Marching Orders 2018: Start Using Social Selling

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including JEFF HILTON, FOUNDER/CEO, THE ALLIANCE FOR CHANNEL SUCCESS. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

Sales techniques are always evolving and being refined. One technique is called social selling. The idea is to generate leads by developing and nurturing relationships via social media.

This is not about posting articles on social media and hoping to get some responses. It's about really using social platforms to personally engage prospects and generate leads.

When you think about it, this makes complete sense. Prospective buyers research products and solutions via the Web, but they evaluate potential sellers via social media. Social selling allows you to target and engage the prospects you want, effectively and without cold calling.

To get started you need contact management and other tools to support your efforts. One solution to get these easily is the LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Certain versions of Sales Navigator include a feature called PointDrive. This makes sharing of sales content super easy, and provides tracking information so you can readily see who has consumed or shared your content.

A few bits of advice: Your social selling journey begins with good LinkedIn and other social profiles. You need target-market-oriented thought leadership content that demonstrates your expertise. Start small, learn and then use social selling to drive sales success in 2018.

Jeff Hilton is the founder and CEO of the Alliance for Channel Success, an organization focused on helping partners grow more successful and productive practices. He and his team are regular contributors to RCP Magazine, and yearly presenters at Microsoft Inspire and other leading industry conferences.

Posted by Jeff Hilton on March 05, 2018 at 11:37 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Make it Personal

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including CHRISTINE D. BONGARD, DIRECTOR, PARTNER ALLIANCES, ATSG. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

We are living in an exciting time of technological advances and shifts in our industry. Over my 25-year career, I have seen trends shift and then, eventually shift back. My one take away for success in 2018 is to keep things personal.

Due to these advancements in technology and efficiencies with process, we've gotten to a point where people don't need to meet in person. No more looking each other in the eye or shaking hands. No more bonding over family pics and other oddities in our offices. If most people buy because they trust their provider, and people never meet anymore, how is this possible?

I encourage people to get back out in the field and meet with your customers. Bring them a cup of coffee or some flowers. Ask them how their project/service with your company is going. This also goes for your team. Visit your team in their offices and have a cup of coffee with people. Look people in the eye and ask them how things are going. Then, follow up on whatever you commit to doing.

Also, send personal notes, not e-mails, with two to three sentences on why you're happy that person is a client or an employee.

I guarantee you will stand out with class because people yearn to feel appreciated. These small personal touches cost little but yield great results for your relationships, which all support the success of your business.

Christine Bongard manages Strategic Partner Alliances for ATSG, a 20-year Microsoft Gold Partner in the New York metro area. She develops processes and programs to ensure that partners, customers and employees are delighted with their ATSG experience. She also serves as the Global Chairperson for IAMCP Women in Technology.

Posted by Christine D. Bongard on March 05, 2018 at 11:47 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Figure Out If You Already Have a Vertical

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including ERIK FRANTZEN, PRESIDENT, NURTURE MARKETING. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

Forrester Research Inc. recently published a report focused on the partner opportunity for Microsoft 365. One recommendation is for partners to place additional emphasis on partner-specific IP. At Nurture Marketing, we know that marketing initiatives for partners who have their own IP, combined with industry vertical solutions, are far more effective.

Clients now see the partner as offering something different from the competition and understanding their specific business at a higher level.

Stating that all verticals are served and "we are the best" at implementing a solution from a household name provider will only encourage visitors to navigate away.

Finally, we find that partners often have hidden IP and underutilized vertical expertise. Uncovering, productizing, packaging, and delivering these solutions will improve the overall messaging and improve overall client satisfaction.

Suggestions to uncover opportunities, messaging, and hidden IP:

  • Look back at past projects. Did you develop a custom solution that can be monetized elsewhere?
  • Survey your employees about the concerns clients are discussing with them for 2018.
  • Look at the titles and industries of those downloading your marketing content.
  • Survey your clients. You can ask about past client satisfaction or even missed opportunities and include a question about their biggest goals for 2018.

An expert in channel marketing, sales enablement and lead generation, Erik Frantzen guides the Nurture Marketing team as president with a great strategic mind, passion and a unique ability to connect with people. Frantzen is a 20-year technology veteran, having spent nine of those years as director of business development at Alpine Computer Systems, a VAR 500 reseller in Boston.

Posted by Erik Frantzen on February 26, 2018 at 12:37 PM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Listen, Learn and Lead

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including KEITH LUBNER, MANAGING PARTNER, C3. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

While technology is a great enabler, it is also the impediment to your success as a selling organization. It is becoming increasingly difficult for prospects and customers to differentiate your offerings from those of the competition because it's so easy and simple for the buyer to gather information on you before your first interaction with them.

The divide between buyer and seller is becoming wider, I'm afraid. To overcome this, one must boost their soft skills, not their technology skills, in order to connect, understand and differentiate. In 2018, you should remember these three words in order to pivot your path to greater success: listen, learn, lead. Do more listening when interacting with buyers. Listening allows you to learn more about their unique challenges. And when you know more, you can lead the buyer to a solution that you tailor fit to them.

Keith Lubner is managing partner of C3, a global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing and training for growing companies. He is also co-founder of Channel EQ, providing 2.0 channel training for peak performance.

Posted by Keith Lubner on February 26, 2018 at 12:46 PM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Market to Catch the Wave

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including ERIC RABINOWITZ, CEO/CMO, NURTURE MARKETING. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

While surfing there are three possibilities, and only one outcome is good. Be too early and you're womped against the beach. Too late and you miss the opportunity.

This year, 2018, is your catch-the-wave year. Why? The corporate tax rate is lower, the stock market is going gang busters, according to The New York Times nearly $3 trillion in profits could be repatriated, and Randstad counts a 3 million-position shortfall in IT jobs in the United States. IT spending will be increasing as many projects on hold will now be a "go project." Because IT is understaffed, your clients -- big, medium and small -- will be looking to Microsoft partners to pick up the slack.

So, here's your insight. To catch the wave, you need to be marketing. More specifically, digital marketing. Make it easy for these desperate clients to find you. Social selling, Web site refresh, pay-per-click (check out LinkedIn advertising, for example), Sales Navigator PointDrive, e-mail, SEO, marketing automation and Partner Center referrals should be your priorities.

Do it internally, or outsource it, but do it now. Avoid the womp, and catch your wave for an amazing 2018!

Eric Rabinowitz is the CEO/CMO of Nurture Marketing, a full-service marketing firm that helps companies build lasting relationships with their prospects and customers.

Posted by Eric Rabinowitz on February 26, 2018 at 12:35 PM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Join a Network for Women in Technology

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Karen Chastain, Director of Global Alliances and Partners, Episerver. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

With women in only one of four jobs in the technology industry, it's clear that there is still a need to educate, recruit and keep women in tech roles. But talking about it is not enough. Unless companies put real time and effort into supporting the women in technology movement, they will miss out on talent needed to grow their business.

Here are two simple areas where partners can get more involved in the moment: Join a women's organization and enable women within your company.

Perhaps the easiest step is to join a women's organization. There are many active and meaningful women-in-technology networks and groups that can help you stay current on news, participate in events and be part of the movement. Many of these groups are not commitment-based and will enable you to educate yourself on current challenges, solution areas, ideas on how you can further embrace the women in your company and recruit talented women to fill roles. A few that I suggest are IAMCP Women in Technology (#iamcpwit), Microsoft Women in Partner (#mswomeninpartner) and Women in Cloud(#womenincloud).

Surely, you have some talented women in your workforce already -- don't lose them! Encourage them to get involved in the networks I just listed, start an internal women's group, and even introduce a new initiative or event with your employees.

At Episerver, we have put forward a few initiatives to help promote women in technology. I'm most proud of Digital Ninety-Nines, a podcast series that highlights the work of women who are leading digital transformation in their fields. Our goal was to carry the theme through in other ways, like our annual user conference, Ascend. At the conference, we hosted an all-women panel, including women from analyst firms, partners and customers.

So, get started today, check out the networks and groups that are available to everyone. You don't have to be a woman to join!

Karen Chastain, a proven leader in alliance management among the largest technology partners, is the director of global alliances and partners at Episerver. With over 15 years of experience in partner relationship management, building channels, strategic business planning and marketing, Karen consistently delivers results within global and cross-functional programs by building mutually beneficial relationships with partners.

Posted by Karen Chastain on February 20, 2018 at 4:23 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Resolve to Make Your Next Move

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including BARB LEVISAY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, REDMOND CHANNEL PARTNER MAGAZINE. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

Microsoft partners are in a good place right now.

Technology spending is up. Customers are ready to embrace new technologies and are growing more comfortable with the cloud. Office 365 has hit its stride and promises even more opportunity for partners through a steady expansion of features. Everyone in your organization is probably as busy, and billable, as they can handle.

During the good times, it's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and put off preparing for the next cycle. Profits feel good. Diverting billable resources to development is painful.

But this is the best time to make your next move: To build the differentiator that will help your organization survive when the market is saturated or technology spending nosedives.

There is no question that specialization is key to differentiation. Partners who invest in building expertise and IP in an industry or function reap rewards through higher margins and loyal customers. As the specialist, Microsoft is more likely to invite you into opportunities.

During these good times, allocate resources to prepare your business for the tougher times. The longer this upcycle lasts, the more time you have to build expertise and reputation in your segment.

Redmond Channel Partner Contributing Editor Barb Levisay blogs regularly on RCPmag.com about Service Trends and Diversity Wins.

Posted by Barb Levisay on February 20, 2018 at 4:54 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Focus on Hiring and Mentoring Women

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including JENNIFER DIDIER, CEO/PRESIDENT/OWNER, DIRECTIONS TRAINING. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

My best advice for partners in 2018, more than any other year, is to continue to target women hires and to build programs that support and mentor women in the office. As strong, resilient and loyal employees, women bring unique perspectives to the industry. We bring fresh insight into advancing the channel in new, collaborative ways. Still, we are underrepresented in the male-dominated industry. Partners must work to encourage more women to join the industry and to pursue leadership roles.

With women's contributions, the channel will continue to advance. According to WomenWhoTech.com, Fortune 500 companies that had at least three women directors saw an average return on equity increase by at least 53%, and return on sales increase by at least 42%. The return on invested capital increased by at least 66%. In today's modern workplace, women often have longer lifespans in companies than their male counterparts. They're also often more successful in initial stages. This crucial bit of insight will make the difference this year as companies work to create fresh solutions and evolve their business.

A computer instructor by training, Jennifer Didier worked in many roles in the IT field before her interests expanded into entrepreneurship and she started her own training company, Directions Training. As CEO, president and owner, Didier has built the company with double-digit growth year over year and has expanded the organization from a local to a global focus.

Posted by Jennifer Didier on February 20, 2018 at 4:33 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Bridge Professional and Personal Experiences

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Tiffany Wallace, Vice President, Business Development, New Horizons Computer Learning Centers. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

In my 15 years as a Microsoft Learning Partner, I've watched society evolve into adjusting to and expecting what is called "instant intelligence." This adaptation is how we interact with technology professionally during the day and personally at night. This integration is made possible by the focus in all industries on machine learning. Partners need to focus on technology as an access point from the boardroom at work to the kitchen at home.

Machine learning allows us to build on the multitude of data we can now collect. As industry evolves to capture more and more data, we need to build solutions in every aspect of our lives that integrate the technology in an intelligent way.

We as partners have focused heavily on the professional aspect of how customers adopt technology in specific industries. The emerging opportunity is how we engage the customers' experience personally. How do we continue the adoption of our technology solutions in their personal lives?

Microsoft has brought us into the home with Xbox and Surface devices. What is the next access point where we can create a technology interaction with "instant intelligence"?

As vice president of business development, Tiffany Wallace is responsible for the B2B and B2C partner development, product growth and marketing strategy for over 30 New Horizons locations in North America.

Posted by Tiffany Wallace on February 15, 2018 at 8:44 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Diversify Your Microsoft Revenue

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Matt Scherocman, President, Interlink Cloud Advisors. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

As clients move more of their revenue to the cloud, Microsoft partners need to diversify their revenue streams to continue to flourish and, possibly, just to survive.

My recommendation for 2018 is to diversify your revenue and protect your margins. We are all seeing pressures on revenue and profitability. To me it feels like this is occurring in every industry as the Internet makes geography less of a business advantage. Customers are finding self-service and research easier than ever. Among the pressures:

  • Traditional hardware and software sales are going away. So, the opportunities to make big margins on large product transactions is also disappearing.
  • Managed services revenue is declining because there are fewer servers to manage on-premises. The reliability of cloud services sets a ceiling on what can be charged.
  • Partner of Record fees continue to be changed and reduced by Microsoft. We have seen major cuts in what Microsoft calls the "rate card" again this year, and adviser fees from Web transactions were completely eliminated.

In 2018, look to make investments in new offerings. Technologies like collaboration adoption services, business intelligence, data warehousing and machine learning are just a few that are ripe with customer needs. The biggest challenge to the traditional systems integrator is recruiting talented folks who can lead these new practice areas and evolving the sales teams to be able to clearly articulate these value areas.

Matt Scherocman is president of Interlink Cloud Advisors, a born-in-the-cloud Microsoft partner based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Posted by Matt Scherocman on February 15, 2018 at 8:37 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Get Good at Change Management

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Christian Buckley, Founder & CEO, CollabTalk LLC. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

With so many customers, and even partners, complaining about the rapid state of innovation coming out of Redmond, it's more important now than ever before that organizations take on more of an operational focus, and become experts in technology change management. Companies that can quickly assess, adapt and adopt will be the winners, pure and simple.

Christian Buckley is an independent researcher, technology evangelist and Microsoft Office Servers & Services MVP with more than 25 years of experience working with collaboration, social and supply chain technology.

Posted by Christian Buckley on February 15, 2018 at 7:50 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Engage with Microsoft

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Vince Menzione, CEO and Founder, Cloud Wave Partners. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

As a podcast host and business consultant to organizations looking to better partner with the tech giant, I've had the unique privilege of interviewing scores of leaders in the industry, including some of Microsoft's top partners.

What I believe separates the good partnerships from the great ones is the commitment from the very top. CEO commitment, visibility and alignment to Microsoft have been a key factor in the success of many high-performing partners.

My advice to organizations looking to expand and grow their business with the technology giant in 2018 is directed toward CEOs and ensuring that these business leaders make executive visibility and engagement across the Microsoft organization a priority, while ensuring their business is aligned to the priorities and invested in programs, enablement and co-selling in order to drive a mutually successful set of business objectives.

Vince Menzione is the founder of Cloud Wave Partners and the host of a podcast, "Ultimate Guide to Partnering." Menzione's career has consisted of three successful business transformations while leading sales and channels, including nine years at Microsoft as a general manager on the U.S. Partner Leadership Team.
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Posted by Vince Menzione on February 14, 2018 at 12:32 PM0 comments


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