Sarah van Sickle on dealing successfully with partnerships in B2B

The Prospecting Masterclass ep. 20

Hey there Croners! Our journey into the depths of Sales goes on, here with episode 20 of The Prospecting Masterclass, the original Crono column that gives you insights and tips right from the best minds in sales.

In this episode, we’ll go through important topics like the future of B2B sales, finding your own personal brand and career tips. We’ll also focus on partnerships in sales, thanks to the amazing experience of our guest: Sarah van Sickle, Head of Partnerships and Marketing at Topo.io.

Thank you, Sarah!

Enjoy reading the interview!

Ok Sarah, pick carefully 5 words to describe yourself!

Dynamic, Risk-Taker, Silly, Kind, Motivated.

Sarah's Background in B2B Sales

Sarah van Sickle started her career five years ago and directly from the right spot: partnerships. Her very first approach to B2B Sales was at UNESCO, where she helped to manage partnerships with different technology companies to support programs for the Division of Gender Equality. And that’s where she fell in love with tech. Fast-forward, she changed company and worked at the cloud telephony company Aircall. There she ran the relationship with Salesforce and Salesforce channel partners; experiencing the rapid growth of the company, going from 300 employees to 1.000. Amazing, uh?

At the moment, she’s the Head of Partnerships and Marketing at Topo, a buyer engagement platform that helps B2B sellers better collaborate with their buyers to sell more, better, and faster!

How do you see B2B outbound sales changing in the next 12 months? What challenges and trends do you anticipate?

“The biggest change coming to B2B outbound sales within the next year has to be the utilisation of AI tools to augment BDR productivity. These tools will continue to evolve and have a larger impact on the outbound process, increasing efficiency, lead scouting, and engagement

Outbound sales reps will be able to have a wider reach while being more precise thanks to AI. This also means that rather than spending their time on meaningless admin tasks, they can focus on actions that have a high impact and drive results. The appearance of AI is also why, on the opposite end, we will see an increase in social selling. Having more time on their hands, sales reps will be able to connect with their prospect on a more personal level.”

What advice would you give someone starting today in the B2B Sales industry?

Sarah’s best bits of advice for beginners are:

  • Do something different every week, take risks!
  • Follow the playbook but also create your own personal brand. That comes with taking risks, trying and discovering things that work for you. Whether it is meeting in person, social selling or cold calling, just keep trying.
How do companies bond with each other to achieve success and, based on your experience, what are the pain & euphoric points of partnerships?

We asked Sarah this and her answer is mind-blowing.

The most important aspect of forming a healthy partnership is to be reliable, trustworthy, and transparent.

If you create a partnership where your counterpart knows that they can trust you with handling their clients, the information they are passing you, etc. the more they will want to work with you and the more creative the two sides can become!

This requires those working in partnerships to be a constant steady presence that is easily accessible and drives results. 

Of course, along the path to advancing your partnership, you can run into many bumps along the road.

The two most difficult to watch out for are goals and timing. In a partnership, ideally, your objective would be aligned with your counterpart. For example, if you are looking to drive new sales, in an ideal world, your partner would be trying to do the same. In the case where your KPIs are not aligned, you need to find common actions that you can settle on that will help you achieve these goals.

You also need to consider being willing to, on occasion, do things that are not just useful to you, but are useful to your partner. This helps build trust

What about timing?

Regarding timing: the secret is… that the timing is never good! Take time to plan in advance with your partner, and consider the resources they have around them to create those deliverables. If your partner’s fiscal year does not align with yours, for example, consider that before following up with them about completing a certain task or suggesting a certain date. Keeping their context in mind will help you to be more effective in your role. 

Finally, the best part of partnerships is when you have the time to meet your partners and celebrate in person. Inviting someone for a coffee or lunch always goes a long way.

Now, final one: How have you managed changing such different industries and roles? Would you suggest this kind of experience?

“Throughout my career, I always followed my passions and interests. This led me to develop professional experiences that were quite diverse. I think this serves as a strength because it allows me to take on multiple perspectives when I go to my job, to be willing to challenge the status quo and try new things. 

What allowed me to make these different moves was that I identified my transferable skills and took them with me to my next job. Over time, I became better and better at telling my professional story. I found certain themes that came up and was able to express those to my employer, making me a more interesting and diverse candidate!”

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