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Channel advice: How to spend the holiday weeks

Staff might be coming and going topping up their tans but there is still plenty that the channel can do both internally and crucially externally with customers

The summer is always a strange time, with staff coming and going on holiday and vendors keeping their powder dry for major launches ahead of the fourth quarter. That does not mean that the summer weeks can not be spent wisely and there are plenty of ideas out there in the channel of what to do in the seasonal slowdown.

 

Alison Hastings, head of channel UK&I, Avaya

“The summer is all about planning and preparation for next financial year and taking time to reflect on what’s worked and what changes are required within your channels. The market intelligence you can gain by committing more time to research can help add real value to your channels by way of a more consultative sales methodology. One of the things we have been doing as a team is sharing market intelligence and research, so we have this knowledge and power when engaging and opening conversations.”

 

Jon-Marc Wilkinson, regional sales director, UK & Ireland for WatchGuard

“From speaking with technical teams in our end user community, the quiet summer months of July and August provide an opportunity to complete projects and spend time researching and planning for the upcoming year. So, for partners this is a time to deliver value to their customers through education and guidance, in terms of network health checks and onsite administration training.  This training can assist customers to plan their 2019 – 2020 project roadmaps, by evaluating current infrastructure, spotting potential skill / technology gaps and thus better aligning their partner relationship. Ultimately, partners will positively differentiate themselves, by providing practical and valued assistance, rather than a hard sell approach.”

 

Bruce Park, vice president channels EMEA at Commvault

“During the summer months, things can become a bit calmer on the sales side – if for no other reason that so many customers and prospects are away on holiday. This gives the channel the opportunity to engage in strategic alignment conversations with partners based on the real issues facing their customers. How these are changing and how to support these specifically in the closing months of the year. This is especially true as many vendors launch new incentives and programmes around this time, so educating partners on how these new benefits really support that strategic engagement and speed of execution in the post summer months.”

 

Lee Fletcher, channel manager UK & Ireland at Snom

“The summer months may be a quiet time for some but, for others, these weeks are a chance to become proactive and fully prepared for the months ahead. Without a host of channel events taking place every other day, sales and marketing activities can focus on examining and categorising new leads, updating documentation and evaluating strategies from the first half of the year. It’s also the perfect time to pick-up up with past prospects. Regardless of how much the workflow might die down over summer, it’s important to maintain contact with existing customers.

For channel customers, the quieter months are an opportunity to examine what technology they’re using and consider switching to something different.  When the to-do list of the IT admin isn’t as long as it is during the rest of the year, they have the chance to put some serious thought into upgrading their tech solutions. For resellers, distributors, providers and manufacturers, they need to ensure they are on-hand to provide the information and offers that are being sought.

This period is also a great opportunity to evaluate the company’s performance during H1, which will help you set targets for H2. Taking time to reflect is extremely beneficial but is something that normally takes a backseat when times are busy.”

 

Mark Armstrong, UK & Ireland VP Channels and Alliances at HPE

"Time is always well spent investing in the knowledge and skills of technical presales teams. Quieter weeks can be dedicated to the learning and development of skills needed to build solution practices whilst gaining greater industry recognition and certifications.Through a range of product certifications and solution competencies, HPE Tech Pro provides partners with a new approach to continuous learning as well as a chance to benefit from rewards and recognition for each certification.

The quieter period also gives channel partners the chance to build their digital proficiency, so may use their time to complete the HPE Digital Marketing Maturity Assessment that reviews digital marketing capabilities and identify areas where partners can enhance their capabilities or further develop their expertise. The partner’s customised report provides personalised, actionable recommendations for partners to review and execute whilst they have the time this summer."

Ian Ashworth, EMEA & APAC channels director for Netwrix

“Channel organisations would be well advised to use the (traditionally) quieter summer period to plan around existing accounts, identifying any potential opportunities for expansion in the coming months, while focusing on the challenges that new and existing clients are set to face. This is particularly important in times of political uncertainty, given the inevitable knock-on instability for businesses. As ever, there’s also the continually evolving threat landscape to consider as both external and insider attacks are exponentially rising. This requires the channel to continually assess the types of technologies that can complement their customers’ security strategies, while introducing cost savings and operational efficiencies around current controls and processes. It’s also important to plan specifically for any new vertical sectors that are being targeted, as taking a strategic approach to selecting new and disruptive technologies to support current portfolios will deliver a competitive edge.”

 

Ian Millward, general manager, channel, Zen Internet

“The Channel should use the summer, when it is a bit quieter, for planning. With busy periods just round the corner, the summer is a great opportunity to prepare collateral, training and planning campaigns so you can work more efficiently when the busier times come.

The summer is also a good time to think about the things you rarely get the time to concentrate on. Think about your customer and prospect personas. Do you need to revisit these to make sure they are still accurate? Now is a good time to get to know these people more. It is also an opportunity to think about more ways you can stimulate the market; making your offering more attractive than those you compete against.”

 

Tina Gravel, senior vice president, global channel, Cyxtera

“With one half of the year over, and one half to go, the slower summer months are a good time to plan for the rest of the year. Look ahead at the events taking place in H2 and fine-tune logistics, update target lists and develop your integrated communications plans.

During this process, review your progress to date. Assess what worked and didn’t work in the first half of the year. Take an objective view of your campaigns and identify which activities have been fruitful in producing leads, pipeline and sales. Armed with that knowledge, in H2 you can double down on activities that were successful while eliminating or cutting back on those that yielded less results.

The quieter summer months are also a great opportunity to ask customers to participate in a case study, testimonial or success story. Not only will these function as powerful testimonials, but looking at successful partnerships will empower you to build a profile hat can help you target companies with similar characteristics. Spend time in H2 recruiting new organizations who match your target criteria. 

Finally, use any additional time to research the latest industry trends so you can discuss them with customers and further your role as a trusted advisor.  Complete training and certification courses for key solutions. Many are available on-line.”

 

Mick Bradley, VP EMEA, Arcserve

“Although we don’t tend to experience much downtime, there are some things that we encourage our employees to do when they have some extra time on their hands during the holiday period. For example, this time often gives employees an opportunity to focus on serving customers in different sectors – such as public sector or retail – that may have slightly different fluctuations in their holiday cycles.

There’s also an awful lot of training that goes into being a channel professional and the summer can be a great time to focus on this area. Employees can take the time to update their training collateral, refresh their own knowledge and capabilities, or look at what else is happening in different parts of the business to identify areas that might be of assistance to their channel partners. There’s also the wider market to think about. We’re very focused on making sure that our teams have the latest training and knowledge on not only our solutions, but of the market in general. There’s a lot of activity going on in the market and it’s important that we stay ahead of the game.

Finally, we spend a lot of time developing and enhancing our programmes, whether it’s a specific programme for a specific partner, our channel or rebate programme, or collateral around a new solution launch. Getting these things right for our different partners takes a lot of work and the holiday period can provide an ideal opportunity to ensure that we have updated plans in place for when momentum starts picking up again.”

 

Ed Baker, senior director EMEA partners at McAfee.

“Don’t miss out on the cloud access broker (CASB) & endpoint detection and response (EDR) market acceleration. Do you have your first win in these categories? Take a step back during the summer and plan to help your customers stay ahead with cloud security and next generation detection and response. Offering a device-to-cloud architecture can help you capture the growth in these segments.”

 

Tom Corrigan, UK channel director at Mimecast

“Business still needs to run right throughout the summer and people need to be in to do the running – Don’t get yourself into the mindset that the summer is all for holidays at the customer and in the channel

The Education sector delivers some of their biggest projects in the summer – make sure that you are touching in and supporting them

September is quarter end for many partners and vendors – don’t wait for September to come to re-qualify your opportunities – spend time in August qualifying the pipeline, aligning key resources and mapping timelines and hit the ground running on 1 Sep

 

Dave Sobel, senior director MSP evangelism, SolarWinds MSP

“The idea that summer means that business slows down is a bit of a myth, especially in IT. Hackers don’t down tools, so neither should security teams. IT underpins so much of everyday life that for many providers, it’s business as usual. These “quieter months” are instead when service providers can show the greatest value to their clients by maintaining the same level of service.

If these are quieter months, and your competitors are taking their eye off the ball, this could be an opportunity for sales. I know someone who never fails to use the time between Christmas and New Year for sales calls—people can be receptive because they’re not busy with so much work and can actually take a call. The same is true of the summer.”

 

Brent Owens, EMEA director channel programs at Vertiv

"The month of August can be a quiet time for regular business activity. It’s the height of the holiday season, the normally manic pace of client meetings and conference calls are replaced with a swarm of out of office messages. Like many of us, I take this opportunity to catch up on long overdue admin, clearing the decks on unanswered emails and preparing for the September rush. For our channel partners, this is also the perfect time to take full advantage of partner program promotions and online training.

We know and appreciate that everyone is busy and will often, due to time constraints, overlook the hidden gems of unclaimed, or even unapplied for, programs and promotions — but they can have real impact on their business. Take the time to look through them and find the best one for your business strategy. Working in an ever-changing, technically-minded industry, it’s also important for your teams to take advantage of your vendors online training and certification resources. Knowledge is both power and profitable in this regard as you can’t sell what you’re not aware of. 

So enjoy the summer, and take time out for the important things but if you do find yourself less busy than usual then take advantage of the change in your daily agenda to invest in some new knowledge and benefits for your business."

 

Mark Kelly, Scality's VP Channel

"August is typically a quiet month with many employees on holiday prior to their children returning to school.  While many business leaders see this as a challenge, I see a great opportunity to position yourself for the final months of the year and beyond.  Channel partners are continually assisting their clients in leveraging data to provide business insight and growth opportunities, while neglecting to do the same internally.  Making use of this quieter period to conduct a 360 degree analysis of your business is essential for growth.  What have you accomplished year to date?  How are your relationships with your clients, partners and employees?  Are you effectively selling solutions and your entire portfolio of services?  Are you taking advantage of emerging technology trends and partnerships to remain relevant within the market?  These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself and your leadership to help position the business for continued growth.  It’s essential to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and plan for success.  It’s also a wonderful time to host events for your employees and recognise their efforts.  Hosting a BBQ or other fun lunchtime activity for the team is a great way to build a connection and inspire those that are the foundation of your business."

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