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Unlocking the combined value of the channel

Adam Williamson, sales director at Exclusive Networks UK, takes a look at how to unlock the combined value of the channel

Alone, the players of the channel are facing their fair share of challenges in 2023. From decreasing budgets to increasing risk and a lack of resources to balance the two, it’s never been tougher, or more important, to cater to the end customer. 

Increasingly, we’re seeing projects that are either plagued with delays or stalled indefinitely as end customers second guess their spending amidst budget restraints. Extra sign-off, hesitation and constant looking between different models and how they can consume them are the reasons for this. Unfortunately, the longer this goes on, the larger their risk posture becomes.

That hesitation is actively hurting how they manage their resources, too. Once a solution is deployed, the channel can do what we do best: offering support in the form of professional services, knowledge portals and on-hand training so our customers can ultimately do more with less. After all, it’s not our role to simply sell a solution and call it a day. We need to help our customers consume it as they extract as much value as they possibly can – from us and it.

In times like these, it’s easy to turn to tech to save the day. But in reality, more tech often leads to more complexity and less clarity. Only by working together can the channel realise its true value, reduce complexities and improve risk postures.

All for one and one for all

All of this is to be expected in the current economic climate, and I suspect that this will cause many customers, wrongly, to favour price above all else as they seek to maximise what budget they have. 

To challenge this mindset, we need to show them the combined value of the channel, but that’s only possible if we work together as brilliant cogs in an incredible machine. We need to embrace and innovate sales enablement, relying on one another as resellers, vendors and beyond to share knowledge and plug our own gaps. We need to understand more than just the solution we’re providing. We need to understand the customer, their needs and how we can meet them despite their challenges.

This may look like innovative approaches to financing through Klarna-esque ‘buy now, pay when you have the budget’ models that give customers what they need whilst freeing the budget to deal with immediate hiring freezes, resource issues and other roadblocks.

It will undoubtedly require a proactive approach to sales, whereby we go beyond the roles of distributors, vendors and resellers and become true accelerator partners for our customers. In doing so, we’ll be able to make things happen at speed; we’ll be able to collaborate on how to go to market, how to empower our sales partners, and how to train them to best serve the end customer. 

It will mean knowing our partners inside and out and helping them get close deals and seize discounts wherever possible. Only through such expertise can we begin to understand the challenges we and our customers face and do what we can to ease the sales cycle, quell doubt and find a resolution that works for everyone.

Right now, too many of us are so laser-focused on closing a deal that we’re failing to look at the bigger picture, for us and the end customer. Instead of this, we need to be taking a big step back to see the scope of what the customer needs and what they ultimately want to achieve beyond the solution being sold to them. By looking at the smaller details, the wider goals and the critical projects that are keeping them up at night, we can ask the right questions and add the right value.

To do that, we will need to ask curious questions at every stage of the sales cycle as we understand, interrogate and unlock opportunities that perhaps weren’t immediately obvious. Vendors in particular need to make sure that they’re taking this on board when they’re engaging with customers. They need to be fully aware of the various financial models and be ready to talk about them if they are to ease what could be a multimillion-pound project. After all, the last thing a customer wants to hear is that they could have done X instead of Y if only you’d made the full scope of your offering clear from the get-go. 

Finally – and most importantly, if any of the above is to happen – it means leaning on the rich ecosystem of partners around us. The channel, by definition, is more than the sum of its parts, and only through collaboration, camaraderie and communication can we offer true value to end customers, regardless of the hurdles they face.

The author is sales director at security and cloud distributor Exclusive Networks.

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