The Case for a Partner-First Mindset

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Part 1: Building Bridges Across the Channel Series

The journey toward successful channel business includes many roads—direct-to-customer, cloud marketplace, and channel partner sales. In this three-part series, we focus on the significant role channel partners play in technology sales and the lessons vendors must learn to navigate these relationships successfully.

Channel experts expect IT spending to accelerate by 6% in 2024, with channel partners accounting for 73% of sales to end customers.1 What’s more, Gartner’s 2024 worldwide IT spending forecast calls for a 9.7% jump in spending on IT services (to $1.5 trillion worldwide).2

This surge in IT spending and the growing reliance on channel partnerships underscore a broader trend: the increasing shift toward external services and alternate sales avenues.

  • 335,000 companies worldwide have at least one contract through an MSP1
  • 82% of buyers now outsource all or at least some of their IT1
  • Buying through B2B marketplaces is growing at a CAGR of 86%1
What does it all mean? If vendors aren’t engaging their partners in meaningful ways, they are missing out on growth.

Relationships between vendors and channel partners have moved from simple transactions to comprehensive collaborations that accelerate a mutual path to growth and profitability. Modern channel dynamics have evolved, and understanding each unique partner and providing them with meaningful support is the key.

The channel ecosystem is about more than supplying technology. It’s about understanding and overcoming today’s biggest obstacles and helping partners (and their customers) keep up with lightning-fast IT changes (AI, anyone?). It’s about selling the why, not the how. Successful vendors must understand partners’ business and market positions, recognizing value-added resellers (VARs), managed service providers (MSPs), and managed security service providers (MSSPs), solutions providers (SPs) and global solutions integrators (GSIs) each have specific business objectives and support needs. Channel partner interactions are no longer one size fits all.

Keys to Trust: Communication and Support

Building productive partnerships requires more than occasional check-ins; it demands continuous and meaningful engagement, actively listening and understanding a partner’s needs, and delivering the most effective tools for success. Does a partner want to offer services that go with specific products or solutions? Do they want to meet peers in the industry? Do they need sales and demand-generation support? Do they have a direct line to technical help when they are implementing solutions? What about incentives and financial support?

Any successful partner program should aim to guide partners through the sales process to a successful close, maintain long-standing end-customer relationships, and set the stage for future business. Regular, strategic communications are bridge checkpoints, ensuring that partners trust their vendor at every step.

Help Channel Partners Keep Up

Understanding and addressing the specific needs of channel partners can significantly enhance their competencies and satisfaction. Help them understand how to use today’s many paths to market to their advantage. What was once threatening to partners—for example, cloud marketplaces like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud—becomes an opportunity as channel partners learn to leverage these platforms to extend their reach and enhance their offerings.

Partner-focused teams should be a guide to transacting on these platforms, demonstrating how to sell products and solutions and position partners to add valuable services to enhance their deals. This encourages partners to move from skepticism to trust and strategic engagement.

By understanding today’s channel dynamics, vendors can create more viable and permanent pathways to mutual success through collaboration and strategic support. The bottom line is to make it simple for partners to succeed.

Lookout for the next part in our Building Bridges in the Channel series, where we’ll explore tactics for building trust and how alignment, communication, and champion support play critical roles in cementing solid and enduring partnerships.

  1. Canalys, Global IT Opportunity Analysis, 2024
  2. Gartner, Gartner Forecasts Worldwide IT Spending to Grow 8% in 2024, Apr 2024