Many channel partners I work with on a daily basis are struggling to make the transition to the Digital Age. You know that your customers want to benefit from emerging technologies like Edge Intelligence and Software-Defined Networking (SD-WAN). But rather than leveraging these innovations to help customers and generate revenue, you’re stuck selling the same basic functionality – the boxes, circuits, switches and routers – that you’ve been pushing for the past ten years or so. This presents the obvious problem of falling behind more agile and progressive competitors. Moreover, the increasing commoditization of traditional telecom and IT offerings means steadily falling prices and shrinking margins for your business.
Here are three things that you as a channel partner can do – starting today – to escape the treacherous trap of “this is the way we’ve always done it.”:
1. Work with your master agents. As a partner, master agents represent a critical facilitator of your ability to manage your business and access technology providers with the requisite capabilities. Partners often make the mistake of trying to go it alone. As a result, they fail to take advantage of the resources master agents have to offer. Specifically, master agent expertise in negotiations, in project and account management and sales support and engineering is essential. If you’re going to succeed in the digital game, you need those resources so that you can focus on your core competencies and scale your business. Through the process of engaging with your master agents, you’ll also identify the right contacts for technology providers that offer the capabilities best aligned to your own particular sweet spots. Over time, you’ll then be able to determine which agent(s) to really focus on and cultivate to gain optimal value.
2. Engage with the right technology provider. By the same token, cultivating direct relationships with technology providers with a wide range of innovative tools in their portfolios is a must. Industry-focused solutions designed to address specific business problems can be particularly valuable in terms of gaining traction with particular market segments. And while the technology tools might be sophisticated, the business problems can be pretty simple. And while it's not rocket science, improved inventory management can boost profit margins and spell the difference between survival and failure during a difficult economic time – it’s a priority, in other words. Equally important, look for providers that have dedicated and mature channel partner teams to help you identify the right solutions and understand how those solutions align to the needs of a given customer.
3. Stop talking about technology functionality and start talking about business problems. To take point #2 a step further, your customers don’t want technology innovation and digital tools because they do neat stuff – they want them because they have problems that need to be solved. Your manufacturing customer, for example, doesn’t care that Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) decouples networking hardware from its control mechanism. Rather, he cares about integrating his multi-silo, legacy-based IT environment with his shop-floor operation in order to take automation capabilities to the next level. That said, solving a customer’s specific problem doesn’t mean the end of that relationship – quite the contrary. Focusing on the customer’s needs and pain points expands the conversation far beyond the features and benefits of the specific solution you’re trying to sell. By understanding your customer, you can connect the dots between one solution and the next.
Change is hard. We all know that. And while adapting to new demands and conditions has always been necessary, today it’s more essential than ever. Contact me to discuss how we can help.