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AWS CSP Co-Sell Masterclass - by Michael Musselman

The following was written as the personal views/opinions of the author and does not reflect the opinions or beliefs of the company or its partners. The following partner perspective is a best practice/educational guide for considering starting or accelerating your co-sell partner journey with AWS and a primer for how you might approach co-sell in your particular company/industry/situation.

Also some of this information was covered/presented at ReInvent 2022: AWS re:Invent 2022 - AWS ISV Accelerate co-sell checklist: Your guide for selling with AWS (PEX208)

AWS has 2 major value drivers as relates to our cloud security lens. This can and likely would be different for your solution, industry, positioning, ideal customer profile, etc. So, it’s important to first understand your company's “super power”, differentiation, target customer & drag through of other AWS services when customers leverage your solution. Then, make sure that this maps to AWS value drivers, leadership principles, and or strong customer goals/outcomes.

  1. Migration to the cloud.

Despite AWS being a $82B run rate business and growing at 30-40%, the majority of the world's workloads are still on premises. An obvious goal is getting companies to move to a public cloud… ideally AWS. This applies to all companies and software providers and you will commonly hear organizations talk about “digital transformation” and their cloud migration project.

Note: Be sure to map your technology value/benefits, customer stories, metrics, proof points and success criteria to how you help these and where you've done it before. Hint for security: risk slows down these projects, security, lack of visibility, control or an uncovered threat surface like kubernetes or container is a huge risk and can slow or stop a migration or new project build. This is bad for AWS or the partner involved - we happen to help here, better than any other technology, just need to prove it.

  1. Modernization in the cloud.

The second big thing is there’s risk in a cloud migration if an organization just lifts and shifts Linux or windows workloads and applications to a cloud service provider like AWS. The risk, it’s undifferentiated and they could just as easily shift that same workload to another cloud that has cheaper compute, storage, etc. What the provider really wants during the migration or soon after is also aligned with the customers likely goals of devops and faster innovation is to modernize the architecture and software development lifecycle (sdlc). This is commonly discussed as microservices architecture and building people, process and technology around DevOps or CI/CD (continuous improvement continuous development) pipelines. AWS and other CSP (Cloud service providers) both provide infrastructure services but they also provide managed services to assist in the development and modernization of applications and building blocks. A great example we see a lot is containerizing an application and even leveraging a container orchestration technology called kubernetes. You could build and manage these services yourself or you could just leverage AWS ECS, ECS Fargate or EKS. Now why this is important, we’ll once you’ve refactored your applications and built to these services you’ve likely saved some money, eliminated headaches in the management plane and most importantly created a development environment that is resilient, scalable and allows for faster revenue or innovation. Why is this important to the CSP like AWS? Well, once this work is done it’s pretty sticky and in some cases pretty locked into that service in that cloud. Moving, rebuilding even if saving a few dollars is unlikely to be valuable work or lead to better customer outcomes or innovation. So now you’re fairly locked/tied in and will continue to scale and grow your applications and services footprint with that csp a win win for both parties involved.

16 leadership principles but #1 is the most important, and substantive to our partnership “Customer Obsession”…. This is important later on.

The 4 lens that AWS (a very metrics/data-driven company) looks at every partner and helps explains what you’re doing with them and objectives, the “4 C’s”

  1. Consumption- how much you spend on AWS, how much we spend at AWS events, and our commitment size and duration (EDP/PPA 1-5 years). Since we’re built on AWS our customer acquisition and growth is also encouraged as our consumption goes up and our spend. So it’s likely that with more spend, more partnership growth benefits are available. Also pointing out, AWS is also aware and helps its customers optimize spend, growth and spending uncontrollably are also bad, so they’re invested in helping us optimize our education use of their services (counterintuitive, but they’ve learned that without this they could lose you to another cloud service provider or just move your workloads back on premise/co-located data centers.

  2. Co-sell- this is the basics of deal registration in ACE pipeline manager, cosell calls/alignment, winning aka launches, and revenue both from our cosell ACE Pipeline revenue activities and more importantly marketplace revenue activities.

  3. Co-build- this is the efforts and engineering alignment you’ll have to aws services and certifications like competencies & ready designations. This is both your platform adding value and integrations to core services like Cloudtrail, ECS, EKS and eventbridge but also complimentary security services like security hub or deployment services like cloud formation, control tower, service catalog. This is REALLY important to the partnership. This also gets you closer to the service owners and their GTM teams, these are also the folks that invite you to speak at AWS events and early access and programs to launch opportunities. AWS typically opens APIs for all partners and customers to use and is rarely exclusive but getting preview access and working with a service owner you’ll typically get to shape the features and have launch visibility and PR/media opportunities that other partners do not. Ideally, you want to be in a position and have roadmap space to always say yes to these opportunities.

  4. Co-marketing- this is part of the partnership you get lift and leverage from aws for quotes in press releases, speakers for webinars, authors and reviewers for joint content and blogs, AWS also gets an echochamber for their brand, services, and company because we’re talking you’re them. They also typically support your partnership with MDF (marketing development funds) a 50/50 spend/benefit but does help your marketing budgets go further for content and top of the funnel prospect generating activities.

The goal? Simple, AWS has 10000+ sellers and 1 million customers plus leverage, an ecosystem of channel/SI partners and multi-billion dollar generating marketplace that has some special benefits for its customers and sellers. Our company has a couple hundred sellers and 1000 customers… AWS or your primary CSP should always be your “best friend” and treat them as such for a very long term relationship. Even if you got 1/10 of 1% of awareness, help, or influence that has a MASSIVE impact on revenue and business.

Our “ah ha” moment in co-selling and how to answer the question when they ask “how can I help you?”

  1. AWS is a unique company and provides top of the class cloud infrastructure services. They’re also customer obsessed and go to market partnering with their customer to understand their business and digital transformation journey and really helping that customer grow and hit their objectives. Customers really do sometimes only exist because of AWS services and really do see AWS and their sales rep and SA as business partners or trusted advisors! AWS also makes security services that do similar things and in many ways compete with Lacework. Because of this relationship an ah ha moment was our Lacework prospect and AWS customer in many cases feels like they’re cheating on their best friend AWS when they’re talking to Lacework behind their back. So what do we do? What do we want?

  2. “So how can we help you Lacework?” This question comes up a lot and they mean it…. But if you ask for something natural you may get it, unnatural it’s unlikely to happen. What seems to work is a simple game of psychology that helps us overcome #1 and get influence in our deal. 4 objectives: We want to explain to the AWS account team #1 so it’s clear, we want AWS to tell their customer we’ve talked, “lacework is a great AWS partner, helping hundreds of other customers, and if the account wants the AWS team to get involved they’re happy to”. The next 2 things are on Lacework. One, you want to pull the AWS account team (seller AE and SA) along the rest of the sales campaign and second you want to get access to the SA from the AE for your SE to do some 1:1 time or fly along in the campaign. If you get support/info/sponsorship from an AWS SA in your opportunity you will sell A LOT more deals. This is true co-selling, by inviting, updating, investing time and candidly dragging AWS AE and SA along to our invites and meetings for workshops and trials you’re now selling on the same side of the table with AWS (remember, prospect knows and trusts them, they do not know or trust us yet so this adds immediate credibility). The second, like any partner, AWS sees how great we are and how happy we solve their customers' security challenges. This makes them happy and happy friends help validate us, invite us into other accounts, tell their peers about lacework and now we’re off to the races!

Why does this work for AWS? Leadership principle #1 ‘customer obsession’. AWS is so customer centric that they generally do not see us as competitors. If lacework can help their customer more than their own services get to the real goal, migration, modernization and more infrastructure consumption they will help us sell and support our cause. How do you take care of them…. Sell via AWS marketplace. There’s many reasons in addition to, but at the core, 50% of your deals TCV directly retires that sellers native AWS quota. Yes, you selling your solution to an AWS customer retires their AWS quota. The great news, even if the customer or partner are adverse to buy via marketplace some partner tiers still attach SPIFFs and benefits to the AWS seller as long as the deal is registered and launched (closed won) in ACE Pipeline Manager.

AWS segmentation background info/tips:

Global & strategic

  1. Enterprise

  2. Digital Native Business (DNB)

  3. Independent software business (ISV)

  4. Small/medium business (SMB)

  5. Startup

Think of a pyramid top to bottom. Companies in the top might have multiple AWS account managers, solution architects and technical account managers assigned to just one account. It’s also common for enterprise accounts to have one AWS seller per account. DNB usually has about 1 seller to 8 accounts ratio. ISV has 2 segments one for software companies and another for strategic companies like Lacework that are both built on AWS and strategic/value generating partner to AWS. The ratios here are typically 1 seller to 4-10 accounts and they act just as much as a partner/account manager as a sales team. SMB varies, but most sellers have about 40 accounts and in Startup they usually have 100 accounts per seller.

Know your superpower (differentiation), ideal customer profile, and proof points and pick a target segment to focus. Trying to tell/sell your message to everyone in all segments is a recipe for disaster. Finally, be patient, like growing a fruit tree from a seed, it takes potentially many years of care and feeding before you ever get editable fruit.

Written by Michael Musselman

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