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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 31

January 7, 2019

#31 Xavier LeBaron:How To Develop Trust Between Alliance Partners

Sometimes the best way to gain the trust of an alliance partner is to show that you are willing to trust them first. Xavier LeBaron is the Senior ...

Sometimes the best way to gain the trust of an alliance partner is to show that you are willing to trust them first.  

Xavier LeBaron is the Senior APAC Strategic Alliance Manager for Microsoft at Adobe, and he is constantly talking about how to develop trust.  Xavier primarily manages the strategic and deep relationship between Adobe and Microsoft, and he sees his role as a conductor or orchestrator who helps to develop the right tech to empower customers.

Xavier left France in 1998 and ended up in Australia where he started his career after grad school.  The Australian market is one that is very reliant on partnerships, so after starting in direct sales, he moved on to channel sales and partnerships.  He didn’t enjoy the short term nature of direct sales relationships, and much prefers to establish long term partnerships.

He has a broad scope of responsibilities at Adobe: driving the sales pipeline, crafting the right go to market messaging, ownership over the of P&L of the partnership, and bringing the right marketing efforts to the table.  

Xavier joined us at Microsoft Inspire to talk about the evolution of the sales channel, development of partner relationships, and more.

Sales Channel

Xavier has been in the world of channel sales for about 15 years, and he has seen a large amount of change during that time.  It used to be that if someone couldn’t make it in direct sales, they would make their way to channel sales, but now the opposite is true. Many times, the channel is where the most activity is and the most skilled sales people live and operate.  

Xavier knows that many companies can’t get to their next stage of growth without a solid partner ecosystem.  This type of relationship needs to be treated with respect and the right approach.  In Xavier’s opinion, the true meaning of a partnership is when each sides provides trust and presents a “no-brainer” value proposition to the other side.

This usually means a long term relationship rather than short term sprints that are common in direct sales.  It’s also what Xavier loves about the role he is in.

Building Relationships

Xavier likes to use a marriage as an example for a professional partnership.  The two sides work best when they are communicating and calling problems out that they see.  This allows them to sustain the ability to trust the other party.  

Xavier believes that trust is often something you have to give before you can receive.  He recognizes that it can be tricky and a bit scary to give away trust.  In the business world, giving away trust sometimes giving up direct control.  For example, it can mean not being able to control exactly where your product ends up and how it is spoken about.  You can’t be in every sales meeting.

But this is where field enablement can also become important.  It takes time for this type of process to mature, but it’s critical to empower enablement among your field staff.

This goes well beyond your go to market strategy; it includes the delivery and consulting aspect of sales relationships.  Selling the right solution together in a complementary fashion is the best way to have repeatable business.

Challenges Overcome

With his years of experience, Xavier is no stranger to overcoming the challenges that come with the alliance and partners space.  He believes that many of the solutions to these problems start with a simple thing: understanding your partner.  

Xavier and his team focus on taking extra time to ask basic questions.  They seek to understand their partner’s business before trying to push their own ideals down the line.  It is with this foundation that they begin building understanding and developing trust.

Xavier always recommends trying to find the middle ground between your own company’s interests and your partner’s interests.  It’s the most successful recipe he’s found.  If you gain trust and a common understanding of what common goals look like, you’re on the right track.

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This episode is part of the Alliance Aces Roadshow. Watch the video interview on Facebook.

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