ChannelVision Magazine

By Bruce Wirt Most of us leave money on the table every day, and this industry causes its own prob- lems by driving margins lower and lower on products and services that are not in the sup- plier’s wheelhouse. In a 2017 survey conducted by The Alliance Partners, the majority of agents felt like suppli- ers focus too much on the “why” instead of the “how.” Supplier presentations inevitably start with, “sell us because we have the best net- work, the best customer service, and we can do everything you need.” This is generally followed by a 45- to 60-minute product dump that less than 20 percent of the audience is tuned in for. Provider X comes out with a new prod- uct or service, and then provider Y is there a week later with the same thing at a 10 percent price reduction. It’s been that way since 1996. Agents are taught to open the customer’s door and immediately jump into a conversation about saving that customer money. Right now, there is a massive push to convert legacy MPLS networks to SD-WAN technology, and many agents don’t know “why” or “how” other than “it’s cheaper and comes with redundancy.” For that reason, the agent channel has his- torically been stuck in the small to mid-market transactional business, where partners can bring outside cost saving solutions to under- staffed IT personnel. Agents open doors and close deals based on budget alone. But fairly of- ten, the right questions don’t get asked and the customer buys an apple to save money when they needed an orange to run their business. Or, the agent will sell the cost-saving products and services but miss out on huge revenue pos- sibilities by not probing into challenges that the customer is facing beyond the low hanging fruit. As a channel chief for more than 10 years, I’ve heard countless supplier executives and engineers blame the lack of probing on the channel. Many organizations even protect enterprise accounts and shut the channel out because they don’t trust that the sales process will uncover all of the details needed. But if we as suppliers step back and look in the mirror, we may find that there is vast potential to be unlocked in the agent channel. Start with the ‘How’ T he telecom channel has a reputation for forcing new technologies into commoditization as fast as they are released to the market. channel management Exiting the channel’s commodity lane Channel Vision | January - February, 2018 36