I look at the transformation we’re undergoing at Windstream Enterprise and not coincidentally it mirrors the evolution of our sales partners. At one time we were looked at to provide simple access and voice services for businesses. While our partners were tasked with helping those same customers decide which of a myriad of providers they should choose and then get called on to support the deployment.
That marketplace engagement model has all but disappeared through consolidation of providers. At the same time, our solution set has changed. In this new marketplace both WE and our partners are called on to guide customers to next generation solutions like UCaaS and SD-WAN. This new model makes the sales partner more important than ever but it drastically changes the task at hand for all of us.
Managing the transformation mirror effect
So how do we all manage our day in this evolutionary environment? Having spent the last 13 years as a channel partner myself (master agent), I know how I coached my team and partners. I told them we need to find a balance where we can care for our legacy customers and their traditional solutions, while having transition/transformation conversations.
This can be difficult because it is easy to get caught up “running on the wheel,” handling one inbound trouble or MAC at a time while paying little attention to our role as trusted advisor and technology guide for our partners and customers. That’s a problem anyone in our business can sympathize with. Who hasn’t made that call to a partner or customer to discuss an emerging technology or service opportunity, only to have the conversation side tracked by a billing question or a problem with a legacy service?
What we all need to be able to do is honor our responsibility to care for the existing services we have deployed while also honoring our position as trusted advisor to be an agent of change.
Sometimes this is as simple as saying, “Let me get some information from you (our customer) so that I can get that issue resolved quickly. But after I do that would you give me 15 minutes to discuss a new technology that will allow you to deploy and manage the next generation applications that will help drive your business?”
Making time for transformative conversations
If we can do this successfully and consistently, we will move from facilitating services seen as “a cost of doing business” to becoming the technology partner that serves as a pathfinder, helping customers drive innovation and grow their business. That’s an exciting evolution for us all.
I encourage all of us to hold ourselves accountable to making time for these transformative conversations. Make appointments with yourself to proactively reach out to customers and partners to help them define success in this new technology marketplace. I have heard this called “having peacetime conversations while the bullets are flying.”
This is important. If we get so wrapped up “handling” yesterday’s products, someone else will get in there by solving tomorrow’s challenges.
Further discussion at Channel Partners in Vegas
I invite you to continue this discussion with me and WE Channel Managers at Channel Partners Expo in Las Vegas, April 18-20. We’re taking 1-on-1 meetings to help master agents address transformation. I will also be presenting after the Better Branding, Bigger Bottom Line keynote address on April 18th. Chuck Flaherty, VP of Sales Engineering is speaking about UCaaS on April 19th at the Inside the Channel Partners Thunderdome. For those interested in SD-WAN, we’re giving demos all three days of the conference. Let’s make sure to connect if you’re going.
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