Scott Mangelson has a cool view of the world from his home in the Napa Valley. He’s an award-winning winemaker, which makes him an instant candidate for being a friend of our host, Steven Kellam, but he’s also a National Sales Director for Microsoft who does a ton of business in the channel. This comes after many years spent on the vendor side, selling technology solutions as a Microsoft partner, uncoincidentally often selling his wares to wineries.
How is Microsoft Engaging Partners in 2019?
Many of us may think of a consumer-first focus when we hear the name Microsoft, but that has never really been the case with the tech giant. “At the heart of Microsoft’s DNA is a channel strategy,” offers Scott. “Early on, since building DOS and looking to license that application, almost all the distribution that Microsoft went to market with was executed through a channel strategy, and that continues to be our go-to-market strategy.”
Manly listeners will recognize one of the biggest challenges that Scott makes a note of, and that is the struggle vendors face in getting alignment between how they and their partners do their selling. He proposes a remedy with a bit of a dichotomy to it: it’s the most effective path, but it’s not a quick fix, and while it’s simple, it’s not necessarily easy.
From Scott’s perspective, the best way to build alignment is through leveraging relationship and acumen-building initiatives such as partner communities such as Microsoft’s Global Advisory Board, meetups, and the like. The challenge, of course, is something akin to the adage about being able to lead a horse to water. “It’s the thing that doesn’t seem to bring the most immediate value, but it’s the thing that has the most value in the long term.”
These types of initiatives give partners the opportunity to interact not only with Microsoft, but also with other partners, effectively building a community of businesses which are connected through co-opetition, and very well aligned with how the brand does business.
On the other side of the fence, Scott urges partners looking to feel more aligned or up to speed with the brand to volunteer for as many vendor panels, roundtables, advisory boards and so on as you can fit into your life.
Stand Up, Stand Out
An encouraging trend showing in some corners of the marketing world is the idea of choosing a short list of activities your company can do very well and executing only those activities but at an elite level. Scott has similar advice, especially for emerging partners.
“It’s so important to demonstrate your willingness to…pick a focus, whether that’s industry or geography, and develop intellectual property. That doesn’t necessarily need to be technology; it can be business processes, it can be service offerings – it could be lots of things that differentiate you as a partner that provides value to the customers of the vendor.”
The point is to identify and highlight ways that partnering with you is going to bring unique high value to the rest of your ecosystem, both customers and vendors.
For brands, Scott shares a smart way that Microsoft uses incentives to encourage partners along this path. Partners who can transact deals on their own paper, provision, service and support the customer and then collect on their own receive a higher incentive from Microsoft for deals that match this profile. This is an excellent example of using incentives to reward behaviours that don’t just drive revenue, but also add value every step of the way by creating a smoother experience for all parties involved.
The Intelligent Edge
To date, many Channel Edge episodes have made mention of the idea that partners need to be looking closely at layers of value they can add to transactions, especially via services such as integrations. Microsoft’s hot take on this is that the channel space, at least in the technology business, has some true giants in the form of companies such as Oracle, SAP and, of course, Microsoft building what they refer to as intelligent platforms. What the world is seeing now is a rapid proliferation of things such as connected devices and micro-applications, many of which are helping businesses gain or maintain a competitive edge but are appearing faster than the vendor companies themselves can hope to keep pace with.
“Partners have so much opportunity now to go find their industry and their opportunity to plug into that intelligent edge,” Scott enthuses. “Whether that is a technology play, or a service play, or an advisory play, partners should keep in mind that companies are hungry to figure out how they bring all these devices and all this capability that’s out on the edge and have that work with their platform of choice.”
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