What I Learned At BOB

These were some of the ideas discussed at our inaugural Best Of Breed conference, where we brought together leading and next-gen VARs to discuss business transformation and the skills the channel needs to survive and thrive. Here is what I learned:

Forget about ownership and embrace sharing.

Whether we like it or not, society is moving from an ownership mentality to a sharing mentality where people who have access to goods and services trumps ownership, according to Lisa Gansky, author of “The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing.”

Gansky drove home her point by looking at Zipcar, Netflix and even cities that operate bike-sharing -- where the business model is all about sharing goods, not owning goods. New players such as kickstarter.com and quirky.com are serving as online mesh communities as well.

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The most obvious analogy for VARs is cloud or managed services where customers are sharing the infrastructure. But this concept also applies to how you are conducting business. Traditionally, VARs have been reticent to partner with one another and share information because it could put them at a disadvantage. But next-gen VARs have been brought up on technology and live in this share mentality and may be more open to partnerships.

Big brands are becoming less powerful.

The advent of social media has proven that we trust the recommendations of our friends or even friends of friends more than a company. Business-to-consumer companies are finally realizing what the channel has known all along: Relationships and trust are incredibly powerful but often hard to quantify. While big brands will remain recognizable, they aren’t as important as a personal recommendation, and businesses will need to figure how to wrap ROI around that relationship. For VARs, the channel relationship you have with your customers is your inherent strength. Leverage your power and don’t sell yourself short.

Make sure that you invest in strategic relationships -- and not just the monetary ones.

Many successful VARs know that word of mouth or a casual conversation can turn into actual sales. So rather than focusing on transactional conversations, it is important to get to know the person you are doing business with, according to David Nour, author of “Relationship Economics.” The rest of the world builds relationships first and then does business; here, we tend to build relationships after we do business, he said. So forget about your P&L for a moment and get to know your customer as a person -- not as a person who buys your services and technology.

Don’t be ashamed of your failures.

Naked is the new black and transparency is important, said Gansky. And as organizations share more on online platforms, sharing failures is as useful or even more useful than successes. Failures offer some key lessons others can build upon. So shout your failures from the rafters, check out our BOB coverage online (and on p. 12) and be on the lookout for next year’s event.

BACKTALK: Kelley Damore is VP, Editorial Director for UBM Channel. You can reach her via e-mail at [email protected].