How to Create and Best Leverage Strategic Channel Partnerships

    Table of contents:

    • Introduction  
    • Benefits of a well-thought out channel partner strategy
      • Understand the value of your product
      • Include the initial assessment in your channel strategy
        • Ensure alignment with partners
    • Start by selecting the right partners
      • First steps in creating a channel partner strategy
        • Partner lifecycle management methodology
          • New technologies take time to adopt
      • Ensuring channel partners are the best fit for your organization
      • Channel partner training strategy
    • Leverage partnerships & know where to invest time
      • Enhancing partner relationships
        • Segmenting the market
        • Understand partnership goals and progress
      • Partner segmentation
        • Market penetration: how to achieve desired results
      • Partner scoring
      • Uncommon ways to leverage a strategic partnership
        • Proof of concepts
        • Visiting partners face-to-face
          • Show partners you are invested in the relationship
      • Dealing with underperforming partnerships
        • Go back to basics: re-evaluate the partnership
        • Take the necessary precautions before you begin
        • Find a solution and relaunch the relationship with partners
      • What determines channel partner success?
        • Have a strategic roadmap - find out from the partners what made them successful
        • Add the personal level to your partnerships
      • Maintaining successful partner relationships
        • Don’t overcomplicate the relationships
          • Maintaining transparency with partners
    • Conclusion  
      • Challenges of not following these best practices
        • Adapting to changes in the market and technology
          • Adapting your business model
      • Understanding market trends is key for positive growth
        • Continuously re-evaluate your strategy
    • Closing comments  
      • Manuel Rivera’s background in channel sales
        • Constella Intelligence

    Introduction

    It’s important to find partners that are right for you, but just as important, if not more, is knowing how to make the most of those partnerships.  

    One way that can almost guarantee a deep understanding of how to navigate your partnerships and best leverage them is the practice of partner segmentation. That is, segmenting partners within the different markets they service.  

    For example, partners that handle enterprise-level accounts over $5 billion in annual revenue vs. partners that target mid-market clients, or regional partners, that may be best suited for small and medium-sized businesses.  

    We’ll share insights on:  

    • How to identify different partner segments  
    • What you can do to build partners’ strengths  
    • Minimize partners’ weaknesses  
    • How to support them
    • How to help them grow to reach your overall goal  

    Our guest today, Manuel Rivera, has been in the channel for over 20 years. He boasts a pretty extensive background in:  

    • taking over existing channel programs,  
    • understanding the current makeup of the channel partners that are part of those programs,  
    • and trying to align those partners with the goals of the organization, specifically Chief Revenue Officers.  

    Today, he develops and manages the channel sales program, as the Vice President of Global Channel Sales at Constella Intelligence – a leading Digital Risk Protection software company.  

    He’s here with us today to tell us how to create and best leverage strategic channel partnerships.  

    Benefits of a well-thought out channel partner strategy  

    Paul Bird: So, if I'm a channel chief, what are the benefits to ensuring that my channel partner strategy is well-thought out right from the very beginning?  

    Manuel Rivera: We all have to understand the product that we're actually trying to sell. What are the market trends, what are the partner trends?  

    Because we may have a fantastic product, we may have a great solution, but the market may not be ready for it with partners. The technology may be just coming out of the gate and there is limited knowledge and experience dealing with it.  

    There's a lot of variables that one has to look at in terms of what needs to happen to make this successful.  

    Understand the value of your product  

    Manuel Rivera: The first thing is to understand your product, your technology, what is the value?  

    "A lot of companies that I've seen, have a solution looking for a problem and that complicates it. You want to have a solution, a tool, a platform, or an offering where you actually are meeting customer's needs."

    The channel is basically a conduit to the customers. We want to work with those partners, that third party, to provide that solution to their customer. So, we have to satisfy not only the channel but their customers.  

    So, what does that entail? Looking at the entire picture:  

    • The product  
    • The market  
    • The market trends  
    • Channel trends  

    Then:  

    • Understanding your value proposition
    • Do you develop a joint value proposition?  
    • How are you going to go-to-market?  

    All that comes into play.  

    Include the initial assessment in your channel strategy  

    Paul Bird: Obviously, there are times where you may come across products that simply aren't channel-friendly. That is a struggle that people have, is there a good fit for that channel?  

    We look at the channel partners, what's in it for them? So that first initial assessment has to be part of your strategy.  

    Manuel Rivera: Absolutely, that initial assessment is part of the strategy.  

    We know technology is a very fluid environment. It's constantly changing. It's growing, expanding, it retracts in certain areas and expands in others.  

    Ensure alignment with partners  

    Manuel Rivera: Products, trends and everything needs to be aligned and understanding what is in place for you to get there?  

    "Some products are not ready for certain types of partners. So, qualifying that partner, understanding what their value proposition is, is key."

    I would look at a list of partners and just because you're a MSSP, or you're a VAR, or your reseller, it does not necessarily mean that you are actually working with my space and we're technically, in business, aligned.  

    That's another thing that I will look at:  

    • Do we have a business alignment?  
    • Do we have a technical alignment?  

    That's very important because sometimes it's not and there's no sense of trying to force it to work.  

    Start by selecting the right partners

    Channel partner strategy

    First steps in creating a channel partner strategy  

    Paul Bird: You've taken over so many different partner programs that I wonder, after you've had that assessment of the technology, making sure it's a good fit, that you have the right market conditions.  

    What would you say are some of the first steps you should take in either revising an existing partner strategy or creating a new partner strategy?  

    Partner lifecycle management methodology  

    Manuel Rivera: I have a partner lifecycle management methodology that I put together. It's three steps which are:

    1. To qualify
    2. To incubate  
    3. To onboard and buy in  

    So the first, if I look at qualifying these partners:  

    • What kind of company is it?  
    • What sort of growth mode do they have or what is their investment in the market?
    •  Do they have year-over-year growth?  
    • What’s the partner type?  
      • Is it a global system integrator? It's an ISV technology? Do they work in the cloud?  
      • What sectors?  
        • I may be focused on financial services and this partner focuses on health care. So there has to be that alignment.  

    After we have all of that, the most instrumental thing is the value proposition. What is it that you're offering and how is it that you're helping your customers?  

    Then we form a joint value proposition and once we do that, we need to determine: how are we going to go to market? So I will look at, for example, making sure that the solution is something that your customers are looking for or have a need for.  

    New technologies take time to adopt  

    Manuel Rivera: There’s a little bit of lag between what the company is, what the customer wants and what's actually coming out of the gate and technology. Usually, what comes out takes a little while to hit the market and for others to understand.  

    Case in point, looking at, in cyber security, threat intelligence. Threat intelligence is something that most people are familiar with. Everybody knows threat intelligence and dark web and entering assets into a platform.  

    Or just working with a CM or a SOR whether it's Blind, Rapid7, ServiceNow, and feeding those SIEMs or SORs or tips with content from a data lake.  

    But now there is a next level, a next step of sophistication in that area which is called the Digital Risk Protection.  

    I ask MSSPs and I ask our partners, are you familiar with digital risk protection? They say, no, what is that about? And I have to explain: well, it’s the next level of what we're working with right now, threat intelligence.  

    So it continues to evolve that way. If you're at the tip of the spear with technologies, like I am right now, you have to go through this educational process and educate and help the partners to understand the technology.  

    Some may not be in that space, or just because they're in threat intelligence does not mean that they will adapt to this new space. They may go in a different direction. So, understanding and qualifying those is extremely, extremely important.  

    Ensuring channel partners are the best fit for your organization  

    Paul Bird: That is a challenge for a lot of people because you go through and you do everything you can to make sure you have the right partners in your group. But then how can you make sure that they're truly the best fit?  

    Manuel Rivera: Make sure that they're in the space.  

    Right now, for example, I will talk to an MSSP, I will talk to a global systems integrator and I will ask, are you in the digital risk protection space? Yes, I am or no, I am not.  

    Based on those two answers, I can then go through another set of questions and say:  

    • Is this something that your customers are looking for or have asked you for?
    • Or is this something that your customers will need?  
    • Do your customers need executive protection?  
    • Do they need fraud detection?  
    • Do they need brand monitoring?  
    • And domain monitoring and domain protection?  

    Geopolitical, for example, that is all in the realm of digital risk protection right now. So they said: ‘wow, I haven't thought of that, but yes, I can see them needing that.’ And they have asked me about this. Well, that's something that we can actually look into a little bit further. Let's go into more detail.  

    If they say: ‘you know what, not really. That's not the area that I'm going, my customers are more focused on health care and providing, for example, secure records for their customers and financial services. But they're more concerned in fraud and trying to block from outside the firewall.’ There's always these different answers.  

    I have a series of questions, qualifying specifically for my space, my area, my product, where, if I see that business and technical alignment, I know it would be a good match. If not, it's not a good match, but it's important to go through that.  

    "You have to really understand: who is it that you're trying to align yourself with? Because it's not selling directly to a customer, it's getting somebody to sell for you. So there needs to be a really clear alignment of that."

    And we go back to the basics: value proposition  

    • What is it that we're selling and how are we going to sell it?  
    • How are we going to go to the market?  

    Those are the key questions that need to be answered.  

    Channel partner training strategy  

    Paul Bird: So, you have these situations where you're literally on the bleeding edge sometimes. Do you have any recommendations in terms of a partner training strategy?  

    Manuel Rivera: It all depends where the stage of the partner is. And assessing the maturity of the partner is actually very important.  

    Many companies will say, we are channel driven, we have partners, we work with partners. But when you look down a little bit, you peel that onion back a little bit, it's not exactly what it should be or doesn’t have the requirements that you actually need to have a successful relationship.  

    So, in terms of training them and understanding, as part of the onboarding and enablement process, you have to develop a special program specifically for that.  

    Again, it goes back to:  

    • How can I help you work with your customers?
    • What sort of a sales toolkit do I put in place?  
    • What sort of content do I need?  
    • Are we having certifications?  
      • Do we need, for example, to have that certified one, two or three or a handful of technical folks that we can actually handle this from tier one, tier two customer success?  

    So there's a lot of things that go into that specifically working, trying to train that partner. But having them understand: the joint value proposition and how is it that you're going to market? How are you going to help them help their customers? Then can we go back to those basics.  

    Strategic channel partnerships

    Leverage partnerships & know where to invest time  

    Paul Bird: This is all great for getting started off, but once you have those right partners in place and once you've identified that you have a good, strong go-to-market partner. Let's talk about leveraging those partners and really knowing where to invest your time.  

    Enhancing partner relationships  

    Paul Bird: Once you have that established partnership, what can you really do to enhance the relationship with them in order to drive the results that people are looking for?  

    Segmenting the market  

    Manuel Rivera: Like you said earlier, segmenting the market is very important because this gives you the opportunity to classify partners in buckets.

    I actually like to do that, and the reason is because, obviously, there's a strategy and the go-to-market for each one of them. But, once we have that relationship, once I’ve identified this partner and I know that this partner is going to really work well with me, I will try to understand what it is that they're doing for growth.  

    If they're growing, I'm growing. So I want to make sure that they are actually growing.  

    These are pre-qualification questions:  

    • how much are they investing, for example,  
      • into their sales program,  
      • into their organization,  
    • how much business development, demand generation actually are they investing into?  

    I will take a look at that. Have you had growth year over year? If you had 20 customers last year and this year you have 50 or 60. You say, ‘I keep growing. I don't know what to do with these.’ Well, that's great. That's music to my ears.  

    Understand partnership goals and progress  

    Manuel Rivera: But once I have that partner in place, it's a lot of, I hate to say account management, but it just basically entails a lot of account management.  

    It’s doing your QBRs, your weekly review and your weekly plans, your quarterly plan, review weekly, bi weekly. It's actually having your thresholds, understanding where you are with your goals, with your forecast, your KPIs and understanding what needs to happen to get to a certain place.  

    I will start a partnership and the first thing I will say is:  

    • What are we going to do this year?  
    • How many deals do you think we're going to be able to identify?  
    • What sort of initiatives do we do?  
    • What sort of business development do we work with?  
    • How do I actually reach them?  

    Once you start that relationship, it's actually a lot of account management that way. And then measuring your KPIs, making sure that you meet your thresholds of tolerance.  

    "You can't have a partnership without producing for two years, so you want to keep track of all of that."

    Partner segmentation

    Paul Bird: How deep from a partner segmentation perspective will you go? And what role does that play in getting the most across such a variety of partners?  

    Manuel Rivera: I like to segment the market to my services partners. And this is just a framework they can apply differently to each company, depending on their product, depending on who their market target is.  

    I will likely, for example, look at the enterprise, the mid-markets and the SMB and what sort of partners I need to have in each one of those buckets to increase my market penetration.  

    Then I will look at, for example, if my product is specifically for the mid-market or the or the enterprise, which partners do I need?  

    • Do I need systems integrators?  
    • Do I need VARs?  
    • Do I want to go with distributors?  
      • Is my product distributor friendly?  

    Many SaaS products nowadays and cloud products are not necessarily SOC friendly, for example. There's difficulty working with those with a SOC. You need to take all that into consideration.  

    Market penetration: how to achieve desired results  

    Manuel Rivera: For market penetration, if I say, my market penetration in the enterprise is right now 5%, I want it to be 25%, 30% in 18, 24, 36 months. What do I need to do to do that?  

    Well, I need to bring marketing in. I need to align my work with marketing. I need to say, what are the market trends, what are the partner trends? If this is something that, for example, the analysts see as a potential, a future growth? How much would that be? Is there a CGAR involved?  

    I look at all those things and based on market analysis and based on what I see right now with all this data, I can say that this is a good plan. I'm going to work with the systems integrators and which ones are the ones we're specifically working with as well.  

    We have 15, 20, let's say, major global systems integrators. Out of those, maybe four or five or six or seven are working specifically in your space. Maybe the others are not, so they can go back to the product. That's how I would do it.  

    And I repeat the same for the mid-market,  

    • Which are more regional?  
    • Which are the systems integrators who are actually looking to grow?  
    • Who can I leverage to increase my market penetration?  
    • What does the marketing side say?  
    • What do the analysts say?  

    And based on that, I will know how to invest those marketing dollars for that specific market sector.  

    Partner scoring  

    Paul Bird: What about partner scoring? Is there generally a useful application to help gain insight on where to invest your time based on a partner scorecard or something?  

    Manuel Rivera: I have my own partnership scorecard that I developed. And I think they're very useful.  

    I developed my own just because I'm very specific in what I'm looking for. I know what I need. I will look at a partner relationship and know exactly the type of partner that I need to find and not waste any time.  

    Again, I go back to a lifecycle management style, a check box, and say: does this partner meet this certain criteria, do they meet these qualifications that I'm looking for?  

    This is what I need for this to drive this product specific solution into the market. So I will definitely go with those and they're very useful.  

    Uncommon ways to leverage a strategic partnership  

    Paul Bird: You've been doing this a while, so would you say that you have some tricks up your sleeve? What would you say are some more uncommon ways or ways that are not often tried in order to leverage strategic partners?  

    Manuel Rivera: Of course, there's always ways that you want to leverage these strategic partners. It all depends on how you want to to work with them and what is it that you want to to drive?  

    For example, I will look specifically to a partner and think about: how do I actually get this partner to identify more opportunities for me. We're going to do a POV and then explore this.  

    What is it that I can do to help my chances or increase the relationship with this partner? And there's a lot of things that I have done.  

    Proof of concepts  

    Manuel Rivera: Way back in my previous job, for example, I was working with a global systems integrator and I saw the need for my tool, they definitely could use my platform. And they were like, ‘yes, we see it.; They just weren’t - not that I don't want to say organized - but they didn't have these things that they had in place in order to drive it.  

    But I know their consultants because we were talking to their consultants. Their salespeople were asking for the product. They were asking to use our tool. I basically said, let's just do POC right now.  

    We were doing a POC and from the POC, what I did is, I actually took a list. We didn't have an agreement in place or anything. And I said, give me the five customers that you have that need this.  

    I actually got my technical team to build a platform customized for them, and that was the POC. So, ‘here you go, it's already built. Look at all this data. We don't have an agreement in place. I'm not even going to charge you, go ahead and use it.’  

    And they started using it and they started providing data to their customers. So they immediately saw the value.  

    It took a couple of months of them having the POC but they said, ‘wow, this is fantastic. Two months later, we know what we're doing, we see the value.’ And they went ahead in signing an agreement and bought the product to work with their customers.  

    One has to have a little flexibility, you need to figure out a way to accommodate yourself, especially if you're a startup.  

    If you're a Google or Apple or AWS, they state terms. But if you're a startup, you need to figure out a way to be creative and figure out how you can actually get to their customer.  

    That's the one thing I love about the job in the channel is you can be creative and be flexible and ‘let me figure out a way how to get this done’. And I've done that a few times.  

    Visiting partners face-to-face  

    Paul Bird: It's about being creative and it's about having a bit of faith. You never know what the results are until you try it.  

    Early on in my channel career, just to be able to understand who my channel partners were, I took a step of saying: I'm going to get on the road, I'm going to start in Boston, I'm going to go all the way down to Miami, and I'm going to visit every single channel partner, 50+ partners, over a three week period. I'm going to sit in their office and try to understand what drove their business.  

    So it was kind of a big risk. I remember when I left Boston, one of our partners, more of a supplier, told me I was insane. Said: ‘you are nuts. You're going to do like four or five a day for three weeks? You're crazy.’  

    It was funny because that same person that told me that I was ludicrous asked me if he could come along the next year.  

    So, that is exactly where you want to be when it comes to trying something different because you never know the results you're going to get.  

    Show partners you are invested in the relationship  

    Manuel Rivera: That's an awesome approach to working with partners, they see you’re invested into the relationship.  

    The partner channel, it's a relationship. They want to see that you're invested and you're doing these special things for them. So that's a great example of what to do.  

    You have to be creative. I say, ‘you don't know what you're doing. Here, just take the product, give me your customers, I'm going to build this for you. And here it is, here’s a platform, here's a POC with your customers. You're starting to get data right now, look at that.’ And they see the value.  

    ‘Go ahead and give that to your customers. Have your consultants and your salespeople use that for your customers. I'm not even going to charge you.’ They see the value, they see your investment, and it's a creative way of doing business. You have to want that flexibility, no doubt.  

    Strategic partnerships

    Dealing with underperforming partnerships  

    Paul Bird: I'm sure you've come across this many times. What happens if you have a partner that's invested, they are trying hard, but they simply aren't performing as well as you hope. Anything that you share when it comes to those weaker, underperforming partnerships?  

    Manuel Rivera: It’s one of the things that happens extremely often, unfortunately, and we all go through that. And decisions have to be made based on knowledge, on facts.  

    Go back to basics: re-evaluate the partnership  

    Manuel Rivera: I would look at that relationship and go back to the basics and say:  

    • What is it that we're doing here?  
    • What is the value proposition?  
    • Has that changed since we signed our agreement two or three years ago?  
    • Has my value proposition changed?  
    • Have we continued to grow the way we said we were going to?  
    • What changed along the way?  
    • Where along the way did we lose control of this relationship?  

    Because if I'm following up with this partnership, I know the direction it's going and I understand what needs to be done to change it.  

    I can't fix what I don't know. That's why I go back to basics:  

    • The QBRs  
    • What is your plan?  
    • What is your strategic roadmap and what are your timelines?  
    • What are your tolerances?  
    • Did we meet this criteria?  
    • We're supposed to talk in 30 days to see if this was fulfilled, yes or no, did it happen?  

    If I'm doing correct partner management, I should be able to avoid that as much as possible.  

    Take the necessary precautions before you begin  

    Manuel Rivera: When I was at IBM, it was very interesting. I learned at IBM that, at the time, their quality assurance process was extremely strict. Before you delivered a proposal to a customer it had to go through QA. They wanted to make sure that everything was appropriate, everything was in place because they wanted to avoid troubled projects at the end.  

    They had a very small 1 or 2% of troubled projects because they said, ‘I'm looking at the systems engineer you have with this project and this person only has five years experience. This person needs to have ten years experience and you need two with a minimum of four or five to be able to complete this task in six months.’  

    They would go as far as looking at that. So I had to go back and look for the appropriate resources. They made absolutely certain that they would avoid being in that situation. So I actually learned to try to avoid being in that situation as much as possible.  

    And it's going back to basics: understanding where we are, what's our strategic roadmap, what is it that we need to do, what has changed? So when I come to a new company and I see these, I'm going to go back and say: let me re-evaluate and see where we are.  

    Find a solution and relaunch the relationship with partners  

    Manuel Rivera: One of my previous jobs, I started and they said: ‘these partnerships are dead, they're terrible. We signed these guys and they haven't given leads, there's nothing.’  

    I said, ‘you just don't sign a goal system integrator and sit back and get leads from them. There's a lot of handholding here. A lot of love has to go on.’  

    What I did is, I went back to basics, I started again. With them understanding the value, what we were going to do. I relaunched the relationships, I made announcements. ‘We're proud to announce that we're relaunching this relationship.’ And start from scratch. It's sort of like reopening the store after renovations.  

    Many times you can do that. Unfortunately, sometimes you cannot. You just have to make a decision whether it's viable to continue working together. But you have to make that assessment. You have to make that call after you understand the damage.  

    What determines channel partner success?  

    Paul Bird: Then on the flip side, if you compare looking at the ones that are tremendously successful, what do you think really determines channel partner success for the people that are doing really well?  

    Manuel Rivera: There are a lot of variables that go into making that relationship a success.  

    Have a strategic roadmap - find out from the partners what made them successful    

    Manuel Rivera: The most important thing to do is to have a plan, have a strategic roadmap. And say, here's where I am right now. It's January/February, where do I want to be at the end of the year?  

    Normally what I like to ask is this: next year, when we do our yearly QBR, I'm going to ask you, what did we do? And I'm going to say, we had a great year. We had a successful year. And I'm going to ask the partner, what did we do to actually be successful, to have a successful year? What was it that fulfilled your needs and requirements?  

    Those are going to give you a wishlist. ‘We did this, I wish we could have done that.’ They’re going to tell you exactly what it is. So you're taking notes.  

    They’re sort of like giving you a little bit of what should be part of that roadmap. Of course, within reason and within alignment of that strategy.  

    But having that roadmap and timetables, your tolerances, is extremely fundamental. The old adage from sales applies that, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  

    "The successful ones have had a plan, they have looked constantly at the relationship, they've nurtured it, they've invested into it, they've done events."

    Add the personal level to your partnerships  

    Manuel Rivera: Any kind of event that you bring to the personal level, whether you're doing a lunch and learn or breakfast and you’re inviting customers. Even if it’s just going over there for a morning and bringing pizza for lunch or something, all those things matter.  

    Getting on an airplane and saying, ‘I'm going to be there in a couple of weeks. Let me come over and let’s have a cup of coffee or let's plan and talk about this.’ If they see the investment that you're investing into their relationship, that is one of the key things here.  

    That's what I see with those successful ones.  

    Maintaining successful partner relationships  

    Paul Bird: Is there anything additional that you can add to that? Because when you have a successful partnership, you've now reached the goal. But any ideas or any insights on how you can make those partnerships thrive for as long as possible?  

    Having year over year of success with a partner. Any suggestions on things that you can do to accomplish that?  

    Don’t overcomplicate the relationships  

    Manuel Rivera: Keeping it very simple.  

    Something that you hear often in the channel is, they say, ‘we started this relationship great and we love it. But this company or that company or your competitor or did this, now they want to do this, now they want to increase or make it more complicated by doing that.’  

    Remember we're trying to convince these folks to sell our product to their clients. And they’re trusted advisers to their clients. So they need to make sure that what we're doing is actually proven successful. It's a good product and it’s something good for them.  

    We need to keep that in mind and then have that understanding that these folks are actually taking a risk or taking a chance with us. So the ones I want to work with, I will understand that and put myself in that place.  

    Maintaining transparency with partners  

    Manuel Rivera: Having a very transparent relationship - I'm going to make mistakes.  

    I say, ‘I made this mistake. This happened.’ I've been, in the past, at other jobs where we had some sort of an issue that was a breach. ‘This happened over here. That was my fault. Let me help you with this. I'm going to quickly compensate you for this, just to make up for these resources.’  

    Having that transparency is extremely important for the future. But, again, keeping it very simple. It’s sort of like you're going on a website to buy something and you want that one click thing. You don't want to have to keep moving from page to page and page to page, just entering more data.  

    That's how you want the relationships to be, very simple. Keep the revenue model simple, keep the business model simple, and let them grow that way. Just because you're being successful and growing, it does not mean you need to make it more complicated or more complex. I would say, simplicity, transparency, and an investment.  

    Partner lifecycle management

    Challenges of not following these best practices

    Paul Bird: You follow your own partner lifecycle management, you go through your own process for segmentation and by the sounds of it, you keep the lines of communication open with partners.  

    So what kind of challenges do you think someone would face if they're not following the type of best practices that you follow?  

    Adapting to changes in the market and technology  

    Manuel Rivera: If you don't follow, let's say, the market segmentation. I've seen companies, in the past, that are like, ‘we have 100, 500 customers and we're just going to assign account managers to everybody.’ Everybody's an account manager. ‘We're going to assign ten accounts to everybody and just go ahead and sell however.’  

    Well, the market has changed, technology has changed, and it’s a very fluid environment. So not only does the technology grow and it's new, but we have to adapt in how we are actually going to sell it.  

    If we think about, for example, your global systems integrator, your Accenture, Deloitte, etc. These guys, 30 years ago, what were they doing?  

    Many of them weren’t even there. Accenture we know is new from the old Arthur Andersen. That was a consulting group, that layer.  

    So they continuously go through iterations and reinvent themselves to adapt themselves to the market. And partners also do that. Nowadays, of course, everybody's into the cloud, MSPs, and now it’s MSSPs for those who are in security.  

    "The market continues to grow and change. We need to grow and change, too. If your business model is not aligned with what the market is doing, you're going to have difficulty reaching partners, having successful relationships or having partners wanting to work with you."

    Adapting your business model  

    Manuel Rivera: Some partners will say this is the revenue model, this is the business model that I'm following. Why? Because I target the SMB, my customers are small, I'm a small unit, I have 100, 200 customers and we basically pay month to month. You want me to pay you up front? That's not necessarily going to work for me.  

    So how do I adapt to those things? Again, we go back to the global systems integrators. They were doing services or consulting before. Software used to be sold in disks and client server and they used to take days, if not weeks and months, to download and then install. And that system was down.  

    This was a whole operation and all of that has changed and now, everything is cloud. Cloud has become the great equalizer because the SMB can buy an application just as much as the enterprise. Based on usage, based on seats, it doesn't matter.  

    So we need to adapt to that as well. The market changes are not only in technology, but the way business is done. In order to be successful, you have to continue to reinvent yourself, continue to go through iterations and adapt to the market changes.  

    That's key. If you don't, you'll stay behind.  

    Understanding market trends is key for positive growth  

    Paul Bird: If you think about somebody following these best practices, as you say, evolving with the market. What are the potential impacts that that can make on positive growth as opposed to falling behind if you're not doing these types of things?  

    What level of impact do you think that makes for the CRO, who really cares about what's coming out of the channel?  

    Manuel Rivera: It's very impactful because I think the CRO nowadays is the most impactful person in the organization because the aligning and putting the strategic direction in place of what needs to happen, how it needs to happen, it's key.  

    This person needs to obviously understand the market really well. What are the trends? What is the kind of growth that we are having? And the impact can be very, very significant. It's either you fail or you succeed.  

    Continuously re-evaluate your strategy  

    Manuel Rivera: If you look at, for example, Salesforce. Salesforce used to be an on-prem and they sold through the internet and all that. And that cloud came later. They transformed themselves.  

    IBM transformed themselves. All these companies transformed themselves. They went through this whole transformation to sell into the cloud. They had to go through that transformation.  

    Many products stayed on-prem. This happened to me a few years ago. A lot of the products in the company were still on-prem. They just transformed to some on cloud and there was a cloud market.  

    So there was a lot of difficulty fulfilling what the customer wants, the customer needs, especially because the channel is already driving that initiative. So if the channel is selling cloud and you're coming with an on-prem product, the channel is not going to look kindly to you.  

    It's very impactful to go through these changes and understand what these changes are.  

    "You have to continuously look at yourself and re-evaluate your strategy and how you're going to get there."

    Because we have a three year, four year strategy - we're going to be acquired or go public in three years. In technology, three years is an eternity. There has to be some other adaptation in those three years.  

    So, you want to look at that leadership and say, ‘are these guys the ones who can actually adapt? Do they understand that changes are going to need to be made?’ What may be good today may not work in 6, 9, 12, 24 months, so that's very important.  

    Manuel Rivera’s background in channel sales  

    Manuel Rivera: I have been working in technology for about 30 years. Most of my experience has been working with the channel and strategic alliances.  

    I’m what is called classically trained, working for global technology companies like IBM, Siemens, ABB - spent a lot of time in Europe, Infosys and Synopsys, those sort of companies.  

    Then I learned the basics and the fundamentals of how to work and have a successful relationship with partners and translated that into working with smaller companies and startup companies and what they needed to do to have a successful partner program.  

    So most of my career it's been working with large technology companies and then, the last few years, working with smaller startup companies.  

    Constella Intelligence  

    Paul Bird: You really applied that experience from the likes of IBM to growth markets.  

    What about the current organization you're with, Constella Intelligence? What's the organization's mission there?  

    Manuel Rivera: My mission has been to develop the partner program, develop the strategic alliances and how we are actually going to market.  

    We're very channel driven so, what sort of a strategy do we put in place and execute to reach out to the market, reach out to those partners?  

    Whether they're global systems integrators or they're just VARs or distributors, and of course, the MSSPs. Given that our product is a SaaS and multi-tenant platform, we work very closely with MSSPs as well.  

    So developing the entire strategy and how do you work and consolidate working with the various business units, whether it's marketing, weather it’s sales, and the ecosystems, services, technology and cloud.  

    Connect with Maunel Rivera on LinkedIn.

    Connect with Paul Bird on LinkedIn, book a demo with him, or contact him via email paul.bird@magentrix.com.  

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