The SI-ISV relationship has been broken for too long, so we decided to fix it.
The Formstack partner team has a rule that you might find surprising. There’s a certain word we don’t ever use in a first conversation with a consulting firm. Can you guess what it is? It’s partner.
The term is too forward for a first conversation, because when most people hear the word partner their first reaction is, “What do you want from me?”
We think about it completely differently. It’s about wanting to collaborate, work together, and help consulting firms deliver customer success.
When a consultant walks away from a conversation with the Formstack partner team, our goal is to switch their thinking from “What do you want from me?” to “They want to help me.” Here’s how we do it.
We Make Expertise Accessible
When we started the Formstack partner program three years ago, I found that many partner programs got it completely wrong. They create a “chicken and egg” scenario that works against collaboration.
Most partner programs gate their expertise. You need to be at a certain level of partner tier, based on a certain number of customers or revenue, to get access to timely and competent product expertise. But how are you supposed to get there without the help in the first place?
At Formstack, we’ve flipped the model. We don’t gate our expertise. A conversation with the Formstack partner team is different to the conversation you have with any other software company past, present or future.
Our engagement with a consulting firm starts with an enablement session (aka “Lunch n Learn”) with our partner team product experts who know the products and the use cases. We focus the content, conversation, and use cases on the industries the firm serves. No slides. No sales pitches. And typically a lot of Q&A to get at what is most relevant for the consultant.
At the end of the session, we ask how can we help with next steps, and use a Formstack form (of course) to capture your input in the moment. This enablement session usually leads to breakout sessions on specific topics. Some common ones include:
- Automating document generation
- Reducing repetitive data entry
- Improving client or customer onboarding
- Integrating tech stacks
Where our ungated expertise is most crucial is when consultants are working on their first customer implementation. That’s where help is most needed. Not a lot of it, but enough guidance around those tougher edge cases to a customer’s requirements and timely responses to questions as they come up.
We’ve built our partner engagement model around this. Why? Because we listened to the partners I interviewed as we built our partner program. Partners like:
- Tal Frankfurt and Kristin Kiester from Cloud for Good
- Anisa Agulto of OMNICOMMANDER
- Derek Vargas and Tom Hoffman from Crowe (then SparkOrange)
- Anne Seymour and Addy Emery of SeedSpark
- Chris Camp from InsightPowered
- Seamus Ruiz-Earle from Carabiner Group
All of the input they shared resonated with me because I’ve been at the intersection of building software company and consultant/agency relationships for the last two decades plus.
So why would we staff our partner team with product experts, and give away this expertise, when no one else is doing it? Because it reaps major success for all parties involved. By spending extra time on the front end, we help our partners become product experts who can then easily deliver repeatable use cases for customers.
Help You Scale Collaboration
Once a consulting firm has delivered their first Formstack project, they become Formstack certified. All individuals who contributed to the project receive a certificate, automatically created and sent out using Formstack Documents, of course.
We then ask the question, “How can we start to scale our collaboration together?”
We begin this by documenting the use case to help promote our work together. We want to showcase our partner’s expertise as our customers are frequently seeking expertise around specific digital transformation priorities, related systems (e.g. Salesforce and Formstack), or verticals like healthcare or higher education.
After the first successful customer implementation, we’ll work with partners to package these repeatable use cases as accelerators. We want our partners to be able to differentiate themselves with customers through pre-packaged use cases that further build on Formstack’s time-to-value and value proposition.
These packaged use cases send a powerful message: Formstack partners can help deliver on digital transformation, now. Together, we can solve a problem that we’ve already helped others solve, such as:
- Patient registration and onboarding
- Student applications
- Client onboarding and recurring customer data collection for investment firms
- Public sector or government applications and intake forms
- And many more
Who partners with Formstack? We have more than 300 partners who specialize in industries like healthcare, higher education, and financial services. Our partners span the globe and tech ecosystems, like Salesforce and Microsoft.
Provide Easy and Direct Communication
For many partners we then become embedded as their go-to digital forms, document generation, and digital signature product for customers. We also make sure consulting firms know there won’t be any walls between us that they probably have experienced with other software companies.
When there are projects where Formstack may be a fit, we’re here to help. We let our partners know that if they ever have questions, we’re just a Zoom call away from getting them answers. Our consulting partners are working with a team who knows them. They aren’t getting “BANT’d” by a salesperson reading from a qualification script but rather getting the immediate answers they need when they have a potential project.
We’ll also handle the heavy lifting when it comes to customer meetings, with your guidance. We pair partners with a partner growth manager as the single point of contact for all of our collaboration, as well as an AE for all new business opportunities. So consulting partners are working with the same person for all new customers (very different to how most software companies do it) or the assigned account manager for existing Formstack customers.
We’ve Created a Better Way to Work Together
When we start working with a new consulting firm, I find we have to cover the points above because they aren’t used to it. They are used to having to navigate complex pricing pages (if they are even published) and a sea of sales reps who waste a lot of time having the same conversation over and over, when consultants just want timely answers.
In many circles the consultant-software / SI-ISV relationship is broken. As a consultant, give me a virtual hand raise if any of these things have happened to you in the past 30 days:
- After signing up for a trial, you received an abundance of messages from a junior BDR who clearly doesn’t understand that you are a consultant
- You were disrespected by a sales rep because you aren’t “the buyer”
- You had to work through painful support tickets with people who know less about the products than you and only send over links to articles you’ve already reviewed
If you’ve experienced this with other software partners, we have a better way.
Let’s start collaborating. If you are a SI or consulting firm that likes the sound of this approach, please reach out. If you are a partnerships leader and want to compare notes, please reach out. If you are interested in being part of this unique partnerships movement at Formstack, please reach out. Send me a connect request on LinkedIn or email zak.pines[at]formstack.com and reference this article.
I’ve lived and breathed partnership work for more than 20 years. In 2010, I was one of the first five Marketo service partners. I was part of an early HubSpot partner that built a unique co-sell motion with HubSpot AEs into specific CRM ecosystems such as Microsoft, NetSuite, and ConnectWise.
And now I’m heading up the partner team at Formstack, where our laser focus the past three years plus has been to build the #1 partner program for SI firms. We have a phenomenal, growing team with a strong focus on the Salesforce ecosystem who is ready to collaborate.
Let's work together.
If you’re ready to start collaborating with the Formstack partner team, let us know!