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3 tips for IT channel sales in a digital-first economy

Sumir Bhatia
Sumir BhatiaVice President, Data Centre Group, Asia Pacific at Lenovo.
As the leader for Lenovo’s Data Centre Group (DCG) in Asia Pacific, I’m responsible for driving substantial growth across the company’s computer, storage, networking, and services offerings in this fast-growing region. My role encompasses sales, strategic alliances, product, and go-to-market execution. I have a distinguished leadership track record over the past six years in the Asia Pacific region.

Follow me on twitter @Sumir_Bhatia

Originally published on LinkedIn

We hear so much these days about our customer organisations pursuing a digital-first strategy. Digital transformation remains a big priority for C-suite leaders and their teams, something borne out by research from Frost & Sullivan and other analysts.

But what does this mean for technology channel partners?

Think digital. Putting mobile and web experiences first is a big priority for companies and the public sector alike. It’s this digital-first – or if you like customer-first – strategy which requires considered support from technology partners and the channel.

With this definition in mind, here are some strategies to help channel partners and professionals navigate forward.

1. Tailor your digital-first conversation

The first step is deeper consultation. Take the time to understand the motivations of your business customers, along with the processes required to get from A to B (which of course also means defining where A and B actually are in your strategy). Technology consulting, products and services help to achieve the digital outcomes that have been articulated.

How are digital-first priorities defined? Thought-works describes digital-first as a focus on ‘content first’, made omni-available and leveraged across multiple platforms. Inherent is the emphasis on delivering greater customer experiences, and you won’t find many client businesses disagreeing on that point!

Next, what are we talking about, and what are we selling? The role played by technology consulting includes cloud computing, analytics, hardware, software development, mobile solutions, and social platforms – which should all be geared to helping organisations deliver more positive product and service experiences to customers or stakeholders. For example, in a digital-first framework, self-service and efficient contact centre tools help to deliver customer loyalty, while transforming the efficiency of more productive employees inside organisations.

These are the conversations channel partners need to be having with customers.

2. Focus your sales efforts for better results

Your key priorities need to be met quickly in a digital-first world, so it’s all about securing fundamentals. Channel customers – like everyone – are looking for timely information, responsiveness and solutions.

Where can we look for process excellence? McKinsey cites the concept of creating a world-class sales operation as a key advantage in meeting needs going forward. What does such an operation look like? The key here is giving your sales team the ability to more easily do what they do best. That means programs and process improvements that reduce wasted time and bottlenecks. McKinsey mentions account-planning re-engineering, CRM simplification efforts, streamlined bid management, and proposal desks as examples that help get the job done.

Lead from the front with weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews along with sales planning clinics for your key markets and accounts. Finally, we don’t as an industry talk enough about the importance of sales operations and good data, but advanced analytics will produce better results in prospect targeting, go-to-market strategy development, and customer engagement. A focus on analytics can mean the difference between ‘maybe’ and ‘definitely’ in your sales strategies and outcomes (and the difference between ‘likely’ and ‘possible’ in revenues).

3. Partner with companies that understand digital transformation

Cross-industry disruption and digital-first priorities are clearly the “new normal”, so channel go-to-market strategies should support these demands. At Lenovo, we’ve embraced disruption in the data centre space, and we’re encouraging our channel partners to learn how and why we’ve repositioned to become the definitive data centre challenger brand.

95% of our data centre group’s business is now conducted through our network of 15,800 channel partners across Asia Pacific. To that end, we’re developing an always-on Asia Pacific Channel Portal to help our channel partners do business with greater ease across the region. Watch this space!

Change is a constant. Digital transformation is taking place in every industry around the world, providing plenty of opportunities for channel partners switched on to the digital-first dialogues customers want to have.

Only the organisations which manage their own digital transformation will succeed. The stakes couldn’t be higher, so for technology channel partners, I believe focusing sales efforts toward an elevated level of strategic consultation along with best practice operations will be a powerful way forward.

Let me know via the comments about your channel experiences and aspirations. Good luck out there!

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