This past month our team had the opportunity to sit down with three highly inspiring channel trailblazers. We caught up with these busy women any way we could — whether it was at the Women Who Make it Happen in the Channel Series Leadership Summit, Channel Focus North America 2018, or via WebEx. The goal was to discuss the growing shift towards digital transformation and how it is impacting channel strategies.
Below are four themes and observations shared by Bridget Bisnette, Riverbed Senior VP, Global Channels and Commercial Sales; Michelle Chiantera, Cisco VP, Global Partner Marketing; and Michelle Hodges, Gigamon VP Worldwide Partners and Alliances.
Adapt to New Buying Behaviors and Buying Cycles
Traditionally, channel partners had their roles within a linear sales process (for example: reselling, implementing and/or maintaining an appliance). Michelle Hodges stresses that as the industry has shifted towards subscription-based software and services, the customer buying process has become increasingly iterative, posing more opportunities for the channel to engage with and deliver value to the customer.
At the same time, today’s buyers are empowered by the digital landscape, possessing greater control over their evaluation and decision-making processes. Buyers are no longer dependent on vendors or partners to supply data and now have greater reliance on the internet and their trusted communities and social networks. These fundamental shifts are changing the dynamics of the channel and must be deeply understood when restructuring today’s channel programs. Where can partners deliver the greatest impact across the entire customer lifecycle and what are the new types of revenue that can be generated beyond the initial point of sale?
Rally Partners Around Business Outcomes Rather than Certification
In the past, many channel programs were built around levels of certifications or accreditations, but Bridget Bisnette recommends that today’s channel programs will have a greater impact if they focus on customer success and enabling business outcomes for clients instead. This is an inversion of the concept of certification, but in the long run it better rewards partners that are committed to understanding the customer and their needs. The bottom line, Bridget says, is that successful channel programs will place more emphasis on incentivizing partners based on performance and results.
Accept Digital As the Great Equalizer
For most companies, changing how they conduct business can be met with great resistance and the mere notion of going digital can be a difficult sell. However, vendors and their channel partners should embrace digital because it will actually serve as the great equalizer, says Michelle Chiantera. Any vendor and channel partner can be present online and in social channels without significant cost. The digital advantage lies in understanding where your customers are and engaging them at the right time with the right offer. Going digital can be overwhelming but, in practice, Michelle says it can simplify, automate and increase the effectiveness of the most labor-intensive sales and marketing tactics for partners.
Partner Transformation Is Key
The changing economy has transformed how buyers consume both information and products, and how and when they choose to interact with a seller. This simplified buying process for the customer requires that vendors and their channel partners adapt how they sell and go to market. We are migrating towards a more personalized digital experience that offers the buyer the right information at the right time while addressing their varied needs throughout their lifecycle.
To deliver this experience successfully and at scale, vendors must get their partners on board. They can do this by building initiatives that enable partners to advance in the shift towards digital. But before getting started, Michelle Chiantera says it’s important to take stock of where each partner is at in their transition. Only then can you effectively guide them to progress in their own journey, understanding that some partners won’t have the headcount or expertise to do it all.
We thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with these three channel luminaries and in the coming weeks we plan to share more of their advice. We’ll take a deeper dive into their individual accomplishments and their leadership tips for other women climbing the ranks in the channel.
How are you doing at adapting your partner program to the transformation we are experiencing in the channel? Our team can ensure you achieve your goals in the changing market. Contact us for a consultation today.