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Collaboration in the tech community is nothing new. From the first system builders to the latest managed security services provider, channel companies have been aligning themselves with partners for decades to ensure their customers receive the best quality solutions.
But that equation is changing with the growth of SaaS and apps, as well as the opportunities that come with them and the communities that support them. That point was heavily stressed by the speakers and several audience members in the Business Growth: Leveraging Co-Selling session at ChannelCon 2017 in Austin this week.
Moderator TC Doyle, Senior Content Director of Channel at Penton Technology, emphasized the transition of these relationships over the past two decades, as well as ways providers can benefit from expanding their own tech business ecosystems. The panel's verdict? Collaboration is and will continue to play a crucial part in the long-term success of the channel.
So, what is co-selling and how does it differ from channel partnerships of the past?
"It's definitely not the same as reselling," said Nate Olsen, Managing Director of Business Development and Channel Programs at Insperity. "Co-selling is symbiotic, with both parties looking to solve their collective clients' problems."
That starts with figuring out the sales model, processes, and who does what. "Many smaller firms won't bid on a large project, but those present great co-selling opportunities," added Olsen. "On the IP (intellectual property) side, programming may be the value you can bring to the table. The real secret sauce is workflow and process. If you can monetize them, that's a win."
For providers, that usually comes down to leveraging and growing your brand with vendors who can fill gaps in technology, support, marketing and other areas. Effective use of the mutual partners' sales and engineering resources can boost their collaborative success.
Throughout the discussion, each panelist stressed that a co-selling relationship is much different than reselling. Marc Monday, Vice President of Partnerships and Ecosystems at SAP suggested that the breadth and depth of the partner/vendor commitment are expanding. "We have a big bag of products. It's difficult to learn all our technologies in front of a customer, so we've always been involved in co-selling. The difference now is it's all about driving speed and creating a competitive advantage by working more closely on each shared client opportunity."
Those changes are affecting new and long-time channel vendors. Constant reevaluation of programs is crucial, and a commitment to continual improvement is key. "In the past, people in some parts of our company have gotten a bit ahead of our partners, but we learned from those experiences," says Brent Combest, General Manager of the Central Region, Small and Midsize Business Division at Microsoft. "We built out our CRM platform and developed partner maps and profile tools to enrich collaborations and the co-selling experience. That includes publishing data points and advisories, and go-to-market plans for Microsoft."