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‘Middle-of-the-road’ products – that’s what keeps channel partners awake at night. There is little worse for resellers operating in a competitive market than having to push a product with no clear unique selling point (USP) and offering near-identical features to its competitors. All this does is force them to blend into an already overcrowded market. For a partner trying to market a solution, this is enough to give them nightmares.
Without a clear feature to differentiate a solution from its competitors, or an irresistible asset to an end-user, partners are put in a tricky situation of trying to shift a product that a customer can easily get elsewhere.
A particular industry in which this has become common is the UK telephony and communication space. While a mature market in some senses, it is still growing, and each day a new product appears. In fact, a recent report from Gartner UC predicts that global spend on communications will top $40.1 billion by 2019, so the demand for unified communications is clear. Yet, this is a difficult space to stand out in, as numerous vendors attempt to break the mould. That’s why vendors can no longer rely solely on the sales expertise of channel partners to close a deal, there has to be a feature or strategy that clearly differentiates it from its competitors.
So how can vendors become the partner the channel needs, and continue to help them drive sales and close deals?
It’s time to revise your business model
The solution? Well, it lies in working together with partners to create a new business model that works for all involved. The traditional tick-box relationships that can be common between vendors and partners, leaves little room for a effective relationship to blossom where collaboration can happen and feedback can be given, which will do nothing to help hit sales targets or breed creativity.
Working more closely with partners, and allowing them the freedom to access insights and training, will mean they understand the offering at a deeper level. This means they can highlight features that would be of particular interest to a potential customer. Not only will this help inform the product roadmap, but improve sales, as partners are tuned into the market’s need.
Making this collaborative relationship work means stripping away unnecessary admin or frustration points. For instance, if a partner needs to log into the website or company portal to garner information, make it easy to do so. Don’t let the partner feel like an outsider, instead, encourage a unified approach that sees them acting as a core member of the company. At the end of the day, these partners are your businesses’ bread and butter. They are tasked with shifting goods and, by implementing improved lines of communication, partners will be more invested and able to sell the solution on the frontline.
Think twice and integrate
Once the business model has improved, and collaboration is at an all-time high, it’s time to look inwardly on the solution itself. It’s not just about the physical phone that is sat on an office desk, but rather the applications that are able to be used alongside, and integrated into, the hardware. For example, if a company has implemented several layers of solutions it is comfortable with, ensure your product can sit on top of and integrate with them all. By offering this feature to the end user, you remove the need for the customer to be filled with dread at the thought of a huge systems review and having to run months of training. With this collaborative USP, partners can showcase the product as a core platform that does not require a significant overhaul of operations. Instead, it should simply integrate with existing solutions.
Great integration isn’t just about existing platforms, but also about the ones partners are trying to market. If they are able to market your product as the core platform – and can bolt-on their other offerings – partners are able to better monetise customers and hit sales targets sooner. Vendors that put in the work for partners will see this level of effort reciprocated.
It can be difficult to understand the market’s needs, but channel partners have their ears to the ground and are well placed to share what customer demands and needs are. By working together with partners as colleagues, rather than adversaries, allows for great collaboration, which in return provides an opportunity for products to be sold in a way that works best. The vanilla vendor must be a thing of the past, and true collaboration and product integration will be how businesses can become the partner that the channel needs. How can we sell communication solutions if we are unable to communicate properly with our own partners?
The author Rob Wiles, is Channel Sales Director at Unify