April 1, 2022
In some ways, channel partners are hesitating at the threshold in terms of creating an IT road map for their customers. Want proof? Only 20% of all digital transformation plans are completed. This leaves ample greenspace to pursue.
Accelerating growth will require some unconventional thinking on the part of channel leaders. They must bring together hardware, SaaS and services. That is the future of hybrid IT distribution. With the market headed in that direction, the adviser that masters all three will be at the table with their customers.
Michael Sterl is one of more than 100 top speakers at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo/MSP Summit. Register now to join 6,500 fellow attendees, April 11-14. You can also interact with more than 300 key suppliers and technology service distributors.
In this session, attendees will gain insight for establishing a sales methodology that includes upselling, cross-selling and solution selling. How to achieve this? By constantly evaluating the MRI of the customer and presenting opportunities based on an authentic prognosis. It all adds up to purpose-built strategies for a modern sales team. It’s one that is empowered to navigate paths to transactions with total confidence.
Channel Futures: What is the importance of channel partners taking the time to create an IT road map for their customers?
Intelisys’ Michael Sterl
Michael Sterl: The No. 1 reason for an IT road map is alignment. Do you fundamentally understand where your customers are today and where they are going? Being simply widget-based is something the IT road map cannot be. To be sure, it is the support mechanism businesses are looking at to enable their internal customers. This encapsulate sales, marketing operations, finance, etc.
The IT road map now supports visibility, which generally begins with a business challenge that technology can fix or enhance. But with a good road map, you start to identify (360° assessment) and acquire the technology to start the journey. As a result, based on the company’s behavior and usage, the IT road map is fluid and aligns to the customer value metric over time.
Does the customer see value in what they are procuring? Does it create efficiencies to grow the business? And, more importantly for the channel partner, are they protecting their customer by minimizing the opportunity for the third party to sell the customer something they never identified in the IT ecosystem and the future of the IT road map?
Don’t tell me you have a good relationship with your customer unless you are at the table brainstorming all things strategy — things such as business, operations, marketing, finance, sales, applications, platforms. There are consequences to not being at the table. Your visibility of any IT road map will be limited, and you won’t be set up for success to keep that customer long term. Therefore, it is vital you keep your seat.
CF: You say that accelerating growth will require unconventional thinking on the part of channel leaders. What does this entail?
MS: Simply put, lean into data and analytics to identify broader opportunities. Gone are the days of selling a widget and moving on. Our customers are researching more than ever before they engage. Moreover, we have enough legacy data points. Customers sold to build the model that supports prospecting, acquisition, education, and future growth.
Activity doesn’t mean productivity. For instance, I genuinely believe we can take the Amazon approach around “if you buy this, then also buy this.” Or like profiles, buy these things. Data will be the shift in our market that either …
… enables our community or quickly makes folks irrelevant.
CF: Can you elaborate on what the future of hybrid IT distribution looks like and why?
MS: Like the B2C market, the B2B market is changing how and when we procure things for the business. I look at hybrid IT distribution in two ways:
Customer view: I need the flexibility to purchase through a marketplace, indirect channel, and direct from the supplier. Each has an advantage to me as the customer. Further, the opportunity to choose self service vs. purchase + professional service/install will change depending on the technology and business requirements.
Distribution view: Follows the customer’s ask. They can meet the customer where they are in their technology journey to deliver the ask from the customer, all while supporting marketplace, indirect channel or direct. We want to make sure we are also supporting hardware, SaaS and services required.
The customer is looking for omnichannel purchasing power. Above all, the future of IT distribution is the solution to allow the customer to be supported. Supported, but not forced down a path that doesn’t align with their strategy.
CF: How can establishing a sales methodology be achieved?
MS: Start with the basics and lean into the process. There are four pillars to your methodology journey: prospect, acquire, nurture and grow. Each of the pillars has a few short objectives:
Prospect — Review your existing base to understand firmographics, technologies and suppliers. Create a playbook around the “ideal” customer. Riches are in the “niches,” and the more focused you become, the lower customer acquisition costs become over time.
Acquire — Understand the technology blueprint for your customer. You might be selling one piece of the tech stack today, but the inventory will lead you to the subsequent acquisition. Don’t be afraid to crawl, walk, run installations based on specific complex technologies.
Nurture — Make sure your customers are using what you sold them. Create the stickiness around the features to drive efficiencies from the technology. This will make your relationship strong and the relationship between the supplier and the customer.
Grow — Lean into the data around each customer to understand who you are selling what to and how are they using it? After that, over time, this will allow you to think about adjacent sales based on what technology you’ve sold and what’s outlined in the IT roadmap.
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