Channel Pros: Harbinder Khera Says the Secret to Channel Sales is in Visibility
Over 25 years ago, Harbinder Khera moved to the U.S. to pursue a master’s degree in computer engineering—his first masters, to be clear. The child of immigrants, Harbinder is an engineer by profession and began his career with a focus in high speed networks at IBM, where he worked on object-oriented device drivers for OS2. When IBM shut down his group, Harbinder enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University and earned a second masters in computer science and electrical engineering. It was at Carnegie Mellon that he discovered he had a knack for solving business problems where the solutions required a blend of business and technological know-how.
A few years later, he started Mindmatrix, a channel sales and marketing consultancy firm, and he’s been solving customer problems ever since. “As a consultant, the responsibility is to look at different products—different services from middleware, hardware, and software—and how all these different things come together to solve a specific client’s problem,” he says. Eighteen years ago, during the dot com days, Mindmatrix launched SolveIT.com—an online portal that’s still in use today.
That was eighteen years ago, and since then, Harbinder says Mindmatrix has weathered all kinds of busts: The dot com bust, the real estate bust, the housing bust. Through all the changes in business climates, however, the need for channel enablement hasn’t disappeared. In fact, he says it’s only been amplified as high-tech manufacturers tend to ignore “the last mile,” including appropriate sales and marketing strategies for the channel.
Mindmatrix works primarily with manufacturers that have what Harbinder calls a classic high-tech problem: How to educate channel partners on sales techniques for product lines. “The partners need to be educated from a solution perspective because partners need to know how these products the manufacturer’s making, how they come together to solve a specific problem.” The company’s goal with SolveIT.com is to show partners all the different ways in which a specific product could be applied to various solutions to enable business outcomes. IT managers, VARs, distributors and other partners can type their sales or marketing problem into the site, and it will produce different solutions that can then be configured online.
In the last couple of years, Mindmatrix has placed increasing focus on enabling managed service providers. The company developed the MSP Advantage Program to help providers that don’t have a full-time, in-house sales staff. As he puts it, the owners and decision-makers are working in the business, not on the business. Mindmatrix therefore created a program that treats solution selling as a package.
“We’re providing this technology that helps you at the top of the funnel on the marketing perspective, and then also helps you from a lead nurturing, then from a sales enablement perspective,” he says. “It’s a full product that helps from a lead to revenue.” This includes helping VARs establish a strategy with sales and marketing concierge services.
Mindmatrix calls it a think, build and operate model, and they help VARs at each step. Because the buyer’s journey has changed so drastically in the last two decades, the sales and marketing functions are intimately intertwined. Marketing covers the first part of the sales process, and then the sales team comes in to close the deal. To address this, the company built marketing automation technology, asset management technology, sales enablement technology and channel management technology all in one box. This lets both the sales and marketing teams have complete transparency with the prospect through the whole buyer’s journey.
Most importantly, VARs, MSPs and other partners can have visibility into the vendor marketing and sales funnel, and vice-versa. If the prospect of a Microsoft reseller goes to Microsoft’s website instead of the reseller’s, all parties can still see that activity. The reseller is notified and knows exactly what the prospect is up to, and the vendor has end-to-end transparency at the local level. Further, Mindmatrix provides nurturing campaigns at the local level for prospects that aren’t yet ready to buy that are personalized based on the branding standards of the local VAR.
In the end, Harbinder says the most important thing vendors can do to help ensure their partners’ success is to equip them with the same programs that have been most successful with the vendor’s direct sales teams. “Look at your top performers, your direct teams, people who have been extremely successful selling your product to corporate today,” Harbinder advises. “How did they sell? Look inward first. Then take that process, put it out there and make it available to your VARs so they can use the exact same structure.”