By Jason Kimrey
One side effect of accelerating the digital economy is significantly impacting the way companies do business: It’s bringing more people and companies together.
At last month’s Intel Partner Connect virtual event, John Kalvin, my colleague and new Intel global channel chief, talked about “extreme partnerships.” That’s a great description for the connections needed to deliver these complex solutions.
As we navigate new routes to market and a world of extreme partnerships, we must change our traditional views of partnerships, forge new ones, and recognize the changing landscape IT decision-makers now face. It also requires a new approach to selling — and new skills to help navigate and build new routes to market.
Here are 7 trends for extreme partnership:
Trend #1: Complexity is here to stay
I’ve said it before: Today’s solutions are much more complex, with many moving parts. No one company can do it all.
How to adapt: As the pace of transformation continues to accelerate, the only way to keep up is by bringing together best-of-breed companies. Together, they can deliver a complete solution and the best outcomes.
For our customers, it’s all about business outcomes, and that’s how we need to align our partnerships and solutions. This means bringing the right parties to the table.
We also need mechanisms for these diverse partners to connect and scale solutions. It's a key reason why we launched Intel Solutions Marketplace. It’s a platform to bring partners together in a more frictionless environment.
Trend #2: New collaborations are coming
Related to the complexity of the new solutions is the fact there are a lot of new companies coming into our ecosystem … both as new businesses that emerge to respond to market demands, as well as legacy partners who are adding new solutions to their portfolio.
How to adapt: Collaborative approaches to selling require strong communications, an ability to acknowledge you don’t know everything, and a willingness to defer to those with the greatest expertise.
For example, we’re seeing companies that are born in the cloud and have never lived in an on-premises world. By bringing our infrastructure knowledge and understanding of the value of optimized compute together with their cloud-first model, we can deliver the deep knowledge that end-user customers need to navigate the many cloud worlds.
At the same time we’re seeing companies with deep vertical knowledge. For example, industrial manufacturing companies that know manufacturing processes and workloads in an analog way, but need help with the technology capabilities. And no one knows compute better than we do!
Trend #3: Think service
XaaS is continuing to expand into new areas. Businesses are looking for help to rapidly deploy systems and manage capital expenses, all while leveraging the advantages of cloud solutions.
How to adapt: More and more vendors are selling their product as a service rather than a stand-alone system. That means rethinking how we work together, compensate and support each other.
We need to ensure that partner programs support the shift to a services-led model versus a more traditional procurement model. It also requires a change in the way we approach the sale. Services can be less tangible, and this requires a shift in how we position and talk to the advantages, ROI and outcomes.
Trend #4: Sales structures need to change
The breadth of technology becoming mainstream continues to grow, now including AI, HPC and IoT/Edge. But these technologies require specialized expertise and skills. In this environment, your existing team structure might not fit anymore.
How to adapt: Don’t get stuck in a rut. Be willing to create specialized focus areas that can dig deep and offer that expansive knowledge and expertise.
Sticking with your internal structures could be detrimental to delivering these new and advanced solutions. Stay nimble and stand up new teams as needed to support emerging market segments. I know I have.
Trend #5: Effective marketing tactics are shifting
When we moved from in-person to virtual, customer interactions abruptly changed. To adapt, we also needed to pivot our sales motions. Even as we return to the workplace, some of those changes will remain.
How to adapt: Just because we can return to pre-pandemic sales motions doesn’t mean we should. Consultants McKinsey & Co. find that 70% to 80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service, and they find remote and online sales just as effective as in-person interactions. I suggest we take a best-of-both=worlds approach as we continue to navigate the post-pandemic world.
So what’s working? Well, virtually all (96%) buyers are looking for content that speaks to their industry. Nearly as many (91%) buyers want easy access to content without long forms, and 92% of buyers say their choice of vendor is influenced by an extensive menu of thought-leadership content.
But remember, customers are doing more research than ever before. The average B2B tech buyer today consults about 7 information sources before making a purchase. That’s up 35% over last year. So we need to provide the information they want in a self-service world.
What are the top sources of information? Top sources remain demos, vendor/product websites, user reviews and vendor reps.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of the customer experience. Over 40% of businesses cite poor customer service as the reason they look to change vendors, which is up from only 10% in 2019. Just because we’re virtual, you can’t drop the ball on service.
Trend #6: Buying decisions get bigger, take more time
Decision-making committees are getting bigger, and they will continue to include both IT professionals and line-of-business reps. Nearly a third (30%) of IT decision-makers expect the average number of IT people involved in decisions to increase; the line-of-business influence is expected to remain steady. Another survey finds that more than half (56%) of B2B tech buyers work outside IT.
How to adapt: Remember, when presenting a solution, you’re selling to both highly technical and non-technical audiences. Recognize that each of these audiences will have different questions and priorities. Ensure that you’re addressing both groups. And be prepared to include education from a trusted advisor, so your customers can make informed decisions.
Trend #7: Sales cycles get longer, too
More than two-thirds (68%) of buyers say the length of their B2B purchase cycle, compared with that of just a year ago, has increased significantly. Clearly, buyers are spending more time researching their purchases.
How to adapt: Your sales models need to respond to this extended review period. Don’t lose sight of leads just because they’re taking longer to close. Continue to be creative to stay top-of-mind during the sales journey — no matter how long it takes.
Navigating the route ahead
Lots of companies, including Intel, are talking about new routes to market and the need to understand who is driving decision-making around technology consumption and purchasing.
The pace of digital transformation means that technology companies and their partners must change the way we produce, sell and support solutions.
While change is a certainty in technology, so is the critical importance of forging partnerships. As we travel these new and winding routes to market, the best and most innovative solutions will be driven by those who embrace extreme partnerships.
Jason Kimrey is general manager of U.S. channel and partner programs at Intel.