According to CompTIA’s 5th Annual State of the Channel report, channel-influenced sales equate to $350 billion to $400 billion of IT product and service sales in the United States alone.
As far as I can tell, vendors and MSPs alike want to see continued success in the channel. Who should bear the responsibility for owning IT channel success moving forward? This is a question I’ve heard people debating recently, and it's worth considering. Is it up to MSPs to expand the market, define solution sets and educate consumers…or should this be the vendor communities’ responsibility? Let’s discuss what vendors and channel partners need to do better to ensure future success.
Defining the Vendor’s Role in Success
What should vendors do to enable the success of the channel? Should they simply provide products and services that solve business needs, and let their clients handle the rest? I believe that channel vendors need to take a bigger, more active role to help MSPs grow their businesses. All channel vendors can and should:
- Create reliable products or services that solve business needs for SMBs.
- Deliver partner programs and billing models that make sense for channel partners.
- Offer FREE training and education for channel partners.
- This includes product training and certifications (MSPs shouldn't have to pay to learn how to manage and deploy these products!), as well as
- Marketing/Sales support to help clients build and amplify their brands.
- Provide quality technical support after the product or service is deployed.
- Produce ongoing enhancements and a roadmap for improving products or services.
- Sell through the channel, rather than to end users.
- Companies that compete and aggressively sell direct, thus stealing business from their clients, struggle to earn an MSP's trust (and rightfully so).
I could keep adding bullets, but these are some of the core values that a channel vendor needs to embrace to ensure success of MSPs and the channel as a whole. What else do you think needs to be on this list? Leave a comment below!
Defining the MSP’s Role in Success
To capitalize on the channel opportunity, both camps have to work together. With vendors assuming more ownership, what should MSPs be responsible for? There is still a large chasm to cross in terms of how end users view their IT service providers (generally, they still think IT is more of a reactive service than a proactive one.) To combat this sadly popular misconception and prove the business value of managed IT services, MSPs must:
- Build strong, unbreakable bonds with customers so as to stand out from your increased competition and reduce client churn.
- Focus on refining your value proposition.
- The buzzword “virtual CIO” is popular now as a way to describe your services.
- Embrace this idea and start changing end users' perceptions of what outsourced IT means.
- Be more proactive and show your customers the ROI of your partnership. Numbers speak louder than words.
- Get over your general dislike of sales people and realize that you need them to accelerate business growth!
- Start building a sales funnel.
- Sales and marketing are critical to your survival.
- Make your channel vendors your best friends.
- There are channel-only companies out there that truly care about your success and are more than willing to help (IF you ask for it).
Opportunity in the Future
Channel vendors and MSPs alike have a lot to be optimistic about these days. CompTIA’s annual report stated that year-over-year growth was 4.5% for IT Solution Providers. Additionally, 46% of channel respondents expect more growth from net new customers in the next two years and 30% expect more growth from existing customers. That means 70% of the channel respondents surveyed expect some type of growth over the next two years.
To take advantage of these opportunities, vendors and MSPs must come together and admit that we can’t continue to grow and enjoy success without increased collaboration. There is room for improvement for both vendors and MSPs, but as long as we can continue to evolve together, the opportunities in the channel will continue to expand.
As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
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