How to Set Yourself Apart from the Partner Pack


No matter how partners structure their marketing messages, the truth is that most of them sell very similar solutions and bundles. There are few agents that don’t offer UCaaS, DRaaS or SD-WAN — many from the same vendors. Finding a competitive differentiation in such market conditions can challenge even the most successful of partners, especially those smart enough to step away from the race to the bottom that selling on price is.

At the Channel Partners Conference and Expo in Las Vegas next month, a panel of experts will talk about ways that partners can set themselves apart from the pack. “5 Ways to Capture Customers’ Attention,” part of the marketing and technology conference track, sponsored by Nextiva, will explore ways of creating differentiation that don’t require a complete rethink of business models or sales structures.

We sat down with moderator Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst of COMMfusion, as well as two of our esteemed panelists – Telarus co-founder Patrick Oborn and Chris Shubert, VP of partner experience at Nitel – to get a sneak peek at what tips and tricks the panel will give attendees.

Channel Futures: How have partners traditionally differentiated themselves from their competitors, and why must it change?

Telarus' Patrick Oborn

Telarus’ Patrick Oborn

Patrick Oborn: In the past, partners have relied heavily on relationships to endear themselves to their clients. All things being equal, customers prefer to work with people they like and know.  The problem now is, all things are not equal. The swim lanes between telecom, network, IT, and cybersecurity have all [been] removed, and customers don’t need friends. They need someone who can “own” the entire ecosystem, understand how everything works together, be familiar with new technologies that will give them a leg up on their own competitors, and have the skills to design, source and implement the entire solution. In the past, each swim lane had a winner. Today and in the future, there will be one winner and everyone else will be on the outside looking in.

Hear from these and 100+ other industry-leading speakers at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, April 9-12, 2019, in Las Vegas. Register now!

Chris Shubert: Most partners have relied on being a source for the best price. This works when the products are simple and easy to understand — voice, internet access, basic hosted PBX. In the increasing complex tech landscape, price is nebulous. So many solutions can look similar on paper but have widely different feature sets and thus huge price differences. Also, the more powerful the application, the more potential for it to do harm implemented or sold incorrectly. (for example, you skimp on UCaaS and you can cripple your company)

COMMFusion's Blair Pleasant

COMMFusion’s Blair Pleasant

Blair Pleasant: To be honest, a good portion of partners haven’t differentiated themselves because they didn’t have to. They had relationships with existing customers and were successful at taking orders and selling based on features and price. Today’s environment requires an understanding of customers’ needs and selling based on business outcomes. The technologies we use today are rapidly changing, and customers’ needs and demands are changing. Workers are mobile, the workplace is more collaborative, and there are more options than ever for customers to choose from. Just selling a phone service or service isn’t enough. Partners today need to understand customers’ pain points and their business goals, and identify the right solution for that particular customer.

CF: What is the biggest challenge to developing a competitive differentiator?

PO: The biggest challenge is complacency. The residual nature of this business gives people – and companies – a false sense of security and masks over their errors or lack of vision. Making a change to a business model is hard, trying to adjust and disrupt the market creates discomfort, and with residuals still coming in from easy sales made years ago, all …

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