As we continue to move into a digital age in which individuals are comfortable researching and buying online, a transition accelerated by the Coronavirus pandemic, the buying journey has become non-linear. A potential customer may read a review, ask a friend, then browse the web before ultimately purchasing online (without consulting any sales professionals or entering a store).
How are the people who design, recommend, resell, integrate, support and manage technology solutions doing in the global pandemic? We conducted a survey of solution providers at the end of 2020 and asked how their business had been impacted by the pandemic with options of 'increased, decreased or stayed the same.' Their answers provided the basis for our recent report “10 Effects of the Global Pandemic on the Channel.” At a glance, see the effects we identified.
Partner Relationships Need a Personalized Touch, Even When You’re Not In-Person
In our recent channel chief virtual roundtable, we asked leading technology channel executives what was keeping them up at night. Surprisingly, it wasn’t partner sales, additional enablement, driving customer adoption or even the plethora of small solution providers teetering on the edge of a pandemic-fueled extinction. What they were most worried about is the damage social distancing has done to their ability to nurture relationships with their partners. Without a plane flight and dinner meeting with a partner, how do you make sure your relationship remains positive and prosperous?
Partnering is personal and the pandemic has hampered relationships in a myriad of ways. We can’t safely break bread inside our favorite bistro or shake hands to solidify our agreement to invest and grow together. But beyond physical touch, creating a personal relationship with partners means personalizing how you do business.
I attend a lot of events. I’m usually crisscrossing the globe between partner summits, partner advisory boards, sales kick-off meetings and industry conferences. I’m one of the weirdos that actually misses large gatherings. No, I don’t miss the conference chicken or sitting in a freezing cold dark hall. I miss the energy of a packed room, the chitchat with people sitting around you before and after the sessions and catching up with friends and colleagues. The many virtual events I’ve attended in the last six months have left me, and others, wanting – but not all for the same reasons.
Welcome to 2021! Boy am I excited to see the calendar turn over. There’s been so much up and down in the news for the last nine months I can barely keep track. The pandemic that ravaged the world medically and financially also accelerated five of the six buyer trends changing IT channels we predicted back in December 2019:
You would be amazed at how many people call us every month to help them with partner recruitment. On the one hand, it's usually companies who see the value in leveraging the channel to grow their business (awesome!). On the other hand, I sometimes think they want me to hand them a top-secret document and say, "Shh, here's the magic list of partners for you. Go call them." But calling a list of partners to recruit them into your program not only wouldn't work, it wouldn't be a good partner experience. And a good first impression once lost is lost forever. You might lose the opportunity to work with some great solution providers. Plus, there's no top-secret list.
What mistakes are vendors making with their partner ecosystem?
A major data point driving home MAKE FEWER MISTAKES is the list of open-responses from partners* detailing mistakes vendors make as they are engaging a solution provider organization. Direct from partners, the submissions center around three themes again this year:
The primary goal of vendors focused on recruiting and onboarding partners is to identify and engage new types of partners. These are organizations that aren’t traditional IT solution providers and yet have influence in cloud-based technology solution purchases. Jay McBain of Forrester calls them shadow channels as they aren’t engaging with customers or vendors in the traditional way. We at PartnerPath take a bit more positive nomenclature and call them next-generation channels.
The Roles of Enablement, Spending and Distribution in a Cloud Sales World
Does enablement ever end?
Enablement is a key tenet to partner success. Both the vendors* and the solution providers* want to invest in enablement. The better trained a partner is the more they design effective solutions to customer needs, produce differentiated marketing campaigns, accurately position the products and troubleshoot issues. Enablement is really a win-win for all sides – vendor, partner and customer.
To capitalize on the growing cloud market and drive solution providers to resell cloud solutions, leading vendors are investing heavily in empowering their current partner ecosystem and finding new cloud-focused partners.
What are the vendors’ key priorities?
The vendor respondents’* top priority for growing and managing their partner ecosystems is to recruit and onboard new partners. Of the vendors eager to recruit, over 50% of them are looking for born-in-the-cloud solution providers and on average, they’re hoping to recruit and onboard about fifty of these partners in 2019. Systems Integrators and Managed Service Providers also top the list of the types of partners prioritized to recruitment and onboarding in 2019.