Panasonic System Communications President Poehler Outlines Channel Vision

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How are you encouraging partners to explore some of the other product categories that they may not have been exposed to previously?

You have to have the right programs and the right incentives for partners. And you clearly need education and training and sales tools to get it done. And we have a lot of work to do there. But the companies that get it are being proactive. They're building an ecosystem, and they're aligning their resources with our resources and our channel field team. In terms of partners that want to put skin in the game and work with us, we're making nice progress.

What are the biggest challenges then for your integrated channel strategy?

We've been fortunate to have a lot of good, loyal long-term partners. So I think the obstacles for us are just around speed and executive. We've got great partners, and we've got to bring the right programs and right solutions to bear. Now that we have all this great technology in one company, we have to generate vertical solutions. And partners are looking for Panasonic to package these vertical solutions. So in education, for example, we're working on connected classrooms and campuses and we can give those solutions to the partners that are focused on education. Retail is another industry; we have all the technology to run a restaurant, and once we package that vertical solution -- and we've already done it on the QSR side -- we hand that blueprint to the channel to go to market. I think our strategy is pretty unique. I don't think there is a single company that can do what we're trying to do right now.

Are you recruiting new partners that are specialized in a particular area like telephony or A/V? Or are you focused on getting existing partners to explore other product categories?

Basically, we're focused on doing more with less by taking that core group of partners, whether it's 500 or 1,000 resellers, and really drive the business. Are we going to add more partners? Sure. But we're really looking to focus on that core group that understands the convergence strategy and wants to get behind it. We have no intentions on focusing on programs to add more resellers beyond that.

You introduced the Panasonic Authorized Reseller Program about a year ago. Where does the program stand right now, and are you looking at making any big enhancements or changes to it in the future?

We're going to evolve it constantly. We're making incremental changes. Last week, we sat down with some of our core partners on the West Coast in an advisory council meeting. So we asked them about what we're getting right, what we're getting wrong, and what they'd like to see in the future. Based on that meeting last week, we've already made significant changes. And we'll continue to have those advisory council sessions and evolve the program. None of us were happy with what we did a year ago [with the authorized reseller program]. The market moves fast, and we have to continue to evolve.

What were the changes that you made based on the advisory council feedback?

Those partners have given us some great direction. We're going to evolve this program to something that's more of a Panasonic loyalty program. It's not going to be for every company. It really applies to our most loyal partners. And we'll add more and more to that program as we get more input.

I think if you just ask the partners what they want and listen closely, they'll tell you. We consider ourselves a channel-friendly company. We've been in the channel for 20 years, and we believe in the channel. Maybe we don't do the best job all the time, but we listen. And we know we have to keep improving and involving. Partners want the solutions, they want the ability to cross product categories easily, and they want the training and tools to help them go to market. So we'll continue to do that.


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