Cloud MSPs and VARs: What’s Your Optimal Revenue Plan?

Recently, a provider of secure, Cloud-based content management solutions announced a new threshold in required annual revenue from its network of MSPs and VARs. If threshold is not met, partners can still gain revenue via one-time referral commission.  The shift in policy is common to companies that have the good fortune to be growing, and need channel partners to ratchet up results… even though said growth is due in large part to MSP and VAR performance and expansion.

This provider’s reseller program, according to some channel partners, now requires partners to sign up for a yearly revenue target based on company size and customer demographics.  What’s unclear is how, or if the provider solicited these metric data points from the MSPs and VARs, or pushed them outward, based upon market research and sales trends. Also, how competitive and sector factors weighed results.

A solutions provider that’s channel-friendly and acknowledges that its MSP and VAR partners will haul in the majority of revenues, and administers a profitable, simple compensation program will retain channel partners who deliver increased revenue. The sticking point in channel management relationships comes when the provider is poised for growth, and needs to ensure its partners can ride along, at new levels.

The compensation should always reflect effort expended by both sides — who will carry added burden of back-end billing and administration vs. bag the sale and sprint to the next kill.

It’s up to the MSP or VAR to know its productivity sweet spot, then slot into the appropriate compensation method.  Is the staff most productive only in quick-turn, hunter-gatherer mode?  Or does it thrive when delivering multi-faceted, turnkey services. Pick the compensation program that’s right, and everyone will thrive.

There’s a great example of this scenario at Joe Panettieri’s TalkinCloud blog; check it out!

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Sales Strategies for Cloud Storage Services

Cloud Solutions Sales Pros: don’t miss this Wednesday’s virtual gathering to hear latest trends and opportunities in selling Cloud-based selling strategies. The Talkin’ Cloud team has their ear to the rail on this topic.  Event is online, Wednesday 10 August. More: You’re Invited: Sales Strategies for Cloud Storage Services | TalkinCloud.

Selling Services on the Cloud: Elements of Success

Although sales of  intangibles — services, Cloud-based software — carry healthy margins, sales close rates are typically well-below the ideal.  Examining the reasons why this occurs is key to solving this issue. A panel of veteran salesmen shed light on the challenge at TechAmerica San Diego Marketing & Sales’ July Roundtable.

The event was especially productive due to the variety of attendee profiles, all of whom brought unique perspectives to the discussion. I spoke with a software technologist who’s starting up a new venture, an account manager for a Cloud-based data management solutions provider, and a project manager at an IP-based telephony systems provider.

As soon as moderator Craig Arnoff, co-chair of the roundtable asked panelists how selling intangibles differs from selling products, it was clear that successful sales people share universal traits, regardless of what’s in their bag of tricks. Trust, training, drive, optimism, better customer service. Some are born, some are made.

Ken Reilich made an interesting point: some salespeople come to rely upon products as crutches, vs. their selling skills. Products become the sole reason for success, or the whipping boy for failure (“pricey, lousy, old…” ) Take the product away, and replace it with intangibles, and success is slightly more determined by superior selling skills.

David Alemian reminded us that a successful salesperson can sell anything: he began his career selling swimming pools in New England, in the winter (quick, what’s the pain point there?!); and now promotes a novel, Cloud-based management tool sold to healthcare IT leaders. He also touched on Neuro-Linguistic Programming as a key element in human interaction.

Bruce Cole sells Internet marketing and SEO tools and services at a local and community level. He emphasized testimonials and proven success stories, which I also advocate is the most valuable sales tool, whether selling in one zip code or in several continents. I think that’s why Yelp and Angie’s List have earned such a following.

At this point, I wondered how each panelist would extend these formulas for success into a channel-driven, multi-tier sales organization… wherein face-to-face visits with end decision makers are rare or impossible.  A successful global channel leader possesses all of the above traits and skills, then marries them with excellent organizational skills, time management, and a healthy respect for the value of channel partners. Topic for another panel!

Craig brought up the core element of success: a fruitful, face-to-face experience with customers begins with a  make-or-break, 15-second pitch. For successful salespeople, it’s like breathing. But for less outgoing, more self-conscious people it’s a mystery.  Craig also shared a couple of items from his Sales Alliance toolkit: how pre-screening and benchmarking can increase a good match between sales candidate and employer.

Reminds me of a lesson I learned long ago on career development: teamwork lets others benefit from your talents, as you do what you do best; while you draw the same from them. Don’t waste time trying to perfect your less-than-ideal skills.

More about the moderator and panelists here.

“Social Media Means Business”

As an authority on automating successful selling, salesforce.com can’t be beat. They’re also at the center of the brainstorm on how well social media really contributes to successful sales and customer service. salesforce.com vp Peter Coffee spoke at last week’s Ingram Micro Summit. A couple of thought-provoking ideas from Coffee that bode well for every business, from sole proprietor to Fortune 100:

Selling Tools Unite to Form One Social Body

  1. “Social Media Means Business”, cited Dell’s 22,000+ social media interactions daily
  2. “Moving Toward Zero, One and Infinity”, customers marching toward:

    • Zero on-premise infrastructure with zero acquisition cost, zero adoption cost and zero support cost
    • One coherent environment rather than software stack
    • Infinite scalability.

salesforce.com’s position is especially valuable, given their commitment to partnerships with ISVs, who develop social media-centric tools; and to MSPs, whose toolkits help realize the 2 ideas above.

btw, I’m working in an office where Facebook access is blocked (really not a bad idea).  As a consumer products manufacturer, we actively use social media, so we have to step out back and fire up our smartphones to see how they’re performing … joining the fraternity of smokers. WiFi and ashtray, one convenient location!

(Thanks to Joe Panettieri at TalkinCloud, whose blog post covered Peter’s talk. Image courtesy salesforce.com)

MSP and VAR Channels Seek Slice of the Cloud

This month, MSP and VAR channel experts are tuning in to news and events from Microsoft and Ingram Micro, as both define latest Cloud solutions and the roles their trusted partners will play in deploying each.

Microsoft’s running an online ad campaign titled Cloudcycle: A Hybrid Model, illustrating with vivid clarity the features and benefits and key concepts of cloud solutions.  They’re readying for a 28 June Cloud Suite launch, and a worldwide partner conference next month in Los Angeles.

Ingram Micro just wrapped up a partner summit in Phoenix, wherein they presented tools and programs to MSP and VAR partners.

The questions for MSPs and VARs for both companies surround how much freedom they will have in packaging and billing these partners’ strong new programs, and how much of the profits they can claim vs. share. Even though channel partnerships are now the largest revenue growth source for technology providers, when it comes to sharing the Cloud isn’t always Open Skies.

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