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WOTC Panel: Solution Providers Urge Vendors To Pay Attention To The Partner's Journey, Not Just The Buyer's

Solution providers discuss the elements of a winning channel program and how vendors can position partners to succeed in services and the cloud.

Vendors often consider the buyer's journey, but less attention is paid to the partner's journey, said a panel of solution providers at the Women of the Channel West event Tuesday.

The panelists at the conference, hosted by The Channel Company and held in Napa, Calif., this week, opined on the channel programs from vendors and suppliers that are winning today, how these companies can make changes in favor of services-based sales, and what these programs should be offering partners tomorrow.

Companies must work on aligning their strategies with their partners' strategies to be more successful, said Calista Roussos, director of marketing and vendor strategy for Tampa, Fla.-based Vology.

[Related: WOTC: How to Position Yourself For Your Future Career]

"The partner journey is very important, so [when] vendors work with their partners, they need to understand where [the partner] is at, what their goals are, and what's important to them heading into the future," she said.

Vology focused on hardware sales until about two years ago. Now, 45 percent of its sales are driven by services, with about 23 percent of that providing recurring revenue, Roussos said.

Vendors and suppliers should reward for the volume of today, but encourage the value of tomorrow, she said.

"Many partners have that transactional model still and that has to be maintained," said Roussos. "But I also need compensation models to address how my company is trying to shift and make that transition."

According to Roussos, about 25 percent of solution providers today won't successfully make the shift to becoming services-led organizations, but partner programs that encourage such sales can be instrumental in helping them cross the chasm, she said.

"The reason those solution providers won't make that transition is because the financial cost to transition your business model can be very risky, so vendors should really think of ways to reward partners for volume so that business grows," Roussos said.

The cloud may be the biggest factor causing vendors to rethink the structure of their partner programs, and partners are looking for low-risk ways to get started selling cloud services if they don't already, said Ann Borza, vice president of services for Distributed Systems Services, Reading, Pa.

But vendors and suppliers don't have to change every aspect of their channel programs in the pursuit of building a more services-friendly program. Cloud service providers, for example, already understand what partners and their customers want, Distributed Systems Services' Borza said, praising some existing licensing models in the channel today.

"These models are great," she said. "It allows us as an MSP to provide and charge monthly for cloud licenses, and this works with Office 365 very well [because] that's how most of our partnerships are with our customers -- monthly recurring."

Vendors and suppliers also are increasingly helping their partners offer new services with marketing dollars. Vendors with marketing funding programs based on a partner's track record are appreciated by many partners, Borza said.

"It's not so much about, 'What have you done for me lately?' as opposed to what have we achieved together and what can we go forward and achieve. So the amount of marketing dollars that vendors are putting into the channel today is great," she said.

Partners also appreciate when their vendors take the time to connect partners with their peers within their channel ecosystem, Borza said.

"It really shows conscious thought about the ecosystem and how more people at the table bring more value to the client," she added.

The vendor-partner relationship, above all, should be symbiotic, said Julie Haley, CEO of Alpharetta, Ga.-based Edge Solutions.

By working together more closely, partners can also help their vendors stay relevant and keep on top of business needs.

"What [vendors] really need from us is help bringing them ahead of the curve to help transform their business and get ahead of their competition," she said.

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