Nathan Nyvall is the Director, Worldwide Partner Enablement at Workday.  In this conversation with The Collaborator, Nathan shared a number of Partner Enablement tips.

What are some of the major challenges?

1️⃣ Ensuring the internal teams remain aware of partners and include the partner enablement teams.

2️⃣ Delivering communications to the channel across multiple modalities (webinars, emails, etc…).

This guy is funny, and informative. If you are looking to create your program for partner enablement in B2B from scratch, or just improve upon what you already have, this is a must listen.

Audio Transcript

The Collaborator
up about Boston and Burlington and Minneapolis and, and the crazy weather the going on. And I forgot to ask that basic question about how you pronounce your last name Nathan’s? I’m glad I got it.

Nathan Nyvall
You nailed it.

Unknown Speaker
I’m glad. I’m glad.

Unknown Speaker
Well, okay.

The Collaborator
Usually I don’t tell everybody a little bit about yourself, you know who you are, where you work and those sorts of things.

Nathan Nyvall
Yeah. I appreciate that, john, and thanks for you know, and thanks for having me on the show. By the way, it’s a it’s an honor to be here and speaking with you, I really appreciate the invite. So my current role is I am responsible for partner enablement for the workday channel. Which means basically, in this role, I’m responsible for supporting our give or take 225 workday channel partners. And what that means, you know, that like, when I have to explain to my mom what I do for a living kind of answer, I make sure those partners have the assets. So really the tools they need to be successful in everything they need to do and, and, and the training across all of the swim lanes of their engagement with, you know, whether it be a prospect through to a customer. So that includes things like marketing, pre sales, sales, product and implementation, training, customer support, and then customer success as it comes time for the renewal. And so I’ve really worked with partners for really in some capacity for most of my career, and in fact, was a partner for a while as well. And so prior to coming to work day, I was working for actually a company, we could have talked about being heavily in the Boston area as well, IBM, leading their business analytics, I should say the partner training and enablement for their business analytics organization, as well as doing a bunch of customer facing training as well. And I think the final part of your question was, tell me a little bit about, you know, workday in so for anybody not familiar with workday, workday is a software company that provides human capital management, financial management, and then planning and analytics in the cloud.

The Collaborator
Nice. I wish I’d realized you’d worked at IBM, I worked at IBM for a couple of years back in the 90s, when they bought Lotus development, which was the first company I worked out. So yeah,

Unknown Speaker
yep.

The Collaborator
that’s long enough. And then I moved on.

Nathan Nyvall
I also have moved on but enjoyed my time tremendously.

The Collaborator
Yeah, I did, too. I didn’t do what does your enablement team look like in terms of number of people? Is it just you? Or is a you and a handful of people? How’s that? How’s

Unknown Speaker
that set up?

Nathan Nyvall
Yeah, this is where I get to talk about my my sprawling Empire. So yeah, I actually, and I’m just going to back up that question a little bit. So I came into workday about two and a half years ago, as part of an acquisition of a planning company called adaptive insights. And, and so at adaptive insights, I reported directly into our VP of worldwide partners. And in workday, they actually typically the enablement organizations report and operations. So I now report into the an operations function, but do still directly support the channel. And as you kind of talked about, initially, my team is very lean. It is pretty much me an army of one, but I do have, you know, quite a bit of support. And, you know, maybe we’ll talk about it a little bit later, I actually do work with somebody else who supports me a little bit with things like making sure all those assets I talked about in the beginning get refreshed and uploaded some operational support with my job so that I can do all the, you know, really cool, exciting stuff. And so I do support with that. In terms of, you know, what, what we have going on my, I don’t remember if I mentioned it before, but we have about 225 partners. And you know, that’s unique consulting firms. They’re really of all sizes and shapes. So all the way from kind of the small boutique firms through to the solution integrator kinds of firms, including IBM, which we were just talking about, yeah. And, you know, and then I also support Oh, and by the way, there’s about 2000, I rough math, but about 2500 people, individuals kind of in those 225 firms that I’m supporting, so I kind of do it both ways. And then I also end up supporting a lot of our internal channel organization, both with kinds of questions as it relates to enabling our partners as well as you know, when they need to know something. I I’m a go to guy for either, you know, kind of have an answer that sounds good or or giving them the actual information

The Collaborator
as long as the answer sounds good, it doesn’t have to be accurate that no,

Nathan Nyvall
what if you say it convincingly enough, then people will believe it. Exactly. Yeah. Thank you.

The Collaborator
What’s the biggest challenge? You’ve been supporting partners, you’ve been a partner, you said, What’s the biggest challenge, in your opinion, for partners, or for you trying to support partners in terms of getting your information in front of them? It’s one thing when you have a team of internal sellers, maybe you could tell them sit down and read this. But what’s the biggest challenge for the external side?

Nathan Nyvall
Yeah, in terms of giving information to them? You know, that’s, that’s a great question. I mean, because we do kind of bump into, I don’t know, if it’s one greatest challenge, so much as it is a series of opportunities to improve kind of as we go, and, you know, and and honestly, I would probably start at making sure, well, so communication is always key, right. And so, you know, we do a lot of things like communicate, communication, newsletters, webinars, and things like that. But you know, every time we do one of those, I’m, you know, we do the newsletter, I, you know, I guarantee you, we don’t have 100% read on that, whenever we do a webinar, you know, I think we get, we get good participation, but maybe it’s 100 people or 200 people out of it, you know, the aforementioned group of maybe 2500 people that I think I’m supporting. So, communication is definitely a part of that. Um, and that’s kind of on the external side, I think, from the internal side, we are kind of still, and I’ve experienced this in my different channel roles throughout the years as well, it’s always making sure that the internal teams are also thinking partner, whenever they do things. And and so, you know, everybody means well, so there’s no malice here by any stretch. But you know, it’s again, people create things, they get it, they get it, often, you know, into whatever internal house it lives in. And they don’t always think about the partner. So I do have to spend a lot of time making sure that we are harvesting and capturing all the great internal topics and assets that,

Unknown Speaker
hey, I’m over here to you know, yeah,

Nathan Nyvall
yeah. And, you know, and I, and I do try to get ourselves kind of built into their workflows and stuff, and, you know, to varying degrees of success in different groups. But, you know, I do spend a lot of time saying, like, you just said, there, john, hey, putting my hand up. Hey, guys, don’t forget about me. And so that, you know, that is, you know, an ongoing opportunity. So I’d say those are two of the things that, again, not insurmountable problems, certainly not the end of the world, but things that are at you know, absolutely a part I’d say, at least of my, my channel life. Well, and you’ve been doing it a long time, like you said, so, you know, to go back and try to get yourself inserted into this process or that process?

The Collaborator
I mean, it certainly sounds like Nathan, those are the kinds of things you’re doing. If you were somebody brand new into trying to support partners, what would you advise them to do in terms of getting getting into the mix there?

Nathan Nyvall
Yeah, you know, what? That’s a great question. And, and so if I was somebody brand new, and you know, some days, I wake up feeling that way before my cup of coffee. But it’s really, you know, being in being in the partner organization, it really points out that you’re really in kind of a team sport. And so what I would, what I would highly recommend is, you know, going through kind of your list of who are the your keys, first of all, your key stakeholders, kind of understanding who can supply you information. And then if I was, you know, whether it be even new to a company, you know, you know, making sure that you’re introducing yourself to those key people. You know, if I just, you know, even even having done this for a while, I recently learned of kind of a, of a key recurring meeting that a group that actually was our channel, our customer success managers do this this key call every couple of weeks, I actually just learned about that and asked if I could just, you know, kind of audit that call because they have all kinds of good information that they’re talking about, that they’re going to be talking to customers about. Sure. And, you know, it’s great to hear what they’re saying so that I can share the same information with partners, and so that partners can share that same information with their customers as well. So that was kind of a long winded winded answer to you know, what I was hoping would be a concise answer of, you know, make sure you introduce yourself to kind of the key people that both produced the information and that can help you, but then also your key stakeholders so that you can be, you know, letting them know the things you’re working on as well too, because it’s a lot of communication.

The Collaborator
I think that I think that is so key though, Nathan, it really is. Do you get Do you partner with that internal facing enablement team in your role, too? You said you get a little bit of help here. And there were some of the contents that a different enablement team or what is

Nathan Nyvall
he all of the above? And in the snow? Yes. Yeah. Yeah, no, but there, there are actually several different so. So I came into workday, you know, just just about two and a half years ago, but it was through an acquisition of a planning company, like I mentioned, adaptive insights. And so, we originally and sorry, this is a kind of a long winded answer, just to give the kind of the context, you know, but we came in as a standalone organization. And there I work, you know, very closely with our adaptive inside sales enablement. person, again, not a huge team, but you know, together, you know, we had a very kind of a very tight inner lock, as I’ve, you know, work been moving into the workday world, you know, we’ve really been getting more and more integrated over time, and our organization has recently gone through, and is going through some changes, which I think will really probably heighten the level of cohesion that I have with the internal sales enablement team. And so I am really honestly looking forward to that in a lot of ways. But, you know, like I talked about before, too, I also do, am responsible for deploying what we would call deployment training, which is really product and implementation. I’m responsible for Customer Success training, I’m responsible for customer support training, I’m responsible for sales and pre sales training. So I really have to tie in with the groups that produced each of those swimlanes of content,

The Collaborator
pointing in my hairline to make clear that I’m not making fun of you, did you have a full head of hair before you started this job? Just the vast amount of things, you have to do different things? You know, very detailed technical training, probably, in some cases, very business type training. In another case, how do you? How do you prepare yourself to be to cover things from so many different levels like that? I know there’s a lot of help you pulling in the training? Yeah. Not to talk intelligently? or appreciate? or pretend to Nathan? I mean, yeah, I’m

Nathan Nyvall
afraid of this a lot of pretending. Yeah, I know. I, you know, the good news for me is this, I did come from a somewhat technical as well, as a business background. I, I’ve been in the training world for a long time as well. So, you know, I kind of got a feel for what we need to pull out. And what’s important. And it was actually kind of an interesting journey. Because when I first arrived at adaptive insights, two and a half years ago, there was actually nothing there. And from an enablement standpoint, and so I was I was really, really hired and brought over to to build the program, the enablement program. And so, you know, john, that’s exactly what I did was kind of look at those kind of those key swimlanes of partner engagement through the lifecycle, right, all the way from marketing through to, you know, the renewal, kind of determine in each of those swimlanes, what kind of enablement was necessary and enablement, meaning both the assets and the training for our partners in each of those buckets. And then I just kind of, you know, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work, building that. But then, to your point, you know, I’m not incredibly deep technically, and I’m not as you know, a CPA, either. So, you know, I do lean on some on some really smart people. And that’s the great news, right is, you know, what I like to do when I structure my enablement is I also bring in a lot of just, you know, people who are really kind of the best person to talk about a topic, and make sure that I’m leveraging what they have to say, and and making sure our partners get a chance to, you know, hear from them. And also ask them questions, and something that’s

The Collaborator
so important for every enabler. And even even if you’re in a team of at enablement, pros, which is rare, but I’ve seen it in places you need to be in to lean on the rest of the organization. It’s a very collaborative role. It is, regardless, if you’re going to succeed, it has to be a collaborative role. Yeah, absolutely true. How do you how do you measure the success of partner enablement? I mean, when I think of, you know, old fashioned sales enablement, I’m thinking when rates increased ACV deal velocity blah, blah, blah. Yeah. Got it from a partner side, though.

Nathan Nyvall
Yeah. And I, and yeah, no, and I love those old fashioned measurements still to this very day, mind you, but Oh, yeah. And we’ll talk about it, you know, and I would say they’re still important, but really, you know, to back up, right kind of back to, you know, the start of that journey two and a half years ago. Kind of how, how I measured success really kind of started with you know, Like I said, I built the programs, and then we put in place both the training and the certification. So, you know, again, if there’s anybody who’s kind of new to the enablement world, or just starting a partner program kind of step one is to get people to start taking your content, right to actually start taking your training. So, you know, again, I kind of view my enablement strategy as a pyramid. And the base of that pyramid is the fundamental training that we just kind of talked about. So maybe you start with product implementation training, right? So we need to make sure that the people who are going to be delivering for our mutual customers, are you no good in the product? Good, you know, the deployment, and and that they’re going to make for a successful implementation. And so really, the journey started for me just kind of measuring certifications, and basically saying that, you know, each partner firm needed a certain number. And what’s kind of interesting, and I guess this would almost be a lesson learned as well, you know, because and I think a lot of people in enablement, certainly in channel enablement struggle with this is how do you enforce, you know, a partner to get certified, and partners can do whatever they want? Right. So how do you enforce that? Well, john, great question. I’m glad that you would have asked it

The Collaborator
if I’d let you. I was getting there eventually. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. You know,

Nathan Nyvall
but but that’s, but essentially, program design is kind of a key element to that. And so I was fortunate and that the guy who brought me into adaptive insights was my boss at IBM. And the program is a very aspirational program. In that. It basically, the more certifications the partners have, the more they get paid in their commission rate. And so the commission gets paid kind of based on knowledge as well as financial attainment. So there’s an incentive to them to be kind of at the top tier. And so that was really kind of the baseline. And then from there, you know, workday, as you know, workday is huge on customer success. And, and that makes a lot of sense, right? Because every SAS based company should be huge on customer success

The Collaborator
by 80% of our revenue is from recurring business, yes, recurring revenue, right.

Nathan Nyvall
I mean, you’re losing money the first year, probably in a SAS, SAS business. So you need the customer to renew, the way you get there is, you know, obviously, by doing quality implementations in the first place, but then, you know, also making sure that you’re getting that renewal. So things like, you know, those quality metrics, like Net Promoter scores, the met the kind of the metrics that are there for the implementations, you know, go lives win rates, I mean, you kind of you kind of talked about, some of them already need to be there. And then the other things that I would say that I’ve, you know, love to see there from a metric standpoint are and, you know, I actually have a bit of a sales background as well, too. So, you know, I do love to see win rates. And I do like to see also just growth in sales at the partner level, like this, you know, you know, it’s easy to bring on a new partner, I shouldn’t say bring on, but it’s easy to sign up a new partner, what’s hard is, right, I mean, they’re you signed the paper, you’re apart,

The Collaborator
I signed up for partnerships for 47,000 products over the course of my lifetime, I sold almost none of them.

Nathan Nyvall
Right. And, and so you got it, it’s so it’s easy to sign up for a partnership, but really, what’s hard is getting to that first sale, and and and so you know, from that first sale, and then watching them grow, that’s kind of how you know you’re being effective from that from that perspective. But then the other thing I do is, you know, and I do like metrics, I come from a metrics background, but I don’t put all of my eggs in in one, you know, in the metrics basket, the other thing that I like to do, and it also gives me a good excuse to talk to partners, as well as our account executives is, you know, when we win deals, and for that matter, when we lose deals, talk to them about what, you know, what, for example, did you do really well, what didn’t go well, and I tried to take lessons learn from you know, each of those conversations, and just just an example of that being is, you know, recently I did kind of a talk around how to sell value as part of sales training. And, you know, a bunch of partners attended that. And by the way, a lot of don’t take for granted that your partners come to the partnership, knowing how to sell. You know, it’s interesting, especially a lot of a lot of firms come from very technical, very technical people, and maybe I’ve never been in, you know, true sales roles. So, so don’t assume that they’re going to know it and that you’re boring them with sales talks, you know, so we did values And I got so much praise for that, in terms of people being like, wow, this is like lightbulb moments for us. So, so so that’s great. But then ask them about work, work, you know, ask them what didn’t. And then, you know, for example, I recently rolled made available to partners, something called a value tool, you know, which is helping them sell value in the sales cycle, how you know, and helping them cope with ROI calculations and things like that, and so interested in knowing that they were using it, was it adding value was the value to learning value? That’s an oxymoron. And, you know, and good to get that feedback? And the answer that question, yes, largely, it was, and largely, it’s been used with some tweaks, but you know, that’s the kind of thing you need to understand. Because if it’s not working, you know, we’ll cut bait on it and go somewhere else, if it is working, or kind of working. I’d like to learn about that. So I can keep talking about it with you know, other partners and talk about our success working, you

The Collaborator
want to talk about them what’s not working, you don’t want to continue doing so.

Nathan Nyvall
So really all then I pretend like it never happened.

The Collaborator
I don’t remember that was that that must have been before I started here. That was I roll that out? Yeah, it wasn’t me. What do you do with those wind Loss Reviews that you were kind of touching upon the you know, why we won? Why we lost? How do you feed that information back to the rest of the organization? Because a lot of people talk about doing it. But then a lot of times, people sort of, uh, well write it down. So how do you actually put it back into play?

Nathan Nyvall
Yeah, so a couple of ways. And, and honestly, I need to do more of it. But But there are a couple of ways we do we do a lot of case studies. And so you know, we take, you know, we take when we write up case studies, and for that matter, we take losses, we you know, we we basically try to capture all that information. And then I do, you know, a couple of webinars a month, some of them are very competitive, and, you know, competitive webinars talk about, you know, basically, I’d like to highlight, of course, what we did, right, and why, you know, why certain deals were one, you know, what were the key takeaways and, and so that’s, that’s really, those are kind of the two primary ways I use it is with the case studies, and then kind of in kind of the competitive sessions that we run, you know, what did we do? Well, what did we learn from this? What were our takeaways? What sort of, you know, what sort of Fudd? Or did our, you know, fear, uncertainty, and doubt did are the people we were competing against put out there against us? You know, and, frankly, then what do you do about that, and, you know, that that’s really the primary way that I use it. It’s, it’s kind of interesting. I mean, internally, we have really in depth discussions about about these, you know, kind of win loss statements, and so on our sales, internal sales calls, we have deep conversations about them, it’s a little more challenging in the partner world, because, you know, partners are usually willing to share with one another. But remember, there is a spirit of coopetition going on,

The Collaborator
they still fishing in the same pond there,

Nathan Nyvall
you got it, they’re fishing in the same pond. So you know, they may not be willing to give everything but I think at high level themes are certainly willing to share. And by the way, on that topic, I like to engage partners and actually doing some of my job for me as well. There’s nobody more credible than another partner for a webinar so that you know, whenever you can get them to talk about these topics. And, you know, and instead of me, that that’s also a win for everybody.

The Collaborator
I love that. So And just to be clear, you’re getting in those cases, the partner, leading a webinar with other partners about what’s working when they sell workday products and what’s not working.

Nathan Nyvall
Yeah. And I often do it as a panel, maybe I’ve or questions. But you know, these guys, I mean, you know, they, you know, AI is, you know, right? living in the ivory tower of enablement. I talked to a lot of people and I’ve, you know, I’ve done the job in the past, but these guys are out there. You know, every day, they’re in the territory. They’re doing the implementation, whatever the topics are, they’re doing it every day. They’re doing it now. So there’s nobody that has better information than them and they really have great insights.

The Collaborator
What a quote mike tyson because because there was no greater philosopher than Mike Tyson. What is it? Everybody has a strategy until you get punched in the mouth or something like that right now. So from enablement, it makes perfect sense. And then you get into the field and sometimes it doesn’t hold up and that’s, that’s okay. Mike Tyson is a great philosopher on the order of Plato and Socrates. I just want to make sure people are clear about that.

Nathan Nyvall
I thought you were gonna go with Homer Simpson. But

The Collaborator
next time, Nathan, next time, I’ll find a nice Homer Simpson quote to use next time.

Nathan Nyvall
Yeah, that’s perfectly. You know,

The Collaborator
we’ve got 27 minutes and I’m so grateful for the time you’ve given us What What happened? We touched upon Nathan, they like, geez, I just want to share this parting thought or thoughts before we come to the end?

Nathan Nyvall
Yeah, I guess a couple of things, john, that I would put out there. And like you said, we’ve definitely covered a lot of ground. So, I mean, I think we’ve covered a lot of good topics here. But I mean, a couple of things that I that I would add, just kind of, you know, in recap would be that, I do like to put together a strategy and a plan, and, you know, enablement cannot work in a vacuum. So, so kind of just string that stream of consciousness together, right, I kind of touched on a little bit already, I think it’s important that you, first of all, design a partner program. And again, this is with your, you know, typically our bosses in enablement, but you have a program that really drives the importance of enablement, and, and puts a premium on partners getting enabled. And then from there, you put together you know, a strategy and a plan. And, you know, maybe the plan goes by the wayside, but at a high level, it’s important to have a structure of it’s there. In, you know, in my case, I talked to, you know, what I do at work with the workday channel is I talked about those key swim lanes, from marketing through to the renewal that are important. So, you know, I really make sure that those boxes are getting filled in with high quality assets and training, they get refreshed and updated on an ongoing basis. And that really serves as the foundation I mean, if you do that alone, you’re going to be in really good shape because you’re going to have a comprehensive plan and you know, and program that’s working for your partners, but from there, you know, the way I view it is okay, that’s kind of the baseline for us now, and that gives me now as my, you know, an army of 1.52 that gives me the ability to kind of free up a little bit too. Okay, I know the basics are getting covered primarily in self paced training now, right, so so we’re chugging through that, that you know, they’re getting the basics that gives me the ability now to kind of branch out and do some fun stuff and really focus on strategic training or specific initiatives where I think we’re really going to add some you know, some some high value or some some big punch and and so that’s I guess would be the advice I would give is you know, build this you know, put your strategy together make sure you have a supportive program do as much as you can self paced so that you can free yourself up to do you know, jump on some special initiatives and strategic programs that are going to you know, add huge value in a timely manner. Ah,

The Collaborator
Nathan, that was much better than my mike tyson quote, much much much better ending I’m glad you brought us up there because I felt like he saved the show right there. Well, I

Nathan Nyvall
you know, what, john, you’re you’re you’re certainly not in need of any saving us. You know, I You are the master that we all bow down to but I appreciate your kind words and

The Collaborator
we’ll always take them they then you are a funny man and and and a very smart and insightful man. So I appreciate you coming on and sharing with everybody talking to me and sharing with everybody and and truly grateful. Try to stay warm there in the in the Twin Cities area. And hopefully it’s above zero

Unknown Speaker
for a little while, a winter.

The Collaborator
Try to hang in there.

Nathan Nyvall
It’s coming now. Thank you very much, john. You know, thank you again, for having me on your show today. It was absolutely great to talk about enablement with you. And you know, talking partner enablement is my favorite topic in the world. So, if you ever want to dig deep on it again, just let me know.

The Collaborator
I’ll come back to you. All right, sir. Thank you so much. Have a great

Nathan Nyvall
Thanksgiving.

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