… the technology revolution. One consultant we spoke with has 170 suppliers in his portfolio and does business with 20 percent of them regularly.
“It seems like a wave of new service providers are hitting the market every day,” says Gallego. “Agents and VARs can’t do it alone. They need to be committed to rigorous education on the trends that are shaping technology. They need to trust someone that can find the needle in the technology haystack.”
Avant’s position is that partners should not limit supplier choice, arguing that this is where master agents that invest the time to be upstream experts come in.
Bailey also cites the challenge of becoming familiar with new techs and says Telarus is constantly signing on new provider partners.
“We think having specialists that partners can access for complex deals will set them apart from direct reps as well as their competition,” says Bailey. “For partners, becoming an ‘expert generalist’ is key. This takes time. But knowing what questions to ask in a sales meeting can be the difference between a single-solution salesperson and a technology consultant. Our challenge is synthesizing the wealth of information for our partners into digestible chunks.”
Another challenge is staffing up.
“What’s our biggest business challenge?” said Stark. “Hiring talent. Actually, finding it is the hard part.” And, sales people sell what they are comfortable with — and make money at. Slinging circuits is lucrative, and there are only so many hours in a day. Channel leaders need to properly train and incentivize their sales teams.
Bremmer says to avoid getting distracted by all the shiny tech. “Focus on actual business problems,” he says. “Nobody cares how Alexa works. They care what it does to make their lives easier and help them sell.”
On the plus side, agents tend to be naturals at sales and building and nurturing relationships.
“People sell to people,” says one consultant. “If you do a good job, when that person moves to a new company, they take your business card with them. Customers rarely have just one MSP or VAR, so digital service providers have landing space.”
People skills matter. A recent survey by InsightSquared (above right) shows that 62 percent of respondents spend more after they have a positive customer experience. Solve a problem and they’ll keep coming back. But be careful about which providers you work with for post-sale fulfillment, because 64 percent of B2B customers will drop a vendor after bad service, says the consultancy, and half of them will avoid that business for two or more years.
And finally, think about how you position your channel firm. Branding is critical.
“There’s plenty of work to go around,” said one partner. “Don’t paint yourself into a corner by calling yourself ‘the circuit person.'”