"In a sense, Avant is competing with G2 and Gartner, and so are we now," one partner told Channel Futures.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

October 5, 2023

6 Min Read
At Avant Special Forces Summit, Partners Tackle the Data Gap

AVANT SPECIAL FORCES SUMMIT — Avant CEO Ian Kieninger said his company is expanding its research and analytics efforts to keep its technology advisor partners relevant with increasingly digitally savvy IT buyers.

Kieninger in a Wednesday keynote encouraged partners to expand customer wallet share and increase their engagement with the Chicago-based tech services distributor (TSD). But he also explained the investments and emphasis Avant has been putting on its Pathfinder sales platform and research division.

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Avant’s Ian Kieninger

“I get challenged a lot on, ‘Why do you guys invest heavily in research and analytics? Nobody else does. You’re just a TSD.’ We believe that’s the future,” Kieninger said at his company’s annual Special Forces Summit.

Avant recently expanded Pathfinder to include partner-aggregated NPS scores for vendors in its portfolio. The new feature addresses partner demands for more consumable and transparent information about suppliers.

“Partners have asked for supplier reviews for a decade,” new Avant west sales vice president Mike Wolfington told Channel Futures. “One of the most expensive mistakes that you can make as a trusted advisor is recommending a vendor that isn’t the right fit for a client.”

Avant Special Forces Summit: Generational Challenges

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Avant’s Mike Wolfington

Kieninger posited another motivation for the analytics expansion: the growing presence of millennial IT decision makers. He cited a study that says millennials will comprise the majority of buyers by 2024.

“Guess what millennials like to do? Avoid talking to you, sales people,” he said. “They want to do their research digitally. They want real-time interactive information presented to them that they cannot Google on the web or find on Gartner.”

He said younger IT decision makers will respond positively to the “visual technology experience” Avant is building with the white-labeled Pathfinder platform and BattleLabs.

“I don’t know if steak dinners … and crappy PowerPoints are going to get it done. That’s why we’re investing into Pathfinder more aggressively to create a buyer journey,” Kieninger said.

In the meantime, the purchasing and procurement entities have grown more complex. With multiple teams weighing in on enterprise IT projects, partners must improve their consensus buying skills, CXponent CEO Joe Rice said.

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CXponent’s Joe Rice

“The old days of having one or two relationships with people that owns the deal and decision process and funding is completely over,” Rice told Channel Futures. “It actually opens up more opportunity for us to add value, but it’s different. You can’t really do it as the individual sales rep.”

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C3’s Taylor Vossler

Taylor Vossler, who directs operations for Avant partner C3 Technology Advisors, said partners are receiving the updates to Pathfinder well.

“In a sense, Avant is competing with G2 and Gartner, and so are we now. And it’s good now to have the data to back up why a certain vendor is good or bad or indifferent. We’ve been begging any and all TSDs to show us the trends,” Vossler told Channel Futures.

Wolfington in an interview with Channel Futures described a balance between …

… human support and automated processes that the modern tech services distributor needs to provide. And agents need more tangible data at their finger tips to be more valuable as sourcing experts, he said.

“There’s always going to be a human element to this industry. But I think the next iteration moving forward as more and more options present themselves in our industry is real data-driven guidance that Pathfinder can help enable,” said Wolfington, who joined Avant this summer.

Expanding Wallet Share

Kieninger in his presentation shared a statistic that he said perturbs him. Avant has assembled data on the total aggregate of all of the end customers its advisors have serviced. Eighty-four percent of those buyers only bought one line of service through the advisors.

That number presents a challenge for a community that seeks to be trusted advisors for the full set of IT purchasing decisions.

Kieninger shared that 53% of TAs are selling unified communications as a service (UCaaS). Another 19% are selling contact center as a service (CCaaS). Then 14% are selling cybersecurity.

“I think we’ve got a lot of room for growth there. I think there’s a ton of upside,” he said.

Kieninger also pointed to major wins in the community. That included the much heralded retail deal 3DG Partners landed with Comcast Business. It added up to $3.65 million per month on a five-year contract, Kieninger said.

(Editor’s Note: Read more about how 3DG’s founders got into the channel).

And plenty of partners at the conference are sharing ambitious goals.

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LAVA’s Billy Stowe

“We have a goal of having $500 million under contract by the end of 2025,” LAVA Technology Services chief revenue officer Billy Stowe told Channel Futures. “And you’d think that’s a huge stretch goal, but it’s realistic if we continue to do the things that we’re doing today and hire the right people to then let us scale to do it even more.”

Opex Technologies took home top overall partner in Avant’s trusted advisor category.

“Our sales goals go up every single year significantly. And we’ve been fortunate enough to stick to our game plan. We’ve been able to achieve those goals,” Opex chief operating officer Randy Friedberg told Channel Futures. “We’re on target right now to have the best year we’ve ever had. And next year, we’ll definitely have the best year we ever had because we’re going to continue to increase our sales goals.”

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Opex’s Randy Friedberg

Platform Trajectory

Vossler sits on Avant’s operations council. She gave a thumbs-up how Avant has acted on feedback from partners. She shared a request other technology advisors have voiced to Channel Futures for improvements on the post-sale side. That includes getting more visibility on orders, partner said.

“We definitely are still going to continue to challenge and push Avant to continue to have better support in the backend. It’s great having this great forward-facing tool to make the sale. Now we want to be able to track it from start to finish. We know they’re looking at other investments,” Vossler said.

Avant Special Forces Summit took place in Phoenix Oct. 2-5.

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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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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