Technology vendors face many challenges when navigating the various service provider (SP) models in the cloud and identifying the best partnership bets, as I explored in my last blog.
The next logical question is, so how do we build the right go-to-market (GTM) framework to engage our service provider partners successfully?
Channel partnerships need to evolve from "sell-through" approaches to more collaborative “sell-with” strategies, says Bob Faletra of UBM Channel (CRN), elaborating on key 2013 channel trends at the recent COMDEXvirtual conference. Unfortunately, the majority of technology channel programs still focus primarily on the former.
Sure, sell-through met the needs of the traditional reseller business, but the lack of sell-with capabilities leaves vendors vulnerable to shifting channel loyalty in this crucial service-led segment. Partners who don’t think that vendors are bringing enough value for them to be successful with their customers will very quickly jump ship. The balance of power has shifted toward successful SPs.
When forming SP partnerships, technology vendors need to consider a more nuanced approach to building their GTM strategy. Understand where the partner business model is headed, rather than just take a historical view of the relationship. Base it on a clear understanding of what the SPs are trying to achieve with their customers. Most vendors with existing SP programs tend to be, again, more focused on the SP as a customer for their products, rather than working with an "end-customer" vision that requires a collaborative GTM.
A good place to shine your new investigative light is on the key levers and focus areas of an end-to-end SP engagement strategy—and understand completely what role each lever plays in the GTM success.
Based on my client engagements and research, the GTM levers for SPs can be broken down into these two categories (see figure below):
1. Upstream GTM Areas establish a strong technical and business relationship foundation with the partner. They are critical as they help partners build their offerings based on a strategic view of the vendor roadmap and the appropriate executive, operational and technical support. Without a strong foundation in these areas, the relationship will not get off the ground. It includes key areas such as:
- Strategic/technology alignment
- Business model alignment
- Technical training and enablement
- Partner management capability
2. Downstream GTM Areas help partners deliver their offerings to the end customer, with the appropriate commercial, sales and marketing support from the vendor. This enables market success of the partner’s offerings to the end customer and a clear view on how to differentiate the vendor support to enable various customer scenarios. It includes key areas such as:
- Marketing support
- Pricing/commercial support
- Presales and technical support
- Incentives and rewards
- Joint sales support
By organizing the GTM requirements into upstream and downstream areas, vendors can focus and prioritize their investments in selected areas more effectively to maximize business impact and meet partner business model needs. Vendors can construct a deeper level of differentiation to address the needs of various individual and collaborative selling scenarios with SPs.