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By Bob Clinton

As a partner business owner, you’re constantly looking for customer and market opportunities while simultaneously keeping your eye on the bottom line.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of rapidly changing technology markets, like unified communications and collaboration (UC&C), stretches your bandwidth as you juggle your vendor portfolio, hire and train your people, create programs to drive demand, streamline processes for ease of doing business and put in place the appropriate platforms—whether for billing, invoicing, payroll or order tracking, or other needs.

Remember, the five Ps—portfolio, people, programs, processes and platforms—equate to five challenges. But let’s say that you’ve got your operational model under control.

How do you handle the challenges of new, emerging technologies and turn them into business opportunities? Taking an approach that can be summarized in three words—engage, evolve and execute—will help partners along this path.

Engage: Focus on the Customer

Focus on really getting to know your customers. This means actively soliciting their input, and developing and deepening mutual relationships in your role as their “trusted advisor.” But these days, it’s also about the nuances.

Increasingly, the buying decision and process is shifting away from the IT organization to the line of business. LOB owners who may be in marketing, sales or business units have the freedom and the power to leverage technology to enable their teams to work better and more efficiently.

Recently, we used survey input from more than 1,000 of our global partners in more than 50 countries to shape our global partner conference. While we reaffirmed our continued commitment and increased investment in the channel, we turned the agenda around so that partners drove the agenda and questions over three days. Unlike a traditional stand-and-present conference, this partner-centric, interactive approach transformed the partner attendees into one large partner council where they clearly gave us their feedback, perspectives and priorities. 

Taking a risk, probing a little deeper and being willing to share your own internal challenges with your customers in a high-trust environment are all ways to deepen relationships and develop mutually agreed upon plans for business success. But remember, if you set expectations, you have to be sure to deliver on that promise.

Evolve: The Journey of Transformation

Vendors may be entering or leaving a market, or simply redefining themselves. Collectively, we’re all going through pivotal transformations due to the impact of trends such as mobility, the transition to software-as-a-service (SaaS) models and virtualization.

So how do you baseline and decide where to focus? One place to start might be to assess your own level of comfort with a technology. Are you, at a minimum, conversant on the technologies, applications and opportunities? Or maybe you’re the next level up. You’re competent and are engaging with prospects and customers, and are actively selling. Or lastly, you may have “cracked the code” and have solution-selling down to an art. You’re credible; you have a replicable process, willing reference accounts and are viewed as a leader within the market.