Channel Partners: You Don’t Have to Run the Race to Zero
Dec 14, 2020
We all long for the way things were “Before the Pandemic.” As a technology channel partner, you have cause to be particularly wistful.
In recent years, you’ve been challenged by declining prices of basic technology functionality such as network connectivity, transport and computing infrastructure. As these services become increasingly commoditized, you and other channel partners find yourselves losing 15 percent to 20 percent a year in revenue when renewing contracts with existing customers. That means that, however loyal, your existing customer base represents a source of shrinking revenue.
Traditionally, you’ve tackled this problem by attracting new customers. By adding enough new logos to your portfolios, even at lower margins, you could offset losses from lower prices and continue to grow. To win those customers, meanwhile, you spent a significant portion of your time, resources and energy on conferences and networking events where you schmoozed, exchanged cards, set up meetings and closed deals.
And then came the pandemic. Today, of course, the world of in-person meetings – where new relationships are initiated and established ones solidified – no longer exists, and is unlikely to return in the foreseeable future. So what’s the alternative? One is to focus on virtual networking. But if you’re like most sales professionals I’ve spoken with, you’ll agree that building new relationships exclusively through emails and zoom calls is a discouraging prospect.
Expand the Base
There’s a better way. Instead of scrambling to build your customer base, think creatively about how to develop your business through your existing customers.
It’s a simple proposition: Expand your portfolio of offerings to include digital services. These include:
- Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN), which enables visibility into network environments and applies zero touch provisioning to flexibly deploy bandwidth resources.
- Internet of Things-enabled edge device that collect, communicate and analyze data at the point of critical business activity.
- Virtual Reality applications that create compelling experiences from any location.
- Cloud-based collaboration tools that facilitate productive and secure teamwork across multiple locations and platforms.
With these capabilities, you’ll be positioned to solve your customers’ continually evolving and increasingly complex problems. When businesses shifted to remote work models following the pandemic, for example, many deployed SD-WAN solutions to ensure reliable and secure bandwidth for home-based workers competing for scarce Internet resources. Cloud-based collaboration tools have proven to be similarly invaluable, as businesses struggle to keep remote teams in scattered locations engaged and productive.
Segment the Base
Applying innovative technologies to help businesses support home-based employees is an excellent – if obvious – example of how channel partners can grow revenue within their existing customer base. Indeed, following business lockdowns in March, the channel industry was quick to pivot towards a focus on remote work solutions. However, taking full advantage of your digital toolbox will require some homework and investment of time and energy. One key is to engage with customers to gain the insight needed to address their industry-specific challenges. Another is to explore master agent resources to expand your partnership network and capabilities in a strategic manner. Finally, you may need to revamp your sales strategy to shift from a tactical response mode to a more proactive consultative approach.
With a deeper understanding of customer issues and a broader array of capabilities, you’ll be prepared to tackle a wider range of more strategic problems. You could, for example, help a manufacturing customer drive convergence between IT and factory floor operations, or support a bank that seeks to deploy digital branch offices. Let’s say you have a retail customer looking to engage with buyers who are reluctant to enter a store. How about a Virtual Reality solution that creates a showroom in a shopper’s home?
Incorporating Internet of Things and Edge Intelligence applications into your arsenal, meanwhile, opens a new world of possibilities. Fleet management solutions can help transportation and logistics companies manage their vehicles and assets to enhance safety, efficiency and regulatory compliance. Hospitals – battered by the financial impact of the pandemic – can use smart sensors and video analytics to locate and monitor equipment such as portable X-ray machines and ventilators.
A digitally-enabled approach to sales can position you to significantly grow your revenue – as well as your profit margin – per customer. In the process, you’ll build loyalty within your base and evolve from being a reliable technology vendor to an invaluable strategic partner.