Channel Champions: How to identify the best partners
We got three of Verizon’s Channel leaders together to discuss what it takes to be a Channel Champion.
Technology is moving fast. Is that changing what it takes to be a great channel partner?
Janet: Absolutely. And it’s changing faster than many firms think. There are a lot of companies that see themselves as successful; who think they should be courted by industry vendors. But when you look closely at their business plans, what you see isn’t green and growing—it’s past its sell by date. Verizon has the best of the best because we look for the best and invest.
Lori: There are too many channel firms still stuck back in the 1990s. They’re resting on their laurels. Take Voice over IP. It has gone from new to commodity in five years. But there are still channel firms that are behind that curve. And that means they’re failing to bring their customers into the 21st century. Ultimately, they’re the companies that are going to fall behind because they won’t be able to grow their business.
Janet: You need to think about how you’re going to win in the long term, not just today. Channel providers that are still stuck on old paths, that refuse to adapt to new technologies, will have been forgotten in a few years. The companies that will become the channel leaders are the ones paranoid about who’s out there waiting to disrupt them. They’re the ones innovating to help their customers grow.
Joe: Our Verizon Partner Program members are in a great place to innovate. They can be more agile than a company of Verizon’s size. We’re looking at them to add value, to take what we offer and build it into new solutions that deliver something their customers need. Doing that isn’t about turning your back on what you do well. Channel firms need a core set of services, but they’ve got to be flexible enough to adapt to what’s changing in the market. That’s how they’ll survive.
Janet: Just look at all the great innovations in technology. They’ve been developed by a group of channel providers. It takes companies with the guts to extend their leads and evolve. That’s where innovation starts. At the moment, there are too many companies out there saying they want to be solutions providers, but there are few putting those words into action.
How do you make sure you’re picking the best partner program members for Verizon? What are the things that have you saying yes; and what are your red flags?
Janet: I look for three things. The first is being deeply embedded in a community—and that can be geographic or vertical. Second, they need to be as good or better at marketing than Verizon—if you can’t get the word out, how are you going to help those businesses that need you? Third is the human element. When you look at their sales plan, their marketing and business plans, are they able to pivot and evolve long before the need arises? Their mindset needs to be “if it isn’t broke, it’s time to fix it.” They need to be constantly evolving and have the talent to do that.
Lori: For me, that must-have is being customer-focused. The best companies that we do business with think of the customer first. Everything they do starts with a customer and ends with a customer. They’re not just looking at money in their pockets; they’re truly taking into consideration what’s right for the customer.
Joe: I absolutely agree. I get a red flag when I’m sitting in a meeting with a prospective partner and realize that what they’re looking for, how they do their business, and how they view the relationship is fundamentally opposed to our values. That’s when you need to be smart enough to walk away and break ties. We’re looking for channel firms that strive to build long-term relationships with their customers—not simply sell and then move on. Not everything is about winning each time; it’s about winning in the long term.
Janet: That’s right. It’s about their values. The channel firms that stand out are the ones that wake up every day thinking about how they can help their customers improve their businesses. The channel firms that have sustained success long-term have retained customers because they’ve executed on their promises. That’s about starting with the customer and then working backwards to identify the best solution for their needs. It’s about walking in stupid every morning. It’s companies that don’t think they know it all, but are constantly questioning whether they’re smart enough, and are constantly looking to learn.
Vote for Janet Schijns to win her bracket in CRN Channel Madness: Tournament of Chiefs!
Stay tuned for our next Channel Champions roundtable, when Janet, Lori and Joe will give their views on what it takes to be a channel leader.
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