The market outlook for Unifi ed Communications (UC) remains strong and while this is positive news overall for all UC resellers, I anticipate signifi cant changes in how UC is sold.
Most vendors offer some form of reseller enablement to support partners; however, true enablement means more than just providing extra sales collateral; it requires a holistic approach to realising value for a partner over the lifetime of the relationship.
This article looks at the vendorreseller relationship and, while its focus is on the UC market, the points are relevant to all channel partners selling business applications.
Trends and implications
The focus on demonstrating ROI (return on investment) is growing in intensity. Clearly, demonstrating a more favourable return over competing projects is mandatory, especially as fi nancial approval is required from more senior people. Fortunately the more progressive vendors have released ROI calculators to help you show unequivocally the cost savings from improved efficiency of business communications.
Emerging technology models can be red herrings: while technologies like SaaS offer attractive features, it’s important not to be distracted from asking customers the questions that really matter. The chances are that knowing a system is easy to manage and can support changing business needs is more important to customers than the technical details about where the system is hosted.
Recession sometimes means spending more and not less to compete, particularly on marketing. Some companies are actually expanding their sales force, adding experience and skills to make every engagement count and grow market share.
In this environment, the greatest returns are likely to be found in the installed base. Farming accounts by offering additional insight and value requires different skills than making a sale to a new account. Resellers who are able to harness deep industry knowledge and show the ability to consult with customers about improving business processes will win every time.
Unified Communications creates a sort of ‘network effect’: as people learn how to communicate more effi ciently, the organisation’s appetite for adding new applications increases and eventually leads to automated business processes. Resellers willing to invest in the appropriate skills and capabilities can grow their business in line with the evolution of UC.
None of this happens overnight and commitment from the executive level down is essential for partners to make the most of the opportunities offered by vendors. Below are some of the tough questions to ask yourselves:
? Does your organisation use the products you sell?
? Are you taking advantage of vendor insights into vertical markets or systematic product training? Do you call in vendors to upskill your team in a strategic way, or just to help close the next deal?
? Do you know the extent of the sales and marketing resource tools available, like ROI calculators, and what is being planned? Do you fly under the radar of the vendor’s marketing team? Which vendor resources can be leveraged to generate better quality leads?
Cost-effective tools for resellers
Staying close to customers and keeping brand awareness high has never been more important and this is another area where vendors can help. Joint webinars are becoming increasingly popular as a cost-effective means of meeting with customers to share industry knowledge and create opportunities. Creating communications that have a high impact can be challenging as people’s expectations increase. Some vendors offer email-based tools which can be re-branded and allow you to deliver effective sales messages to customers.
As resellers you have a critical role in helping customers make the most of UC. The question you should ask is whether you are working closely enough with your vendor to realise the greatest value for yourself.
Jason Roberts joined Zeacom as the Marketing Manager in 2007 to lead its global marketing strategy. He previously held consulting and management roles at leading e-commerce, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. He has owned several successful events, online retail and design businesses.
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