The Theory of Evolution for Channel Partners — Part 1
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|Posted on: 01/03/2013|
7 Steps to Transforming Your Channel Business Strategy
By Pam Avila
Channel-partner models are evolving to keep up with rapid changes in technology and customer buying processes. This four-part series will provide a high-level view of the steps facilitating the evolution of the traditional business model — whether a telecom dealer, agent, IT VAR, or integrator. This first article looks at the overall business (strategy, tactics, etc.). Later articles will address sales, marketing and operations.
Here are seven steps you can take in evolving your channel business to a more relevant model for the future:
1. Assess core strengths/competencies and available resources. Strengths/competencies could relate to company leadership, business acumen, personnel, vision, technical expertise, etc. Available resources could include special personnel, financial resources, specialized training, strategic relationships and more.
2. Examine your overall market for current and future opportunities. Investigate potential opportunities in your existing customer base as well as in your overall market area. Your investigation could take you into areas your company hasn’t even considered yet but align well with your company’s strengths, competencies and resources. Look at VoIP, UC, collaboration, hosting, cloud services, professional services, managed services, etc.
3. Match opportunities with possible business growth plans. Consider the current plans and options that you have for growth. Examples include growing expertise/sales in one area, growing relationships/revenue from current customers, developing a new market/position/practice area, expanding geographic reach, training to improve staff competency or designing custom solutions/services packages.
4. Identify potential vendor partners whose forward strategy aligns with your new strategy. The relationship between vendor and channel partner has become more important than ever as the rate of technology change increases and integration of platforms and applications becomes more challenging. You want to know about your vendors’ road map for the future, but you also want to know the extent of their commitment to your success. Do they understand that the playing field has changed and the channel can no longer survive by selling products? Are they prepared to support your consultative selling efforts?
5. Make an educated decision on how to best move into the world of converged technology (voice, data, video and mobility) and define an entry strategy for your business. Given the complexities of converging technologies, the “generalist" model is very difficult to support from a technology training/expertise viewpoint. Traditionally the majority of channel partners sold a series of products that were appropriate across most vertical markets. Today and into the future, convergence and customer demands lead to “customized" solutions to meet each customer’s needs; which in turn lead to the requirement for integration of a variety of hardware and software elements. Few channel partners have the on-staff expertise to provide a “complete" solution involving VoIP, unified communications, collaboration and BYOD support.
6. Choose between “generalist" or “specialist." The former requires an extensive investment in technical training while the latter requires a more focused sales and marketing strategy.
7. Partner, merge or acquire another company? Regardless of the opportunities that your business chooses to pursue or the generalist/specialist model that its selects, the day has passed when a channel partner can “go it alone." A growing number of channel partners have elected to merge or acquire to gain additional expertise, expanded geographic presence and resources. Partnering also can be a good option as a fast, low-cost means to acquire additional expertise and geographic presence, but many remain reluctant primarily for fear of losing account control.
Pam Avila is founder of Sierra Summit Group, a channel consulting firm. She is well known as the founder of CT Pioneers, a group of telecom and IT VARs focused on convergence. Avila is a principal of discussUC.com, a member of the 2012-13 Channel Partners Advisory Board and chairperson for CompTIA's UC Community.
Hear more from Sierra Summit Group's Pam Avila in the session, "Creating a Transformation Road Map," at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Feb. 27-March 1 in Las Vegas.