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The Evolution of SaaS Partnerships, with Barrett King [Episode 1165]

This week, Alastair Woolcock is joined by Barrett King, Senior Director of Revenue at New Breed, to dissect the transformation in the SaaS partnerships arena. With a rich background from HubSpot to leading New Breed’s revenue strategy, King discusses how partnerships have evolved from being primarily focused on revenue generation to becoming integral to holistic go-to-market strategies. King also emphasizes the importance of building trust and brand awareness through partnerships that align with customer needs. Overall, the duo provides valuable insights into the evolving role of partnerships in driving sales and enablement strategies, underscoring the importance of building trust, mutual value, and interconnected ecosystems in today’s business landscape.


Podcast Transcript:


Welcome back everybody to this week’s sales strategy and enablement podcast. I’m Alastair Woolcock and I am very excited to have with me today, Barrett King, Senior Director of Revenue at New Breed. Barrett, before we dive in just for the audience’s benefit, you have had a wealth of experience around partnerships.

You got a big track record as a GTM leader. In driving SaaS growth. But today we really wanted to pick your brain around where partnerships are evolving, where they’re going, what’s changing, what’s worked, what hasn’t, but before we dive into all the QA, just walk through a little bit of your background on the partnership side, if you don’t mind.


No, I’m glad to. Thanks for having me on the show. I actually really enjoy this conversation and I’m excited to hear how you and I explore the topic. For me. My, my background’s different. So I talked to a lot of folks that say, I knew what I wanted to be from X age. And I had a plan. I went to college. I went to graduate school, whatever it is.

I’m the opposite. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and I’m exploring as I go and finding things that are interesting. So I actually have a design degree, which was never the plan. I actually initially left high school and went to my first collegiate experience. Focused on urban planning I don’t know why I just thought it was interesting how cities are built and developed and eventually evolved into a design degree.

So weird hop, skip and a jump, but I found my way to it. I went to restaurants after college because the economy wasn’t good. There were no jobs and really enjoyed hospitality, enjoyed building experiences. And I think in many ways what I’ve learned since. I was establishing partnerships, my role in leading teams there as AGM and general manager in part was, connecting with the community and building relationships with organizations around our facilities.

I managed a variety of restaurants and developing partnerships. Now I didn’t know this at the time. I learned that later on, but from there, I went into tech back into restaurants at one point, and then finally into tech as a finisher, if you will. And so I spent my time at a startup where I was head of sales, effectively head of revenue, if you will.

And then I worked at HubSpot for about eight and a half years. And during that timeline is where I truly sunk into partnerships as a core part of what I enjoy doing professionally. So I spent my time initially acquiring partners, then teaching others how to do. So I led sales training for a few years and was fortunate to have an opportunity to impact both the partner community and the employees that we were hiring to do so as well.

I was an enterprise partner manager. I was a corporate sales manager, helping partners go to the upmarket. My last little bit of time there about a year or so, I was a part of the team that was developing the go to market strategy as HubSpot grew and tried to go up market and engage even larger partners than they had.

Then about eight months ago, I decided it was time after eight plus years to do something different, to learn a different skill set and to take what I had accomplished in that sense and translate it into something that was a different challenge. I wanted to learn again. And so very long winded answer to your question, but now I’m at the top partner, which is really fascinating.

I left HubSpot as a core business, a SaaS company, and went to a top solutions partner, New Breed Revenue, where I get a chance to work with our advisory team and our partnerships teams, and support our offense in that sense. And so to answer your question holistically, I think about it in terms of putting Lego bricks onto a Lego mat.

So we all remember that, like that green mat when we were kids and you built your house or whatever on it. I think of that as my career. I’ve been fortunate to put a bunch of different bricks on there and fortunately even more so now that those bricks overlap into this opportunity to take partnerships and go to market and bring them together, really drive impact for our customers.It’s exciting.


I can’t resist asking, just as we love to do timely news, Barrett on this and give me your HubSpot background. Sure. And only say what you’re comfortable saying in this, but Google is rumored to be buying or putting in significant outsized bids for HubSpot. What’s your take?

You’re the first person to ask me on a recorded line. So you get bonus points, a gold star, a brownie, something like that. I gotta say, I did spend a lot of time there. And during that time, there were several of these moments. There was a an Amazon moment. There was another Google moment waiting, many moons back, kind of way back in the day.

This one feels different. It feels interesting. Obviously I don’t work there. I don’t have any inside information that I can share in that sense, but more specific is that HubSpot has. Always focused on delivering outsized value to customers. And I think in some ways, the values of what Google embodies alphabet in particular, and the way they’ve thought about their own go to market was always about outsized value.

So if I were to speculate, I’d say of all of the suitors over the years that I spent and all of the rumors that have come up, this is by far the most interesting. And while I don’t know anything other than that, like it’s a very fun thing to talk about. I would speculate since we’re speculating, if there is a likelihood that this is possible.

What will become of it? There’s regulators and there’s a deal and there’s a lot of work to be done. But I think if it does happen, from a partner perspective and certainly as a shareholder, because I own stock in the company, it’s exciting. It’s exciting to think about the impact. Again, but if you go back to the idea that Google has done a lot of things really well, that aligns to the values about HubSpot was built on, I think there’s a chance on this one.
It feels interesting for sure. Be fun to watch.

I’m with you. I’m conservatively optimistic. If I put my old Gartner hat on this, I go Google to suddenly have what is argued to be one of the most commercially prolific I’ll say SMB to mid market CRM systems and lighting that up, you would think of the future of the CRM market requires large language models to run against it.

You think of where they’re going with DeepMind and what they did with there and where Gemini, they’ll eventually get right. It’s a very interesting proposition to get them in the game with Microsoft and Salesforce and everyone else as well. So it’s it’s fascinating and to our core topic of partnerships, it’s going to give access to one of the largest partnership ecosystems in the world for HubSpot that’s a big multiplier there.

It’s fascinating. It is. Cause if you particularly look at Microsoft and Salesforce and their proximity to each other. And with respect, but I’m going to say it because it’s funny to tongue in cheek. Like they’re both the old school player in the room that has enterprise value and is deeply integrated into what customers at that scale need.

HubSpot always played below that. They were always very intentional around SMB and mid market in particular, thinking about the mid to upper mid market as the upmarket motion they’re trying to establish now. And so companies that are, built in that space, B2B tech manufacturing, et cetera, those companies are likely already engaged with Google.

So it’s a nice partnership in that sense. They bring those two companies together. And then to your point, Google has a massive ecosystem opportunity and they have for many ages. That you take the sophistication of that and you apply it to HubSpot’s already well, established and baseline go to market. Those two things together, like it was really powerful. It’s really interesting to think about.

It’s a potentially we’re speculating here, could be great example of we spoken a lot on this podcast about Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation. Approach to your point that building from the bottom up into a market that a lot of people don’t like to go after, and they’re going to continue to move up market.

Google’s wanted to do that for a long time for his core offerings anyway to disrupt more of the Microsoft ecosystem. And this would be a smart thing. And so I would love to see a third dominant player that has the full end to end stack in there. Shall see what the regulators say and what Google and shareholders HubSpot shareholders approve as well.

Now, Barrett, thank you for that. And let’s dovetail that into, when you think of these markets. And we think of partnerships as a whole, you’ve got this extraordinary experience. A lot of partnerships have changed in how we did it pre pandemic to post pandemic. I did also say in the last 12 months, there’s been some unique shifts and changes that are happening in terms of that evolution.

And I’ll just throw it out there to begin this thought process. A lot of companies tend to flippantly approach partnerships and the idea of well, it’s a cheaper way to capture revenue. It’s gonna be an access. Okay, neither of those statements are wrong. But that often isn’t the driver or what creates the success model. So what have you seen? What’s your perspective on have things changed? And if so, how?


I think if you look back to your point, 12, 18, 24 months, even pre pandemic to the sort of timeline you were describing, partnerships as a whole, was really about channel. It’s about like, how do we drive revenue?

How do we drive lift? How do we go faster? It was as a common statement, to be clear, there are a lot of folks that thought outside the box, but generally speaking. And so when I had this conversation three, four, five years ago, it was always who are the partners, the other businesses that I can go and engage with.

They’re going to sell more for me that they’re going to, help my customers get more value for my platform. Yeah. But really who’s going to sell more? I always go back to the retail sort of like transactional, the resell moment. If you look at it now, it’s about, actually, before I say this, so it’s more than anything, the shift from, partnerships as a pure revenue generation opportunity to partnerships as a holistic go to market. And I think in many ways, a cornerstone of what every company needs to be effective when trying to grow right now, frankly, right?

So if you look at like history lesson’s sake, call it the eighties and early nineties, you saw that a majority of, what was in market was marketing driven. So as I’ve got this like billboard or this radio ad, I’ve got some print ads. And a lot of the awareness and a lot of the customer engagement and opportunity, drive came from marketing. And then the nineties, really maybe late eighties, similar timeline, but certainly nineties and two thousands in the early two thousands before 2010 was all about sales.

It was sales led and you saw this kind of push for get out there and have a conversation. Meet our buyers. It was trade shows. It was events. It was, the handshake traditional sense of sales that we all maybe perhaps think of when you hear the word sales. And that’s what drove a lot of the opportunity and market again.

And then inbound, thank you Hubspot and others shows up in the like 2008 to 10 window. And now, content marketing, digital marketing becomes the anchor point in every educational cycle of every buyer. So now it becomes table stakes. So it takes marketing is like this engine. And makes it table stakes.

You got to have good inbound content development, good buyers journey, be very intentional in that sense. And then you look at 17, 18. Now you’ve got inbound working. So if you’re a marketer, you’re in tech, if you’re a business leader in tech, you’ve got marketing driving a lot of your leads.

You gotta get better at converting them. You gotta get better at selling them. So now it’s like the age of sales. You see this evolution in terms of sales. Through again, like maybe 18, 19, and obviously none of us knew what happened in 2020, save a few virologists, but outside of that, people expected that we would continue to go to market with really good content and this inbound methodology and then really good educational based consultative sales organizations were winning.

And so it was like this sort of thing was happening. Now, partnerships was always a piece of that pie. But I think the majority of the time, if you looked at those dialogues, folks weren’t necessarily anchoring in that as a core part of go to market outside of, like we said before, net new revenue generation.

So it’s like they worked with our sales team to go sell stuff. 2020, as we all experienced globally, things changed. People moved online, started to move a little bit faster. Educational buyers were the norm. Everyone had some form of education coming into the buying cycle. The salesperson became a bit of a shepherd.

Through that cycle, while they were still educating and consulting, a lot of it was about building value and building trust more deeply. And that’s when you saw go to market leaders in like late 20, early 21. Start to shift the rhetoric and think out loud about the fact that there were others who had the trust of their customer way before they did.

That was this idea. And you hear folks like Jill Rowley and Jared Fuller and others, Kevin Linehan that are all around this movement of near bound start to raise their voices and say, yeah, we’ve known this all along. Pete Caputa, the original creator of the HubSpot, partner program. All these folks were saying, we’ve been talking about this for ages.

This is not new. But it shifted away from just lead generation and maybe some deepening client engagement. So maybe a better retention metric to actually an echo further out in the market, way beyond your marketing of trust building, it became about businesses that were already engaging your customer before you had a chance to.

And so subsequently they were, yeah, they might resell you. They might co service you. But really they were your trust builders, they were your brand builders. So I think, to, to land the plane on my very long diatribe here, but that’s ultimately what you’re seeing is that go to market leaders now know marketing is table sticks.

Got to nail marketing, got to have good content, got to have good educational opportunities, buyer’s journey really nailed down. Got to have smart salespeople. They know your buyer. I have a lot of thoughts there, but like they have to evolve. They have to be more informed. They have to be more supportive and engaged, but the partners, like the opportunity to surround your potential customer and customers. We’d like businesses that aid in your message and your entire go to market. That’s a whole other story.


So there’s two big things I want to hit on there. Barrett a little bit, one can just define for the audience near bound part two, when I think of the market and what you’ve just described, which I largely agree with.

It goes against the business model of many SaaS companies and the way in which enterprises are trying to be more SaaS right? So SaaS has always been minimizing engagement as much as possible. A seller doesn’t even get engaged until typically there’s demo or further downstream, right? Not early on, and that’s very much a marketing driven thing.

We’ve seen pretty tectonic drop offs on marketing engagement because content proliferation, especially driven by AI now is so great. It’s actually going to drive a little bit of a renaissance on the relationship side and what I would say is more circa early 2000 sales type approaches. Which are more expensive. They’re not as agile and they largely require, a more experienced go to market team, none of that lines up to the average SAS go to market model. How do you deal with it?


Yeah, there’s like this for years, it was like grow at all costs, right? It was like dump the cash on the fire, burn it up. And the idea was you’d hire a bunch of salespeople and they’d go sell a bunch of shit for you and hope that it’s stocked. Obviously with the shift to retention based growth metrics, how is your customer sticking around, expanding?

Are they happy? I do think that to your point, this, the commoditization of this, the content, sort of movement that’s being cannibalized by AI is interesting because it does force a more genuine and a more high attention to detail approach to the way that you market and the way that you sell in your organization, Nearbound to define that, which is important is this idea that You surround your potential customer and existing customer with relationships that are connected to the things that matter to them.

I define this as partner market fit. I really should trademark this statement. I use it all the time. So early on in a company’s journey, they say, I want to go to market differently. They identify a need, whatever you want to call it. And. The smartest companies, the ones that ask me this question all the time, say how do I define my first partnerships?

How do I identify them? Like, how do I go and figure that out? You have to think about who your customer and frankly, ask your customer who else they’re working with. They can be like companies. They can be businesses that maybe use your software or service to add value. They might be ancillary. They might even touch what you do, but they are already in your customer, potential customers business.

As you engage those like organizations, you start to see the surround sound. It’s like the picture that exists around the nucleus of your customer. And that picture, that surround sound is the idea of Nearbound. The concept that if we generate awareness through a multi channel approach, if we generate education and touch points through businesses that are already working with our customer, that have their trust.

On how our services or our platform or, whatever can help as well. And in some ways, I think you start to go to market together, be very intentional around like the commonality that occurs in that interaction. Then all of a sudden you do start to turn a corner in terms of generating, not just awareness from an educational perspective, which is the marketing engine and a deeper sense of alignment from a sales, transactional nature, but more specific than that, you understand the fundamentals of what it takes that company to be successful because you’ve engaged the businesses they’re already working with.

And so Nearbound to keep it really simple is the idea of creating surround sound, wrapping your potential customer in awareness in conversation, in education, and then you yourself working with those organizations to go to market together.


How much adoption do you see of this? Yeah, I was gonna touch on that. So it’s a good point. You’re seeing more now than ever, right? I’m seeing it now that people are stuck. You started to say this before, like traditional go to market has to evolve. Your buyers are distributed. Early sales careers, like you had to make X number of emails and some, in terms of outbound outreach, and then, make X number of phone calls, who makes a phone call nowadays, right?

I talked to SDRs all the time. Heads of sales all the time and everyone in between, they reach out and they’re like, what are you doing? My team isn’t cold calling somebody they are, reaching out when someone converts and nine and a half out of 10 times it’s a cell phone. No one sits at their desk and has a desk phone.

So how do you evolve beyond that? That customer is talking to somebody. And so B2B leaders and technology leaders and manufacturing leaders and folks that are in industries that are human centric are sitting there saying how do I better educate, how do I get in front of other individuals and companies that are talking to my prospect, my customer, and how do I support that motion? How do I engage there?

Because it’s not working as well in marketing to your point, conversions are down, no one’s downloading, eBooks on a Tuesday on the regular anymore, and then they’re not engaging my salespeople. They show up and they say, I know what I want, what’s the price. I know what I want, can you just give me a quick demo so I confirm the three questions that I have left, I’m ready to go. And so you have to be earlier in that process.

Adoption’s a different story. So to be clear, like I think the awareness around Nearbound and the earlier partnership movements is absolutely at one of its highest points, but people don’t define it very well.

And again, the names that I use and shout it out, Jill Rowley and Jared Fuller and Kevin Linehan and the others that are pushing this really intentionally, Will Taylor, like there’s a lot of folks that are investing energy and effort into getting this right. Are doing a great job in educating those B2B leaders, but a bit of a soapbox, forgive me, but if you’re a leader and you’re listening to this and you’re thinking like, how do I do that?

You should reach out to them, to me, like you should be thinking of this as a third pillar of go to market marketing, sales, and partnerships. Nearbound this idea of building community. Because frankly, I think you’ll see over the next 5-7, 5-10 years, Jay McBain talks about this over from Canalys, like that is a decade of ecosystem of partnership. And that’s the new go to market.


It really is. And the whole ecosystem side has, I would say been on the rise since about 2020 and 22 really started to take off. But right now, most of that ecosystem is, you got the big, what used to be fang companies, but now expanded back out.

So you got the big nucleus ones there in tech and they’re trying to well, how do I consume? And we all build around that. What I would actually suggest is where, if you want to be really think on this proactively, you start to think more vertical orientation, market orientation, that you go to the end customer and start to think about how to build their ecosystems that are more effective.

And then of which it may be a Google, it may be a Microsoft, it may be a meta and so forth that tie into that appropriately, it’s not them at the center, they are literally a piece of that emerging ecosystem, and Dell and others have started to go down a little bit of this path and so forth. And I think we’re really going to see that emergence in the in the coming, uh, several years because it’s a way of differentiation.

It’s also a way of focusing the market. In a world where a lot of technology now is very similar and is the only more similar due to the access that we have to, quite frankly, AI and other tools is closing a lot of gaps that vendors would have had previously. Final thought..


It solves for the customer. Like I’ve been talking over you, but I think it’s important to highlight That it is, to your point, very similar, right? There is a lot of overlap and there’s a lot of, likeness in the market. So when you try and differentiate, you can say we’re better at, you can say we do more of, but those statements are hard to validate even with case studies and with customer references.

I do think, however, validation in market is different. That’s an important thing to highlight. And that’s that, if you imagine you’re a buyer and you’re out looking for, I’ll keep it simple the guy next to me is getting his lawn cut.

So I want a new lawn care specialist, right? And you might go to the internet and Google who’s the best lawn care specialist? And you’re going to get some reviews from Google or Yelp or whatever coming back at you. You might go and call the, top three and you might get a really educated person who talks about, we use this special type of blade that cuts the grass really clean and fresh and it doesn’t break any of them.

And, we put this special fertilizer down, it’s all natural, helps the grass get good air. Like they might be the best at what they do, but you’re going to hang up that phone guaranteed right now. And you’re going to go ask that neighbor why they like that new provider, right? Oh, they’re fairly cost effective and look at how pretty the lawn looks and they don’t disrupt me on a Sunday or whatever.

And. So word of mouth is not new. That’s always been a way to market, but there was no way to program that. There’s no way to like really deeply invest in it. I’m spot tried years ago with the flywheel motion, this idea of building momentum in your business, but that still has always been present.

It was just about programming it and being intentional. So let’s land the plane on this, keeping it really simple. I do think fundamentally partnerships is not new. I think near bound is not necessarily new. I think labeling it. building frameworks around it and being very intentional around building tools and empower you to be effective in delivering on it.

That’s the next frontier. And so when you look at these companies that are trying to do what the hyperscalers are doing and the LART and so you’re describing, it’s hard to catch up. But if you look at. I like we do it, Newbury does it actually, here’s a good example. We’re one of the top partners in HubSpot’s ecosystem, about 120, 130 employees, depending on when you’re listening to this.

And, we’ve got a little ecosystem around us, RollWorks and 6sense and DealHub. And we’ve got these other platforms that we work with because they help our customers. And, you better believe they call us up sometimes and say, I’ve got a customer who is on maybe HubSpot or not on HubSpot.

And, but they’re on our platform and we need some help. And so we go and help and vice versa. We go, Hey, we’ve got a customer who needs. Some support with ABM and we reach out to them and we bring in their platform. And so that interconnectivity, the closeness, that’s the thing that I would put my stake in the ground on.

I do believe that this is, yes, it’s partnerships and it’s near bound and it’s all these labels. It’s about the closeness and the intimacy of business now, because of the way that the world has evolved, that you’re going to see the shift towards these more interconnected, ecosystems and communities.


Well, Barrett, I I would love to dive in more there. Unfortunately, we are. Out of time for today’s episode on that but I think your perspective on what I’m going to call circular based ecosystems and partnerships and, how do we evolve and solve for those is absolutely where the market is evolving to.

What I would love to do, though, is have you back and discuss more on how is AI impacting that? What is machine learning beginning to do to the partnership ecosystem? Where are we going to see the emergence of these circular based ecosystems to micro ecosystems and so forth? Barrett, if you’re up for it, we’d love to have you back, explore that and more. I think there’s so much more to dive into this, what is an essential part, of any go to market strategy.

I would love to. That sounds fantastic. I look forward to it. Thanks for having me on.
And for everybody listening in, please remember to like, and subscribe, and we will see you on the next episode, Barrett King, Senior Director of Revenue at NewBreed. Fantastic to have you all with us. And we will see you all next time.