The Alliance Partners, the channel partner industry organization that brings together agents, VARs, managed service providers, IT consultants and cloud specialists, hosted 150 channel partners and a roster of top providers in emerging technology segments for its invite-only inaugural Tech+Connect event. The show, which is unapologetically content-heavy, fulfilled its goal of providing a dramatically different channel sales empowerment experience to the industry.
The Alliance has also announced its Best in Class awards, based on attendee feedback.
Tech+Connect, which took place on Nov. 6-8 at La Cantera Resort in San Antonio, is the first-ever channel sales empowerment event for emerging technologies. It is uniquely devoted to bringing together experienced channel sales professionals with providers of advanced technology solutions in a dynamic, fun and intimate setting, for sales training around four developing areas: SD-WAN, cloud computing, cybersecurity and unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS).
Based on attendees’ feedback (provided through a state-of-the-art event app), Best in Class trophies were awarded to the provider who presented the highest-ranked sales presentation in each emerging technology category. The 2017 award winners were:
- SD-WAN: SimpleWan
- Cloud Compute: Sky Data Vault
- Security: Cyxtera
- UCaaS: EvolveIP
In addition, a Best in Show trophy was awarded to Sky Data Vault as the overall highest-rated provider.
Whereas traditional channel trade events look to maximize attendees and pack expo hall aisles with providers ready to make countless pitches and brags about feature sets, providers at Tech+Connect are charged with discussing specifically how to sell their services, with tools, tips and techniques that can be taken home and applied immediately to grow emerging tech practices.
Over the course of three days, and with Tim Basa of master agency Telegration serving as master of ceremonies, attendees gained access to invaluable and unique insights. For instance, Michael Thompson, founder and vice president of sales at Sky Data Vault, conducted a session on disaster recovery as-a-service (DRaaS) with a role-play format. He demonstrated that by asking the right, specific business-focused questions, it can lead into a productive conversation that shows the person how ill-prepared he or she might be for an outage or emergency. Questions like “how did it go the last time you tested your existing system?” and “what would happen if server 3 crashed, what would you do and what would it mean?” lead to a realization of risk—and that’s an important tool in the sales conversation.
“We run these calls all the time,” said Thompson. “And the reality is, there are two main things that we run into. One, they never test their plan because they don’t have the ability or the time to do that; and, we find that the last time they had to use it, it was a painful experience. We want them to relive that. With risk comes pain, and with pain comes opportunity for you to identify a solution for them.”
Sky Data Vault also created five documents exclusively for Tech+Connect attendees, including three case studies, email templates and a battle card featuring industry statistics and facts to help partners educate themselves about the disaster recovery space in general—along with a list of six questions that can guide the conversation into a business angle.
“Tech+Connect is intentionally different than any other channel event,” said Alliance CEO Bill Power. “We are redefining how providers and partners interact with each other, because we have long days, jam-packed with heavy, real-world, no-nonsense, no-fluff sales and marketing training content. We still have fun, and Tech+Connect offers plenty of opportunity to network in the traditional sense, but we’re not doing this to just be another party. It’s basically an ‘8 to fade’ event, starting early and going late with high-quality presentations you can’t find anywhere else. And we’re proud of that.”
In addition to a series of keynotes from top-tier speakers, other agenda highlights included inventive sessions built around details on the anatomy of a successful real-life sale, from getting in the door to close. Some sessions, including Selling Cloud Compute…Even if It’s Not Your Core Focus, featured a unique role-playing format to spotlight proven sales scenarios that demonstrate how agents can effectively sell this emerging technology; and UCaaS: Differentiate and Dominate followed a “Shark Tank” format, where providers pitch a panel of five “channel sharks” on why they should invest their time and energy to learn how to sell their wares—which the channel partners then critiqued and judged.
Partner feedback from the event was solidly positive:
o “Most productive event I’ve been to in years”
o “Leaned more at this event than any other, and I can see this being extremely helpful to some of my subs”
o “Organized, full of energy, educational and channel-focused”
o “Loved the idea of it as a whole. Really enjoyed the next-gen content and the sales focus. The opening party was awesome too!”
o “I don’t think another event could compare to the quality of this event”
The full slate of providers attending Tech+Connect 2017 included: Bigleaf, CallTower, CenturyLink, Comcast Business, Consolidated Communications, Cyxtera, Effortless, EvolveIP, Imperva, Kore Wireless, Level 3, Masergy, NetFortris, Nextiva, NICE—inContact, Peak10 + ViaWest, PGi, QTS, Rackspace, SimpleWAN, SingleHop, Sky Data Vault, Tata Communications, Telesystem, Verizon, Vonage and Zayo.
The second annual Tech+Connect event is planned for the fourth quarter of 2018, with the venue to be determined.
“We deliberately plan to hold this in Q4, to give attendees a high-energy boost for sales success as they wrap up the year and start the next,” Power said. “Our goal is to provide the tools they need to make the most of the emerging opportunities in our rapidly innovating industry and grow their business. Armed with what they learned at Tech+Connect, sales partners can look forward to new growth and success in 2018.”