Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 170

March 17, 2023

#170 Marc Monday: Delivering Customer Value Through Partnerships

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In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers is joined by Marc Monday Vice President, Global Strategic Partnerships, Sage.

Marc is Vice President, Global Strategic Partnerships, Sage and has a long and successful career in partnerships with top tech companies including Microsoft, SAP, VMware, Cisco, Concur, and Citrix!

Marc's been recognized as a CRN Channel Chief and Ecosystem Transformation Leader and has over 20 years of GTM, sales, marketing, and business development expertise.

Topics covered include:

  • What does the customer need? What are the legacy taxonomies they use? - 6:56
  • How do you find the right mix of technology cloud providers to deliver value? - 13:57
  • What is the ideal scenario for a Cosell partnership? - 20:19
  • Setting the rules of engagement is key - 26:49
  • Channel’s number one customer is sales - 28:25

Chip Rodgers  00:08

Welcome, everyone. I'm Chip Rodgers, CMO at WorkSpan. I'm excited to be joined today by Marc Monday. Marc, welcome!

Marc Monday  00:20

Chip, thank you so much. I was just sort of rocking out to the intro music. I'm super excited to be here. Happy holidays, everyone. Pleasure to be with you.

Chip Rodgers  00:28

I love the Christmas tree in the background. That's fantastic.

Marc Monday  00:31

My wife has done such a wonderful job. And people won't see this. But behind the scenes I was in my dark, dreary office. And Chip is like you brighten it up a little bit. I was like there's a room in our house. It's actually quite wonderful. So thank you.

Chip Rodgers  00:44

Merry Christmas with the wreath and everything. So beautiful. Thank you. Well, excited to have you, Marc. Marc is Vice President of Global Strategic Partnerships at Sage.

Marc, you've had an incredible career in the technology industry. Starting off in the early days at Microsoft, and then you've hit all the hotspots.

Marc Monday  01:12


Chip Rodgers  01:14

Let's say SAP, Cisco and Citrix

Marc Monday  01:17

I've been super lucky to work in amazing technology companies like Microsoft, SAP, VMware and Cisco. I'm super excited to be here at Sage. There's something happening here. And I'm just happy to be part of it. It's wonderful. I've spent my whole career in ecosystems and partnerships and channel management. I have a lot of passion for this area.

I just love watching the work that you do Chip in terms of sharing and building this community. Because it is complicated. And it's always good to understand everybody's going through that same level of complication. But customers don't care. They want simplicity. So how do we take a really complicated series of go to markets, channel partnerships? And then how do we present that in a veneer where the customer gets the thing that they need that day to deliver value?

Chip Rodgers  02:08

It's an interesting market, that's where you start, it's a lot of complexity and bringing that to something that is understandable. And really makes sense to customers is a lot of our job is not?

Marc Monday  02:26

It is, at the end of the day, why are we here? We're here to serve customers. And our customer base like everyone's is, they're dealing with economic headwinds. They're dealing with an uncertain economy, we're all still coming out of the pandemic. And every day when I wake up, it's about how I can make this more effective, valuable and useful for customers.

And then importantly, where the magic comes in is, we take all this crazy complexity of ecosystems and channels, and present it in a way where they get that value without having to see all the sausage making for lack of a better term. Behind the scenes.

Chip Rodgers  03:03

Marc, why don't we start, maybe you could start with  giving us a little bit of your background about what you guys are up to at Sage and talk a little bit about your team and initiatives you have going on these days.

Marc Monday  03:22

It’s an exciting time to be at Sage. I've been here a little bit more than a year and a half. It's a wonderful organization, we have a 40 year history. We've grown through both acquisition and through our own product development, we focus on core financials and ERP, as well as people management for the SMB segment.

I've grown up in the SMB segment, and we deliver real value to those customers. We've recently done a number of really important improvements to focus more and more on the customer. We refreshed our brand, which has been really well received. We've done some changes within our product organizations, and really changed some of our business models as well.

And right now, it's about helping customers where they are today and derive real economic value.You and I both worked at SAP, one of the things that I really enjoyed about working at SAP is when someone is contemplating how they're going to build their business contemplating an ERP or financial systems. This is a high trust sale. This isn't a nice to have widget that makes them better, faster, stronger. This is the central nervous system of their company. And when you're talking about the central nervous system of their company, they're making a decision of how they're going to run their business.

It's not just another software product. It's really about their business. And I take that very seriously. We as a company take that very seriously. I absolutely love it, because then you're not selling, you're helping. And for me, that's my favorite part of this overall job.

What does the customer need? What are the legacy taxonomies they use?

Chip Rodgers  05:00

Really interesting. You're right, I love that way of thinking, which is, you're not there to jam something in, it's like, Hey, what are you? What are your requirements? What is it that you're trying to accomplish? And how can we help?

Marc Monday  05:20

I think the nice thing is, one of the challenges that we've all incurred in, encountered in the last 10 to 15 years is the pace of change, it just gets faster and faster and faster, the choices get more and more complicated. Every customer is looking for business outcomes. It's great to talk about your features, it's great to talk about your products.

But if you start with, what are you trying to do, we're trying to grow really fast, we don't have a lot of time for disruption, we can't wait for a multi year deployment or integration, we need to do something today to have real economic value today. That's where we at Sage are really focused on meeting the customer, where they are today. And then importantly, with partners or increasingly partners that they can trust. That's the key to everything that we do.

Chip Rodgers  06:14

So let's dive into that a little bit. What does partnering mean, at Sage? Sage has a long history and very successful software company history traditionally in the accounting part of the business and a lot of really strong relationships with accounting firms. Walk me through that a little bit about what that looks like today?

Marc Monday  06:49

The good news is, it's true for everyone right now. We're at this moment, and you guys are at the forefront of this. And again, thank you for your leadership here. We're at a moment where the legacy constructs and taxonomies that we use up your var, you're an ISV. You're an implementation partner, you're a systems integrator, you're a global systems integrator, all those names are blending.

Sometimes you're var, sometimes you're writing code, and you're acting as an ISP. Sometimes you're being an implementation partner. I don't want to belabor the point. But shifting to this model of what the customer needs, and then meeting with them with that capability is wonderful. These legacy constructs of taxonomy were incredibly valuable in their moment, we use them as a segmentation tool, great taxonomies HELP US segment different bodies of work and create collective approaches. That's terrific. But what I see happening in the market, in other companies and partners that I benchmark with is, we're a little bit over index to the past. And what we really need to do is focus on the future.

Yes, we'll have some core motions if we want to sell to customers great. We want to make sure that customers get great implementations. We want to expand and provide real customer value through customer success. Whether or not we need to rely on those legacy taxonomies. That's a level of, again, sausage making, that a customer doesn't necessarily need.

And that's the thing that I'm most focused on is, let's make sure that we deliver all that value. And maybe there's multiple partners, more often than not, there's multiple partners involved in the deal. And then really focusing on what that looks like. So that's one of the big thematic things that I work on, obviously, is to have relationships with the hyperscalers.

That's a big part of what we do, in terms of making sure that we change the way that go to market works. And that's important, because it is a rising tide, raises all boats, and really being aligned with that. And I know you do a bunch of wonderful work around that as well. So I think the key right now is building the channel for the future, rather than instrumenting for the past. And that's one of the things that I've really seen in the last five or six years where those old constructs just aren't working exactly the same way. It's really about the customer business outcome and then working your way back into how do you get the right partner with the right value in the right moment.

Chip Rodgers  09:20

That word you used is so important is capabilities. I'm hearing that a lot. It's about bringing the right capabilities and not putting people into a box because you have systems integrators who are creating IP and bringing it to market.

Marc Monday  09:45

Everybody's productizing their service, even a small what we would have called a VAR in the past. They may have a productized service that is IP that they're selling, and it looks and acts and feels like an ISV. So now we've had to use two words to describe the thing they're doing rather than the same, they deliver a solution for the customer that does X, Y, and Z.

Chip Rodgers  10:05

How do you go back to the earlier theme? How do you bring some simplicity to the complexity?

Marc Monday  10:20

I think you mentioned a moment ago, we're talking about capability capabilities, very important to understand capability and capacity. That's the way we've thought about our businesses in the past. So in the past, we would use some segmentation tool and then develop a taxonomy. That's the way we think about the partners that we have.

Generally, in the past highly index to technical capabilities, we used technical capability as a proxy for engagement. And I'm not saying go deconstruct your technical certifications. However, that may not always be the best proxy, you may have a big global systems integrator that can go get 75 or 100 people through your certification test, that may not mean that they're actually delivering value for your business. And then by the same token, you may have a small partner that only has three or four certified individuals, but man, they're wonderful at driving your business and implementation and new customer acquisition and customer success.

So I think, again, not to belabor it, but I think if you start with what the customer needs, and when do they need it? And who do they generally work with? And how do they like to work, then you can begin to unravel the types of customer business outcomes that are desired. Third party applications, of course, you could still kind of use the nomenclature of IOC.

What are the third party applications that need to work with your product, there may be a dependency on those that just use something simple, like tax. Tax is really important for our business. Because we operate in many different geographies. We don't have the time, propensity or inclination to track all these things.

So probably, we want to have a third party that helps us with tax as an example, really close to our business in the general ledger. That might make sense. But importantly, really understanding what those concerns are, or is another example of well, inventory management is a really big challenge for us, because we have lots of bits and pieces, we have a big procurement supply chain thing that happens, we really want to make sure that we're managing our inventory relative to our needs.

And then you start to think about, okay, well, great, maybe that's a third party, maybe that's something that we can do natively in our product. And then importantly, how do we set it up so that when you're building the business rules around your business, that we're helping you do that, rather than just selling you a feature? That's the one thing that I've seen dramatically shift in the last, particularly five or six years is, there's a lot less, I'll call it feature foo. Features are really important, we should be proud of them. But again, it's really about what the customer needs today.

The second thing that I would add Chip is, this construct, particularly in our business, but I think it's true in most businesses, you would go through a vendor selection process, you pick a vendor, and then you scope a long term implementation, and it's going to take nine months, no customer has patience for that today. They want to crawl, walk, run, give me your basic implementation, tell me I can go run my business today, you're not disrupting me. And then as time goes on, we'll add improvements, we should all approach it that way.

Because no one has time to be paying on an SOW  for 9,10,12,24 months before they derive value from it, particularly in our segment in SMB. And even in enterprises. Increasingly,  they want to start with T-shirt size, good enough to get moving. And then over time, we may create a more bespoke implementation, but just the key right now is to get going and deliver value as quickly as you can with your product or your solution.

How do you find the right mix of technology cloud providers to deliver value?

Chip Rodgers  13:57

That's really interesting. So this process of delivering value quickly is really critical. What's the right mix, Sage technology, cloud providers, service are putting to be able to deliver something like that? What does that look like?

Marc Monday  14:36

I'll use the quintessential sort of podcasts Get Out of Jail Free card. It depends. But again, if you think about when you're talking to the customer, what's your highest order bit? Is it cashflow? Okay, then let's have a real conversation about that. Is it inventory management? Let's have a real conversation about that.

What are the blockers in your business? Are you regulated in a way that is unique to you? We have a number of customers for example, that are in the not for profit sector. They have some specific challenges around let's say fundraising, we have a lot of customers that have grown. And they're going from a single company entity to a multi Company Entity, that's a level of complexity that maybe they didn't do in their initial financial packages that they built the company on. That's a change, how am I going to think about that?

We have a number of customers that work in the construction, real estate management space that's very specific to their needs. So I don't want to be trite, but it does depend. I think the trick is, then this is probably the most important thing I wanted to talk about with you and I talked about prior is, every company needs to rethink.

It's not one partner, the winner takes all and I know most of us have gotten through that over the years. But I still see partner programs that are very much predicated on, there's a single partner who wins the deal. And that's the end of it. But we all know that's not actually true. That may be the way you set up your economics in the past in terms of a resale model.

But the reality is this is where you guys do a wonderful job, and can really help companies if you want to make sure you track every company that's involved in the deal. I've seen stats that anywhere between five and nine partners, or solutions are involved in the specific problem solver solution implementation. And if you're not tracking all 5, 7or 9 partners and understand in the anatomy of your deal, what they're all doing, you're missing an opportunity to help simplify for your customer. And then importantly, make sure that you land your value within the construct of that ecosystem.

Chip Rodgers  16:42

Yeah, and it's your right. In the old days of partnering, where it was really more about reselling, if you had, it was you and you had your product and your partner was recently like a partner was reselling, then they won the deal. But now it's just so much. Well, it's a little more complicated because it's now in the cloud. And you have multiple partners, and different components of service delivery and implementation and ongoing services and all that.

Marc Monday  17:17

Think about it in your life. And probably most people who listen to this aren't old enough to remember. But if I needed a pair of jeans, when I was young, my mom would take me to Sears and we would get my jeans at Sears and it was the only place in my town that I could get jeans. And today I want to get jeans, I can push a button and get them directly from Levi's. I can push a button and get it from a number of different aggregators. I can get vintage jeans from Japan, I can go to another store, I can have custom jeans made for me.

Again, we want what we want when we want it. And we've come to expect that as a consumer, increasingly, customers expect that as well. That's where this takes a level of complexity where we've created a lot more ways and routes to market and value options. But serving it up with almost like that very simplified ecommerce veneer in my jeans example. I want this really complicated delivery of my product, but I want it to look like two or three clicks on a web form where I'm ordering online.

Chip Rodgers  18:22

So let's wind back a little bit ahead of that, that process. So you've had some transactions where you're working well with partners. How do you guys think about the cosell process? You've closed some deals before, but now you want to build that into the process and connect people and make sure that you're how do you guys think about that?

Marc Monday  18:54

I promised myself this wouldn't be an ad for WorkSpan, but it is a place where you really do solve a very specific problem. cosell? Now that's a loaded term. Let's make sure we're clear on what we mean there? Are we accepting an inbound lead from a third party and we're doing the selling? Are we agreeing to do a teaming agreement with someone or are we just simply tagging it?

So we know from a tracking perspective that it was an influence partner? That level of precision of what we are saying when we say cosell is really really critical? So when you're framing that question up, where do you want to start? In that discussion? Is it cosell with hyperscalers? Are they cosell with a third party ISP? Is it accepting inbound opportunities? What's the thought process from your perspective of what are we talking about in the coastal and I'm not trying to be difficult you want to make sure that we frame it

What is the ideal scenario for a Cosell partnership?

Chip Rodgers  19:44

Well, I guess really all the above it's in there are different flavors. So how do you connect with those? How do you get the Field Connect connected and a lot of its relationships right?

Marc Monday  20:01

I think this is the thing is, and I used to say this phrase, and I'm not sure if it's fair to say anymore, but it's like voting in Chicago, you gotta do it early and often. And some people who are old enough will remember what that joke means. Others will not. But what I mean by that is, selling is always a very localized experience. And it's very personal. Because for that company, especially our core customers, SMBs, they might be sole proprietors, they might be a family owned business, it's everything for them, the choices they're making about the technology or the services that they produce, that might be the difference between making a mortgage payment or sending their kid to college.

So it's incredibly personal. So of course, the ideal scenario is that seller A and seller B, and maybe seller, C, they all get together in a room, they agree how they're going to make sure they deliver value to the customer, being selfless about it, not so worried about their compensation, they go meet up for doughnuts, they grab a coffee, they drive over to the customer site, and they say, Hey, we're going to work on this together, because we know it adds value, that would be the ideal scenario. Now in our world today, it's almost impossible to do that

So now you need tools or systems or resources. And a lot of that has to do with the simple basics of tagging and tracking of who's involved in this deal. When would they need to be involved in this deal? What is the customer expecting of us, that's where tools are very important to scale these things out. That's another thing that I would say is, even though the veneer needs to look really simple to the customer, and it does, you're actually going to add a lot more complexity to the way you run your business.

And you have to get really comfortable with that. It's this weird dichotomy of, I need to complexify to simplify. And that really is a hard one sometimes to get your head around, because you're used to just paying one partner, or one seller. And now you gotta go have an economic model for multiple partners. That's tricky.

Chip Rodgers  22:04

Measuring it all is tricky as well, right?

Marc Monday  22:12

Of course in different types of co-sell relationships, it's also really important because you have shared economics, people's compensation, in multiple companies may be tied to that. There may be accelerators, or programs, MDF, or rebates that you might earn. If you can't track it to a level of precision, then it becomes just a haystack of spreadsheets, and then you're constantly like, well, but that one person who closed that one deal in Des Moines, Iowa, we need to get that guy paid, because he worked really hard.

And so if you're just trolling through spreadsheets to try to justify, it does become quite difficult. So once you get to a certain level of complexity, you do need to tool it properly.

Chip Rodgers  22:58

How about putting solutions together? Whether it's an IP kind of solution, or maybe it's services that are being delivered? Going to market together with partners. Talk a little bit about maybe even some examples of some things that to the extent that you can speak about it and don't want to favor any one partner. What’really working well?

Marc Monday  23:32

We love all of our partners. And they are important to the equation. And I don't mean that in a trite way, either. Sorry, can you rephrase the question, I'll make sure I answer properly.

Setting the rules of engagement is key.

Chip Rodgers  23:45

Going to market together with partners, solutions, or creating a whole solution for your customers.

Marc Monday  23:54

I think that's a wonderful way to do it. And particularly if you have technical integrations, and they work well together, and you're offering it as a sort of T shirt size bundled solution, I think that's a wonderful way to do it. Again, making it really easy for the customer to understand what one two or three partners are doing in terms of delivering value.

The second thing that I would say is increasingly the customers expect that they don't want to just hear about your product. But let's use the example of a hyper scale compute. They expect to understand like, oh, what's the value of your product in that delivery mechanism as an example? And we had, we've had some wonderful press releases on, for example, our relationship with Microsoft, which we talked about in the summer, and then again recently at our transform event, which is a big customer event. Now the trick is always in the co-sell relationships.

And this is true with any entity, it could be hyperscalers could be third party ISPs. It could be an influence partner is what's the deal. What are the trade offs in this relationship? What am I doing? And what are you doing? And then where are the intersection points? And it can be as simple as, who leads, who follows. And who's running the deal.

So for example, let's say that we have an opportunity with a hyperscale partner. And their sellers are really good at selling elastic compute, and hyperscale, compute all the things associated with the value of the cloud, they're traditionally calling into IT, they have great relationships with their, our product is about finance, operations, sales, or even HR, are they going to be comfortable in that conversation.

So maybe the deal is in that discussion of, hey, you guys might source an opportunity, because you're doing a bunch of other work with this IT department, you've sensed or discovered or on earth together an opportunity and finance as an example, we know you're not skilled in selling into finance, or maybe that's not the thing that you're used to doing, do not fear, we've got you.

We're gonna go take the lead from here, on having finance discussions, based upon their needs with respect to their financials, inventory with planning, whatever that discussion is, and we're going to keep you along in that equation, we'll keep you updated. But you don't have to carry the water at this point, we will close and book the deal. And we'll make sure that the shared economics or the shared deal that we have gets reconciled on the back end.

Tools are wonderful. And you guys have wonderful tools. Business Rules are more important before you do the implementation. And so if you think about a co-sell relationship, what are our business rules? What is our plan of record? What are the give gets? What's the plan for remediation? And then go use powerful tools to make sure that you can track it. That's really, really key.

Chip Rodgers  26:51

Setting the rules of engagement and how you define the partnership?

Marc Monday  26:58

Precisely, you've added out my attention. Yes, that's the simplest way to describe it.

Channel’s number one customer is sales

Chip Rodgers  27:04

That's great. Marc has been fantastic. You've shared so much about modern partnering and the way that Sage thinks about it. We have partner leaders, listeners of the podcast, anything over the time, your time in partnering roles that's helped you along the way or some advice that you've gotten that you'd want to share words of wisdom?

Marc Monday  27:43

First of all, this is, for me, the most wonderful profession that could ever exist. Every year, and especially every three or four years, the thing that we talk about being a partner, professional, or an ecosystem professional or a channel leader, becomes a different thing. So even though I've been doing this for 25 years, I've had at least five different careers, the business changes that rapidly, and we all know that.

However, we don't always have our rubric or a taxonomy to catch up with the change. And so we often use legacy language to describe current state or futures. That's one area where I feel like there's always you getting tripped up, if you show up as the channel guy. Everybody retreats to their corner. Oh, they mean var? Well, I don't actually mean var. If you show up as the reseller guy, as an example, that's another one of those traps. And so getting modern language to describe the reality, I think that's really important.

And that's not an easy thing to do. But that's where thought leadership like this really helps us and some of the really great work that's happening out with the analysts in this particular sector, I think that's really important.

The second piece of advice I would provide is the channel the ecosystem partnering, whatever you call it, your number one customer is sales. This is a selling machine. Now, is it complex? Yes. Is it more complex than just taking one seller and pointing it out one account, and that's all they do? For sure those people work really hard to not just dismiss that.

But if we don't, if we lose sight of the fact that this is a route to market that helps us derive value in an effective way, then we're missing the plot. And I think you see this sometimes with companies where sometimes they're partnering in marketing, and sometimes they're partnering in sales, and sometimes they have partnering as a silo. I've never met a sales rep where I don't show up and say you're my most important customer, because I want to make sure that you get this customer happy. Then they go, Oh, I see you're here to help. That's the second most important thing

And then I would say that I'll start where I began, which is, it's always about the customer. It's very easy. especially for channel leaders and people who do this for a living, and especially in some of our channels, echo chambers to think that it's partnering for partnering sake, it is not. It is partnering for the customer's sake, how do we deliver the most effective value to the customer, and we can never lose sight of that.

Chip Rodgers  30:21

Wow, Marc, that's really powerful. I love that. I'm just gonna repeat it just because it was really valuable. Staying tuned to the changes in the market and the different languages and the way that we talk about partnering because things do change so rapidly. To be like, really stay connected, like your number one customer is sales.  To make sure that you're really delivering value to them, ultimately to the customer.

The third is the customer. They're why we're here.

Marc Monday  30:58

They're the air we breathe. I know that's a simplistic way to say it. But yeah, we're all here to build products, services and solutions that solve business problems. And they only work if a customer uses them. And so that's the main job.

Chip Rodgers  31:12

Awesome. Marc, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and just amazing work that you guys are doing over at Sage. And I love your thought leadership and the contributions that you've been making, into the conversations that are happening these days on LinkedIn. It's a lot of fun and hearing everybody's thoughts, you've really been a great contributor.

Marc Monday  31:40

By the same token you are the quintessential thought leader Chip, you do a great job of, again, rising tide lifts all boats, giving us forums and communities to do sharing. This podcast is a wonderful example of that. I just, I'm humbled to have been asked to attend. I really appreciate it. And I just wish you, your family and anybody listening, happy holidays, get some rest.

It's been a rough couple of years, recharge, spend time with your families. And then in January, we're going to all go out and we're going to make the best efforts to help customers in their businesses.

Chip Rodgers  32:15

Fantastic that's a great, great wrap up Marc. Really appreciate it. And everyone thank you for joining another episode of ecosystem aces for Marc Monday. I'm Chip Rodgers and we will see you again and thanks again, Marc.

Marc Monday  32:32

Thank you. Bye. Happy holidays.

Chip Rodgers  32:35

Thanks, everybody!

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