Partners should be better listeners

Why partners must be better listeners

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are being forced to adapt in the face of current increasing economic, geopolitical and supply chain challenges. 

This of course applies to the IT channel, too. 

So how best can partners navigate these current choppy waters?

It was a conversation we had recently with Robin Ody, who is global managed services research lead at channel analyst firm Canalys.

He noted one thing partners can do is listen to their customers.

Seems obvious right? Most salespeople will have been told, upon embarking on their career, that they have two ears and one mouth and they should use them in that order. And we talk a lot about this in Channel. 

Yet, according to Robin, it seems many partners still aren’t focused enough on the consulting element of the relationship. Interestingly we wrote about this movement in 2020 with our paper ‘The Inverse Channel’ but it seems some are taking a while to adapt.

A partner, said Robin, should be able to reassure the customer and provide them with choices to help them during these uncertain times by helping them keep the lights on, improving services or shifting things around.

“It’s not just the IT sale,” he explained. “It’s the partner making sure they understand the customer’s issues and business sector.

“I don’t know if it’s an advisory role, but it’s definitely a consulting role, because you’re asking the question before you provide the answer.”

Market information like gold dust

Robin said partners should gather market intelligence and call on their vertical industry knowledge and relationship with the customer to identify any threats they face in their business. 

We know it’s easy to miss things when your head is down and your focused on the business, but it is important to stay informed.

“Sometimes partners might miss things as they’re not focused on. Things like security, or cloud. They might not know what the cost of risk is for one of their customers in terms of a security incident. 

They might not know what the cyber insurance landscape is looking like – it might be important for somebody to invest in insurance at a time when things are difficult. And it’s probably easier to deal with the insurance cost than it is to deal with the response costs.

“Equally, you might not know what the cost savings might be for bringing a customer back on premise or into a private cloud versus a public cloud or vice versa. 

The more that you can try to gather intelligence on what’s happening outside of what you currently do, the more there’s an opportunity to expand some of that into areas which are suddenly very hot and important at a time when things are difficult. 

So the information becomes like the gold dust and the more information you gather, the more you’re able to make a decision around how you adapt.”

Acquiring consultancy skills

We are already seeing more acquisition of consulting capabilities within larger companies, he added.

“It’s interesting when you see really big companies investing just in the people – if they didn’t buy the fixed assets of that company, they bought the consultants. They bought the skills essentially.”

To partners, he advised: “The more professional services people you get in that really know how to set up a real deal, rather than just sell a product, but construct an actual deal to help the customer, the more likely that is to get renewals. 

So if you invest upfront, then you’re probably going to improve your churn rate. 

That means that your cost base on the back end is going to go down, ideally.

“Even in difficult times, you need to get certain skills in, or at the very least prioritise certain skills, because it feeds through the chain to improve things later on.”

It’s interesting as we at Purechannels are constantly talking about Vendors needing to listen more to their partners, and respond to their needs… turns out the same goes for partners and end customers. 

As obvious as these things sound, it seems we all need a little reminder of the basics from time to time.

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