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A Virtual Event, but a Rich, Living Community—Thanks to You!

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What a day! And what a Summit!

Thursday, the final day of the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, was filled with highlights, and served as a resounding demonstration that the ASAP community is alive and well and that the whole organization and its members and staff are supremely flexible and able to pivot from an in-person gathering to a very successful virtual event.

Flexibility and agility, in fact, were two of the recurring themes of this year’s Summit, and its last day was no exception. The day’s livestream programming began with an in-depth panel discussion, “Biopharma Commercial Alliance Management Challenges,” skillfully moderated by Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, and featuring eminent panelists Brooke Paige, CSAP, former vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics and ASAP board chair; David S. Thompson, CSAP, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company; and Andrew Yeomans, CSAP, global alliance lead for UCB.

Aligning Around the North Star

Commercial alliances are the go-to-market phase of biopharma partnering, and thus there’s often a lot riding on their success or failure. The panelists discussed various aspects of delivering value from commercial alliances given the business risks, human risks, and legal uncertainties; the prospect of misalignment between partners; the perils of operating in different geographic regions with their varying cultures and regulations; the need for speed and flexibility; and other pitfalls.

Amid such challenges, alliance managers have to keep their eyes on the prize—or, as Paige put it, “It always goes back to the basics: providing alignment by constantly pointing to the North Star of the alliance.”

Twombly noted that bringing partners together to hash out a commercial strategy to maximize value coming from the alliance—and then implementing it effectively—is always “the crux of the matter.”

Yeomans, citing an alliance that operated in China as well as other experiences, said the constantly accelerating speed of events means that even the most experienced alliance managers end up “learning on the job.” “Things are so much more immediate in the real world,” he said. “A lot of things can happen fast.”

More than one panelist mentioned the human element in these alliances—from training alliance professionals to dealing with human risk and misalignment. “It comes down to, do you have the right people?” Paige said. “You have to have the right people with the right mindset” to make the alliance work effectively.

Driving alignment, according to Yeomans, happens in “three buckets”: formal (contract terms), semiformal (governance), and informal, which includes both performing regular health checks and doing the internal work of alignment to “get your own house in order.” In this way issues get turned around and resolved, and escalation is avoided. “This is where alliance management can really come to the fore and add value,” he said.

He also urged alliance managers to work toward achieving a “complementary fit” in the partnership and to “be a conduit” between global and regional representatives and between partners. “Be adaptable and be ahead of the curve. In this way you become almost the go-to person,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Yeomans said he could “wholeheartedly recommend” getting into commercial alliances. “Venture forth. Go forth and conquer!” he exhorted.

Influencers, Referral Partners, Resellers, and Customers

The next presentation in today’s livestream was also concerned with go-to-market partnering, albeit geared more toward the tech industry—but with broader applicability as well. Larry Walsh, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group, spoke on “Making Everyone a Part of the Sales Process”—and by “everyone” he meant not just resellers, but also influencers and referral partners. All have a role to play, and if handled correctly, all contribute to the eventual sale and the booking of revenue.

In fact, the customer should also be included in this continuum, as a satisfied customer could be converted into an influencer, or even a referrer, according to Walsh. He quoted one of his “heroes,” Peter Drucker—no doubt a hero to some others in the ASAP community—who said, “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.”

“That’s why we have channels,” Walsh elaborated. “You try to create points of sale as close to the customer as possible.”

Walsh reminded the audience that the oft-mentioned “customer journey” is in reality just “part of the totality of their experience,” in which even if they’re not buying your brand, they’re still making judgments on it one way or the other. Thus it’s important to try to effectively engage everyone along the continuum from influencers to referrers to resellers to customers because, while expectations should not be overestimated, successful referral programs can be very effective. “Referrals have a lot of power!” Walsh enthused.

Since customers who are happy with a product or solution can become influencers, and influencers can become referrers, and a referral partner may even seem to be a sort of “lightweight reseller” in Walsh’s phrase, this seems to ring true. It also dovetailed with something that Tiffani Bova of Salesforce said on the first day of this year’s Summit: “Your greatest sales force is your customers and partners advocating on your behalf.”

Partner to Partner in the Ecosystem Cloud

“Customers and partners” was a theme of the day’s final presentation as well. Amit Sinha, chief customer officer and cofounder of WorkSpan, and Dan Rippey, director of engineering for Microsoft's One Commercial Partner program, gave a presentation with the lengthy title “How the Microsoft Partner-to-Partner Program Is Disrupting How Technology Companies Are Leveraging the Power of Ecosystems to Grow Their Business, Acquire New Customers, and Gain Competitive Advantage.”

It’s a mouthful, no doubt, but Sinha and Rippey provided some great insights into, first, how WorkSpan uses its Ecosystem Cloud product to help alliance managers, channel partners—really anyone who puts partners together and seeks to manage and keep track of a multipartner ecosystem—both collaborate better and gain greater visibility into the tasks, activities, processes, pipelines, workflows, etc., that are creating value.

Sinha noted that traditionally, “a lot of partnering is meeting people.” Current conditions certainly make that challenging—our Summit being no exception—but he said that with Ecosystem Cloud, remote work becomes more possible and effective and “we can scale even in COVID times.” In addition, as partnerships become more multi-way and complex, these tools become even more necessary. “It’s shifting toward an ecosystem,” he said. “It’s multipartner.”

Among the major partners in this ecosystem is Microsoft, which is where Rippey comes in. As Microsoft has shifted over the years from selling products to selling more solution-based offerings, it has also shifted from an emphasis on individual partnerships—or “pick a partner to work with the customer,” as he said—to more collaborative solution creation and selling arrangements involving multiple partners.

Microsoft realized that it needed to encourage partner-to-partner—or P2P—collaboration in order to push the company forward and grow the ecosystem. It needed to “embrace multiparty conversations,” in Rippey’s words. “In some cases Microsoft just gets out of the way. It really puts the partners at the center of the conversation.” In other cases, Microsoft comes back to the table as needed, but either way, he said, “This puts the partner in the lead.”

When a new solution is discussed, the first question is, “Did somebody already build this?” In that case those partners can be pulled in to tailor the solution to the new end customer in mind. Otherwise, “is this an opportunity,” Rippey said, to design something new?

He noted that while Microsoft doesn’t always have to lead these discussions, they seem to be fruitful in any case, and the P2P program has led to “exponential growth.” Some of its new capabilities will be “lighting up for our partners next year,” he said. “It is Microsoft’s joy to see those partners succeed, [often] without needing our help.”

New Thinking at the New Breakfast Table

This does not come without new thinking, or at times “uncomfortable” negotiations or conversations, Rippey admitted. But he said it forces a large enterprise like Microsoft to be “putting [our] startup hat on again” and to get out and “hustle at all tiers of the ecosystem.” As is often the case in the IT world, some of Microsoft’s competitors are also involved, because “we’re better together.”

And while the P2P platform—just like a social media site—is in need of “moderation,” as Sinha put it, so that there are rules and community norms and some structure, it’s also important to be fairly straightforward about your company’s needs, capabilities, and interests.

“A negotiation is designed to be uncomfortable,” Rippey said. “Be up front, be blunt about what you need, and be OK to say, ‘It looks like we’re misaligned here.’”

Both Sinha and Rippey commented on the need for speed, agility, and flexibility in working with partners, especially in the current pandemic conditions.

“The nature of collaboration has always been getting together to do things,” Sinha said. “Getting together in a room, in each other’s offices, to do joint business planning. Now we have to do more remote collaboration.”

Rippey noted that Microsoft itself had to transition its usual annual “show” from in-person in Las Vegas to virtual this year, which he said was “incredibly hard to do.” But, he added, “It’s not about the show, it’s about the conversations in the hallways. You walk into breakfast and you have nothing, but you sit down next to someone and you walk out of breakfast and you have something—a connection, a business card. It’s really hard to do digitally, and you can’t do it without a platform. We’re providing that new breakfast table.”

Here’s hoping we can all meet again before long over breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a beverage to share insights and stories and to make connections. But until that time, it’s nice to know that we can meet virtually as members of the ASAP community and still get the benefits of sharing all the great wisdom, information, and learning that so many have been able to contribute.

Tags:  aligning  Alliance Management  Amit Sinha  Andrew Yeomans  Biopharma  Brooke Paige  channel  cloud  Commercial  Dan Rippey  David S. Thompson  ecosystem  Eli Lilly and Company  Influencers  Jan Twombly  Larry Walsh  Microsoft  Referral Partners  The 2112 Group  The Rhythm of Business  UCB  WorkSpan 

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“We Need to Be Where the Customer Is”: Toward a Sales Process That Includes Everyone

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Saturday, June 13, 2020

Sales of any kind has never been a job for the faint of heart, but like everything else it’s become far more challenging lately. Many customers have been stuck at home for months, unable to just walk into a store or even make connections with their usual sales contacts the way they normally would, from their offices and workplaces. So how and where do businesses and salespeople find them? And given these hurdles, how can they effectively influence, inform, and sell to them?

There are no easy answers, but thinking of the process holistically can help put the pieces together. That’s one of the themes that Larry Walsh, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group, will be exploring in his presentation, “Making Everyone a Part of the Sales Process,” which will be livestreamed on June 25 as part of the first-ever virtual ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

A Network of Relationships

One of the key notions that Walsh is pushing is that the sales process needs to be seen less as a series of linear “handoffs” and more as a network of ongoing relationships involving different actors—in the indirect channel, three of them, to be exact.

“There’s the influencer, which is—no other way of saying it—influencing or driving consideration,” he explained in a recent conversation. “Then you have referrals, which are a step above influencers in that they will help drive consideration, [but] they will even help lead the customer right to the purchasing point. And then you have resellers, or the actual point of sales. And they’re the ones who actively engage with the customer to the sale point. We typically think of these as ‘handoffs’: once the influencer is done doing their job, they hand off and somebody else picks up the sale. Same thing with referrals—they will hand off to a salesperson, and the salesperson will then nurture them through the process. The reality is we really need to make sure that all these different actors remain persistently engaged as the customer goes through the sales funnel. That’s not really a new idea, but what really is a new idea is thinking that everyone is an influencer, and everyone has potential to refer, and everyone can actually participate in the sales process.”

Walsh maintained that we often underestimate just how many influencers are involved with our customers, or the importance of their role. The influencing itself, he said, takes place for two reasons: what he called “warm-glow altruism” and “anti-altruism.”

“Warm-glow altruism is when you do something because it makes you feel good. You want to help someone or you want to make a difference for them. And warm-glow altruism can have a benefit to you, but you’re doing things to help your customer. That’s one form of influencer. The other form is this anti-altruism, which is doing something to influence someone to buy a third-party product because there is something in it for [you]. An example of that would be, you and I have to do this meeting, so you really should be using Zoom, because Zoom is a really good platform—and oh by the way, here’s my tool that plugs into Zoom and that works. So that’s anti-altruism—you’re influencing them because it’s in your interest.”

Influencers, and Channels, Are Omnipresent

As an example of how this works in practice, Walsh pointed to the professional services marketplace on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The companies on that platform, he said, are “recommending AWS, but they don’t get compensated for that. What they do get compensated for is the services they sell around it. That’s a way of influencing the customer because it’s in your interest. You’re going to see this entire idea of making everyone a part of the sales process become more important going forward as you see more digital channels and omni-channels taking root.”

Walsh defined “omni-channels” as “a means for giving the customer the ability to have a seamless interaction with you regardless of where they are interacting with you. For instance, if I need something, and I want to buy it at Target down the street from my house, I look online: Do they have it? I want to be able to know that I can walk into the store and pick up the item—I can pay for it in advance, I can ask somebody, or access a chat bot and ask questions about it. I can scan it when I’m in the store, see if there’s a coupon available for it. I can research and compare across different platforms. That’s how omni-channel works. It’s not that you have just one channel; you have multiple channels, but the customer has a seamless experience across all of them.”

Last Mile to the Future: A Changing Channel and Evolving Ecosystems

I asked Walsh if taking this omni-channel or “get everyone involved” approach is more critical now, given the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. He thought so, but:

“I think it’s more about the future. The pandemic made us more reliant on digital tools for research and acquisition, but I was just reading today that Macy’s reopened 450 stores, and they have higher than expected sales. Which is great, but you’re going to see that because of the pandemic experience, they’re going to make it easier to purchase online versus in-store. Amazon, for example, is looking to acquire JCPenney. Why? Because Amazon is constantly attacking the last mile. I don’t want to wait for two days to get my widget, whatever it might be: I want to get it now. I know if I just drive down to the corner to that former JCPenney store they’ll have it for me—or they’ll have it for me in a day as opposed to shipping it in two days. Certain things are going to happen as a result of this—that’s not just a B2C example, that’s going to happen across B2B channels.”

And as we move more rapidly into that future, the traditional indirect sales channel is undergoing change as well.

“It’s becoming a part of the ecosystem,” Walsh said. “I think digitalization is something that everyone has to not just give serious consideration to, they have to figure out what their digital strategy is going to be, and build out the muscle to be able to communicate effectively with customers regardless of where the customers are interacting with them. Think about this just in terms of customer service: if the customer calls you up, they can talk to somebody who can retrieve their order history, who can retrieve their trouble tickets, etc. Or they can go into a portal and get the same information themselves. They need to have these capabilities to meet the customer’s expectations. The customers want this, it’s not something that we’re trying to invent. We’re not trying to push a concept out into the world—the world’s already adopted it, it’s us trying to catch up to them.

“Here’s the thing,” he continued. “I deal with channel strategy. I help companies recognize what their best routes to market are, and how do we most effectively get to them. The biggest mistake I see companies make is they go, ‘Oh! We need partners to expand our sales and our sales coverage.’ Why is that? Partners have revenue. They have customers, therefore they have revenue, and we should be able to tap into those customers. That’s not the reason for doing this. The reason for doing it is because the partners will do something either you can’t do or you won’t do. Otherwise, you don’t have enough separation between you for justification.

“There’s a reason why we have channels,” Walsh concluded. “The traditional reason for having channels is to have a point of sale where the customer is. And the reason why we need to have omni-channels and we need to engage with everyone who has a piece of the sales process is because we need to be where the customer is.”

Tags:  2112 Group  B2B channels  channel  channel strategy  channels  ecosystems  Influencers  Larry Walsh  network  parnters  referrals  resellers  sales 

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Five Future Channel Trends to Plan for in the New Year

Posted By Jay McBain is CEO of ChannelEyes, Guest Blogger, Tuesday, January 5, 2016

As we kick off 2016 and prepare for the March 1-4 2016 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland,  outside Washington, D.C., I wanted to share some of my observations on the ever-changing technology channel.

We are witnessing a changing of the guard from a channel perspective. Fewer companies will fit the traditional reseller or solution provider label, as many have transformed (or born into) a recurring revenue business model around managed services, cloud, SaaS integrations, line-of-business, and vertical specialists.

The channel topped out at roughly 1,000,000 companies worldwide in 2007, employing more than 10 million people. In addition, hundreds of thousands were employed indirectly at vendors, distributors, associations, and media organizations. The deep recession of 2008 had a major impact and hasn’t bounced back the way most of us expected. While the broader economy is trending back up to 2008 levels, the channel continues to slide.

What is happening out there?

1. The channel is shrinking at an alarming rate: Recent reports from CompTIA and IPED show a current North American technology partner base of 160,000 companies (600,000 worldwide). It may sound like a healthy number, but it is down 36 percent since 2008 and continues to face 10 percent to 15 percent annual attrition for the foreseeable future.

Keep in mind the 160,000 includes a much broader audience than just resellers—it includes all kinds of consultants, coaches, etc. A more accurate number, including people who directly influence and resell hardware and software products, is closer to 75,000 (with half of those selling enough product profitably to sustain a business). Your future channel and alliance partners will be smaller in number, but more focused, specialized, and effective.

2. The channel is getting younger—much younger: Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of
CompTIA, kicked off his ChannelCon keynote with several pieces of research. First, an estimated 40 percent of the entire channel will retire in the next 10 years. Yes, 4 in 10. Second, those retiring will be replaced by millennials. In fact, in 10 years, 75 percent of the channel demographic will not have been alive when IBM introduced the PC (and the channel as we know it) in 1981.

This generation grew up on computers and will be pursuing different business models than the traditional reseller models we have today. They will look more like vendors, with in-house development teams, software products, and intellectual property. In the future, strategic discussions with partners will be less about incentives and education and more about integrations and co-marketing.

3. The channel is small business, and getting smaller: Much of the attrition that I mentioned above has come from within channel companies. They are doing more with less. The average channel partner has eight employees, and 97 percent of them have fewer than 50.

With the rapid growth of freelancing (think oDesk and Elance), offshoring (Fiverr), and rapid software development (Mechanical Turk), many companies are outsourcing their own functions, such as marketing, operations, finance, and custom development. Vendors are looking at opportunities to help their partners with these functions and keep them focused on (selling and) delivering solutions for end customers.

4. Vendor numbers are exploding: The above trends have an interesting side effect—the number of vendors in the marketplace is growing at a surprising pace.

Channel companies are leveraging their deep industry knowledge with unique integration skills (across dozens of vendors’ APIs) and creating products and specific intellectual property to deliver niche solutions.

At one time it was called “value add,” but today partners are incorporating these ideas into new companies and products and then going to market themselves. These products have narrow addressable markets, and the need to find resellers will continue to grow.

I predict that in 10 years, the number of vendors will outnumber the amount of pure-play resellers. Start thinking about future competitive threats and how to manage co-opetition moving forward.

5. Influencers and connectors are becoming more important: Without naming names, our entire channel ecosystem boils down to a small number of individuals who connect large amounts of like-minded people. You probably know many of them!

For example, the North American IT channel has roughly 100 people that will get you one degree of separation from anyone else. These super-connectors are very different from one another—some are media, some run associations, others are vendors or distributors, others make a living on making connections for you.

Some things are clear: The amount of noise and clutter will not stop growing. People buy from people they like. Economic scarcity is evolving into information scarcity. The network effect will drive winners and losers in the next 10 years. Start thinking about your network—do you have the right mix of influencers and connectors to drive your channel sales?

Seventy percent of all IT dollars are now being spent outside of IT by people that vendors and channel partners don’t know all that well. Sales, marketing, finance, HR, operations, and development teams are rapidly deploying technology, and it is forcing the channel industry to get smarter.

These trends are reshaping the channel, not replacing it. As with every other threat in the past 30 years, the channel will come out stronger, more nimble, and better able to serve evolving customer needs.

Happy New Year!
 

Guest blogger Jay McBain is CEO of ChannelEyes information technology services

http://channeleyes.com. He will be presenting the session “Five Future Channel Trends That You Need To Be Planning For Todayhttp://www.strategic-alliances.org/page/sum16sessions, at the March 1–4, 2016, ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland, USA.

Tags:  channel partners  Channel Trends  ChannelCon  ChannelEyes  cloud  CompTIA  connectors  influencers  integrations  IPED  Jay McBain  line-of-business  manged services  revenue business model  SaaS  technology channel  Todd Thibodeaux  vendors  vertical specialties 

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