. For example, when she had an idea for a centralized intake, she asked Jag if Certa could build out her idea, and in two weeks, they were ready to demo the new solution.
There are a few clients initially in a startup’s journey where you can see that they are visionaries. And I think my guidance is really lean in and learn from those clients. – Jag Lamba
Not only did this strengthen the partnership between Certa and Box, but Certa also ended up with a verbal commitment for a seven-figure deal for the same project with another client.
Linda and Jag both recommend that you really, really pay attention to the few visionaries that you will find in your initial clients. Know who your Diamond clients are, and if they’re asking for something, more often than not, 90% of the time, your other customers will want it too.
As the relationship matured, Box and Certa found new ways to partner. In 2022, Jag learned about a startup initiative within Box called Box Sign. Because Box had been so good to them, they said, “How can we support it?” So they went to Linda and became the first vendor partner to support Box Sign.
Then Certa and Box developed a joint go-to-market that benefits both companies.
Certa has progressed from a supplier partner to now integration and go-to-market. Linda closes out the session by saying, “It’s gone really, really well because you listened. You understood where I was coming from. He saw my success just as much as his success and delivered on our asks. And it’s working. Everything’s working.”