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Selling beyond the CIO - How partners can influence new tech buyers

Selling beyond the CIO - How partners can influence new tech buyers

There’s a new buyer in town, with the CIO no longer the sole decision maker in the purchasing process

L-R: James Henderson (ARN); Rob McGregor (CRMNow); Mark Simpson (M-Power); Kirstie Smith (Deloitte); Sebastian Storey (Rubicon Red); Steve McLoughlin (Oracle); John Walters (Nextgen); Wendy O'Keeffe (Tech Data); Adrian Jones (Marketing Cube); Salil Akolkar (Oracle); Sachin Kulkarni (Cognizant Technology Solutions); Marcelo Scalia (Ekulus) and Phillip Milne (DXC Red Rock)

L-R: James Henderson (ARN); Rob McGregor (CRMNow); Mark Simpson (M-Power); Kirstie Smith (Deloitte); Sebastian Storey (Rubicon Red); Steve McLoughlin (Oracle); John Walters (Nextgen); Wendy O'Keeffe (Tech Data); Adrian Jones (Marketing Cube); Salil Akolkar (Oracle); Sachin Kulkarni (Cognizant Technology Solutions); Marcelo Scalia (Ekulus) and Phillip Milne (DXC Red Rock)

As partners go to market with an array of tier-1 software solutions, tier-2 vendors are emerging en masse, with a seemingly simple buy online approach that is cutting out the channel.

“The proliferation of click to purpose SaaS applications is a challenge,” Simpson added. “New buyers only require a credit card and the vendor in question might not even have an enterprise agreement in place. But even before you reach the CMO for example, they have already purchased software.”

Today, technology buyers are not waiting, instead simply clicking and consuming solutions before the channel can blink.

“Channel enablement is key,” Tech Data country general manager A/NZ, Wendy O’Keeffe, added. “Up- skilling partners around digital marketing and providing them with the capabilities to have the right conversations with the right technology buyers is crucial.”

In running a leading marketing agency across A/NZ, Jones said such an approach creates an urgent need for partners to influence this new breed of buyers.

“But it’s not just the technology, it’s the change management around the technology also,” he advised. Step forward the channel, capable of providing integrated solutions to link up disparate systems within an organisation.

“It’s very easy to buy a solution but you might only get the first component right,” Scalia added. “As a partner, you have the opportunity to provide that missing piece of the puzzle. We’re the link between all parts of the business.”

Channel play

As the demands of the customer change, the requirements of the channel evolve alongside, as partners favour quality over quantity in terms of vendor selection.

“Technology is the obvious one,” Scalia outlined. “We look for vendors with flexibility, which is critical in commercial models which are constantly evolving.

“The deeper partnership we have with a vendor, the more flexibility both parties have due to that level of trust.”

Aligning to Scalia’s evaluation, Storey said Rubicon Red continues to bet on Oracle due to the vendor’s strong technology portfolio, backed up by a sense of trust and demonstration of market vision.

Sebastian Storey (Rubicon Red)
Sebastian Storey (Rubicon Red)

“We have to trust the vendor in terms of the solutions on offer but also channel engagement,” Storey said. “Oracle keeps investing in technology and this provides us with the confidence to know that we are not hedging our bets and are fully behind their vision.”

Likewise, Deloitte determines vendors based on market relevance and future roadmap, endorsing innovation on the proviso of an equal partnership.

“We look for vision in a vendor,” Smith explained. “The key for us is to understand and form a partnership. Two different worlds are coming together in the form of our consultancy business and a vendor organisation, so understanding is critical.”

Coupled with a deeper focus on the channel, the tech giant is pivoting towards partners at pace, in the pursuit of greater market share across the expanding cloud market in Australia.

But while a channel-centric approach is both encouraged and endorsed, vendors today require more than mere rhetoric to attract the attention of technology providers and advisors.

“Simplicity is crucial in my eyes,” Simpson added. “If we had a scorecard, we would judge vendors on simplicity, ease of doing business with, margins and clear line of sight as to who is going to be the boss.

“We are Oracle partners because the products are great and the market position is strong but transparency and predictability remain crucial for the channel.

“From an end-to-end application play, Oracle is the market leader and when you add NetSuite into the mix, there is no better solution.

“We are absolutely certain that we have the best solution and technology, and now it’s encouraging to see the right approach coming through the channel.”

As business owners, partners can build strategies and plans around consistency, only coming undone when the rules change halfway through the engagement process.

“Predictability and consistency are key for partners,” McLoughlin acknowledged. “If a partner is betting on Oracle, they have to know that we have the right message and the right level of enablement in the channel.

Phillip Milne (DXC Red Rock)
Phillip Milne (DXC Red Rock)

“We need to ensure that our sales team interact with partners consistently. We need to tell the channel, ‘this is how we operate’ and providing the message is transparent and consistent, we are heading in the right direction.

“We are continuing to undergo a massive transformation in Oracle in which all roads lead to the cloud. We’re moving a big ship but we’re absolutely committed to where we are going and bringing our partners along the journey.”

Alongside channel commitments, vendors today must also maintain relevance in the eyes of the customer, irrespective of who the technology buyer is.

“Partners want a vendor that makes the best technology and markets the hell out of it,” Nextgen CEO, John Walters, said. “The louder vendors shout, the better for the channel and the easier it becomes for partners.

“But also from a partner perspective, vendors must have clear messaging and consistency with the channel. And consistency has to go right through until the last hour of the last day of the quarter.

“Because if you don’t and you take a deal direct, then that will damage your channel.”

Meanwhile, McGregor believes that strong global messaging must be executed locally for partners to profit through capitalising on increased market awareness.

“Vendors have to go-to-market with all of the attributes of going to market, which includes the actual product and the messaging,” he explained. “Global messaging must be executed in Australia for partners to benefit.

“If vendor engagement becomes too difficult, then I don’t have the time to invest and I drop the whole thing. My checklist is that firstly, the technology has got to work but aligned to this has to be a strong message.”

Echoing McGregor’s observations, Simpson said at a global level, messaging is “absolutely clear” with the channel in “100 per cent agreement” as to the future direction of Oracle.

Adrian Jones (Marketing Cube)
Adrian Jones (Marketing Cube)

“But when you filter that down to a regional or local level it becomes challenging,” Simpson acknowledged. “As soon as the rubber hits the road, that’s when partners require consistency.

“In my opinion, there shouldn’t even be discussions around direct or through the partner, there should be a default response. Go to a partner unless it is a known direct deal, then go direct.

“That is just a simple way partners can significantly benefit from improved vendor engagement and clarity.”

Opportunities

With a clear vendor checklist forming, partners must also leverage ongoing opportunities to ensure partnerships go both ways, creating accountability across the channel.

“We believe partners can capitalise on emerging opportunities in the year ahead,” Oracle SaaS sales director A/NZ, Salil Akolkar, outlined. “Partners must develop their own IP [intellectual property] and industry expertise in the local market.”

Today, Akolkar said partners must sell specialised solutions beyond the CIO, becoming submerged in sub- sectors, inundating customers with niche expertise and insights.

“They need to become subject matter experts and build out increased levels of specialisation capabilities,” he added. “And from a service delivery standpoint, SaaS applications represent a further opportunity for the channel to become specialised experts in the market.”

In looking ahead, McLoughlin said plans are in place to develop “very clear” sales and technical enablement capabilities for the channel to leverage in 2018 and beyond.

“We are continually improving our processes but there’s lots of work to be done,” McLoughlin added. “In the cloud, everything has to be easier and we’re working hard internally to improve how we interact with our partners. That’s a big focus in 2018.”

This roundtable was sponsored by Oracle. Photos by Christine Wong.


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