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Make the Most of Co-Sell, But Avoid Overdependence

The huge theme at Microsoft Inspire this summer was the messaging around, and supporting evidence for, doing business with Microsoft and with fellow partners.

I have been attending Microsoft's worldwide partner events since 2002, and I remember less-successful similar attempts from Microsoft. This time, it clearly got it right.

The co-sell program is a huge success. And thanks to CEO Satya Nadella, worldwide channel chief Gavriella Schuster and others who have reshaped Microsoft, there is now a great path for partners to prove themselves and to leverage Microsoft's sales team in order to win new customers. I have met many partners that have given evidence that the co-sell program is actually working in real life, not just in theory.

With co-sell working so well, it is easy for partners to consider making this their only avenue for growing sales. But that would be a strategic mistake. I think that partners ought to view co-sell as frosting on the cake, not the cake itself.

My suggested core sales motion is for partners to approach customers directly, or indirectly through other partners, and to use co-sell as an additional opportunity. Co-sell can help you win new customers, and it can also help you win the attention of potential partners to act as your resellers and/or implementers.

It is also important to build personal relations with Microsoft's field sellers. When you get a request from a Microsoft field seller, it is important to follow up and to invest time to close the deal together. Being a great partner to Microsoft's field will pay off. You want to be easy to deal with and build a reputation for being very attentive.

Think of Microsoft's field as an ecosystem of its own. When you create mutual success, you will be able to ask for introductions to other Microsoft field sellers in the same country/region or in the same vertical. Of course, you should document your success and use it in your marketing. And saying "thank you" is never bad -- send those e-mails up the chain to senior leaders.

It is worth mentioning that AppSource is growing in importance as Microsoft's marketplace for B2B apps. It makes sense for you to make sure that you are part of it and that you optimize your presence there. AppSource is the starting point for your co-sell efforts and it also helps you get visibility from customers and fellow partners. Remember to keep your value proposition short and sweet; a maximum of 20 words seems to be what is working.

The message at Inspire in Las Vegas was loud and clear: Microsoft and partners are driving innovation, and by working together, we will achieve joint success. You could feel it everywhere -- on the big stage, in breakout sessions, in the expo hall and in casual discussions over dinner and drinks. The relationship between Microsoft and partners has never been better, and there is a great degree of optimism about the opportunities ahead.

Posted by Per Werngren on August 30, 2018


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