But as Doug Henderson, head of partner sales at Telstra suggests, any P2P activity should ultimately be in service of end customers, as should indirect provider partnerships in general, as well as specialisation.
“The trick is in actually taking a partnership and making that valid for the customer in what they need,” Henderson said. “And the partners that are doing that well with us are relevant and valuable; they’re the ones that are really working.”
One way for partners to be there for customers is to put themselves in the customer’s shoes, and look at new technology from a customer’s perspective.
“Technology is moving so fast, and it's so complicated that you just don't know what you don't know, and so the partners that can demystify that and leverage the best in a genuine way are the ones that are really succeeding for us,” he said.
Making the most of what you’ve got
With the P2P option on the table, partners don’t need to be afraid of specialisation, and can dig down deep into subcategories of verticals or products and services that make sense for them in terms of value and profitability.
From the perspective of Lee Welch, Ingram Micro A/NZ cloud services director, it is those partners that make a point of developing a concerted focus on their area of specialisation and the articulation of their value proposition that tend to do well.
“When they do marketing, it's very succinct, it's very targeted,” Welch said of such partners. “So, the pipeline that we get from those partners is much higher quality, the closure rates higher. They also do a very good job at leveraging us [Ingram Micro] and other relationships as well.”
With this in mind, Welch said that partners should in fact become demanding of the distributors they work with and challenge them to ask of them what more they can deliver. Ideally, such an approach should lead to a deeper partnership with the distributor and the vendors.
Moreover, such a relationship can in fact help partners get more out of the product stack they’re working with, simply by engaging on a deep level with their distributors and vendors to unlock untapped potential from the capabilities of those products and services.
“It’s very well selling one product, but what else is there in the portfolio your providers are giving to you that you can they can take to market?,” Welch said. “And then they [can] drive new lines of business with their customers.”
For partners that don’t have cloud services in any lines of business, now is the time to make sure there is at least some kind of cloud offering in their portfolio, according to Welch.
“They really need to get on board and go to the market with something, at least, because they're getting their business taken from them; their end customers are moving away from them to cloud enabled organisations,” he said.
According to Dicker Data Microsoft business manager Sarah Loiterton, it’s one thing for partners to identify a gap in the market, but quite another to take the steps needed to fill it. In this regard, Loiterton echoes Welch’s sentiment that partners should challenge their distributors to help them with this journey.
“[Partners] might acknowledge that there's a gap in the market, but how they can challenge the the value added distributors or the indirect providers to to really plug their gaps?” Loiterton said. “I still find a lot of our partners think of us as a procurement engine.
“Just as the industry's changing, we need to adapt to help differentiate our value, and so it's about trying to make sure the partners are aware and how we are constantly adapting ourselves as a thought leader for them as well,” she said.
Such steps are often essential to ensuring partners are able to fully realise their full potential for profitability. And, as Brad Clarke, Microsoft partner management lead for MSP and channel sales, suggests, the differentiation offered by leveraging the full potential of a product or services stack through specialisation can be a valuable thing.
“If I think about the DNA of a partner that is really profitable, they're differentiated in what they take to the market,” Clarke said. “So, whether it's the technology that they rally around, or if they focus on a vertical, there's a level of differentiation that makes them stand out.
Clarke also backs the idea that P2P plays can make a real impact in terms of differentiation, suggesting that the other key attribute of a successful and profitable partner in today’s channel landscape is that they understand how to partner with other organisations.
By partnering with other channel players to leverage others’ capabilities, partners can reduce or remove a potential competitive threat by ensuring that they can work with other organisations to deliver end to end solutions to the customers.
“They [such partners] are focused on skills, both theirs or the customers, and inside their own organisation,” Clarke said. “So they're moving quickly along the technology stack and they can deliver more things.”