He came on the Alliance Aces podcast to share about how expectations shifted for him: Some of his most valuable alliances came from the least expected verticals.
He shared how he’s navigated the world of what he calls “bluebirds and blackbirds,” and turned the unexpected into incredible growth opportunities.
How it All Started: Referring Business Phones in a Technical World
The need for phones can often go overlooked:
Business cards, they’re a go.
But who’s answering the phones?
Phone.com is a monthly subscription VoIP phone service. Over the past 10 years, they’ve focused on constantly reinventing themselves, overcoming challenges, and continuing to identify new opportunities. Currently, they’re serving about 30,000 business customers.
One of the main drivers of this growth has been their Channel Partner Program.
Partners from a variety of channels refer their clients to Phone.com; for example, one key partner does business plan development and prep for those trying to raise capital. One of the first things they tell their clients is to get a business phone number. Of course, they recommend Phone.com.
Sometimes, the Best Alliances Come From the Most Surprising Verticals:
As the opportunities for alliance networks increased, Joel came on board and created their channel partner program 9 years ago.
Today, they have about 400 channel partners. He originally expected it to consist of mostly systems integrators, MSPs, or MSSPs. Turns out he was (mostly) right. These types of partners make up about a third of those involved in their partner program. Secondly, many of their partners come from marketing & sales consulting services, along with SaaS.
Thirdly, and surprisingly, they have taken over much of the market share in rare, unexpected areas. For example, they have nearly 95% of the market share in gated communities.
At one point, Joel and his team got a request from a client, asking if they would be willing to sign a Business Associate Agreement (HIPAA regulatory requirement). At the time, no one in the company was familiar with it.
But they said yes, anyways.
The Secondary Benefit of Surprising Alliance Opportunities
Taking on a surprising alliances partner offers a couple of distinct benefits. For one, there is the immediate revenue. But there is a broader reach:
Once you learn the requirements for a specific industry (especially those that are highly regulated), you’ve laid the groundwork for expertise in an entirely new vertical.
Bluebirds Vs. Blackbirds
Talking about opportunities in sales and business, Joel says there are bluebirds and blackbirds.
Blackbirds are opportunities you thought would be a slam dunk, but for whatever reason, they fizzle away.
On the other hand, Bluebirds are opportunities you didn't see coming, but they land on your desk and turn into something wonderful.
Joel’s advice: Don’t get upset about the Blackbirds, but if you get a Bluebird, hold onto it.
Sometimes Smaller Settings Create Better Partnership Connections
Joel attends a lot of conferences. (Don’t we all?) But contrary to what you might expect, he actually prefers going to the smaller events over the larger ones.
Why? Because smaller settings provide better opportunities to make connections for potential future alliances.
Give Your Alliance Partners Unlimited Access to You
“If a partner has an opportunity, needs help putting a proposal together, or needs help with pricing, they have direct access to me. We will work with them.”
When asked about best practices, Joel got it right. At the forefront of their business is helping its partners solve their client’s needs.
Isn’t that what alliances are all about? Together, what problems can you solve?
You’ve Made it When Your Alliance Says ‘We’ Instead of ‘I’
Joel has a partner that often calls and talks to him in the first person: “Hey Joel, how about we do xyz.”
I added the italics. Because that word makes all the difference.
You know you’ve made it when your alliance starts using the word “we” instead of the word “I.”
You’ve now established a rapport, build enough trust, and aligned completely. You are on the same team, accomplishing the same, customer-focused goal.