You Just Need to Do it: How OneStock Shifted to a Partner-Led Growth Company in 9 Months
We had the pleasure of talking with Kevin Bessat, Head of Channel and Partnerships at OneStock and formerly working as a Sales Coach at Akimbo, a community of sales talent and companies that spread a scientific approach to sales.
OneStock is an Order Management System (OMS) that provides a unified inventory view across various locations, empowering retailers to optimize sales, improve order orchestration, streamline operations, and analyze performance across diverse sectors, including fashion, entertainment, and sporting goods. The solution offered by the company commenced in 2017. Notably, the organization has functioned as editors and integrators for nearly seven years, handling all implementations internally without a partner strategy, gold partner program, or similar initiatives. Approximately 9 months ago, Kevin joined the company and embarked on building the program from the ground up, presenting both an intriguing and challenging endeavor.
Kevin considers himself a crucial part of the sales team, working to boost both sales and marketing efforts. His main goal is to create a new way of acquiring customers through partnerships, a type of nearbound marketing. Kevin collaborates with both teams, gathering market insights, influencing partners, and spotting opportunities. The marketing team then uses this information to increase visibility and strengthen projects with partners. This collective vision guides One Stock's fruitful approach to partnerships.
Clear internal communication is the key to external success
Kevin's mission in the first three months was to organize the internal channels and players. Focusing internally rather than externally, he aimed to make people aware of the partnership's goals and the shift from customer-led to partner-led growth. He put out all the postulates of why OneStock should be open to partners and explained to the team the benefits they can gather from successfully engaging with outside-of-organization players.
“It's an ongoing process to ensure everyone understands the why of partner-led growth. Moving from customer-led to partner-led growth is an opportunity for the company, and internal alignment is crucial before external launches.”
The challenges in the first quarter at OneStock included internal alignment, practical partner training, ensuring a positive developer experience, and changing the company's perception from a closed solution provider to an open one.
Shifting from a model where OneStock acted as editors/implementors to working with system integrators required effective training—the correct information, training, data, and documentation for partners to succeed in the implementation for partners to succeed.
Ensuring a great product and developer experience was also one of the initial challenges. While getting partners on board was essential, ensuring they were satisfied working with OneStock’s solution was equally important. Aligning with partners and ensuring a positive developer experience became a key focus.
Training was a significant challenge initially. While they had some internal training, it wasn't directly applicable to external partners. Adapting the training to different goals and contexts was necessary.
“Aligning everyone internally was crucial for the success of our shift towards the partner-led model. It was essential to start with the CEO and manage people, ensuring this new approach convinced them. We had several internal meetings and opportunities to share the company's vision. Communication was key in helping the team understand how the new model would work and why it was beneficial to involve partners.”
Kevin received much help from his manager regarding the internal team activities, who joined the company just a few months before him. He previously worked at Akeneo and was vital in their go-to-market strategy. His experience and insights were invaluable.
Once you find the right partners, scale your relationship with them
After aligning and spreading awareness in the first quarter, the focus shifted to scaling relationships with potential partners in the second quarter. With responsibilities covering independent software vendors ISVs in France, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, the main activity was figuring out how to scale these relationships. This involved creating business connections, mapping accounts, and identifying common targets with crucial partners. Kevin’s goal was to build meaningful and scalable relationships with partners that demonstrated the most potential or had significant synergies.
“The primary challenge was alignment, focusing on creating a mindset shift within the team. As a partner manager, my goal is for things to work seamlessly without my direct involvement. I want to establish processes and ensure effective communication. The difficulty lies in aligning with partners, coordinating events, and communicating effectively.”
Unlike individual initiatives, working with partners requires extensive alignment and validation by all involved parties. The main challenge was ensuring internal alignment, changing mindsets, and embracing the partner-led approach. The key was getting everyone on board with the new partner-oriented mindset, where opportunities are discussed with the partner manager to find suitable partners, facilitate meetings, gain insights, and move things forward collectively. This shift was crucial in the second quarter.
“Some sales and marketing team members had been working at OneStock for years. The challenge was to make them understand that while they were capable of working individually, collaborating with partners would provide valuable insights and accelerate progress even though it requires more work and alignment efforts. It involved instilling a new mindset and vision within both the marketing and sales teams.”
Currently, OneStock operates in the retail and e-commerce ecosystem, collaborating with complementary back-end solutions. The focus is on establishing synergies with these solutions through integrations and apps. In less than 9 months, they’ve managed to initiate partnerships with Adobe, Commercetools, and Shopify, aiming to create seamless integrations with them. Launching their integrations for Shopify and Adobe Commerce is scheduled for Q2, while Commercetools’ is expected to launch in Q3. These integrations are a significant investment in time and marketing and are crucial for positioning the company as a key technological partner and accelerating relationships with these platforms.
Listening to partners’ needs fosters trusting relationships
“For the third quarter, we started collecting feedback from our partners on our product, training program, documentation, and API. While feedback is valuable, it's essential to integrate it into our roadmap and ensure continuous improvement. It's a phase where you need to pause, consider the feedback, and make improvements to build strong relationships.”
According to Kevin, being done was more important than doing it perfectly. So, at some point, they had to launch something. Their idea was to collect and use the partner’s feedback to improve and ensure they were moving forward.
“You don't have to be blind and say, "Okay, we don't care. Let's move forward. We don't want to hear the feedback." So yeah, at some point, it was really like, "Okay, let's talk a little bit. Let's pause a little bit. Let's discuss what is working and what is not working and how we can improve what's not working."
What results did OneStock’s partner program yield after 9 months, and what are the next steps?
Kevin and OneStock managed to secure a few partner-sourced projects and recently launched the first project entirely handled by partners. In the early stages of the partner program, the team is refining processes, learning from each project launch, and identifying areas for improvement.
Notable victories include securing a significant project through a partner, signaling the potential of the partnership. Kevin recognizes this is just the beginning, and the team remains committed to ongoing efforts to generate substantial revenue through partnerships in the coming year.
In 2024, OneStock’s primary goal remains to scale relationships with partners, emphasizing the importance of process cadences and building strong, trusting partnerships, acknowledging that trust takes time to establish. Continuing initiatives from 2023, there is a focus on expanding relationships with ISVs, involving more co-marketing activities with invested solutions like Shopify, Adobe Commerce, and Commercetools.
The strategic approach at OneStock involves identifying key players and collaborating with the top two or three integrators for each solution in various territories. There is ongoing work to establish partnerships in France, with approximately four official partners, highlighting the need for further partner identification and onboarding efforts. The emphasis remains on closer collaboration with ISVs, developing process cadences, and fostering strong relationships and trust with partners.
When asked about his advice, what are the three tips he suggests that would guarantee a successful partner program, Kevin advised:
"The first point is having a deep understanding of what you do, your target, and your goals with partner programs. That's the critical point for me. The first step is mutual introspection. Make sure you know yourself perfectly before you go out. The second one is balancing immediate tasks with a focus on long-term goals. The third one is choosing both your challenges and partners wisely and strategically. At some point, it's also about learning to say no."