Rob Spee is a channel professional and industry thought leader with over 20 years’ experience driving channel growth for a range of companies, including new startups and big, booming software companies. Spee hosts his own podcast, Channel Journeys, but for this chat, he joins Vince Menzione on the Ultimate Guide to Partnering podcast to talk about the massive changes the industry has seen over the past few years, and how channel leaders and companies can adapt their approach to get the best results from their partnership ecosystem in 2022.
In 2022, partners are looking for opportunities to deliver services around your product.
Partnership ecosystems have fundamentally changed over the past few years. Previously, partners were mainly interested in the sales margins and discounts offered by partner programs. Now, however, partners have become much more focused on the services revenue they can generate around your product. The big question they’re asking vendors now is, ‘How are you going to help me deliver effective services to drive customer success?’
SaaS vendors need to start focusing on partner success throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
Despite the importance of customer success, many SaaS vendors still only focus on helping partners land new customers. However, Spee points out that vendors need to focus on helping partners across the full LAER (land, adopt, expand, renew) model to improve customer success. This means that building better partnership ecosystems in 2022 requires SaaS vendors to find ways to help partners grow customers’ accounts.
In a nutshell, vendors need to ditch the traditional ‘transactional lens’ and embrace a mindset that focuses on helping partners provide sustained support and services throughout the customers’ lifecycle.
Marketplaces are the future of B2B sales.
Spee and Menzione go on to talk about the growing importance of marketplaces. We’re already seeing huge value transactions taking place through B2B marketplaces. Remember that 60% of B2B tech buyers in 2021 were Millennials, and they’ve already changed the B2B landscape by demanding a buying experience that’s as frictionless as the B2C shopping experience offered by online marketplaces.
Soon, Gen Z will overtake Millennials as the main decision-makers in the B2B world, and this generation’s buying behavior is even more marketplace-focused. This generation won’t respond well to older channels, like sales calls, and your partnership ecosystem needs to adapt by embracing marketplaces.
A commerce-enabled marketplace connects your partners with customers and removes friction from the sales process.
I absolutely agree with Spee on the above points and believe that a commerce-enabled marketplace is an excellent way to connect your partners with customers in need of services. Our white-labeled marketplace infrastructure enables your partners to sell pre-bundled service packages alongside your tech. Your partners are then able to communicate with customers through a Partner Portal, submit digital proposals, finalize deals, and collect payments through a secure online payment gateway. Because you’re able to track service listings, RFPs, and proposals through your admin dashboard, you’re perfectly placed to jump in and support partners at any stage of the project delivery.
As we shift to the cloud and the ‘everything as a service’ model, the channel model needs to evolve.
Partnership ecosystems remain fundamentally important as cloud transformation evolves. However, the channel model and partner programs need to transform to support new business models. Spee says that the best SaaS companies are adapting by having a very flexible approach to each partner. You need to let partners engage with you how they want to engage with you. Think about the customer journey and all the touchpoints where partners can add value along the way, even during the initial interest phases. “Make sure that you’re providing the tools and making it simpler and less friction to work with you in those different modes,” says Spee.
Spee also points out that traditional channel labels, like VAR, ISV, SI, etc., need to be discarded. In reality, every company is now a technology company, and traditional labels no longer make sense. In fact, they only serve to hamper innovation and growth.
Spee’s biggest piece of advice for 2022 is expanding your view of your partnership ecosystem.
Spee says that SaaS companies need to move away from seeing the channel as confined to a traditional reseller model to taking a much broader mindset of the entire partner ecosystem, from the very early stages of a customer-first realizing they need a solution, all the way through to renewals. Vendors need to see the many valuable touchpoints and moments of influence partners affect along the entire customer journey.
Spee recommends asking, “What kind of partners do we need, and what do those partners need to be good at, to have a happy customer for life?” Embracing this new mindset requires rethinking your partner program, partner contracts, partner marketing strategies, development and new platforms, marketplaces, and strategic alliances. The key is finding ways to go out and attract and grow those new channels while making sure that your teams are competent and ready to execute your new strategy.
If you’re a Channel Chief, success starts with making sure that you’re a good listener.
When asked how Channel Chiefs can align for success in 2022, Spee says that being a good listener is essential. Asking the right questions will help you understand what’s driving behavior in your teams. In addition, building a strategy hand-in-hand with your team, based on their insights and feedback, is much more likely to encourage internal buy-in and generate real results.
Connect your partners with customers needing services via your own commerce-enabled marketplace.