IBM: Partners Need New Concepts to Build Relationships

One IBM exec talks about the challenges of doing business in the new digital world.

Christine Horton, Contributing Editor

November 30, 2020

3 Min Read
IBM: Partners Need New Concepts to Build Relationships

IBM is helping its channel partners address the challenge of winning new customers in a digital world.

The vendor is calling for a new approach to building relationships with face-to-face meetings currently off the table.


IBM’s Ivo Koerner

“We need to come up with new concepts to build relationships,” said Ivo Koerner, general manager of systems, IBM EMEA. “It’s going to be a little more complex to build a trusted relationship if you haven’t met in-person yet.”

Koerner says partners need to bring value to the discussion.

“Then, if you have a valuable discussion, you will get the opportunity to have a second, third and fourth interaction. And with that interaction you start building different kinds of relationships,” he said.

Koerner says IBM is offering its partners training on building and maintaining relationships in a virtual world. He also believes it is important partners know that vendors haven’t haven’t abandoned them during this time.

“We really put a high focus inside IBM to keeping those contacts and touch points. You need to actively do that. It also shows interest in keeping that relationship alive. It’s a behavioural change and we are putting a lot of focus on it.”

Simplify Engagement

The exec emphasised IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy, as it continues to work with customers on modernising their workloads.

“There are still clients out there who are investing in application modernization. They want to get more flexibility when they want to run containerized workloads,” he said.

IBM is working with partners to help them build skills to support these customers’ application modernization plans. However, Koerner says this doesn’t mean the vendor is completely moving away from its traditional resellers.

“But if a partner expresses that they want to change their strategy, we work closely with them,” he said.

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This blurring of the lines between partner types has led IBM to less stringent categorisation of partners. Additionally, the firm made it easier for partners to qualify for programmes.

“A lot of those classical resale partners are adding services to build their own differentiation in the marketplace. We see some of them evolving from being pure resellers to being technology service providers. We are working to give them the technology insight and enablement with various marketing programmes to support them.”

Similarly, IBM is looking to simplify its engagement with partners.

“Potentially you can have two different IBMers talking to you, depending on if you’re an ISV or a reseller,” said Koerner. “We’re simplifying that in the future, so that you have one person to talk to, which makes your life easier.”

IBM has 5,700 authorised IBM partners in EMEA. While not revealing the percentage of revenue that goes through them, Koerner said it is “the majority of my business.”

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About the Author(s)

Christine Horton

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.

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