Juhi Saha’s Hyperscaler Partner Strategy

Juhi Saha’s Hyperscaler Partner Strategy

Rachel Gianfredi sat down with Juhi Saha and talked about becoming a CEO and nailing hyperscaler partner strategy. Juhi also shared why partnerships are the Trojan horse of sales and advice for Women In Partnerships.

Rachel Gianfredi sat down with Juhi Saha and talked about becoming a CEO and nailing hyperscaler partner strategy. Juhi also shared why partnerships are the Trojan horse of sales and advice for Women In Partnerships.

Rachel: Can you start by telling me about your new role and company?

Juhi: As the CEO of Partner1, an advisory company, I lead a team of Microsoft veterans who specialize in helping businesses successfully navigate, transact through the marketplace, co-market, and co-sell with Microsoft to accelerate revenue growth and profitability. Our extensive experience working with Microsoft stakeholders allows us to maximize the value of partnering with Microsoft for our clients.

In addition to our Microsoft expertise, we also assist B2B SaaS companies in developing partnership strategies and programs, unlocking new revenue streams and accelerating revenue growth. Our team excels at designing partnership strategies and launching high-value, high-ROI businesses and programs that scale. With our guidance, businesses can confidently establish and grow their partnerships, achieving their goals and driving long-term success.


Hyperscaler partner strategy
Juhi Saha, CEO of Partner1.io

Rachel: How long have you been in partnerships?

Juhi: I have spent most of my career working in partnerships, although it was not an intentional career path. I stumbled into it when I became one of the first engineers in the Apple-Qualcomm relationship. Given my natural inclination towards working with customers, I eventually transitioned into customer engineering, sales engineering, and then alliances and partnerships. I owe a lot to Qualcomm for giving me this opportunity to work with large companies such as Microsoft and Amazon.

Later on, I took an advisory role at Intel where I helped them accelerate their product launch process. Although I enjoyed this experience, I missed working with partners and customers. So, I joined Microsoft, where I was responsible for building Azure partnerships in a particular region. When we decided to pivot into the financial services industry, I was fortunate enough to build out the Financial Services recruit business in the US. Learning about a new industry was fantastic. In my opinion, the partnerships business is an evolution, and it evolves based on what works and what doesn’t.

We found that the FinTech model worked for us, and we decided to focus on partnerships with startups. Historically, Microsoft provided startups with credits, hoping for stickiness, but we had a thesis that providing actual support to sell with Microsoft would be even more beneficial. So, I built out a program that worked with select startups nominated by their VC firms. The primary goal was to remove the friction of doing business with Microsoft, enabling co-selling and co-marketing, and letting them harness the power of the Microsoft ecosystem.

The first cohort, comprising eight companies, generated more than $85 million in net new pipeline with Microsoft within months, for a sense of the power and value of the Microsoft ecosystem.

Rachel: To start with a whale like Microsoft gave you probably such an amazing foundation of experience and knowledge. How did you carry that through to the other partnership roles that you had?

Juhi: Working at Microsoft was an excellent opportunity to learn about building partnerships. I was there when we were starting to evolve the Azure partnership model, and it was a masterclass in how to set up a partner program and channel, how to build marketplaces, and leverage co-selling. I learned a lot about building a partner journey, identifying the pillars to focus on, and co-marketing and co-selling with partners.

One of the things I learned at Microsoft is that you have to give to get. They did an exceptional job of providing resources that could help a company level up its growth. I took these learnings to Clearbit when I built out their partner program, and in about a year, we were able to generate 20% of the company’s ARR through partners, up from very little when I joined, which was a significant achievement.

Rachel: When you started at Microsoft, what did the team look like then? Were there other, female identifying people on the team? And did you have to do anything extra as a woman to kind of earn your seat at the table and make sure it stayed there?

Juhi: Great question. When I was at Microsoft, the percentage of women or female-identifying folks on the team was about 30%. However, the women who were present were incredibly supportive of each other and acted as mentors to one another. This support system helped me ramp up quickly, which was fortunate since I was in a sales role where metrics were really clear – either you succeed or you don’t. Being a superstar helped me level up the trajectory of my growth with Microsoft.

When I moved to financial services, I was the only woman on a team of men, and there were definitely some challenges. I was also one of the few people of color on the team. I had an experience where my manager expressed surprise that I was able to build a program and ecosystem quickly without support, essentially saying that he didn’t expect me to be a “shark” or deliver results. This was dismaying to me because someone’s gender, appearance, or biases shouldn’t impact how people perceive their ability to perform. Unfortunately, this has been a theme in my career. I look young, don’t necessarily fit the stereotype of an executive based on my ethnicity and gender, and have had to shatter these barriers in order to show up and make an impact.

But I’ve also found that it’s important to find my own voice, establish boundaries, and help pull others up in navigating this world. That’s why I love communities like Tigerhall, CHIEF, Athena Alliance and Women in Partnerships – we have the ability to elevate each other and amplify our impact. Building more communities like this is essential to creating a more equitable workplace. So, while I’ve had my share of challenges, they have all contributed to my growth and ability to help others today.

Rachel: So as you’ve held so many of these partnership roles and worked across different, you know, disciplines and different partner models, do you have a favorite or least favorite thing?

Juhi: I have a deep passion for learning, and what excites me the most about partnerships is the opportunity to learn about other companies, their business models, their customers, and their pain points. It’s truly fascinating to dive into these areas and figure out how we can work together to create value for our joint customers. I find it extremely fulfilling to be creative in our approach and find unique solutions to complex problems. The ability to continuously learn and grow in partnerships is what keeps me engaged and motivated in my career.

Rachel: What about least favorite or most challenging? 

Juhi: I believe that partnerships are still a relatively new concept for some people, and as a result, they may not fully grasp the return on investment (ROI) of partnerships. One common challenge I’ve encountered, fortunately not at Microsoft, but in other roles, is obtaining the necessary resources to execute successful partnerships. To overcome this, I’ve found that it’s helpful to build a data-based model for the CFO to demonstrate the potential impact that extra resources could have on the partnership program. By using data and metrics, you can make a strong case for the value of partnerships and secure the necessary resources to execute them effectively.

Rachel: How do you tie what resources you’re asking for, to your potential outcomes and do you have a way of demonstrating the potential impact of your resource ask?

Juhi: I believe it’s crucial to negotiate the necessary resources upfront before joining a company to ensure you have the support you need to achieve early wins. These wins should be quantifiable, such as acquiring a certain number of net new customers or generating a specific amount of net new ARR or retention. It’s important to secure early wins as quickly as possible so that you can lay the foundation for more resources and wins.

In the past, I’ve seen how much impact we left on the table just because we lacked the resources to execute on certain opportunities. To demonstrate this impact, I like to create models (sometimes, even rudimentary models are sufficient) and present the quantifiable outcomes that partnerships can deliver, projecting this out over five years to show the significant impact that partnerships can have on a business.

As an engineer by training, I am very data-driven, and I believe in showing the numerical impact that partnerships can bring to a company. Leveraging a marketplace or a rich ecosystem, such as Microsoft’s, enables exponential scaling. By highlighting the impact that partnerships can drive through numbers, I believe I can help companies see the immense value that partnerships can bring to their business.

Rachel: In the interest of being really prescriptive: what are some examples of resource categories that a partnerships person might ask for?

Juhi: I strongly believe that partner marketing is a key aspect of any successful partnership, yet it is often under-resourced. However, it can be crucial in achieving quick wins with partners. By co-marketing and sharing case studies, you can showcase the impact of the partnership without necessarily building a tech integration.

Another critical but understaffed resource is partner enablement. It’s essential to ensure that partners are adequately set up for success when they position your company in front of their customers. This task is often left to marketing or partnerships managers who are stretched thin and can easily burn out. Investing in dedicated resources for partner enablement can significantly improve the success of a partnership.

Rachel: What kind of partner models have you encountered?

Juhi: I’ve had experience working with various types of partnerships, from tech partnerships and referral partnerships to agencies, system integrators, and channels. Hyperscalers are another key bucket that I’ve encountered. Each of these categories has unique needs and requirements for success. That’s why it’s crucial to have clear boundaries and well-defined programs in place, especially as you continue to grow and mature as a company.

Rachel: Yes – can we talk about hyperscalers and how companies should think about those partnerships. What do those partnerships look like and how are they different?

Juhi: Yes, absolutely. Based on my experience working with Microsoft and other hyperscalers, I know that it can be challenging to figure out your strategy when working with them. It’s essential to come up with a strategy before investing, or it becomes challenging to succeed. With hyperscalers, it’s hard to know where to start or which doors to knock on.

One requirement that I’ve noticed is that many hyperscalers want your solution to be at least partially deployed on their platform. This is because their customers have contracts with them, and they don’t want their services or partners to be used on a different cloud, which can be seen as a potential competition. So, understanding the requirements of the hyperscaler you want to work with in terms of where your solutions need to reside is crucial.

After understanding this, the next step is to learn how their co-marketing and co-selling programs work. These programs go by different names for different hyperscalers, but they are the two key paths to partnering with them. After that, it’s important to dive deeper into the resources required to activate those two channels. Each hyperscaler has programs to help you transact with their marketplace and attain a certain partner status that enables you to retire the customers’ commitment to them, making it more attractive for enterprise clients to do business with you.

Overall, understanding where you fit in the hyperscaler ecosystem, determining your goals, developing a strategy, and understanding the resources needed to activate it will help you succeed in partnering with hyperscalers.

Rachel: How do you think about the sales team at the hyper scaler type of partnerships, do you have recommendations for reaching those sales teams and capturing mindshare?

Juhi: I am so glad you asked that because, like with any partnership, at the start, access to  the sellers you’re trying to eventually reach and work with  is gated. These sellers and other relevant stakeholders all have their own incentives and priorities. If you don’t light up those incentives that get them paid,  and speak their language, they’re not going to pay attention. 

Aligning messaging with the incentives and priorities of the sellers you want to work with is crucial for success. It’s important to understand what is gating your access to these sellers and what their priorities are. Once you have a clear understanding of these, you can come up with messaging that resonates with them and their customers. This helps you stand out among other ISVs who are also trying to sell through hyperscalers.

Rachel: How do you think that being partner LED or ecosystem lead helps to support the goals of a lot of CROs and CMOs today around expansion and retention of revenue?

Juhi: Partnerships can be incredibly powerful for customer retention from multiple perspectives. For example, tech partnerships are fantastic because they create stickiness with customers. When you have two solutions integrated, it becomes much harder for a customer to displace both solutions, making it more likely they will stay with you. Additionally, when you have multiple partners plugged into a customer base, you increase the likelihood of retention. There is strength in numbers.

Partnerships also accelerate deal closure and expansion, as at least one partner tends to have  a trusted adviser relationship with the prospect or customer. This can lead to faster and larger deals. With a partner involved, there’s often an increase in urgency and a shared sense of responsibility to get the deal done. Ultimately, this leads to better customer satisfaction and a higher likelihood of customer retention.

I think partnerships are essentially the Trojan horse of sales. Once you have multiple partners in a deal, there’s greater likelihood of deal expansion,  deal acceleration and retention. Partner-led growth is getting to be more and more important in companies’ growth strategies. 

This is a critical moment where businesses have a real opportunity to gain market share. Unfortunately, some CEOs and executives tend to make the mistake of cutting their partner teams during economic downturns, when growth through partners is more important than ever. It’s a missed opportunity.

Companies that have a strong focus on partnerships will be well-positioned to gain market share as the economy improves. They will have already established deep relationships with customers through their partners, making it challenging for competitors to displace them. Thank you for shining a light on this crucial aspect of business strategy, which is often a missed opportunity for businesses to stand out and accelerate growth.

Rachel: Couldn’t agree more! I’ll ask you one final question so we can highlight another area of your experience. What advice do you have for women or young women getting started in partnerships– whether they come into it intentionally or fall into it, how can they accelerate their success?

Juhi: In my opinion, having a supportive and invested manager is crucial for professional growth and success. It’s important to align your goals with your manager’s and the company’s goals as this sets you up for success. 

It can be challenging to promote yourself and your team, but it’s essential to showcase your impact and the value you bring to the company. Advocating for yourself and showcasing your wins with partners can help you get the resources you need to grow your business.

And lastly, always be learning. 

Additional notes:

  • You are welcome to connect with Juhi and Rachel on LinkedIn  – mention Partnership Leaders in your connect invite.
  • Juhi is the host of our bi-weekly “Cloud Partnerships Office Hours“, a safe space to ask questions, get support, share your experience, and have great conversations. This event is exclusive to PL Members.
  • Juhi is one of the contributors to our “State of Co-Selling: Hyperscalers edition” survey and report. Take the survey today and get early access to the report and results.
  • Get advice from and connect with hundreds of powerful women in partnerships from different backgrounds. Join Partnership Leaders’ Women in Partnerships group. Hundreds of industry professionals turn to Partnership Leaders for support with their latest projects, answers to burning questions and more. 
  • Dig deeper into the career journeys of impactful ladies in the industry when you download Powerful Women in Partnerships. Get inspiration on more powerful women in the industry in our Women in Partnerships spotlights.

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