Limited Time Offer
Up to $20K in incentives for AWS partners. Request Details
Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 174

April 19, 2023

#174 Neeti Gupta: VMware's Winning Formula to Maximize Co-Selling with Microsoft

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, CMO WorkSpan is joined by Neeti Gupta,Head of Hyperscaler Business Development and Alliances (Microsoft), VMware.

In this Ecosystem Aces Podcast episode, Chip Rodgers, CMO WorkSpan is joined by Neeti Gupta, Head of Hyperscaler Business Development and Alliances (Microsoft), VMware.

Neeti has over 19 years of experience as an innovative growth leader with a background in design, digital analytics, and user experience. She excels in managing teams, leading strategic initiatives, and leading cross-functional teams that are focused on partnerships and ecosystem management.

Topics covered include:

  • Key practices for successful co-sell collaboration with sales? - 6:31
  • How to tell the story of a successful partnership? - 14:00
  • Working with technical specialists on both sides of the integration. - 17:37
  • How to effectively execute joint go-to-market plans with partners? - 23:44
  • Advice and key learnings for effectively working with partners. - 31:04

Chip Rodgers  00:05

Hey, welcome, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Ecosystem Aces. I'm Chip Rodgers with WorkSpan. And I am excited to be joined today by Neeti Gupta. Neeti your title is head of hyperscale business development and alliances for Microsoft, working with the hyper scaler team. And VMware is doing a ton of things with Microsoft. Neeti really excited to have you join us.

Neeti Gupta  00:40

Thank you so much, Chip. Thanks for having me. I'm really excited to talk to you about what we're doing here at VMware, and also a little bit about how we work internally with our sales teams, as we coordinate the ecosystem work for our hyper scalers. So thank you for having me here.

Chip Rodgers  00:59

For those of you that don't know, Neeti, you've hit all the high points in the high tech business. You've been with VMware for about almost two years. And prior to that with Meta, GE Healthcare with Microsoft for a number of years, Amazon, and then actually Microsoft, and Amazon and mixed all in there. 

You've done some amazing, amazing things. Your degrees from MIT and IIT Bombay, what a what a pedigree.

Neeti Gupta  01:40

Thank you so much. I definitely have had a chance to live and breathe in the hyper scaler world. And so I think it has helped me work with partners now to help them work back with hyper scalers. That insight of working with hyper scaler-Amazon, Meta, as well as Microsoft, definitely helps you when you go back and are helping partners work with these giants. These jobs are not for the faint hearted, I would say.

Chip Rodgers  02:17

That's for sure. There's a lot going on. Maybe we could start there. Why don't we start with VMware, and maybe you could share a little bit about what you and your team are up to? What are your responsibilities? And what are you trying to achieve with VMware?

Neeti Gupta  02:37

Yeah, definitely. VMware, Microsoft partnership, has been there for many years, VMware, has a lot of workloads on prem. And we are looking at bringing those to the hyper scaler platforms. Azure is one of those platforms that I manage directly, billing, looking at the intersection of what is the art of possible from a co-build, co-marketing and co-sell perspective, that's the framework we use on the team. 

So I, as you mentioned, I started on the team about two years back to build out the team, which figures out what are the things we're going to go build with Microsoft, obviously, in partnership with our product teams, and our engineering teams, and then what are the things we are going to co-market and again, in partnership with the marketing team, and then what are we are going to jointly sell and participate in the Microsoft co-sell program, working closely with the sales team. I have a very strong team, all women, we actually take each component of this course to co-market and co-build framework. And then each focus on that.

The other thing we did was we also added an agreement with Microsoft on the Azure Marketplace, which is an important part of the ecosystem play for VMware with Microsoft in similarly with other hyperscalers. So that's what my team does. That's what my role and responsibility is to make sure that our partnership, which is a very strategic partnership with Microsoft, is a successful one. And we are doing everything to delight our customers in what we bring to the market as part of this partnership. So I'll pause there and see if you have other questions about what we do.

Chip Rodgers  04:36

VMware and the work that you guys are doing is really on the forefront and we love that. There are so many people there that are you talked about in a Co-Build Co-Market Co-sell there are people that are in companies that are doing it but they're doing it more of an ad hoc way and you've actually codified it and turn it into best practices and the work that you're doing with Microsoft, that is really awesome to see. And love to hear more about what those iNeetiatives are like and how it's been going with Microsoft.

Neeti Gupta  05:21

I wouldn't say we have codified it. We have learned lessons along the way. We have definitely learned from the hyperscaler our partners,  and specifically, in my case with Microsoft, there's been a lot of learning on how we do. Co-build, co-market and co-sell with them? That we specifically spent a lot of time I've gotten a lot of questions recently around, how do we jointly sell with such large companies? How do we work internally with VMware sales teams? And how we really make them , both sides work together well, is worth spending some time because in this environment, revenue and top line revenue is becoming important. 

So how we work with sales is going to be a crucial aspect of the job that ecosystem partners or alliances teams and business development teams have to do in the market.

Key practices for successful co-sell collaboration with sales?

Chip Rodgers  06:31

Before you jump in. You wrote a post on LinkedIn not too long ago. It was all about this topic, what are best practices for working with sales and, and having a good relationship to go to co-sell because it's a very different right than for direct sales or resale.

Neeti Gupta  06:59

That's correct. It doesn't mean not reselling Microsoft solutions, we Microsoft is not reselling our solutions, what we are really doing is jointly bringing solutions that we have sitting on the Microsoft platform, Azure platform to market together,and in bringing that to our customers. So there are some tips and tricks from my experience on how we work with our sales teams. 

And there's one thing that I would tell my friends who are listening to this podcast today about strategic partnerships and these roles is that your sales teams probably don't understand what you do. So the first thing we had to do was go tell them exactly what we do with Microsoft and what our role in that kind of joint selling motion will be. So do that upfront. 

Sometimes it takes conversations, sometimes it takes presentations, sometimes it is just one line sentencing, hey, we can make a connection to your Microsoft counterpart. And we can also make sure that when you go sell the solution and you run into issues, we are the team that can help you navigate that. So making those roles and responsibilities clear is fundamental.

And so many times I see that that clarity is not there, and that creates a lot of churn. What are you doing to help us? Why are you here? And the other thing is upfront, working with the sales team to be very clear about what the gives and gets are. And I say that is because everyone who's done sales roles, like you and me, at some point in your career, know that you have a quota to meet. And you need to make sure that you prioritize your activities to do that. So have that empathy with your sales team. Make sure you tell them what the gives and gets are upfront in this when they work with hyper scaler as a partner, and then build strong relationships with your sales teams, with your sales leaders. 

And, that's what a lot of what my team does, is we are spending a lot of time getting to know sales leaders on both sides. And we're bringing them together. And doing that matchmaking, saying you have these 10 accounts that you're going after, meet so and so and they are doing that and provide value in that exchange. There is another thing that I've learned over time that's really, really important. And then don't hesitate to bring them to each other's events and put them on stage. Let them talk to each other,  the joint customers at different events and continue and then the bread and butter which we say enable sales enablement continue to do that and an ongoing thing. It's not done once and the sales team is constantly changing. 

So make sure that you're offering enablement and what is it that you're doing with a partner explained with the platform for the hyper scaler? What's the value that's added, and make that experience very easy. The joint selling should not be a mystery, it should be magical. So, do whatever is needed to make it easy by making the content easy to access, and sharing best practices.

And as the best thing you can do is when there's a deal that you've closed, which is through joint selling, then amplify that story, tell the narrative and bring the sellers on both sides who've done that well, and share it, let them share it, instead of you kind of doing the talking, let the deal talk for itself. So those are some kind of learnings from this experience, which I know it sounds so simple, when I'm just rattling this off, but it is hard work. And it has taken a while for us to learn that as well.

Chip Rodgers  11:07

I love those those ideas and best practices and and like you said, some of them are bread and butter, like making sure that they that  have the right content and that they're enabled, but I love -reach out and make sure you're connecting with them that they know what their role is, and what your role is that the roles are clear.

And also speaking, having them speak at a conference or getting in front of it might be even with other sales teams or just building their reputation and brand within the partner and with their customers. It's a great idea.

Neeti Gupta  11:56

We've brought in, for example, Microsoft sales leaders, to our internal sales, kickoffs, we've brought them for our internal sales, all hands in just , obviously, during COVID, it was hard to get those in person connected. So we did recordings. And those are easy because that 10 minutes, enthusiasm that top down storytelling creates is important. 

And then we've also if there's a deal that has been closed, we closed a big deal recently with Microsoft. And that's what we're doing. We're getting those sellers together now, to tell that story, getting a case study out of it, and making sure they are telling the story of how they got to do what they eventually got to and that is equally important. The top down and the bottom ups.

Chip Rodgers  12:47

It sounds like you are saying that you are turning it into a video asset as well?

Neeti Gupta  12:53

It is not just this is what we did with the customer. It's how we work together on both sides. In our case , Microsoft and VMware sales people got together and figured it out. And what were the challenges along the way? What did we have to solve for? How did we actually make the deal? It doesn't just happen, and once it's done, everyone's like, Hey, we got the deal. What people forget is that getting to that point was a lot of hard work. And especially , we are playing in the enterprise space, those enterprise deals take a long time. They, they're a marathon, they're not a quick sprint. 

So telling the story of how you want that marathon is important, because there's lessons learned. And again, when you don't get a deal, we also use that. So, it's both what will work, what, why we lose that and telling that story internally is equally important. And obviously, when we have wins, we tell that story externally as well. And lean on the marketing team to help us do that narrative.

How to tell the story of a successful partnership?

Chip Rodgers  14:04

So I'm curious about the wind story with the sales teams working together. I love this idea as well. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? Was it like a conversation with both of the sales leaders together and then you recorded that? And then they talk through that? 

Neeti Gupta  14:25

So we basically got them together and said, we want to tell the stories so that other sales teams can learn from that. And part of it is like we: How did you approach the other sales team? What were your first conversations like so we ran it like an interview? And then what does that actually mean from a working relationship and what has that done for your other deals? 

And then let these other sales teams kind of ask questions about, when you ran into that problem, how did you solve it? And that's really authentic. Because now it's someone who's gone through this process. And if there's another seller who's going through this process and still sticking out, should I reach out to my Microsoft counterpart? How should I even email? Should I write to them? 

How should I answer those little things? And that becomes , for example, they said, I just picked up the phone, and I called him, I was like, That was so easy. It was easy. How can that be so easy? So like, what email? Did you craft? What did you say? Did you read them out on LinkedIn? Or did you go elsewhere? Did you meet them at a conference? How did it happen? And some of it is serendipity. But some of it is orchestrated. So that's what the ecosystem strategy teams can do. That's what your alliances, teams can be there to help you. 

So continuing to be the matchmaker and put the right people together. And continue to then rely on them to tell that story. And I think that's the key point here is that the first first one is hard. So going from zero to one is going to be hard. But once you get that one, then don't let it fizzle out, like use that, to tell the story internally and also with your partner.

Chip Rodgers  16:20

What you're describing,  I equated almost to a sales process within a sales process. Because you're selling to your counterpart, the salesperson on the other side. What's our value proposition? How are we going to work together, this is going to help you and it's going to help both of us. And is there a good value exchange? Let's go do some business together.

Neeti Gupta 16:49

Absolutely, I think the value exchange has to be done individually at the organization. And the customer at the end of the day, there is no value for the customer. The learnings we've had is, yes, that should be the central focus of the conversations. But what's the value for the sales teams to work together? What's the value for the individuals to work together? That has to be very, very clear as well. And they all come together, like all these components come together.

You can't just say, well, let's just focus on one thing or the other. I think these are the three dimensions that have to come together for a successful joint selling motion with the hyper scaler partners or any partner for that.

Working with technical specialists on both sides of the integration.

Chip Rodgers  17:37

Let's take it back then earlier in the process. Let's talk about the Co-Sell, co-market and Co Sales. We've talked a lot about cosell, tell me a little bit about the co-build process? You mentioned that you bring the product teams together. And where is that? How does that work with Microsoft? And how are you enabling that and you figured out some best executive, your next LinkedIn post?

Neeti Gupta  18:23

Let's talk about that, I think we're still learning in that space. The way it has worked is, we do work with some technical specialists on both sides. They range from the product side, they are people who are technical, we also have the office of the CTO that we work with closely on both sides , so that is an important way of establishing the key set of stakeholders. 

We had several products over the years where we've done integrations built on the platforms for the hyper scalers. And typically, a new co-build exercise works like this. We identify use cases that customers are talking about. So there's a lot of work that goes into what do customers want? Where are the gaps? What are they complaining about? And is there an idea there that could become a new feature functionality, a new integration, a new product? So then we go work with the product teams internally to make a business case or a pitch idea. And then we encourage Microsoft in this case, or the hyper scaler teams to do that. 

So sometimes it's the hyper scaler teams, product teams coming to us and saying, have you thought about and can you connect me to someone on your side who we can have this conversation with or we pitch that idea and say can you now connect me to someone on this, on the product side, the Azure product side or the windows 365, or office 365 teams, whichever organization that you wanted? 

And then usually you standardize on a simple pitch template, which talks about what the value proposition is, what is the use case? And what would joint go to market look like if we were to do this together. So if you're not just thinking about it, okay, we're going to build this integration by thinking about which customers have asked for it, how are we going to, and then we go and then pitch that to each other. And that's been great. We've also done , what we call the simple technical summits together, got technical, because we're looking at the intersection, the co-build motion is all about identifying where the intersection of the technologies is.

All you do is through this, getting people who are technical to talk through what is the art of possible just like in coastal, you're talking about what is out of the possible from a customer and a deal perspective. In the case of co-build, you're looking at how we can make those intersections viable. And so we've had good success when we've just had for example, VMware technologists talk about their technology, and to our hyper scalers, and vice versa. Because they're smart people we put them in the room, and they have some ideas. 

And then your job as the ecosystem strategic partner team is to then follow through on some of them. And some of them will fizzle out, some of them will become a thing. And then it's a constant job of identifying what those ideas are, and that will then pan out and you will be able to go to market with, in fact, I'm in Redmond today. That's exactly what I'm doing. And I had a business development leader from one of the Microsoft teams come to me and say, Hey, what do you think about this idea? Do you think VMware would want to do that? 

And I was like, perfect, let's get a few people from our product team to see if this would be something we would want to do. And we had a quick huddle. And they said, why hasn't anyone thought about this? This is great. So, sometimes those things happen. And sometimes it's like the worst idea I've heard, and that's fine, then you as an ecosystem leader, basically then can say, okay, great, that's fine. We talked about it, it doesn't work, let's either table it or revisit it. And so then the other best practices we keep I keep a table of and my team keeps a table of all these new ideas that are being generated. 

Sometimes the timing is not right, it's fine. At that time it is, but then we revisit if there's a new leader on both sides. If there's a new group, that is we revisit that idea and say, could we think about it differently? Could we reframe it? Is there something there, and if there's nothing there, that's fine, we'll go do something else. So it's an ongoing process of creative thinking, and bringing the right people together to have the right conversations. And it is as much of an art as much it is a science. And I say it's a science because you have to know how to facilitate those conversations. 

And it's an art because conversations have to be structured in a way that it will yield outcomes that you want. Well, those are my ideas here. And yes, I will do a LinkedIn post.

How to effectively execute joint go-to-market plans with partners?

Chip Rodgers  23:44

So Neeti, you were just way too modest at the beginning, when I said you've built some processes around and he was like, well, we have ideas. I just heard you take it, take us through a full process, and very clearly and succinctly. So it's there.

Neeti Gupta  24:03

Yes, I think we need to start writing it down. I think that I've been preaching to others, I think we need to start doing more of that. And we definitely do that on the co-marketing and the co-sell side. I think co-build has been happening organically, which we've been starting to put structure around.

Chip Rodgers  24:20

Let's talk about co-marketing. What does that process look like? How is that? Once you've gone through and have had those meetings? Everyone signed up? Everyone's like, Yes, this is great. And then you've built something you're ready to go to market? What are the next steps? 

Neeti Gupta  24:46

I think there's a lot of learning on the co-marketing side as well. We work with very strong brands, and that is really a powerful thing. So we definitely have learned that large companies have large marketing teams. Each of those teams have certain charters. So if you also learn how to align the central marketing teams with the business units, or the product marketing teams, to the partner marketing teams, I think one of the lessons learned is also around roles and responsibilities clarifying who can do what in how we achieve scale, through getting that orchestration. 

So, once we build a product, we are ready to go to market,  that integration is done or the new feature is done. We are working in parallel. So as the ecosystem strategic team, we are working in parallel with the marketing team on putting together a joint go to market plan. And it's not just a marketing plan, when I say joint go to market, we are looking end to end. 

So we are saying when the product is ready, or the feature is ready, what is the timeline? We'll be happy customers at launch?When we are doing the preview, will we have customers who can tell the story when we launch? And then are we going to do press releases, are we going to do blogs, what our social media story narrative is going to be? Can we get our execs involved, so we are also doing amplifications, through our execs, social media as well. And then we are the ecosystem lead, also take the lead in making sure we are amplifying those stories through our channels as well. 

We do it as a partner so that your go to market is orchestrated, it's not random. So it just doesn't happen while the product is getting built, the solution is getting built upon, we are then orchestrating all these teams to then get ready for marketing. And then also make sure that we have a customer success story, we have a support story. 

And then we are able to get the feedback back from the customer. So all those things are aligned. And that's the job of the ecosystem, strategic partner leader, if my team is not getting that aligned, then we know that we will, we'll be dealing with fire drills later. So we have learned how to do that planning upfront, work with our then product and go to market leaders to get them on that journey with us. 

I know, it sounds easy, but it's not easy getting so many people in the room to agree on a plan itself is a difficult task. But once you have that alignment, it becomes easy, because then you're just doing the check in the cadence. I have to thank Microsoft, for teaching me that because that structure has helped me in different environments that I worked in, where there was no structure, so you're able to picture to do that. So that's kind of a very high level. But I know you lead marketing for your organization. So if there are things that we can drill down on, I'm happy to do that for you, Chip.

Chip Rodgers  28:17

Very clear defiNeetion. And I liked how you talk through the timing that as the build process is happening, that the marketing team is getting ready and building those assets and deciding, what the rollout plan is going to be and and like you said, it can be complicated, especially with large organizations where it's like, who like are we talking to, the brand organization, the the demand gen team, the field marketing, PR, what to orchestrate.

Neeti Gupta  28:59

There's a lot to orchestrate. But there's also a lot of clarity that needs to be defined upfront. And I have learned that if you do the end to end go to market defiNeetion upfront, then you don't run into marketing teams now have to deal with the support team, and the customer success team and the sales. We are starting to think like how is that baton going to be handed off in the real areas we are running. So it's not just within the marketing organization, but also across the functional groups marketing to sales, marketing to customer success, marketing to support products to support.

Chip Rodgers  29:42

Come back to that sales enablement.

Neeti Gupta  29:45

Exactly. So you do sales enablement. And in fact, that is something when I came into the role two years back at VMware, we weren't doing the end to end orchestration that well and that created a lot of noise later in the process, because marketing comes in if you've done co-marketing, but that's not the outcome, the outcome is to get to revenue. 

And we can only get to revenue when this relay race is run well across. With in also, because there's so many people who are involved across the hyper scaler teams, the coordination can quickly become a nightmare if you don't have that plan in place, which then you're socializing and refining as you go along. Again these are stories from the trenches are stories of practice practicing, and being able to then create that structure on it when things were happening ad hoc and edit. And that has helped, because then it also helps my team because ecosystem partner teams are not large teams. How do you then make sure that you're doing the best you can with the resources you have?

Advice and key learnings for effectively working with partners.

Chip Rodgers  31:04

This is awesome. This has been fantastic. Maybe just one last question. I'm wondering if you have, we have a lot of partners, partner leaders in our audience. And if you have any word of advice, or learnings that you've shared a bunch already, but anything that sort of stuck with you when working with partners, that you suggest or something to keep in mind for others.

Neeti Gupta  31:38

I think the one thing that I've learned through the 20 years of having done ecosystem partnerships, now at this point is to continue to talk to your peers , people who are doing similar roles in other organizations. Because as your partner, the culture of your partner's organization is an important aspect to understand. 

For example, if you're working with Amazon, being customer centric is important, because everything they deliver will hinge around that. And, , if you're working with Microsoft, they have really good frameworks and programs that they've put together, that if you align to that, you'll get the map, you can maximize your impact with them. With Google, they want to make sure that you have a good business case around what you're doing. So as an ecosystem strategy, partnership leader, understanding and helping your team also understand the culture of your partner organizations. And then as a leader, yourself, talking to various leaders who are working with that hyper scaler as a partner and exchanging notes, so I am constantly talking to the other ISVs in the Microsoft ecosystem, and their leaders to understand what is working well, what's not working well, and how you can then jointly sometimes go to the hyper scaler as one voice and say, look, we all suffering to this program, or this idea that you've put out there, please help us or this is fantastic, please continue to do that. 

We would love to do more with you in this space. So that voice of you as a partner in, in getting that community together in learning the culture of the organization that you partner with, I think are the three key things that I would say, I have learned in my career that I would say, continue to do that, because that will help you. 

Chip Rodgers  33:53

That's great advice and listen to more podcasts. 

Neeti Gupta  33:59

I have started to listen to a bunch of your podcasts. There's some really good community podcasts that others like YouTube have been doing, which are great to also listen to , on my daily walks or runs that I'm able to squeeze into my day. Definitely those podcasts have become very important because those learnings that the practitioners have, are really important because nobody at least in our lifetime, has yet gone to an ecosystem partnership program in school.  

Because what we've learned as practice and discipline, it's becoming an important aspect of how not only software companies but any company will do business because most companies are learning that they can't do it alone,  technology companies, you can't build every technology by yourself. So you need partners. And in some cases, these hyper scaler partnerships are even becoming more important. Continue to learn that and learn that through the podcast and especially please listen to chips podcast.

Chip Rodgers  35:23

We're telling that to anybody that started that, that's hearing this is already listening. So appreciate it.

Neeti Gupta  35:33

Already converted.

Chip Rodgers  35:38

Neeti has been fantastic. I really appreciate you spending some time with us and sharing your thoughts, just chock full of really great advice and ideas across the whole, we call it the flywheel, right building solution to bring it to market co-selling. And then do it again.

Neeti Gupta  36:01

I know anyone who listened to this podcast, I would like to thank them. If  you are interested in or struggling with an issue, you are interested in doing more of this kind of work, I'm happy to connect on LinkedIn. And I'm also happy to give you a few minutes of my time to talk through what I've learned. I would like to pay it forward, I've learned from the best and I would like to make sure that what I've learned, you don't have to learn and then you can build on that.

Chip Rodgers  36:31

That's a great offer. And, make sure that you subscribe to these posts as well. I guess if you connect you're gonna see it but pay attention because you've been really putting out some great content.

Neeti Gupta  36:47

Thank you so much for having me. And looking forward to listening to your next podcast. And that is that you select next

Chip Rodgers  36:57

Thank you. Neeti. And thank you all for joining us, too for another episode of Ecosystem Aces and we will see you all next time. Thanks Neeti

Links & Resources