November 16, 2022
By Ken Bisnoff
As enterprises struggle to fill IT and security roles due to the ongoing talent shortage, they’re looking for external support and increasing their reliance on managed service providers and channel suppliers.
In turn, channel agents must ensure they have the right vendors and service providers to be trusted suppliers so every deployment goes smoothly and their enterprise clients are happy. This applies to current relationships in addition to new ones that an agent may be exploring.
3 Channel Supplier Pillars
While every technology sector comes with its own unique caveats and client needs, there are three pillars of what makes a valuable and trusted supplier for channel agents — vendors and service providers that bring simplicity, support, and success.
The best way to understand what makes a channel relationship “simple” is if it’s straightforward and clear — from pricing to organizational structure. Ideal organizations make it easy to engage with them throughout the customer life cycle and be there for agents as well as their clients.
That starts with pricing. A trusted supplier can quickly turn around a quote that’s not only competitively priced but transparent enough to arm agents with the info they need to go back to their own clients, so it’s all transactional and commoditized. Take the networking industry as an example. Network connectivity is very commoditized in the eyes of the channel, despite being one of the more complex and harder services to deliver given all the moving parts and underlying vendors. That doesn’t give networking suppliers a free pass; they need to provide a simple pricing and packaging experience despite that complexity.
Another thing to consider is the supplier’s organizational structure. Look for ones with a flat organizational hierarchy instead of multiple siloes and rigid decision-making processes. Those will be more approachable and friendly, with fewer hoops to jump through to get what a client needs.
Clients are needing to rely on third-party trusted advisers more than ever because they can only staff so many people, so much of the infrastructure and expertise that used to be managed in-house is now part of global cloud architectures environment. Having the right support is about having the right team in place that will be at the disposal of the agents, and the agents’ clients, across all life cycle phases of a deployment.
One of the biggest compliments I got at a previous role was from a former channel supplier who said that we were the safest place to do business. Once they handed off duties to us, they didn’t have to worry and could focus on other components of their organization. Agents should ask if that’s the case with every supplier they work with.
Transparency is also crucial here. Going back to working in the networking industry as an example, there are always issues when dealing with global circuits, so the right supplier will be setting expectations upfront about small issues and communicate that before work begins.
There’s no shame in the fact that channel agents are looking to win and increase revenue, and a valuable supplier helps them go above-and-beyond with clients. Because the nature of the market has changed to where organizations need outside experts with the right resources and knowledge instead of trying a DIY approach, agents need suppliers that their own clients trust, so that an “outsider” can enter their system and improve their working conditions. This trust is built via a supplier’s simplicity and support capabilities, driving client satisfaction and, ultimately, “success.” An additional need for agents that are highly focused experts is suppliers that will supplement their skill sets, so they don’t miss revenue opportunities just outside of their expertise.
The technology landscape is always shifting, so there’s always a need to re-evaluate your suppliers. It was simple, 30 years ago — companies had a phone system with plugged-in connectivity, and all gear was kept on-premises. Each had a few vendors to provide these components, and it was easily controllable. But with the advances and further sophistication of technology, especially the cloud, organizations have had to surrender more control and it’s impossible to have all technology deployments under a single point of authority and keep all the needed expertise in-house.
Channel agents owe it to their clients to give them peace of mind after they’ve surrendered this control. That’s best accomplished with suppliers who are easy to work with, provide good support and can maximize potential success.
Ken Bisnoff is senior vice president and channel chief for the Americas division at GTT Communications. In this role, Ken is responsible for overseeing GTT’s indirect sales channel. Previously, Ken was a founding partner at EagleTEQ Advisors and before that a founding member of the executive team at TPx Communications, where he served for over 22 years. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @GTTCOMM on Twitter.
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