One of the privileges of working with such a talented bunch of people here at Channel Mastered is that I’m constantly learning from my colleagues. I had a chance to spend quality time with four of them in particular recently at a CompTIA event, and came home with new insights worth sharing about business, the channel, and beyond.
1. Leadership, not leads, is an IT company’s true key to growth
Before he became a sought-after consultant to MSPs and vendors, as well as Channel Mastered’s chief leadership strategist, James Kernan ran multiple successful IT businesses. Along the way, he discovered that contrary to popular belief sales prowess is not the defining characteristic of high-growth tech companies. It’s a founder and executive team who know how to recruit, train, motivate, and manage revenue-generating employees.
“Everybody wants more leads, they want more accounts, and they want to make more,” James says. “The hidden talent is really leadership.”
It’s a talent he now helps cultivate in people with more technical know-how than business experience through in-depth tutoring in techniques he once used himself to prepare organizations for long-term profitability.
“After you start bringing in more accounts and revenue, your culture changes,” James observes. “Unless you’ve got the right people, processes, and tools in place to manage all that, it’s going to blow up.”
2. Marketing is first and foremost about people
Every vendor and MSP is different, notes Charlene Ignacio, Channel Mastered’s CMO, yet they all tend to have the same gnawing problem.
“It’s how do I reach my ideal customer? How do I stand out in a sea of sameness?” she says.
Entire libraries have been written about that topic, but Charlene urges her clients to keep one simple rule about marketing in mind no matter what else they do.
“We’re in the people business,” she says. “It’s all about people and relationships.”
And that means no lead generation campaign or webinar or pitch deck is going to get you the results you want if it isn’t thoroughly grounded in what the people you’re marketing to need and want.
“You’ve got to understand the customer,” Charlene says. “You need to hear their voice and understand what their pain point is.”
And you need to embed that understanding in every aspect of your marketing efforts, she adds, noting that she recently asked a workshop full of MSPs to call up their website and do an honest assessment of whether it reflects what the customer cares about or their own priorities.
“Every single one in the room had their hand up to say, ‘it talks from my position as a business owner,’” she recalls. “I said, ‘that’s where you’ve missed the people-first business principle.’”
3. Turning “B” partners into “A” partners is the fast track to more revenue
That same principle applies to vendors. “It’s a mistake to say, ‘this is what we’re investing in’ and not align it with an MSP’s desires and motivations and needs,” counsels Erick Simpson, our chief strategist. “You have to listen, listen, listen, listen, and then put together programs that are win-win scenarios for both parties.”
Erick suggests listening to a particular subset of MSPs especially hard. Most vendors can divide their partners into three groups, the “A” team (their most engaged), the “C” team (their least engaged), and the “B” team (the ones in between). Keeping the A players motivated and happy is an obvious necessity, and investing heavily in the C partners rarely pays off.
“The opportunity is with that B section,” Erick says. “Get those partners transacting more and that’s the most effective way to generate rapid growth in a channel program.”
Effective tactics for boosting B team transactions include rolling out more enablement resources, hosting sales and marketing masterclasses, expanding the MDF budget, and holding live or virtual partner events. The results may not be immediate, but they’ll come in time if you do it right.
“We’ve got to think outside the box as vendors to say, ‘how can I support my partners to help them grow their business, even when it may not be a direct ROI back to us,’” Erick observes.
4. Trust matters more than money
Vendors have traditionally employed a single tool to win over partners.
“It’s money,” says Mark Crall, Channel Mastered’s chief revenue officer. “You lead with spiffs, you lead with margins, you lead with rebates.” Try that when recruiting managed service providers, he continues, and you’ll fail every time.
“In the MSP channel, you lead with trust,” Mark says, echoing a point made ably elsewhere by our chief brand strategist, Lisa Shorr.
And trust, of course, can’t be bought. It must be earned, slowly, in how you treat people, set policies, respond to mistakes, handle billing headaches, and more.
“It’s always doing what’s right at any cost for the best of the community, putting the customer first, the industry first,” Mark explains. “It’s visible when you do that and it’s visible when you don’t.”
That’s especially true concerning the one thing MSPs all but universally agree must be trustworthy: support.
“If a company is support driven, support led, their sales will follow,” Mark says. “If you don’t establish a baseline of trust in the support system, however, you’re going to really struggle to get any momentum in the channel.”
Needless to say, Channel Mastered is happy to help you establish trust with MSPs, and a lot more as well, any time. Just drop us a line.