… customers’ complex on-premises and hybrid systems, maintaining mandated certifications for multiple vendors, and the tendency to sell on price, not value. For small MSPs, a successful ransomware attack can put a major dent in razor-thin margins. Despite a number of DRaaS offerings that promise easy recovery, in our recent Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Survey, most channel-pro respondents say fewer than half of their customers have effective BC/DR plans.
For other VARs, the DSP model of being essentially a cloud broker, assembling and selling bundles of services that vendors or a specialized partner then fulfill, is more attractive. However, that shift comes with a formidable problem: bridging a move from big-bang sales to an annuity and MRR (monthly recurring revenue) payment scheme. 8×8 is one provider building programs and adding expertise to help its VAR partners through this transition, says Sheehan. It also has an enablement program specifically for agents, including digital marketing for lead gen and sales and sales engineering resources.
Partners are also worried about losing control of the customer relationship. While DSPs may sell on their own paper, they don’t fulfill IT needs day-to-day.
“VARs and MSPs have traditionally invested in technical certifications that have afforded them complete control, and associated revenues, of end-customer solution design, deployment and support,” says Sheehan. “They’ve built a business and reputation leveraging this expertise to ensure customer satisfaction and differentiate in the market. 8×8 gets it, and [that’s] why we’ve invested in a new enablement program that allows partners to continue to be the trusted adviser and provide white-glove support that increases customer stickiness.”
He sees traditional agents adding new resources, like pre-sales engineers and project managers, that enable them to differentiate and add value.
“I call them ‘hybrid agents’ that are starting to morph into something closer to a VAR/MSP,” he says.
Why not just jump directly to a DSP model? In part, it’s the prevailing wisdom that partners who don’t offer their own home-grown services will lack “stickiness.” But the digital-service providers we spoke with for this story say their consultative expertise is every bit as sticky-making as racking and stacking servers, provisioning desktops or anything else a VAR or MSP offers. Pulling the right cloud offerings into a comprehensive, tailored solutions bundle demands a full discovery-and-needs analysis at the customer site, a deep bench of suppliers and the confidence to reach out to other partners for services like Microsoft 365 migrations. From discovery to RFP, that needs analysis process can take months; some DSPs charge for it, some don’t.
“We’re laser-focused on the process with our customers,” says Michael Bremmer, CEO at technology consultant TelecomQuotes.com. “I’m asking more questions about how they use technology and, for key customers, spending ‘a day in the life’ working in their businesses to better understand how to increase productivity. We’re also asking questions like, ‘Want to see the new stuff?’ I’m purchasing IoT gear to use in my home and business to understand how it’s going to be a game changer for my customers.”
While traditional telecom and UC excel as the “landing” part of “land and expand,” Jennifer Gallego, EVP, channel sales at Avant, and a Channel Partners editorial adviser, says the the biggest roadblock for partners looking to offer customers a broad and comprehensive slate of cloud solutions is the accelerating pace of …