Helping Partners Stop Being Unproductive

To help partners stay relevant, vendors need to guide them on what to sell – and how to stop selling products that are becoming obsolete.

By Larry Walsh

Last week in Rome, I presented a group of European and Middle Eastern resellers and distributors with a checklist for future-proofing their businesses. The world is changing; everyone knows that. What to do about it remains the big mystery.

One point these partners grooved on is “stop unproductive practices.”

My intention was to encourage the partners to evaluate the products and services in their portfolios and make choices about which ones to continue supporting and which ones to discontinue.

As we survey the major transformative trends – cloud computing, mobility, Big Data, automation, Internet of Things (IoT), and cognitive computing (artificial intelligence) – the world already looks different today than it did just five years ago. Moreover, the world will look substantially different five years from now than it does today. Vendors are actively encouraging partners to transform their business operations and sales models to remain relevant as things evolve.

Here’s the catch: While vendors want partners ready for the future, they also want partners to fully participate in the present. In some cases, vendors want to have their cake (future sales) and eat it too (continued robust sales of legacy technologies).

Here’s a case in point: A hardware vendor asked 2112 a couple of years ago to help it figure out a way of getting partners to sell more of its cloud product. The vendor knew the cloud-based system would be better for its customers, providing greater management flexibility and lower costs. Partners, however, weren’t racing to sell the cloud-based offering. The reason: The vendor didn’t differentiate the pricing or compensation of the cloud and hardware systems; they were equal. Moreover, the product managers in the legacy hardware division were pushing partners hard to continue selling.

The result: The vendor’s partners sold the legacy hardware product well because they were more familiar with it and didn’t lose any compensation. The cloud-based product lagged and took more time than the vendor anticipated to gain traction.

Partners need to make choices in what they sell and how they sell it. By the same token, vendors need to aid that process by helping partners plan for obsolescence. Some vendors do this very well by planning and announcing the discontinuation of products. Microsoft, for example, is famous for announcing years in advance when it will stop selling and supporting certain versions of its products.

Vendors can’t leave partners in the crossfire of dueling product managers who want their legacy and future products sold equally. Vendors need to make choices to guide partners so they can better prepare their businesses for the future through staged increases in sales of new products and gradual de-emphasis of legacy products that will lose their value. Helping partners plan for product portfolio transitions will help decrease their risk of underinvestment in the future and exposure to disruption for failure to invest.

Partners are looking for vendors’ leadership on planning for the future. But they’re also looking for guidance on how to divorce from their past. Vendors need to step in and help free partners from the bonds of the past so they can embrace the future for everyone’s benefit.


Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.

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