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"What the market is telling you is, 'Find me the money to do the fun stuff,'" Scott Kinka told Bridgepointe Tech Summit attendees.

James Anderson

October 11, 2023

7 Min Read
Bridgepointe Cross-Selling Play Hinges on IT Cost Management

BRIDGEPOINTE TECH SUMMIT — Bridgepointe Technologies is urging its IT strategist partners to use IT cost management to expand their sales.

Executives from the technology advisory firm shared their vision, as well as “productized” offers, for IT cost management in keynotes at the Bridgepointe Tech Summit in Palm Springs, California, on Tuesday. (Channel Futures is there.) They said their emphasis on IT cost management serves a larger goal: cross-selling into existing customer accounts with more lines of technology.

Bridgepointe last year bought Cannon Group and PPT Solutions with help from Charlesbank Capital Partners’ funding. Cannon provides life cycle services, expense and inventory management, and strategic sourcing. PPT provides consulting and implementation services for customer experience (CX) and contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS) solutions.

At the time Bridgepointe referred to those purchased companies as “strategic adjacencies” whose services usually fell outside the scope of what the average technology advisor performed (though both parties had dipped their toes into the agency sales model). Now Cannon and PPT exist as business units within Bridgepointe: Bridgepointe Lifecycle Services (LCS) and Bridgepointe CX, respectively.

The Cross-Selling Gap

Channel partners in the technology advisor (agent) channel have sung the praises of cross-selling. A recent Channel Futures survey of agents found that 44% of them say they are are cross-selling or upselling offerings to existing customers.

But recent numbers suggest that partners have a long way to go.

Bridgepointe shared that its strategists have sold 1.25 solutions per customer customer, on average. And Bridgepointe leaders are aspiring to raise that factor significantly. CEO Scott Evars said selling one additional product to one-half of Bridgepointe’s customer baser would result in “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The statistic highlights a challenge many technology advisors across the agent channel face: the reality that many of them do not truly “own” the the customer account when it comes to the entire technology portfolio. Technology services distributor (TSD) Avant last week shared that for 84% of its total end customers, partners only sold one line of technology.

“That’s real. That’s not just us. That’s across the industry,” newly minted Bridgepointe chief operations officer Michael Sterl said, speaking about the 1.25 number.

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Bridgepointe’s Michael Sterl

Sterl joined Bridgepointe in part to tackle the cross-selling opportunity. That includes giving partners partners deeper analysis of their customer base, he said. He said technology advisors need to function more as guides and “sensemakers,” who use data to point customers in the right direction.

“A lot of times we want to tell people information: ‘Hey, just go do this.’ Or we want to say, ‘Hey, let me go find this for you.’ We started to almost lose respect or confidence from our customer base in regard to how we support them,” Sterl said.

But that analysis starts with visibility, Sterl told partners.

“And when you start with visibility, it doesn’t have to be free. The visibility side is where you can actually make money. You’re getting paid to have visibility into your customer. And the idea around this is, information is guiding our path,” he said.

Leveraging IT Cost Management

Bridgepointe chief strategy officer Scott Kinka shared results from questions Bain and Company asked CIOs about their CEOs’ IT priorities. Not surprisingly, CIOs most commonly cited cybersecurity as a CEO priority. However, IT cost management came in second, beating cloud migration and massively outweighing concerns about generative AI.

That trend doesn’t register much surprise considering the troubling macroeconomic trends that CFOs are trying to weather. But cost management does not equal cost cutting, Kinka said. He cited a study saying 60% of IT leaders view their budget as “on the upswing.” He said Bridgepointe does not believe a recession will “necessitate a concession in IT.”

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Bridgepointe’s Scott Kinka

“They feel pressure to manage the budget, but they don’t think it’s shrinking. In fact, it’s probably growing to some extent,” he said.

Kinka said partners should not be framing cost savings as the end outcome; rather, helping businesses understand and manage their costs should function as “a strategy” for other outcomes.

“What the market is telling you is, find me the money to do the fun stuff. That’s the IT cost management job,” he said.

Life Cycle Services and Visibility

The purchase of Cannon Group occurred in part to …

… fill a gap that exists between the partner sale and the supplier implementation. Now Bridgepointe partners can monetize that gap, Kinka said.

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Bridgepointe’s Chris Cannon

Bridgepointe brought to the main stage multiple strategists who refer services such as telecom expense management, transition management and RFP management. The newly branded Bridgepointe Lifecycle Services unit closed 21 deals in the last year and intends to do 40 next year, managing director of life cycle services Chris Cannon said.

Those offerings range from one-time transactions such as an audit, to ongoing management. And a variety of one-time and recurring commissions accompany with those deals.

But Bridgepointe pointed beyond those commissionable services into a functional benefit. Some of these services from the life cycle practice give strategists a glimpse into the end user’s IT spend. The visibility into those existing invoices can open doors for cross-sell opportunities, executives said.

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Bridgepointe’s Tim Allen

“We’re going to go through it like a warm knife through butter,” executive vice president of sales Tim Allen said.

Cannon Group was doing a small amount of agency business relative to its life cycle services prior to the acquisition, and Cannon said it will take a backseat to the agency sales strategists conduct in the same accounts.

“We’re just there to facilitate more business for you guys. And you’re going to strengthen that relationship with your client. The whole goal here is to close more deals, both life cycle deals and to increase your MRR and get paid faster,” Cannon said.

Bridgepointe strategist and equity partner Scott Coleman pointed to the customer friction that life cycle services remove.

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Bridgepointe’s Scott Coleman

“By time we get to the end of this deal, we’ve had so many conversations with the customer, so much visibility, so much education with our customers, that by the time we get to the end there are no roadblocks,” Coleman said on stage.

Leaning into New Services

Bridgepointe similarly highlighted its PPT-based CX division.

Bridgepointe enterprise IT strategist James Thornburg has used the CX resources, which have helped him do a type of strategic consulting that he would not have done before.

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Bridgepointe’s James Thornburg

“We can help customers buy like we’ve traditionally done, we can implement the services, and then we can provide the managed services to make sure that they can get the most out of the platforms that they’re buying,” Thornburg told Channel Futures. “Because a lot of people do the lift and shift, and it doesn’t really have the business outcomes that they were looking for. You can’t just take the technology and just move to a different technology and expect different results.”

Kinka said Bridgepointe addressed the challenge of translating the language PPT historically used as a consultancy with agents and end customers. That language often lacked upfront information about cost, Kinka said.

“[Strategists] have an idea when they’re with customers, and it’s part of the lexicon to say, ‘I can do it for you for X,’ which is a little bit of a problem when you have a couple of consulting businesses that [say], ‘Hey, we’ll meet and then we’ll figure out what they need and then we’ll price it.’ We flipped that model around so they can talk about these way more complicated things in similar language,” Kinka said.

On one hand, Kinka said Bridgepointe is seeking to build “more productized offers” for complex technologies like CX. On the other hand, he said his team is encouraging strategists to dive into next-generation technologies that fall beyond the telecom topics they may know best.

“I think the legacy in our channel is that you’re going to use me because I can unpack all the weird rates and tariffs and taxes and little nitty stuff about traditional comms and access, where you know everything,” Kinka said. “Be comfortably uncomfortable, asking the question where you don’t know what the customer’s answer is gonna be. That’s still going to uncover the need.”

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email James Anderson or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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