More than seven months into an economy rocked by an unrelenting pandemic, some companies are beginning to get back to the business of investing in their operations, if mostly on must-have projects.
But even as firms begin to explore how they can adjust their business to a “new-normal,” vendors and their partners need to focus on offering rock-solid solutions that deliver a great ROI by making employees, many of whom are virtual, more productive.
That’s the recommendation of Wayne Monk, Senior Vice President, Global Alliances and Channel Sales at ASG Technologies. In a conversation with CMR, Monk observed that “The companies that began their digital transformation in trying to automate business processes and use robotic process automation (RPA) and all those capabilities, were better positioned to deal with the pandemic,” he said. “And they’ve continued to accelerate it.”
But companies that hadn’t made the shift, “are scrambling right now and trying to figure out ‘How do I become more digitally prepared?’”
A general sense that the pandemic may not subside sooner than later is also driving many companies to take a close look at what their technology can support for what may be a protracted period of time, or maybe even, the “new normal.”
Helping clients make a solid case for the must-have solutions customers are seeking – building need, says Monk – may require more work by partners. “When you build that need, that ROI’s got to be solid, and it’s got to be convincing and compelling. People will only spend on must-haves today.”
Helping partners identify better opportunities is critical, he said. With a wider-angle view of overall markets, vendors are more capable of identifying the types of companies, markets and regions that represent the better opportunities.
“We definitely are taking data points and interest from various sources and sharing that back with our partners in terms of what we see,” said Monk. “Not only are customers and partners shifting, but clearly we are too. What we’ve tried to do is understand the technologies that are enabling the new requirements through the pandemic, and try to create offerings and solutions and capabilities to enable our partners to go address some of those new pain points or more prevalent pain points.”
“Working with our partners, as we get data from our analysts and other sources, we clearly communicate that to our partners and say, ‘Here’s what we’re seeing.’ These are the technologies that people tend to be focused on as they ride through the pandemic. Here are industries that tend to be a little more open to spend and not as impacted by COVID as other industries, such as retail or airlines.”
Equally important, said Monk, is getting partner reports from the field. “We always talk to our partners. We have an advisory council that we run with our partners. In fact, we invite a partner to every one of our executive QBR’s. So every quarter we bring in a partner to spend an hour and a half or so with our top executives.”
Maintaining closer contact with partners even through the pandemic was made a little easier thanks to a shift the company made in 2019. “We were lucky,” explained Monk. “We used to do a lot of face-to-face enablement, technical enablement. But going into this year we created something called Ignite Live because we realized that getting partners to travel a couple days into locations wasn’t efficient. We weren’t getting to all of our partners as fast as we’d like, so we started doing more frequent, but shorter technical enablement events virtually.”
Attendance at virtual events have “gone through the roof,” he said.
Helping partners better align their sales and marketing activities with the buyers’ journey has been critical. “Customers are not only doing more self-discovery of solutions,” he said, “they’re self-evaluating too. Consequently, vendors need to help partners understand how customers discover what solutions to use and assess those solutions and evaluate them.”
For partners offering cloud-based solutions, addressing new shopping-preferences can be done virtually. “But the guys who still are delivering on-prem or hosted solutions that you can’t just log in sign up and get an account, they had to think about how they let people validate and use their product in a trial basis without going on-site to install or do whatever they need to do.”
Vendors and their partners should be careful to focus their attention on better opportunities, advised Monk. “We made a decision that it’s going to be tough getting new customers. So we shifted some of our hunter type resources into farming type resources. We doubled-down on our existing customers, and spent more time trying to understand where they were going and realized it’s easier to sell to your current customers than it is to find new. So we backed off a little bit on the new logo stuff, and shifted resources there.”
ASG also shifted resources away from “products that the ROI wasn’t as compelling and put fuel into those things that we felt were more aligned to the new paradigm and new set of requirements,” Monk explained.
ASG has also taken a closer look at its partner ecosystem, limiting its recruitment activity to focus on the performance of its existing team. As the company reconsidered its goals after the outbreak of the pandemic, conversations were held with partners to determine their priorities.
The company wanted to discuss not what success means to ASG, but to the partners, said Monk, “because I’ll tell you, their success criteria and goals are totally different than ours.”
“If we’re successful and they’re not, what good is that?” he asked. “You have unhappy partners. So I want to know what’s success means to our partners. We’re trying to make sure the partners we have weather the storm and are successful and profitable throughout the way.”
Customers matter, employees and partners matter, and results matter, Monk stressed. “We’re very serious about it and if you take care of those first two, the results are probably going to come anyway. You must have the right culture” to more effectively manage business during the pandemic. “If you don’t, then I think this becomes even more unbearable and challenging for people to deal with, and you got to cognizant of that.”