Engage, Evolve, Execute to Drive More Business
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.
Regardless of where you are on the continuum, look at your organization today and determine your appetite for new opportunities as well as your tolerance for risk. In the more than 25 years I've been in technology, the market has reinvented itself or taken new shape every three to five years; we've seen changes and transformations with mainframes, PCs, IP, wireless, Internet, social, mobility, UC&C, cloud, Internet of things (IoT), and don't forget to sprinkle in a little Y2K, telco implosions and IPO blow-ups for excitement.
Not only has the technology changed, but the channel has changed. To be a survivor in technology in the channel, you have to be fearless, as well as understand how and when to transform. Large companies have done it, and many small companies do it every day. And quite frankly, it's easier for smaller companies to do because they can be nimble and agile, and they have the element of surprise on their side.
Execute to Perfection
It's okay if you're focused on the customer and have evolved your business model, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to one word: execution. As you develop your sales and business plans, make sure they are fact-based with names, dates and deliverables along with desired results.
Examine the business and see if there are areas or value propositions that are repeatable. Leverage these replicable areas as they will give you a lowered cost advantage.
As you look at your business, assess whether you have a foundation for growth. Common frameworks and platforms allow you to scale rapidly and better manage costs. Outsourcing non-critical business processes or transitioning to the cloud gives you an advantage in that you have a variable cost lever that you can ramp up or down based on business conditions. Alternately, see if your business model can be created in a SaaS environment to take advantage of high-growth opportunities.
Ease of doing business is a "must have" for the channel. Streamlined and automated processes for every phase of the buy cycle help expedite cash flow, reduce errors, lower costs and accelerate time to revenue.
And don't forget the front end of that process. World-class user experience/user interface (UX/UI) design with streamlined interfaces, minimized points of engagement and "one-click" interaction have been pioneered by companies like Amazon and Apple in the consumer market. As younger workers become an increasingly larger percentage of the workforce, they bring these UX/UI expectations with them.
Don't believe me? Just ask your kids (or grandkids). Your business and your customers' success depend on it.
It's the new way to work.
Bob Clinton is senior vice president of global channel marketing at Unify, a communications software and services company, He has more than 25 years of experience in global marketing, having served as chief marketing officer at Westcon Group and in executive roles at CA Technologies and Motorola.