Partnerships drive business and thriving ecosystems for SaaS companies unlike anything else. But developing solid partnerships takes vision, grit, time and patience.
Aneesa Sayall (VP of Strategic Operations Customer & Partner Org at ServiceNow) interviews Lara Caimi, the ServiceNow Chief Customer & Partner Officer, about the journey to $15 billion and how building partnerships help propel the business.
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ServiceNow and Partnership Types
ServiceNow is a workflow, low-code/no-code software company with over 1500 partners worldwide. Caimi emphasizes how much influence partnerships have on their growth: “Partners are a critical part of that story and our path to success. They drive 80-90% of our new booking…they source about 20% of our deals, they drive 90-95% of all our implementations. They are critical in getting our customers to success.”
So, what types of partners does ServiceNow have? Caimi breaks it down:
- Service Integrators: These partners have the expertise in relationships. Examples include IBM, Accenture and Deloitte.
- Technology Alliances: The tech alliances offer important integrations, especially critical for ServiceNow’s target market of enterprise customers. Examples include AWS, Adobe, Microsoft, and Google Cloud.
- Service Providers: Many customers want to outsource specific work and services, so these partners operate in these spaces and can handle what’s needed. Examples include Infosys, NetOne, Atos, Vodafone and Fujitsu.
- Regional: These partners located in specific areas provide depth, geographic presence and expertise. Examples include Nexus, Red Moki, Cask, and Beta80 Group.)
Partnerships and Their Roles Through Different Phases of ServiceNow Company Growth
- Phase One: ($0 – $100 Million)
This early phase is where you’re still looking for that perfect product-market fit and scaling the product to market. In ServiceNow’s case, they were a single-product company focused on selling IT. At this point, partnerships were a bit difficult since the company was new. Also, they had a direct sales team mainly selling to enterprises in a top-down sales motion. “[The sales team] saw the partners as competition because many of the partners had big practices with the incumbents…and we would have to compete with them deal-by-deal and win based on our technology.”
- Phase Two: ($100 Million – $1 Billion)
There is a continued push to keep building great products at this point in a software company’s life. The focus also widens to executing an outstanding GTM strategy and build top-notch customer success. And remember to scale. Says Caimi: “Phase two for a software company is once you’ve got that product-market fit, it’s all about scale. You scale the hell out of it. And that is $100 million to $1 billion.”
This is the point where ServiceNow began winning more partners over. More of them were building practices around ITSM. However, it still wasn’t proactive on the partners’ part –– ServiceNow kept pushing that momentum.
- Phase Three: ($1 Billion – $10 Billion)
Once you hit that $1 billion mark, you innovate and evolve your product portfolio. In this stage, you’ll also want to expand your ecosystem and verticals and increase relevance within the C-suite.
It was during this time that ServiceNow began to see their partners elevate them. More significant deals started closing, sold with partners. The momentum was building.
- Phase One: ($0 – $100 Million)
- Phase Four: ($10 Billion and Beyond)
This is the phase where ServiceNow is today. Lara Caimi shares several essential words of wisdom for this impressive achievement.
“Phase four is where we are truly elevating to the C-suite, where we’re becoming much more relevant, much more known as a platform company, not just a product company.”
She stresses that this journey with partners takes significant work, but the reward is worth the effort. “There’s this force-multiplying impact that you can get once you get to this phase, but as you can probably tell, it takes a while.” She also offers a word of advice when it comes to setting the stage early in the life of your business for successful partnerships: “You need to make sure that you set the vision for…the future, so you’re not alienating partners along the way. You’re creating collaborative relationships from the beginning.”
Remember: Your partners are acting rationally to allocate their resources. For them, it’s all about where their dollars are going and what the return on those dollars looks like. To achieve a mutually rewarding relationship takes time, momentum, real wins and conscious storytelling.
- Partners are critical to helping you scale, but it’s a journey.
- The role of partners is tied to the type of company you are and your phase of growth.
- Your approach to partners will become increasingly transformative and strategic as you grow.
- Partners will notice you as you grow: Go after the wins, celebrate them and frame your story.
- There will be friction along the way –– with your sales team and with your professional services team. You need to manage the co-opetition.
- Building strong partnerships takes WORK. But it pays off!