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Former Microsoft Channel Veteran Menzione: Great Partnerships Built On Commitment, Shared Vision And Adaptability

Vince Menzione, who has since founded Cloud Wave Partners, highlights for an audience at XChange 2017 the characteristics of partnerships that have thrived, as well as the factors behind ones that have failed.

Rapid technology change and inconsistent communication can put tremendous strain on channel relationships, but solution providers can reap significant benefits through greater commitment and investment in their vendor partners.

Few individuals can discuss channel partnership with more authority than Cloud Wave Partners founder Vince Menzione, who spent nearly nine years as general manager of partner sales and strategy at Microsoft. There, he helped guide the Redmond, Wash.-based giant's government business into the cloud era and piloted the licensing programs that remain a part of the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider program.

"[Solution providers] need a way to connect with the technology giants," said Menzione in a session at The Channel Company's XChange 2017 conference Monday. "They need a way to get information rapidly, persistently. And the tech giants need a way to deliver that message in a more rapid format."

[Related: Traditional Sales Strategies Are 'Under Siege,' But Brand Evangelism Can Help The Channel]

With solution providers in mind, Menzione highlighted several characteristics of partnerships that have thrived, as well as the factors behind ones that have failed, taken from podcast interviews he conducted with leaders across the channel.

Reinventing a business model is extraordinarily difficult for solution providers to do and requires true commitment at the leadership level to remain in lockstep with vendors. Some partnerships fail because solution providers weren't aggressive enough in buying into a vendor's larger vision – be it cloud transformation or another disruptive technology – or because partners didn't understand how to effectively market their unique value proposition to vendors.

Solution providers need to take a simple, aggressive approach to self-branding, he said.

In addition to being committed to making their own investments in marketing, solution providers need to develop their own pipelines and show independence in generating leads, Menzione said.

Commitment, from understanding the cadence of the vendor's sales strategy to embracing accreditation and training programs, also are key.

Solution providers that have proved themselves valuable to their vendor partners exhibited genuine investment by sales staff in the field, adaptability as vendors tweak program and even shift businesses, and the ability to clearly define the scope of their offerings and, if possible, develop a niche.

Menzione then took the discussion a step further by defining a few attributes of partnerships that cracked the top "1 percent" in terms of quality. Chief among them: shared purpose, organizationwide commitment sourced at the leadership level and, lastly, interdependence.


"The partner understands the vision at a very deep level and is committed to that vision all out," Menzione said.

Of interdependence, Menzione quoted a discussion he had with Jason Rook, vice president of market development at Chicago-based solution provider 10th Magnitude. "It's speaking the same way to the customer without the [vendor] partner present," he said. "If [customers] say they want to go with their competitors, I'm going to say, 'We'll stay connected, but I'm going to pick up my bags.'"

Arian Soheili, managing director at Surrey, British Columbia-based solution provider Cantatus Systems Group, said the dialogue emphasized a need for his company to foster additional relationships among vendor partners and place greater focus on promoting Cantatus' brand.

"This is a reality check in terms of what the relationship is like," Soheili told CRN. "It will enable me to build a practice with a checklist of activities I need to do."

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