By Margie Sims
As we go full steam into 2017, a growing conversation in the channel is how to effectively compete in a new digital landscape that’s radically different from what many of us know. Digital disruption and cloudification are happening across the board, whether your customers are prepared or not. This movement also creates a unique set of challenges in the channel, as agents and VARs fight to stay relevant in an already competitive industry.
Your team knows change is afoot, and colleagues and leaders are asking questions about how to stay indispensable to customers: What should our organization’s specialty be? How do we best sell and integrate cloud services? How do we establish a recurring revenue stream without disrupting business processes?
These are timely and relevant questions that are not easily answered. However, through hyper-focus on a specific vertical, spreading service integration over a longer period of time and fostering a multifaceted relationship with vendors, you will not only navigate this transformation, but thrive through it.
1. Focus On Your Strengths
While it may seem that the best way to remain competitive is to meet the needs of any and every customer, in truth, the most effective way to gain leverage in the channel is to home in on a single industry. A VAR that knows the ins and outs of exactly what customers in a given vertical are looking for from a cloud service, for instance, is much more likely achieve that all-important recurring revenue stream.
For example, in the health-care industry, if you can provide a way to ensure any and all data is totally secure and meets HIPAA compliance requirements, you will be able to dominate the vertical, as opposed to struggling to even get a foot in the door in multiple sectors.
Another example of the power of specialization is in the financial industry. Similar to health care, financial organizations deal with highly personal and sensitive data, and the thought of putting that information in the cloud can be concerning. While digital maintenance of this data is likely more efficient and cost-effective for banks, there is also a much higher risk of potential breaches. And when dealing with users’ financial information, customers demand that they not only reap the benefits of moving to the cloud but also maintain the same level of security. Customers want to trust that they are working with a subject-matter expert when dealing with any type of sensitive information, so specializing in one specific vertical allows you to maximize efficiency.
2. Be Diligent, But Don’t Rush
A common misstep among partners when adapting to the new digital era is trying to move too quickly. They see change on the horizon, and in their attempts to stay ahead, they overwhelm their internal departments, leave customers unsatisfied and dramatically disrupt business processes.
I get it — as modernization of the channel continues apace, legacy partners see their more digitally inclined peers thriving and feel that they should be doing the same. But trying to adapt more quickly than you are prepared for can actually waste valuable resources and disrupt customers much more than necessary. While the pressure to stay relevant is daunting, make it your priority to adapt the best way rather than the fastest way. Rely on help from peers and vendors to lead the digital shift, and involve your entire organization. Take steps to modernize in order, and only when ready.
3. Establish Mutually Beneficial Relationships
Simply put, the vendor/partner relationship is changing, and while that is exciting in many ways, it can be unsettling for both sides. We’re all venturing into unfamiliar territory. Vendors want to give partners the support they need to navigate the new digital landscape. What’s holding that back? Often, one primary factor — trust. In the past, partners wanted just enough information to hit the ground running with sales. But as the channel becomes much more digitalized, products get more complex and customer business needs rapidly evolve, that “hit and run” model is no longer feasible. Partners need to lean more heavily on vendors to be successful. Yes, that takes time and can be seen as limiting. But a close relationship will alleviate stressors, like when a VAR is unable to answer a customer’s questions fast. A deeper relationship means you can be appropriately armed with the full arsenal of tools to meet customers’ needs.
Margie Sims is VP of sales for Dizzion. She leads the sales team and overall strategy. Prior to her arrival at Dizzion in 2015, Margie spent 16 years in various sales and sales management positions at ViaWest.