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The Answer's In Front Of You

Field-sales reps are looking for partners they can trust to solve complex customer problems.

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How well are you leveraging the depth of the Microsoft product stack in order to deepen your relationship with your customer?

Most good partners know that the key to long-term success with their clients is not providing commodity services such as hardware sales or basic break-fix. Instead, the key to being successful in the long term is to become a trusted adviser to your customer on all matters, especially those related to technology. If we take our own organization—itSynergy—as an example, we have had a software development practice and an infrastructure practice since we started 10 years ago.

Recently, however, as we have watched the trends in the industry, we have seen (especially in the infrastructure practice) that much of our work just won't be around forever as more and more of the routine system maintenance and rote system management tasks are either automated or are moved offshore. Combine that trend with the fact that keeping an Exchange database running or fixing a printing problem for a user isn't viewed as tremendously valuable by your client, but rather a "necessary evil" of technology.

So how then do we elevate the status of the relationship with our customers from the commodity provider to trusted adviser? I would submit that for Microsoft partners, that answer is (and always has been) right in front of you.

It is my belief that, as Microsoft partners, we have opportunities available to us that are unique in the industry. This is a direct result of the breadth of Microsoft's total commercial product stack. Rather than trying to figure out what to do next, why not just expand what you do now into new areas of Microsoft's product stack?

This strategy offers some key advantages over going in a new direction:

1. You already have an established relationship with Microsoft. You know your reps and they know you. Even more advantageous is that field-sales reps are often looking for partners they can trust to solve complex customer problems, so when you expand into new areas, they are all too happy to have a new resource they can send leads to.

2. When you go deeper into the product stack, it creates service opportunities that are complementary to what you already do. This is in contrast to a completely independent offering that you might end up with by going in a new direction.

3. Microsoft is the only major technology player in the world that has such a broad and well-integrated product stack. These packages are designed from the ground up to be far more tightly integrated with each other than any combination of third-party products you could put together.

As an example, about a year ago, we began to put the pieces in place to build a business intelligence/portals practice that is specifically focused on SMB (a target market I believe is underserved in our geography).

This allows us to leverage our infrastructure practice to put platform technologies like SQL and SharePoint in place, while also enhancing our development practice with customizations to fit specific customer scenarios.

If we were partnered with another company, we may not have had the ability to look over their product stack, and select new technologies to enhance and expand our service portfolio. Being a Microsoft partner gave us this unique opportunity; however, it is only beneficial if we use it.

Your call to action is to set aside time on a regular basis to familiarize yourself at a high level with the entire Microsoft product stack, whether you work in each area today or not.

In addition, you should also pay especially close attention to new products that are being added, either via new development or acquisition. Look at all of these products and how they fit together, and look for opportunities to expand your service offerings either marginally, or into whole new complementary areas.

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