Channel Partners

FAL 2016

For 25 years, Channel Partners has been a resource for indirect sales channels, such as agents, VARs and dealers, that provide network-based communications and computing services, associated CPE and applications, and managed and professional services

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FEATURE differentiation and establish a brand that is separate from any particular product you resell," says April. She encourages partners to think outside the box when it comes to IP. "It doesn't have to be a product per se, but a process or solution that you have created that solves a business problem for a customer in a particular vertical," she says. ➍ THE KIDS ARE (AL)RIGHT "Digital success will come one millennial at a time," says Schijns. She cites a recent report from CompTIA predicting millen- nials will make up over 50 percent of the channel workforce by 2022. But in our own 2016 U.S. Channel Compensation Survey, done in partnership with 451 Research, just 20 percent of respondents were under 35. Many partners are set to retire, often without a succession plan in place. Where does that leave customers? If you're unsure how to attract and retain millennials, Kirk Robinson, senior vice president, commercial markets division and global accounts at Ingram Micro, has some advice. It's apparent from some comments in the 2016 Channel Compensation Survey that not all partner executives are doing these basics. "Create an environment that your employees will thrive in and a brand promise they want to promote," says Robinson. "Give them reason and the resources to show up and succeed. Take the time to establish a repeatable approach to prospecting and onboarding. Also, ensure everyone in the company has clearly defined roles and responsibili- ties — this will help ensure ownership and accountability as the business grows." And, ensure these steps can be done successfully with or without the owner/founder/CEO involved. "Eating your own dog food" is an adage most entrepreneurs live by. If you use the technology you develop or sell internally, your team members of all ages become evangelists by default. "Be your best customer — use the services and technology you sell," says Robinson. "Be exceptional to your employees and they will extend that level of support to your customers. Establish, document and continuously refine processes for prospecting, onboarding new customers and nurturing existing customers and other strategic business relationships." ➎ EMBRACE CHANNEL CONVERGENCE Many services, including networking and VoIP, are getting easier to support, driving convergence between the MSP and traditional telecom agent spaces. "Don't hesitate to expand your portfolio, especially when it comes to managed print and communication services such as VoIP, where competition is growing," says Mike Cullen, vice president, world- wide sales and business strategy, MSP business group, at SolarWinds N-able. By expanding your portfolio, you are staking a bigger claim on your client's IT cupboard and keeping competition out. "Services expansion is purely a defensive move and one MSPs need to continue to succeed," says Cullen. The same can certainly be said of agents. Broadview's Wenk says to use metrics to decide what to sell. "Partners with the most successful ROIs invest in long-term client relationships where the value is built by both their strong performance in a trusted advisory role and the quality of the service providers in their portfolio," she says. In other words, be selective. "Products with high churn can often lead to winning more deals, but will ultimately cost partners more money and time," she says. "Offering these products can lower a partner's brand equity when they are forced to supply constant technological support and maintenance of the client relationship. Replacing these services and products with those that generate lower churn provides clients with a peace of mind and turns technology providers into trusted advisers." Convergence is also good for customers — we've all used the expression "single throat to choke." "When the customer calls with an issue, the channel partner needs to be able to recover data faster, archive data better and support whatever problem occurs," says Rae. "There is an ever-evolving landscape of customer issues to solve — for example, ransomware." The key is, when something goes wrong, you want the customer to call you first — not another vendor or service provider. Of course, loyalty begets loyalty. "Work to protect your customers' businesses, not just their data," says Neal Bradbury, senior director of busi- ness development at Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda. Bradbury says the conversation around digital services and the particulars of migrating to cloud services is best led by the partner. "Solving point problems is part of the overall service engagement of a trusted adviser," he says. When making the transformation to digital, task the millennials within your own business to implement new and innovative services. Look beyond point solutions, and converge a range of digital services to add margins and growth. In the immortal words of Charles Darwin, "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Dan Shapero, founder of ClikCloud, is a highly skilled, results-driven technology marketing and business development executive. He has a track record of driving revenue growth and positioning companies for public offerings or acquisition. Shapero is a member of the CompTIA board of directors and held executive positions at Ingram Micro Cloud, Kaseya, Avamar (EMC), Vicinity (Microsoft), State of the Art (Sage) and Platinum Software Corporation (Epicor). He is a frequent speaker on topics including digital marketing, business transformation, managed services, cloud computing, cybersecurity and mobile computing. @clikcloud Op Size: Big Combine cloud and managed services with the Internet of Things and you're talking about a significant amount of future IT spending. CompTIA says the number of "things" connected to the Internet will reach 50.1 billion by 2020. Who's provisioning all that bandwidth? 10 CHANNEL PARTNERS FALL 2016

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