The panel offered a balanced view of the challenges and opportunities channel partners will encounter in 2024.

Buffy Naylor, Senior Managing Editor

March 13, 2024

3 Min Read
Beyond the Hype

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — In the opening keynote for the Channel Partners Conference & Expo/MSP Summit on Monday, March 11, Kelly Danziger, GM and vice president of channel at Informa Tech, and Robert DeMarzo, vice president of content for Informa Tech channels, promised content that went beyond “sunshine and daisies” promises and inflated predictions regarding the future of the channel.

On Tuesday, March 12, Danziger and DeMarzo returned to the keynote stage and delivered on that promise. They hosted a panel of channel heavyweights for “Beyond the Hype: Talking Reality with Today’s Channel Leaders.”

The panel (pictured above, left to right: Danziger, Lumen’s Danny Benedetti, Cisco’s Brett Harrison, ThreatLocker’s Danny Jenkins, Zoom’s Gary Sorrentino and DeMarzo) identified growth opportunities for partners in 2024 and gave expert advice on how to make the most of them.

Lumen’s Benedetti kicked off the discussion by emphasizing partners’ intrinsic role in the sales process. “No one wants to buy products anymore and no wants to sell products anymore. We want to sell solutions.” Benedetti noted that channel partners bring service to the equation, as well as the needed expertise to identify customer needs and recommend the best solutions for those needs. “Partners are key, they are of paramount importance to the process.”

Zoom’s Sorrentino built on Benedetti’s observations, noting that “You need as much expertise around you as possible. You need to have multiple resources to reach out to.”

The panel agreed that solution selling requires input from multiple sources, that no one partner could or should expect to be able to provide the depth and breadth of expertise necessary to craft the best solution for a client.

And when it comes to that solution, ThreatLocker’s Jenkins and Zoom’s Sorrentino both noted that solution selling was predicated on value. “What does it mean to the customer?” Jenkins said. “You have to explain two values: how it works and what problem it solves.”

While AI and cybersecurity seem to be top-of-mind in the market these days, Cisco’s Harrison pointed out that more and more employees are returning to brick and mortar offices and that business aren’t ready for them. “More than 95% of all conference rooms are not video conference-enabled,” he said.

MSPs and technology advisors are all predicting that their businesses will grow in 2024, most in the 20% to 29% range, When asked if they thought that was too much optimism, every member of the panel shook his head. “That’s not enough optimism,” said Harrison.

But maneuvering away from any sunshine and daisies scenarios, the panel noted that channel partners would have to continually adapt to the ongoing changes in the channel to enjoy that growth.

“The buyer is changing,” said Sorrentino. “We need to reimagine how businesses work.” Channel partners must be ready to approach clients on the basis of where they are today and what they need.

“You will succeed if you have a product that solves a real need,” said Jenkins. “While you still hear a lot of talk about budgets, customers are still likely to buy solutions that solve real problems and not worry as much about price.”

“Customers want to use technology the way they want to,” said Harrison. “You need to prvovide them with outcome-based service.”

“And vendors want to know where they can offer a complement to your service,” said Benedetti.

When asked about where channel partners could find their biggest opportunity, the answer was unanimous: midmarket. These businesses need partners’ expertise. But partners must present that expertise in the form of value solutions, in terms that customers can understand.

“Don’t go through the technical spec sheet,” said Jenkins.

About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Senior Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is senior managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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