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Relationship building and the value of consultancy

How can partners deliver true consultancy to their customers? Adam Wilson, strategic partner director for EMEA and ANZ, Vonage, talks to Comms Business.

 What are the benefits of joining a designated channel partner programme?

“There are a huge number of benefits to becoming a channel partner, from boosting revenue and sales, to potential access to global markets and new customers via increased product offerings.

“Vendors can provide a bespoke, full-stack communications solution incorporating both UCaaS and CCaaS which resellers and MSPs can tailor to suit the needs of customers, along with receiving expert advice and guidance. Partners are then able to sell innovative, new products to their existing customers, which reaps rewards for both vendors and partners.

“Partnerships are also invaluable from a training perspective, as vendors are able to train, enable and certify channel partners which allows them to adopt new skill sets and diversify their portfolios.”

How can vendors show the value of their offerings to partners who may still be very focused on trying to cut costs post-pandemic? 

“There’s a fine balancing act between cutting costs to save the business in the short-term, and ensuring investments are still being made to secure the long-term future. One of the core advantages of being a channel partner is access to insights and expert guidance from the vendor, which can then be used to offer consultancy services to end users.

“Such insight could include knowledge sharing on topics such as disaster mitigation, industry connections, and helping customers to avoid costly mistakes and choose the right option for their business. This knowledge is particularly invaluable during periods of change, for example the shift toward hybrid working and the public cloud that we’ve seen during the pandemic.

“Vendors can also provide training and on-site support for resellers and MSPs, and this is crucial for meeting expectations and standards when it comes to customer service. Although it’s tempting to cut costs, investing in knowledge and expertise will always pay dividends when it comes to long-term success.”

What advice do you have for building strategic long term partnerships with resellers and programme partners?

“Relationship building should be core to any channel strategy, and vendors and partners need to develop a strong level of trust and cohesion for the partnership to succeed. It may seem obvious, but I can’t emphasise enough the importance of visibility on the vendor side.

“This means staying in constant communication with partners, and providing ample support including training, on-demand counsel, and an in-person presence where required. This will ensure that partners are able to select and deliver the correct solution for the customers needs, and in turn will drive sales and increase brand reputation for both parties.”

Across the partner ecosystem, are there any areas where Vonage is seeing an increase in partners seeking advice and support?

“One area of real growth for support has been around the delivery of the public cloud and the move away from on-premise managed services. Vendors like Vonage need to provide a platform for partners to deliver solutions and complex IT services when taking IP telephony into the cloud, and we’re seeing increased demand for guidance in this space.

“As more and more end users opt for CCaaS options to suit hybrid working models, partners want to be sure that they are best placed to compete with 100s of other providers on sales, delivery, and support.”

How can vendors increase the longevity and renewal rate of channel partnerships?

“Much like the unified services we offer, vendors need to ensure a smooth and seamless process from onboarding right through to delivery. Channel partnerships are sustained on mutual gain and benefits, and with hundreds of providers to choose from, vendors need to win partners by offering the best in terms of product and support.

“It’s essential to develop a relationship with channel partners from the off – taking the time to listen to their needs and business requirements and creating options to suit. When this is done correctly, vendors take on a trusted advisor role which renders them essential to the success of the partner’s strategy.”

What are your predictions for the vendor/ channel relationship over the next five years?

“Over the next five years I expect we’ll see more of a referral model coming into the market, where partners will work with vendors to bring suitable opportunities to the table. Channel partners will need to increasingly act as consultants to their customers, and this will further the symbiotic knowledge exchange between partners and vendors.

“At Vonage we’re also seeing a growth in demand for our APIs for business, and I expect this to become an additional core area for consultancy and support.”

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