‘We Need More Partners’ Is Never the Best Starting Point

Vendors often start channel transformation processes with the notion that they need more and new partners. They might, but they truly won’t know for sure until they define what they need to do to address market opportunities.

By Larry Walsh

Many vendors are looking to the future wondering how they should adjust their go-to-market models and channel strategies. Everyone can see how new technologies, delivery and consumption methods, and economic models are changing the IT market. This often compels channel leaders to jump to the conclusion that they’ll need new and more partners to address future market needs.

Let’s stop here, take a deep breath, and say it together like we mean it: “We need more channel partners” should never be the starting point for a transformation project.

While it’s true that channel transformation often means vendors will almost certainly need partners with different market coverage, skills and capabilities, and sales capacity, that’s not where you start transformation thinking.

Any market forecast beyond 24 months is replete with uncertainty. The market has too many variables to make accurate predictions possible. However, we do see where the lines are trending. The services model will dominate go-to-market strategies. New technologies such as automation, machine learning, cloud-based infrastructure, and operational workload management will require higher-level skills. And commoditization will make transactional products less advantageous to sell through high-cost channels.

OK, so we know a few things, but there’s still a list of unknowns. And the list gets longer because every vendor operates under unique conditions and circumstances. The certainty, though, is that vendors must evolve – or transform – if they want to remain viable and relevant.

So, rather than starting a transformation conversation with “we need new, different, and more partners,” vendors should begin with understanding the goals and challenges they need to address. It’s not enough to point to managed service providers and say, “Hey, we need more of them.” Instead, vendors need to understand the target at which they’re aiming and what it will take to hit that objective.

Defining future objectives and targets isn’t a simple task. Technology vendors are constantly developing new methodologies, products, and services that address a myriad of market needs. New technologies are often complicated, meaning that taking them to market requires higher skills and resources. And addressing specific market opportunities – such as new geographies and verticals – comes with its own set of challenges.

Before jumping to the “new partner issue,” vendors should consider what products they want to sell, their target customers, the sales models they’ll employ, the skills required to sell the products, and the support needed to sell the product or to address the target market. By taking a deliberate approach, vendors will uncover multiple direct and indirect route-to-market options.

By jumping to the end of the transformation conversation – discussing the need for more partners – vendors run the risk of stymieing their transformation efforts, creating barriers that will hamper the achievement of their goals, and blinding themselves to potentially better routes to market.

In future blogs, I’ll discuss how to define future goals, align sales models with routes to market, and identify the right partners to achieve desired outcomes.

Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.