For many years, channels representing communications products have been divided into two distinct groups – data networking and telephony. Each of these groups has traditionally required different knowledge and skill sets, while maintaining distinct customer segments. Today however, these groups are in a state of flux, each requiring assimilation of the latest knowledge, tools and skill sets required to exploit convergence market opportunities.
The process of developing a successful channel development and support program can be defined in six key stages:
1. PREPARATION – a business does not transition its market strategy overnight. The opportunity should be clearly defined and a clear plan must be developed that addresses the needs at each stage of the transition. A reseller must evaluate the needs of sales, marketing and technical staff so it can become equipped with the appropriate knowledge and tools required to develop and deliver value propositions that will fully resonate with customers and prospects.
2. APPROACH – at this stage it is necessary to reassess current vendors and suppliers. Do their organisations scale to address multi-national markets? Do they possess appropriate and effective product and services portfolios and solutions propositions? Do they have knowledgeable, experienced staff with experience of working in the chosen market and do they have effective programs to create differentiated partnerships?
3. DISCOVERY – when evaluating new markets, the reseller should identify its base of available prospects. This should be achieved by executing targeted lead generation campaigns and appropriate follow-up qualification. At this point, it makes sense to look closely at business messaging and customer engagement strategies. Development of these areas can be challenging for an organisation entering new markets.
4. SOLUTION DESIGN – today, ICT investment decisions are made based on Return on Investment (RoI) models, cost reduction strategies and improved business efficiencies. Competitive advantage is also a key consideration. By default, this means that resellers must approach customers with an effective solutions proposition. Resellers should engage a supplier organisation that can deliver a focused portfolio of best-of-breed vendors, and can ensure inter-operability of these products in a multi-vendor environment w hen deployed in production systems.
5. PRESENTATION – a s a reseller transitions towards establishing its convergence business , learning curves across the organisation are steep. Two areas where knowledge gaps may be felt most acutely are in the sales and technical teams. Typically, people sell what they know; guided selling tools can reduce the time required to enable sales and technical staff to create high impact, professional presentations that are both compelling in their content and style. Presentations should be consistent in their messaging and value propositions, helping to clearly establish the reseller organisation as a credible player. In addition, sales and technical staff may need access to unbiased, independent company and product assessments in order to displace competitors from their accounts.
6. IMPLEMENTATION – r esellers need to successfully finance, procure, configure, install and support the appropriate technologies for the proposed solution. A reseller will not risk compromising customer relationships unless the supplier organisation with which they work is able to provide effective support in all areas at the implementation stage.
VoicePoint, a Pan-European program from Westcon, redefines the concept of ‘value-added distribution’ by bringing these elements together to create an unrivalled channel development and support proposition that ensures success for our own reseller partners in exploiting the convergence opportunity.
To become more competitive, resellers need to look to a value added distributor that can provide the appropriate education, resources, content, exclusive tools and knowledgeable staff – at each stage of the channel development process. Westcon’s VoicePoint program was designed specifically for this purpose and has proven its effectiveness in doing so.
Convergence/solution selling is not something that vendors can address – they focus on their own discrete technologies – it is an issue for distributors and resellers to define and deliver solutions from a number of different vendors. To do this, the channel needs a support and education program such as VoicePoint to make it happen.
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