Channel Partners

January 24, 2008

3 Min Read
Keeping Up

By Charles Cary, vice president of small business services, XO Communications

Today’s evolution toward IP places a premium on agents keeping up with the latest technology and industry offerings. As such, they should place a premium on service providers and partners that provide the tools and training to help them stay abreast of developments.

Processing power, wireless speeds, and convergence will continue to enable development of true solutions. Solutions that will increasingly be focused on specific customer needs. But solutions that will require more of a consultant type sale than prior bandwidth and commodity services required. Most initial offerings will focus on horizontal applications in order to spread the development costs across as broad a part of the market as possible. Over time, however, the offerings will become more vertical and functionally focused. All the while, of course, striving to stay intuitive so adoption is not too painful.

With the concurrent slow death of selling pipes and a commodity network, will be the need to pick and choose from the plethora of new offerings, and identify those that best fit your customers’ needs. To choose correctly, and thereby keep your customer happy, you will need to be educated. This education will come from a variety of avenues: talking with your service providers and partners, subscribing to RSS feeds, reading the trade rags, white papers, blogs, and vendor collateral, attending Webinars, and, yes, maybe even going to an old-fashion training classes with overheads and live discussions. Find out what is the best way for you to be informed, and then make time to do it.

Many service providers and vendors sell services that essentially do the same thing. So differences in implementation, attitude towards multi-vendor solutions, and partnering to deliver specialized functionality, support and ongoing training become important differentiators. Customers deserve support from knowledgeable sales teams, whether through direct or indirect channels. The channels that invest in obtaining the knowledge to accurately differentiate and articulate how a vendors services will combine in the real world to deliver solutions to Customers are the ones who will obtain lasting trusted vendor status, while enabling their Customers to be more competitive in the market in their own business.

Once you understand your needs and those of your organization, evaluate how likely prospective partners are to solve them. Of course, you can’t be expected to know everything, so include the ability to tap your partners for phone or live support where necessary.

In today’s world, a school diploma is nice. But in the real world, you must do your homework to succeed in the School of Hard Knocks.

Charles Cary is a seasoned executive with expertise in telecom, IT, enterprise software, and internet industries, both domestic and international. Currently, he is vice president of small business services at XO Communications. In addition to running marketing organizations, Cary has significant finance, sales, and general management experience. Other companies where Cary has worked include Nortel Networks, AT&T Inc., PSINet, and CGI AMS. Cary has an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.

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