Bob Breitel, Director of the Global SAP Alliance for IBM, leads sales and business development for the industry’s largest and most comprehensive alliance. Working with his team around the globe, Bob develops new partnerships and solidifies existing opportunities for the alliance.
We caught up with him at SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando, and Chip Rodgers, VP of Marketing and Alliances of WorkSpan, spent some time chatting with Bob about creating global alliances.
What are you working on in global alliances right now?
With a team around the globe, Bob said he’s focusing on two areas — field alignment and business development.
Field alignment brings together IBM and SAP sales teams to work on joint accounts and hopefully joins the best of their business capabilities to help clients who are working with the team to develop new solutions. Field alignment is critical in alliances.
In business development, Bob’s team is working on new global initiatives determining where there are opportunities for IBM and SAP to co-innovate and go to market together.
For example, the SAP cloud platform private edition is now running onthe IBM cloud. That project has taken the team’s time for the last few months. They’ve had a technology stream and a go-to-market stream working to build the product and bring it to market. Now, they have a ramp-up program to scale this project and roll it out globally.
Day-to-day in the field, there are five or six mega initiatives that Bob’s team is executing in each of its geographic regions. But each geographic territory is unique in the technology market. While there are core similarities, China or Japan, for instance, might have areas that are different from Europe or North America.
In this position, Bob said, one important thing is to give yourself time to get things done. According to his experience, you could spend all your time on emails and conference calls and never execute your plans. When Bob first started the job about seven years ago, he felt like he often had the same conversation 5–6 times in different conference calls. That’s why today he likes to get to early decisions. He asks: What’s the actionable plan once we decide to do it?
“We execute priorities for both companies,” Bob said. That’s the fun part of the job and the challenge of the job and what makes it an interesting role.
Talk about field alignment. What works for you?
Bob immediately named three things: being clear on communications, working together early, and being transparent.
He sometimes discovers areas where two partners may overlap on the fringes of their partnership. They may have some competition. Hence, at the early stages, people get nervous working together. You have to build their trust through early alignment.
Communication is key because technology is a complex environment. Clients have options and choices. They’ll test you. There have to be moments of truth. That lets you deal with challenges in the sales cycle when they happen.
They say trust is built in drops and lost in buckets. That’s why it’s important to bring the issues forward. “We’re not shy about that,” Bob said.
He also said you have to balance the interests of your alliance partnership with those of your company. That’s a challenge because they’re not always in alignment. It takes diplomacy. Think of yourself as an ambassador. You’re always looking for common ground and alignment among objectives. When those objectives don’t naturally align, you have to find a value for both sides to work together.
Finding that value starts by getting inside the other company’s mental framework. Understand their motivations, compensation, measurements, and what makes the other side operate. Knowing that can help you understand why people do what they do to get unstuck.
What advice would you give to someone going into an alliance role?
You need first hand experience in sales or some other role before you take on a job building alliances. Once you’re in the position, recognize that it’s not as clearly defined as a sales role. So find mentors and people who’ve done this kind of work before. Ask for help — and recognize that fresh ideas come from other people
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