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Leyla Seka (Salesforce): How to *Really* Partner with the Big Guys (Video + Transcript)

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Gretchen DeKnikker

Leyla Seka SaaStr Annual Laughing

We’re publishing the full series of both the transcripts and videos from all of the incredible SaaStr Annual 2015 sessions (check out the Zenefits, Why Sh*t Gets Funded, and Slack/Yammer posts if you missed them). Today we’re featuring one of my favorite people on the planet, Leyla Seka, SVP & GM of Desk.com, Salesforce’s fast-growing help desk solution for small businesses. I met Leyla in early 2008 when she joined Salesforce.com to run AppExchange and was tasked with not only building out the world’s largest SaaS partner ecosystem, but also the systems by which to manage these important relationships. This was no. easy. feat, I assure you. (And she’s gone on to do some other pretty amazing things at Salesforce since then.)

In this session, Leyla talks all thing BD and relationship-building while laying out some helpful tips for CEOs and VPs/Dirs of BD interested in pursuing partnerships with the big, established players. Learn what you should expect from a new partnership, as well as the right questions to ask your prospective partner – and yourself – to create a mutually beneficial and successful partnership. (Spoiler alert: the big guys won’t magically close deals for you.)

Check out the full transcript from Leyla’s session below!

Also, make sure you grab your ticket to the 2016 SaaStr Annual.  Join 5K SaaS founders, execs, and investors for 3 full days of epic content and unparalleled networking. Everyone will be there. You definitely don’t want to miss it  

Jason Lemkin:  Next up, I want to introduce Leyla Seka, who’s actually an amazing guest for us to have. One of the topics we all get confused about is partnering, how do you partner with big companies, what does it mean? Everyone has these ambitions, what’s possible, what isn’t.

We’ll bring Leyla out and give you her background, but I don’t know anyone in SaaS that’s better for us to talk to about this topic, so introducing Leyla… thanks for joining us.

 

Leyla Seka:  For you, Mr. Lemkin.

Jason:  Is this my finger?

Leyla:  That’s your finger. Do with it what you will.

Jason:  I will let Leyla introduce herself and all of her learnings. She joined Salesforce, the company, when, 2007 or something like that?

Leyla:  Yeah, early 2008.

Jason:  2008. It turns out, and I just learned this backstage, that I and the team were the first partner that she met with when she started.

Leyla:  Absolutely.

Jason:  So you joined Salesforce to take its partner ecosystem to the next level. Clearly, that was your job, and you got hired. You got hired from the top. I remember you came down to the office, and you said they’re paying me a lot of money to really make this big.

Leyla:  Not enough. No, I’m just kidding.

Jason:  So Leyla turned the whole partner ecosystem into a huge success, and then was convinced to come over and take over desk.com and be the GM and head of that. Not only did Leyla take the whole partnering program at the biggest SaaS player to the next level, now she’s on half of the other side.

She’s at Salesforce, and she’s at a large startup within Salesforce, managing her own partner ecosystem on all three sides of it. I really can’t imagine someone who has thought more through all of these issues than Leyla. It’s a treat to have you, so thank you.

Leyla:  Thank you.

Jason:  I want to talk about a lot of details, but before I even get there, let’s just start at the top, at the simplest thing. It sounds simple, but it’s confusing, right? At Salesforce and then at Desk, and let’s compare and contrast as relevant, what is a good partner? We all want to be a good partner.

Leyla Seka - SalesforceLeyla:  I think partnership in general is like any relationship. It’s like a girlfriend, a boyfriend, whatever. You have to be mutually compatible. There has to be a reason why you’re in the partnership. I often see too many people running, like, “Oh, I’m going to be your partner. I want to be your partner. I want to be your partner!” Why? Why do you want to be my partner? What are you going for? You’ve got to really get down to that.

Once you figure that out, and you approach the partnership, you approach it together. You voice what you feel. I think sometimes people are like “Well, I’m just a three person shop, and what am I going to do?” That’s not the right attitude. If you have a solution that is going actually to make both companies more successful, that’s what you’re looking for in a partnership.

What makes a good partner? Someone that’s there to do something, not just there to be there, as everyone else is. Someone who has a vision, someone who is trying. With us, there were many people that came… Let’s talk about you. You are the first partner I met with, you had EchoSign, it was electronic signature. It made Salesforce work great. Made everything better, you made our customers happier. That was a good partnership.

Jason:  One of the things that is confusing from the founder side is, even when it’s clear, what does the partner want from us? For example, let’s step back. I asked this morning Aaron Levie and Bob Tinker, how do SPIFs work for partners?

Bob’s answer was actually, I hadn’t thought through this, that in their early days, it can help a little bit. But ultimately, reps want to close with what they want to close. How do I learn what a partner wants from me so that this relationship is mutually successful? It’s confusing.

Leyla:  It’s confusing especially when you’re a smaller company interacting with a larger company, that’s hard, what do they want from me because a large company has a lot of things going on. Why don’t you reverse the question and say what do I want from this? Why did you partner with Salesforce when you were at EchoSign?

Jason:  Because we wanted more customers.

Leyla:  That’s a good thing to want. You brought something to the table as well. You brought the electronic signature, that’s a really good thing to have with an SFA application, which was where we were back then. That was what we were doing solely, and then the platform.

It was very clear, you wanted something and you helped us, it was mutually beneficial. You were comfortable with your voice. I too often hear small companies being frustrated like, “I’m never going to get it.” Say what you want and then try to pursue it. Scott Hemmeter’s here in the audience, somewhere. He built Arrowpointe. Hi, Scott!Leyla Seka

It was like a three person company for the longest time and it might even still be. Talk about someone who built something that was really powerful, sat next to Salesforce really well, and then with a very small company, used the resources, used his connections, did things to make it better. He had a roadmap of what he was going to get from Salesforce and what he was going to give.

He attacked it. He went, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.” When he hit a wall or hit something, he dug in. He was like, “Why is this happening? Who do I talk to? How do I fix it?” He was very active in a relationship, to the point where, even though he was a teeny little partner, he became a very important partner for all of us.

Jason:  Using Arrowpointe or others as examples, let’s say I build the world’s best integration with Desk, or with Salesforce back in the day. But I’m an introverted founder, as many of us actually are, deep down inside, right? Will you find me?

Leyla:  I will find you if my customers want you. You have to understand that. I do what my customers tell me to do. [laughs] I’m lucky. I run a startup in a big company, so I have big company resources but a startup vibe. It’s awesome, by the way.

If my customer is saying to me, “I need this integration,” or, “I want to use this.” Olark’s another example. They’re a great partner of Desk’s, and they do amazing things with chat. We have a chat, but theirs is amazing, and everyone wants to use theirs. So I went to the CEO of Olark, and I was like, “Let’s do this,” and we became partners.Leyla Seka Desk.com

Jason:  Did you know him before that?

Leyla:  No. But I said, “My customer…

Jason:  OK, so that’s an example of you reaching out, right?

Leyla:  Yeah. I said, “Go get me a meeting with the CEO of Olark, because all my customers want better integration with Olark.” That’s hard to do. I understand that. Olark was very established and doing well, but it really does come down to, “Are you fixing something for the customer that I haven’t yet fixed, and can I get lift from you, and you get lift from me, and we all go up together?” kind of a thing.

Jason:  The lift is interesting. Let’s dig on that, but a little bit of the chicken and the egg. So if I’ve built a Desk integration, and it’s cool, but I don’t have a joint customer, am I wasting… obviously you want those relationships, but at some level, how much effort should I put into that until I’ve started to monetize that?

Leyla:  I wouldn’t necessarily build an integration unless you have a reason to, right?

Jason:  Yes.

Leyla:  Building an integration because you’re hoping to get access to my customer base, although valiant, it may be a good decision based on what you’re trying to do. I have a lot of people. I work at Salesforce. It’s like the biggest SaaS company in the world. I have a lot of people that want to hang out with, maybe not me, but with it, with Salesforce. So why? Are you bringing something to the table? It can be a product gap, it can be something else too.

I often look at Uber and Lyft, they didn’t change how taxis worked. They changed the service around taxis. Maybe your integration brings some level of service that doesn’t necessarily fix whitespace in my product, but does something else that makes it better, makes my customers happier, makes our joint customers, if we have them happier.

If we don’t have them, then let’s sit down and talk before you build an integration. I have a team, I have a biz dev team. They’ll talk to you. We don’t want anyone to waste their time.

Jason:  Got it.

Leyla:  Right?

Jason:  Yeah. Let me ask a variant of that. You said the Olark Desk integration, the partnership’s gone well. Let’s imagine I’ve started a startup, and it’s just like Olark, but it’s 22 percent better, or 33 percent better, but it is, not in the grand scheme, but in one little thing, because that is possible, right?

Leyla:  Sure.

Jason:  Is it harder to get attention there? How do you manage that part of the relationship?

Leyla:  That’s something I saw a lot. I was on the AppExchange for six years. I took it from almost very little to pretty big, the biggest enterprise ecosystem for SaaS [laughs] in the world. But competition is natural. There are always people that are going to do it better, faster, because they learned from what you did. We’ve certainly felt this at Salesforce. People learn from things we want to.

I see competition as good. If you build something that’s 30 percent better than someone I’m already invested with, I have an open partner program. We do at Salesforce. We try to stay agnostic. It’s an open marketplace, the AppExchange. Everyone has free will, everyone can do what they want.

Leyla Seka Desk.comIf your product’s better, and you’re going to win, of course I want you to be a partner. It doesn’t mean I’m going to dump Olark. Join the family. Choice, I want my customers to have choices.

What we did on the AppExchange, I would say that is, in many ways, one of the most differentiating things at Salesforce. It’s the ecosystem around our platform. That makes me super proud, but that’s also really interesting. I want competitive partners, because I want my customers to say, “Do I want Olark, or do I want this one, or do I want that?” They should be able to have that decision.

Jason:  You want the competitive thing. How many, just in your experience across different categories, there’s sort of a cohort, though, that naturally rises to the top, right, a group? How big is the pack? People think about competition a lot, is there room for three or four that are recommended? Is it two? Is it…?

Leyla:  I think it depends on the thing you’re tackling. Let’s use electronic signature, because there was EchoSign, and then DocuSign showed up, and you both were in the AppExchange. A lot of people wanted EchoSign. A lot of people wanted DocuSign.

My stance, I even talked to you about this, I think, on the phone. I was like, “I just need the customers to have a choice. If your product’s better or your service is better, your relationship management, whatever. Let the customer choose the one that’s better for them.

Not necessarily even, the products may be the same. It may just be that the customer’s preference is to go one way or the other, and as a platform company, we want the customer to have as much choice as they can.

Jason:  Let’s step back for a minute. I’ve built something on Desk or AppExchange. It’s got a little bit of something going. I want to talk about building relationships more, but I’ve built a relationship and it’s, that’s usually going to be the CEO, right?

Leyla:  Yeah.

Jason:  If it’s early, right?

Leyla:  Yeah.

Jason:  I think a mistake a lot of folks make early is that most CEOs actually are pretty good at business development in the sense that they may not be good closers, but they are good middlers. Since you’ve seen the other side of it so often, how early should you bring in business development? What do you see on the other side? When do you want to talk with the CEO, and not the VP of Business Development? What do you advise founders to do there?

Leyla:  I think if you’re a CEO of a small company, you should choose which partnerships you’re going to do. You only have so many calories in the day, and you’re building your own business, so you typically sit down and you’re like “What are the strategic partnerships I’m going after?” Then as a CEO, you go approach them.

You want to get to the CEO. You want to get to the person in charge. The two people in charge talking, like when I talked to the CEO of Olark… then all of a sudden, it got really clear, what we were doing. It wasn’t that it wasn’t clear underneath. It was just that people were trying to understand.

Then when he and I sat down, I was like “Listen, dude. All my guys want to use this. All my customers want us better integrated,” and he was like “I want it too,” and I was like, “Let’s go.” I think you need that.

The VP of Biz Dev, and in a larger company like Salesforce especially, there are lots of them… so it’s like, “How do you navigate that?” It’s really “What are you bringing?” If you’re solving a problem, they’re going to want to talk to you, and they’re going to bring you in, and they’re going to hopefully take you through the levels inside of a bigger corporation to get you where you want to be.

Leyla Seka Saleforce Biz DevI think it kind of depends on the nature of the partnership, but it’s always good when the two leaders shake hands on what’s going on, because it’s cleaner for the people that need to execute it underneath.

Jason:  Oh yeah, at the top. Let me ask this scenario, because people will find it. Let’s say I built this great integration with Desk or Salesforce for that, and I’ve got a handful of customers. Let’s say it’s not an expensive product, so maybe I’m doing $20,000 in annual revenue from this, but I’ve got a couple of them. Should I hire someone almost immediately full time to manage that relationship with Desk or Salesforce?

Leyla:  No.

Jason:  What’s that?

Leyla:  I don’t think so. Resources are so scarce.

Jason:  They are scarce. But these are long term relationships, right?

Leyla:  Right.

Jason:  Because you want it, you want to make sure that enough attention is being given to the partner that it doesn’t go in and out, right?

Leyla:  Totally. I guess it comes down to what you are trying to do. In that scenario, if I worked in a small company, if most of the partnerships I was pursuing were white space in the app partnerships, I would lean on product management in that instance.

I would probably stay fairly involved as the general manager or whatever, trying to keep that, but I’d want the product team to be pushing it because we were trying to fill white space in the product. If these were marketing relationships, then I kind of want the VP of Marketing to be involved in that a little bit.

In very early stage, I think that sometimes it’s really… I see this often, and honestly I’ve been guilty of it myself, where you’re like, “Hey, you’re in charge of biz dev. Go.” “Go where?” “Get me good partners” “Who?” “These three people.” “OK. How?” “That’s your problem, right?” and then walk out the door. That’s not helpful.

In a small company, you have to be really succinct. You have to write a road map. Part of your road map should be, “Who are we going to go try to partner with?” or “Who are the big dogs we’re going to get?” or “I wanted to partner with Slack.”Leyla Seka

And I know they’re coming here later, but I was like, “I definitely want to partner with Slack,” and I went and found Bill and he was like, “If we want to partner with you, we’re going to build an integration,” and that was me as the general manager of Desk, saying “I want to go do a lot of stuff for Slack, because I think it’s awesome.” Then that partnership got prioritized.

Then there were other little partnerships we’ve done that I’m super happy about, but they weren’t nearly as interesting to me as the GM, as the Slack partnership was.

Jason:  Going to back to that, because the biz dev thing, it’s just an interesting hire, because…

Leyla:  It’s a hard hire. Honestly, when you’re in startup, you want your VP or you want your biz dev person to be technical. A technical salesy person is not the easiest thing to find.

There are a lot of them out there, but your best case scenario is someone that can actually understands your technology, and can speak a little technology, maybe not as much as the product team, but enough to be smart enough to figure out if it’s going to work, but then also knows how to negotiate a contract, knows how to figure out how it’s mutually beneficial, and no one gets in a screwed position and all that.

That’s a hard role to fill which is why in the early stages of a company, I see it being effective. This is what I do. I use my functional leads depending on the partnership we’re pursuing, and then we do have biz dev. I work at Salesforce, so I have more resources than most.

We have a biz dev person who I love and who’s great, but we sit down as a management team, and decide through the year, “What are we going after?” Then each executive has a role in bringing down the strategic partnerships.

Jason:  I want to go on, but just because the biz dev, it’s this weird hire, and you’re right with technical, when you meet folks like this, do you think in the early, the mid days, they should have a quota and carry a number?

[laughter]

Jason:  Do you feel like you can smell it in the room when they do? Because it can cut both ways, right?

Leyla:  Yeah. It’s a hard question. Everyone should have a quota, right? Because then at least, they’d know how to measure success on some model?

Jason:  Yeah. It is either sales role or customer success? What type of…?

Leyla:  That’s the thing, and it’s kind of a mix of both. I think giving a biz dev person a quota, if you are a small company and you decide to hire a biz dev person, I think you have to put them on some kind of quota because they have to generate money. You’re small, you need to bring money in to grow.

Heads are such a huge commodity, the human capital. If you’re actually going to give one of your precious heads to that role, then you have to expect an amount of revenue contribution back from that, and they have to be judged on it, I would say. That’s my opinion.

Jason:  Sometimes as a CEO, if you’ve built the relationship, you want to make sure no one breaks it, right?

Leyla:  Right.

Jason:  If they’re only aligned to bringing in short-term revenue in a long-term relationship, you worry that they will push the relationship, in a way… because as CEO, you’re thinking years out. I don’t really care if I make $6 off Desk today, I want to ride the Desk train when it’s a billion dollars in revenue, and I want to be there, right?

Leyla:  Right. That’s why I think it was important for me to meet with the Olark CEO. You set that relationship upfront, and then you let other people execute. If that relationship starts to get crazy, the CEOs call each other pretty fast, and ask, “What’s going on?” and that fixes it.

I get what you’re saying. You don’t want to incent your biz dev person to be chasing dimes when you’re going for dollars. I get it, but you also can’t put people into roles that aren’t revenue generating, unless they’re building the product. At least for me, you’re either building the product, or you’re helping us get money.

This is in a small environment. That’s what we’re doing, and of course customer success and all that is wrapped up into that, because attrition can destroy your money just as quickly. It’s much easier to keep money, keep the dollar you have than go get a new one. I think it’s a delicate mix, but I don’t know.Leyla Seka revenue generating roles

That’s my philosophy. You’re either building the product, or you’re helping us make money in the beginning until we can get bigger and start to really think about things.

Jason:  Let me ask you, because another thing that folks struggle with, although certainly people are more sophisticated these days, is over expectations from partners too quickly, right?

Leyla:  Yeah.

Jason:  There was a partner, not Salesforce. I remember back in the day, a big, huge tech company. We built an integration for them for a big launch, and what we got was a tweet. I love the guy and I emailed to him, and I said “Really?” He’s like “Well, didn’t you see the tweet?” I don’t even know if they have favorites on Twitter, but he was like “There were two retweets.” I’m like, “OK…”

[laughter]

Jason:  “I had two engineers work on this for three months, and I got a tweet. I’m a little disappointed.”

Leyla:  “Pissed” would be the word, right? I would be.

Jason:  It was a learning, right?

Leyla:  Sure.

Jason:  It was a coachable moment, but a lot of us go through this. Any advice, in terms of how to measure your expectations for the investment?

Leyla:  Sure. I felt this a lot, when I ran the AppExchange, because in the early days, people were showing up, and they’re like, “Where’s my money?”

Jason:  Yeah, where’s my money?

[crosstalk]

Leyla:  That’s not really how this works. [laughs] You’ve got to go get your own money. You’ve got to go sell your own stuff.

When you’re a small company, and this goes back to what I said when we started, which is, “These are all relationships.” If you’re a nerd chasing the head cheerleader, you’re running over your skis a little bit, but that sometimes is the best thing. That can get you just where you want to be.

Leyla Seka Get your own moneyYou can become the prom king in that instance, but you have to know that’s what you’re doing. You’d probably do better with the person who’s sitting next to you in your class that thinks you’re great at calculus than the head cheerleader. You have to choose that.

So if you go and you’re like, “I’m going to go integrate into this giant company, and I’m going to try to be part of their giant launch,” and you do everything you can, you have to know that you may not make it. You may get cut. Hopefully you won’t, but go in eyes wide open. No one wants to do that. No one wants to not… I’m sure he wanted to do more than a tweet.

Jason:  It’s quite possible. He’s a very good guy.

Leyla:  Something stopped him. There are lots of rules in big companies too, just so we’re clear, a lot of rules about what you can do and you can’t do. So it might have been that he had grand plans, and they got thwarted by someone else.

My advice would be, go in eyes wide open and assess the risk. We’ve done this a couple of times. When I first came to talk to you, I was building the checkout feature on the back of AppExchange, which I messed up royally a couple of times until I got right.

When I got it right, I got it right because I used Stripe. Stripe came to us, and I was like, “I need you to fix this,” but I couldn’t promise them the world at that moment, because that’s not what we do at Salesforce. They did it, and thank God for Stripe, because the whole backend of all of our payment processes on the AppExchange now, the online piece runs through them.

They knew it, and I remember talking to them, and they were like, “Well, what are we going to get?” I was like, “You know, I don’t know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get to do this, and you can take the money you’re going to make from doing it, but I can’t promise you that I’m going to put you in the Wall Street Journal. That’s not stuff I have access to.” They knew it. They knew eyes wide open what they were going into, and I was honest with them, and it worked out really well.

I’ve seen the other side many times too. Just be calculated in the risk. Understand that I’m going to put these two developers on this. My hope is that this is going to happen. If this happens, at least I tried to do that, and it’s there if a customer needs it. Hopefully someone will use it, and I’ll get some kind of lift. If I didn’t, I knew what I was doing. I went in eyes wide open.

Jason:  Just a related thing that founders get wrong, just at a high level, we don’t have to get into any specifics, but a lot of founders think that I can tempt some large company to partner with me by sharing all my revenue with them.

Can we just chat a little bit about immateriality in the grand scheme of things, and why revenue share is important in the long run, but it’s not going to elevate you above the pack? As silly as it sounds, I don’t think it’s silly, but I hear it. “I’m going to go to Desk. I’m going to give them 90 percent of my revenue, and they’re going to give me every customer that they have.” Does it even enter into your day to day calculation, running the business unit?

Leyla:  Not specifically for Desk, per se. I’m really looking for partners that make Desk better for my customers. I have a pretty clear thing. I’m taking the playbook I already did at Salesforce and doing it at Desk which is for small businesses focused around support, really a more focused attempt at that. I don’t think you should give 80 percent of your revenue to anyone. I would never do that.

Jason:  I just mean that as an extreme example.

Leyla:  Right, I know. But I think the rev share’s an important part of everything. I think that it’s much more about the relationship, and a funny thing I think small companies do is they think they’re immaterial, but it’s a relationship.

I liked to get tweets from people saying they like the AppExchange when I was running it. Those are the things that actually made us feel good, but I think sometimes people thought because we were Salesforce, like, “I don’t care if I tweeted them.” I want you to tweet. We want it. It’s a relationship. Just because we’re a big company doesn’t mean we don’t want you to feel…

Jason:  We’re all given a name.

Leyla:  Yeah, connected, a little bit. I think that you just have to be a little human in it, and you have to understand: you’re a small company, they’re a big company. Their focus may be on different things at times, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. I think the biggest mistake people make in partnership is thinking, “I’m going to partner with these people and then everything’s going to be done for me.”

This was my biggest problem on the AppExchange in the first couple of years, because everyone would be like, “OK, I signed the contract. Where’s my check?” And I was like, “That’s not how it works. You signed the contract, roll up your sleeves and get to work now. You’ve got to get some good marketing. You need to figure out how you’re going to sell this. You need to explain how you use it. You need to write documentation, you need to have support.” That was really what I spent the majority of at least two years explaining to people.

Jason:  Educating them.

Leyla:  It was like, “Just because you partnered with us doesn’t mean you’re going to be us. I can’t give you access to the customer base. That would break trust, and we would never do that. That’s our number one value at the company.”

leyla seka quoteI think you just have to figure out… instead of thinking about what they’re going to do for you, try to think about what you’re going to do for them. Of course you need to think about what you’re going to get from them, but you already know that, or you wouldn’t be doing this.

Now try to approach this relationship and be like, “Alright, I’m going to do this, and this, and this. It’s going to be great, and I’m going to tweet about it, and I’m going to write a blog about it, and I’m going to…” Like what you do; I love reading your stuff. It’s fun. Engage with the big company. Just because they’re big doesn’t mean they don’t want a voice or they don’t want a reaction in a social context.

Jason:  A related thing, I think, and I’d love to hear your thoughts, that I think we make mistakes on. First of all, we do the partnership, sign the contract, and then go away and don’t invest in it. That one we get. I think maybe we’ve learned a little bit on that, although it still happens.

The other thing, and I’d love to get your thoughts on, is we don’t build broad enough relationships with the partners. So I meet Leyla, she’s the GM and SVP at Desk, and that’s great, but there’s a whole team working under you, and especially if you don’t have help. If you don’t have a business development team or whatever, it’s really hard to build the ten people on the team. Sometimes it’s just as important, isn’t it? Or maybe more important.

Leyla:  I think it’s much more important.

Jason:  How do I deal with that, because the best people build out rafts of relationships. I hate it, but you’ve got to bring the cookies sometimes. You’ve got to bring the baked cookies to the office and know everyone, what kind of cookie they like. Most people in this audience are not bringing cookies to their partners, right?

leyla seka cookiesLeyla:  [laughs] Right, totally. I think that business is inherently human when we all come down to it. So I think that like any relationship, it works better when you make it… Like when I was meeting you, I could have done that call on the phone, and I don’t really like driving to Palo Alto, because I live in Berkeley.

Jason:  Appreciate it.

Leyla:  Of course. It was well worth the meet. I went down there because I wanted to meet you. I wanted you to see me. I wanted a rapport to begin so that you could feel like you could trust me as we moved through the process, and I knew who you were. Once we did that meeting, I didn’t talk to you again for a long time. I worked with the rep. I worked with all the people on your team.

If you’re little, again, not to go back to Scott Hemmeter… but he tweeted me last night, so he’s on my mind. Scott was a one man shop for years, but everyone on the AppExchange team, which got big by that point, there were 50 of us at that point. Everyone knew Scott.

Jason:  How’d he pull that off?

Leyla:  That’s the question. You know how he did it?

Jason:  How’d he do it?

Leyla:  He communicated with people. He asked questions. He tweeted, he was active, he did nice things for people. Whenever we needed someone, like, “Oh, we need a partner to do this,” Scott was always there. He always was willing to talk to customers. Honestly, he felt like an extension of the team for a really long time, and a lot of our partners did that.

Now it’s hard. I’m sure if you were to ask him, he’d be like, “I had to call those people, and they never called me back, na, na, na, na, na…” You just don’t give up. Eventually they’re going to call you back, and they’re going to become friends. Then that’s how it all starts to gel together, but it’s important.

It’s important, in partnership, to make the effort. When you work at the same company, you have to deal with each other. Whether you like it or not, this person’s going to sit here. You’re going to see them in the bathroom, you’re going to see them in the kitchen, you’re going to deal with them.

Partners are not in the same world, so you have to do a little extra. My desk, when I worked at AppExchange, around the holidays, was ridiculous. It was covered in stuff like candy, wine, whatever, and it was very nice, and I’m not saying go buy everyone candy and wine, that’s not my point.

Jason:  More than you could ever get through, yeah.

Leyla:  The idea was that everyone was trying really hard to create personal relationships, and I think that that’s difficult in life, not just in business, but you’ve just got to do it. You’ve just got to keep trying, keep trying.

I worked at a very small company before Salesforce. We actually evaluated partnership with Salesforce, and I decided not to do it, because we were on-premise, and it was too expensive. That’s funny, because then I went and ran the whole thing afterwards.

As we were working through that process and thinking about it, I remember I spent a lot of time trying to meet Salesforce people, going over to Salesforce, chatting with them, just to get a sense… My feeling was, “I would love to work with these people, it’s just technically too expensive for me to do this,” based on where I was at that time.

I felt like if I was even considering embarking on that intense of a partnership, I wanted to look in the face of the people. You may not live in Silicon Valley. You can look at people’s faces online. You can do it on your phone. You can FaceTime with someone, but it does say something to actually look into someone’s eyes and be like, “OK, we’re going to partner.”

Jason:  Make something, right?

Leyla:  Yeah, “We’re going to do this together. We’re not like [gestures]. This is us. We’re going to go run at this together.”

Jason:  One last question on that, because we’re going to run out. It went by in the blink of an eye. We could go on for another hour. On the FaceTime, and I learned this lesson from Rick Nucci, who founded Boomi. He’s got a new company downstairs. He told me he faked it. He pretended he was in the Bay Area, even though he lived in Philly.

Leyla Seka Silicon ValleyDo you need to do that? Do you need to be as if you’re in the Bay Area to build it, even if you’re not? Even if you’re in London?

Leyla:  I think the whole point of what we did in SaaS and all of this, was you don’t have to be, you shouldn’t have to be. I think you can do it with the technology. You have to come every now and then, but you’ve got to come every now and then anyway. So make those trips worth it.

Stack it. Those are the most busy two, four, three days. You go meet everyone. You take everyone for coffee, for lunch, whatever those things are, but I don’t think you have to be here to be successful. I think you just have to know how to hook in from where you are.

Jason:  Yeah, but you’ve got to come by every quarter or whatever it is, right?

Leyla:  You’ve got to come by every now and then. This is where everyone is. You run Silicon Valley, for God’s sakes, you know everybody. They should just come and hang out with you.

Jason:  I’m a bystander. I’m just a finger waving bystander right here.

[laughter]

 

Jason:  All right. We could go on for an hour. This is amazing. Let’s thank Leyla, because these are amazing insights.

Leyla:  Thank you, take care.

Jason:  Thank you very much.


 

Transcription by CastingWords

Published on October 29, 2015
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