Industry Leaders Share 5 Ways to Modernize Channel Strategies for Partner Success
Last month I had the opportunity to moderate an impressive panel of Partner Success pioneers at TSIA’s 2019 Technology & Services World (#TSW19) conference. Joining me on stage were Jared Raftery, Senior Manager of Global Partner Strategy and Customer Success at Cisco; Helda Lopes, Head of Global Partner Programs and Marketing at Juniper; Troy Zaboukos, Partner Strategy Lead for Microsoft’s Customer Success Unit; and Phil Nanus, VP, Customer Success Research at TSIA. Just like at the annual Baptie & Company Channel Focus conference (also held in May), where Channel Impact had a tabletop presence, the perspectives shared by our industry’s most renowned channel experts made it clear that we are now experiencing a sea change in our industry. The shift towards subscription-based services combined with the trend toward Customer Experience (CX) and Customer Success (CS) is creating a disruptive force, requiring that tech vendors better support and incentivize their partners through business transformation.
In his keynote presentation at TSW19, TSIA President and CEO J.B. Wood underscored the changes now taking place. He stressed the importance of vendors retooling their entire channel programs, from high-level strategy all the way down to incentive approaches. And, proving that actions speak louder than words, TSIA showed how it is adapting to the new reality, announcing the launch of an entirely new practice dedicated to channel strategy, with Anne McClelland at the helm as VP of XaaS Channel Optimization Research.
Channel Impact is proud to be ahead of the changes as well. Earlier this year we launched our Partner Success practice to empower vendors with the ability to extend to partners the services, programs, tools, and skillsets to build their own CS organizations, and to transition and align with the recurring revenue movement. As evidenced by our panel role at TSW19, we have also been actively engaging with a community of experts dedicated to helping vendors bring Partner Success to fruition.
There’s no question that the time is now for vendors to adapt. In fact, Cisco’s Jared Raftery recommends that vendors plan today with the understanding that all partners will one day have established CS practices in place. With this in mind, and drawing upon the insights shared by our industry’s foremost channel experts at both conferences, I’ve compiled a list of the top five ways vendors can modernize their channel strategies in the era of Partner Success:
- Commit to Massive Leadership and/or Culture Change: Prioritizing CS may require a substantial change in leadership and at a minimum, a deep shift in company culture – one that rallies behind doing everything possible to see that customers and partners succeed. Often times, this level of change must happen from the top down, as it did at Juniper. According to Helda Lopes, the company sought new leadership as it transitioned towards cloud offerings and fully embraced a top-down change management approach, recruiting the best Customer Success leaders to help Juniper and its partners drive transformation.
- Alignment Is Critical: TSIA’s Delivering Customer Success via Partners study found that partner and technology supplier misalignment around CS is still the norm in many cases; however, all panelists agreed that alignment was a fundamental requirement to effective Partner Success. Vendors need to coordinate total partner alignment on everything from objectives, communication, roles and responsibilities, and infrastructure. Troy Zaboukos of Microsoft discussed how his company is constantly working to improve alignment on shared objectives like customer usage and output, and create a common score card to measure KPIs. This level of alignment will become increasingly important as CS matures.
- Focus Training on Adoption Enablement: Many technology suppliers still focus their partner training on sales enablement, product enablement and support, but the broader CS community agrees that training should be reoriented to better address two key areas: adoption and industry (both line of business- and vertical-specific). Cisco has embraced this strategy with excellent results, providing partners with the digital tools, data and insights to nurture customer adoption and business outcomes. But other companies are falling short: a TSIA survey found that only 29 percent of technology suppliers have a CS training and enablement program for partners. Yet, the growth performance of those suppliers that invest in partner CS training and certification is twice that of those that do not.
- Monetize Opportunities for Partners: Partners that prioritize CS can build out an entirely new portfolio of services to monetize and differentiate themselves. This may include recurring license sales and servicing technology, as well as add-on adoption and change management services. In his TSW19 panel presentation, Troy said this type of business model shift can represent a 10-30 percent increase in revenue — and with greater potential lifetime values, as these new revenue streams are recurring.
- Treat Partners as an Extension of Your CS Org: Channel partners provide technology suppliers with the ability to localize and scale CS, which can be an expensive proposition when done alone. For a company like Microsoft, which has scaled its CS organization to more than 2400 managers over the past two years, there are tens of thousands of enterprise, corporate and SMB accounts that remain untouched. Microsoft sees investment in Partner Success as a winning strategy for delivering value to shared customers in the age of CS.
The winners in the race towards Partner Success will be the companies that can combine all of these concepts into a tailored strategy that fits their channel today and provides a scalable framework for the next 2-3 years. At Channel Impact, we have everything you need to guide you on your journey. For more information, check out our recently published white paper, The Rise of Partner Success in the Services Economy, where we share 10 essential strategies. And if you’d like our assistance as you embark on this cool, new adventure called Partner Success, please reach out to me at Kristine@Channel-Impact.com to set up some time to chat.