Coronavirus Threat: Big Wake-Up Call for the Channel


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While the coronavirus is officially a pandemic, for channel partners it’s just the latest indicator of a massive change taking place, and how they respond could make or break their businesses.

In the second of a two-part series, we focus on the bigger picture of how partners respond to their customers’ needs during the coronavirus pandemic, part of the bigger “new normal” that isn’t going away once the virus is contained.

Janet Schijns, CEO of JS Group, said there are three things partners can do for themselves and their customers if they’re not well-prepared to assist their customers in dealing with the coronavirus.

JS Group's Janet Schijns

JS Group’s Janet Schijns

“The first one, obviously you need to strengthen the network now because the workload that’s put on by everything going virtual and everyone going remote is substantial, and by my gross estimates and with my experience in the business, I’m going to say at least a third of their customers and the partner businesses have insufficient bandwidth to support what’s needed,” she said.

Second is “security, security, security,” Schijns said.

“As people begin to work virtually, it has become very critical that you understand that data at motion is data at risk,” she said. “If you don’t have a security practice, partner with someone who does have a security practice. If you do have a security practice, now is the time to really look at data in motion and figure out your solution.”

And third, partners need to promote digital solutions to their customers, and provision and supply them, Schijns said. Video conferencing is a great example, but that extends beyond just the capacity to have video, she said.

“It extends to how you work together in a virtual environment,” she said. “Simply holding calls with video conferencing or replacing your event that you were supposed to do in person and now you’re going to do virtually, and doing a series of webinars — that is not working in a digital normal. That is replacing a physical event with a video conference, which all that does is remove your participants from networking and other opportunities. So you have to change the process for it to be digital.”

In addition, because personal contact with customers is limited, it’s important for partners to focus on social selling, Schijns said. Experts now are outperforming their peers who aren’t by 77% — and that was pre-coronavirus, she said.

“I can’t even think what it is right now, but it has to be well over [77%],” she said. “But you have to learn not to just send a direct message or post something on LinkedIn. You have to understand how to craft content, how to gain influencers in contacts, how to engage with them, and how to actually conduct your sales process in a virtual world. That’s going to include a lot of video. It is also going to include you being able to make a connection with someone without shaking their hand. To me, the biggest challenge the partners have right now is they’re not good at social selling in large part.”

For partners looking to sharpen their social-selling skills on the cheap, Hootsuite offers free and low-cost courses, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator is helpful.

“And the smarter vendors … at least are launching programs to support their partners to learn how to do social selling, to have the content which is critical, to practice influencing and engaging with customers, and then working on demand generation — so paid campaigns promoting their partners as experts,” Schijns said. “And if you’re a vendor … shame on you if you’re not coming up with something in your MDF program right now to support your partners’ transition.”

Regardless of what happens with the coronavirus, things aren’t …

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