At ScanSource Channel Connect, Baur Vows Commitment to PartnersAt ScanSource Channel Connect, Baur Vows Commitment to Partners
"Some people talk about loyalty, and I like to talk about commitment, because I think commitment is shared," CEO Mike Baur told partners.
October 18, 2023
ScanSource CEO Mike Baur’s keynote speech at the annual Channel Connect conference, this year in Orlando, Florida, included a direct address to agents in ScanSource’s Intelisys business and a vow “to be the most authentic partner you have.”
“We want to be the most transparent partner you have, and we’ll own it when we do something wrong. We will absolutely do that. We do that because we are in it for the long game,” Baur said to an audience of value-added resellers, technology advisors and managed service providers.
ScanSource’s Mike Baur
Baur said he and the ScanSource leadership team have been meeting over the last four weeks with the Intelisys team to collect feedback on the state of the company. This comes as ScanSource seeks to identify a new president and sales leader for Intelisys following the departure of John DeLozier and Chandler Legaretta. Baur told Channel Futures last month that those conversations are prompting renewed investment and emphasis on the tech service distributor (TSD) part of ScanSource.
“When we met with Intelisys team over the last four weeks, it has been crystal clear to me that our North Star has wavered a little bit over the last two years. But we are 100% focused on our customers,” he said.
Baur at ScanSource Channel Connect also delineated the difference between partner commitment and partner loyalty.
“Some people talk about loyalty, and I like to talk about commitment, because I think commitment is shared. And I think it’s about setting expectations to earn the business that we get from you. I want to start with this idea that what results from this commitment is trust. And trust is something that we know is incredibly valuable. Once you earn it, you have to work every day to keep it. It’s easy to lose,” he said.
With that in mind, he called on sales partners to register that feedback as well.
“We’re trying to understand what’s affecting our channel at large, and then we need to know what affects your business. We want to make sure you tell us what you need,” Baur said. “We can only meet that need if we understand your expectation. So surveys are what we live for; tell us more.”
Partner Feedback at ScanSource Channel Connect
ClearSync’s Richard Rodriguez
ClearSync Solutions‘ Richard Rodriguez said he received a partner survey from Intelisys. In addition, leaders from the distributor’s Diversity Partner Program reached out to asked him about his experience.
While Rodriguez said he would be interested in seeing more investment into digital platforms, he said ClearSync maintains a good relationship with Intelisys. Despite the departure of executives like DeLozier, Legaretta and ScanSource president John Eldh, Rodriguez agreed with other partners in saying that they care much more about Intelisys employees who help them in the field. He said technology advisors/agents like ClearSync care deeply about personnel on the ground level, and that element for the most part has maintained continuity.
“For us, we’re just very relationship-driven. That’s just the way that we like to do business. I don’t look at it as cookie cutter where you can just put anybody in there. I really like to keep those relationships,” Rodriguez told Channel Futures.
The question that remains poignant for many Intelisys supplier and sales partners is how closely the ScanSource and Intelisys brands and operations will link with one another going forward.
Baur told Channel Futures last month that “the Intelisys brand is here to stay.”
“We do things uniquely with Intelisys that don’t always translate into the normal ScanSource model, and we have decided that we have to invest more to make Intelisys not only the largest and most trusted technology services distributor (TSD), but the best,” Baur said in late September.
Furthermore, partners are watching closely to learn of whom ScanSource will name as the leaders of Intelisys, and from where that person will emerge. Baur told Channel Futures previously that he’s not in a rush to name a leader.
“We’ve got a team [from Intelisys] that’s reporting into me and my leadership team. They’re meeting with me every week to make sure we’re making decisions fast and we’re able to move very quickly on any opportunities ahead,” he said at the time. “Right now we’re running the company with this leadership team concept, but we have a very deep and talented pool to choose from for our future leader for Intelisys.”
North Atlantic Consultants president Michael Agri said he appreciated Baur’s humble posture on the keynote stage.
“It has been a tough year for Intelisys with JD’s recent departure, the ScanSource hack, and competition heating up as other TSDs are deploying bigger and better tools and resources. Some industry leaders are starting to question if Intelisys is on the decline, and I think that Baur did a good job conveying that they’re not perfect, mistakes have been made, and they will do their best to get it right moving forward. I appreciate leaders that don’t try to hide or ignore serious concerns, and I believe that they will bounce back bigger and stronger than ever,” Agri told Channel Futures at ScanSource Channel Connect
Asked what feedback he would give to Baur and ScanSource from an Intelisys agent perspective, he advised that many agents don’t want to hear about hardware. That’s a concern Baur acknowledged in his last interview with Channel Futures.
“We’re saying, ‘Take it the way you want it. If you want to just stay in the Intelisys traditional model, we think that business has double digit growth opportunities ahead, and it’s alive and well.’ We just want to make sure that people understand you’re not in a business that’s going away if you’re an Intelisys partner. You’re in a business that’s growing dramatically. And it’s OK if you don’t sell hardware,” Baur said.
Agri also shared advice for hiring a new leader of Intelisys.
“Jay Bradley has always been a tough act to follow, but we need someone like him who is passionate, knowledgeable, empathetic, and forward thinking,” Agri said. “I would also strongly consider female and minority candidates to shake things up.”
But Agri emphasized that he is in a good place with his Intelisys relationship. He cited four elements from Intelisys that he most values. First, a safe harbor for his commissions. Second, programs and tools he uses for education. Third, relationships and networking, including his business development manager and regional manager. Lastly, he cited sales engineers from Intelisys.
Meeting Partners Where They Are
The ScanSource Channel Connect audience combines partners that have come from the traditional ScanSource base, which features barcode and point-of-sale resellers as well as on-premises phone system resellers, and technology advisors (agents) that source as-a-service carrier and cloud offerings through the Intelisys business ScanSource bought in 2016.
Baur said ScanSource aims to be “as one-on-one as we can get” when to comes to enabling those partners.
“We’ve got a vast combination of partners, and maybe you have very specific business needs and expectations. Our job is to focus on your needs, not on the needs of the masses,” he said.
Kristy Thomas, Intelisys vice president of partner experience and enablement, put that another way.
Intelisys’ Kristy Thomas
“[When you’re] casting a wide net for your customers, you might catch a whale and you might catch a minnow,” Thomas told Channel Futures. “But if you build a specific go-to-market strategy around what your customers are looking for and the solution that can bring value to what they’re looking for, that’s how you differentiate yourself in the marketplace.”
In the case of Intelisys, Thomas said the TSD will continue to support partners who conduct transactional business. But she said Intelisys is looking to lean in with partners who are interested in the enablement education tracks the TSD is investing in, and who want to work with Intelisys in building go-to-market strategies.
“I don’t think of a definition of a certain partner type. But I think where we’re going to continue to invest is in …
… partners that recognize that what got them to where they are today won’t get them to where they need to go tomorrow,” Thomas said. “… They’re typically bringing forth solutions in complex buying cycles that are going to be higher value and higher margin for everybody, and also protecting their business. The stickier they can get with their customer, then we all win together.”
As partner models evolve in the current channel, Thomas said her company can leverage data to better understand partner needs.
“So why not start to build our support mechanism – how we support our partners – based on what’s important to them. The days of just assuming what people want are over,” she said. “CX is a perfect example. Everybody wants a customized, personalized, radically convenient experience. It’s what we should be giving our partners.”
Expertise and Simplicity
Baur in his ScanSource Channel Connect keynote pointed out two trends analysts have been seeing around the end customer. First, IT buyers are prioritizing simplicity and self-service more than ever. A McKinsey study found that more than 30% of purchasers are relying on “digital and self-serve channels” for the entirety of the buying journey.
North Atlantic Consultants’ Michael Agri
But on the other hand, enterprise customers still face enormous complexity in the purchasing process, and that leads them to need more expertise. McKinsey found that an average of six stakeholders are getting involved in technology purchasing decisions.
And that’s good news for channel partners, Baur said.
“The idea that simplicity and self-service are now more important to the end user is good news for this community. There are going to be products and services that you can sell that won’t have value, and that’s OK. Let the end user buy those from a marketplace,” Baur said. “Let them go to a self-service portal. That’s OK, because there is plenty of opportunity they still need you for. So we have to change our value proposition as a group constantly over time. There’s nothing wrong with that; our job is to help you do that.”
The McKinsey research resonated with Michael Agri, who said many of his unified communications customers tend to want to procure technology on their own. But when the rubber meets the road in the implementation process, his project management fills a crucial gap, he said.
“There are people that are used to doing research, purchasing something and getting something done. But the problem that they come across is that they’re met with the reality that a lot of the providers can implement and manage these services as they’d like. That’s where they need expertise. And I see that a lot in the marketplace,” Agri said.
A Futurist Visits ScanSource Channel Connect
Also at ScahSource Channel Connect, self-described economic futurist Andrew Busch, who served as the U.S. government’s first chief market intelligence officer, walked partners through macroeconomic implications of present-day news. That includes supply chain issues, raised interest rates and inflation and global conflicts.
He made the point that that inflation “is very sticky.”
“That’s the thing about inflation: Once you get it into an economy, it’s really hard to get it out, because people expect it to continue to happen,” Busch said.
While he said climate, energy, labor and supply chain conditions will remain “volatile,” Busch gave a measured forecast for the U.S. economy in upcoming years.
“We’re in peak economic growth right now. We’re not going to grow faster than 5%, and we’re certainly going to slow over the next probably five to six quarters. We’re not going to collapse. We’re not going to have this massive recession or anything like that. We’ll have slow growth. We’re returning back to a little bit of trend of where we were prior to the outbreak of COVID,” he said.
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