September 25, 2019
By Howard M. Cohen
When asked what advice he would give to channel partner management, Avant Communications co-founder and president Drew Lydecker chose to approach the answer from two different – though related – perspectives.
Train like a pro. Lydecker was still wearing his workout clothes when he sat down to discuss the channel, apologizing for being late even though he wasn’t and commenting that it was good we were speaking online as he was sweaty from his boxing class.
Avant’s Drew Lydecker
Perhaps it was this context that prompted his first response to the question of what advice he would share with channel managers. He focused on the person first – not their company – and answered in the context of his just-ended workout.
“If you don’t train like a pro, you’re not a pro. And when you’re in the channel, and you’re making your living off of the channel, you have to train like a pro, period.”
Lydecker then expanded the concept to include mind as well as body.
“Every morning, I have our proprietary news feed, I read Flipboard, I read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, because this game right now is about knowing a little bit about a lot. You have to stay current to what is happening in the market. It’s all about the fundamentals. It’s getting the energy up. It’s practicing pitch, objections, rebuttals. It’s knowing your business cold, being the historian of your company.
“You need to picture that every single time you get an opportunity, there are going to be seven people in the waiting room to come and take your business. You’ve got to practice your pitch. How many executives have asked you what you do for a living? What does your company do? And it’s like a three-ring, five-minutes, seven-minute circus of what? You’ve got to nail it, and you’ve got to have passion behind it.”
One thing that can’t be said of Drew Lydecker is that he lacks enthusiasm…
Be the ball of energy that everybody wants to hitch their wagon to. Lydecker then began a deeper discussion of the channel by emphasizing, “We’re some of the luckiest people on the planet to even be a part of this channel.”
Explaining that his attitude is “perception is reality, and business is war,” he continues enthusiastically pointing out that the rate of change is the only constant in life, and the rate of change in the channel makes it one of the most fortunate places to be on Earth. But to take full advantage of that you have to stick out, be vastly different from everyone else — and that takes focus on all the little things, like looking bigger than you really are.
It also requires constant innovation. Lydecker sees many channel partners who have stagnated by clinging to the products and services they’ve always sold.
“You talk to somebody who’s been an Avaya shop for the last 25 years, there’s a sense of pride for what they’ve done, what they’ve built, what they’ve created. Try telling them you want to fundamentally change the way they think about the phone system. There’s some pushback to that. Also, we’ve got a lot of people who are …
… getting closer and closer to retirement, not sure if they want to pivot into the next-gen stuff. I think we’re challenged with just legacy thinking, legacy companies.”
Lydecker sums it all up: “You’ve got to constantly evolve. If you’re not evolving, you’re dying, and if you have the same 10-year playbook you’ve always had, you’re terminally ill. With what the industry is doing, and the way it’s evolving, it’s not something that you want to run from, it’s something you want to run to.”
A tale of two channels. Lydecker sees the telecom channel and the IT channel converging rapidly. Speaking of the telecom agent community, he observes, “I wouldn’t say they were a competition of the VARs. They were very much focused on telecom and the VARs were very much focused on selling equipment and services. The MSP is servicing clients bringing technology and making it look like the world’s not the same anymore. It’s all coming together.”
However, he advises, “The traditional telecom agencies are now becoming massive threats to the VARs who are desperately trying to pivot into this space. The MSP is trying to evolve into the trusted adviser role, in addition to doing the managed services.”
Lydecker refers to it as “…an incredible sea change that I have literally never dreamed of happening,” and feels that it’s clearly being fueled by the service provider community, predicting they will replace much of what is sold today as infrastructure with as-a-service offerings. “Now,” concludes Lydecker, “you can have a trusted adviser come in and replace the whole data center.
Road map to your success. Lydecker closes by offering his advice to channel partners as they plan for their successful future.
“You have to believe that this industry is changing as fast as we say it is. You have to believe that you want to be in next generation it. And you have to believe that you are ready to kill off your 10-year playbook. You have to think differently, you have to be open to education, you have to be open to new ideas. You also want to plug into a platform, like Avant, that is going to surround you with the best of breed people, tools, technology, methodology, you name it, to make you successful. I often say if we’re not doubling your business, we’re not doing our job. And I really mean that. It’s a land grab right now, and if you’re not out there grabbing your land, there’s going to be less and less of it.”
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