About The Author: Karin Fields

Karin has more than 20 years of industry experience. With MicroCorp since 1994, Karin is now responsible for leading the company’s operations and culture.

Security: It’s Time to Pull Your Fingers Out of Your Ears

If you’ve been avoiding the topic of security — in general, or with your customers — you aren’t alone. Most agents avoid the subject entirely if they don’t feel 100% comfortable discussing the latest trends in cyber protection and network management. (And, let’s be honest, few do.)

But it’s 2017, and 60% of small companies go out of business within six months of a cyber attack. That figure alone should indicate that the time has come to do what no one wants to do and contemplate how to stay up-to-snuff on security. (It’s like going to the dentist.) What are the risks involved of falling behind, and what can you do to feel confident in talking to your customers about security?

First, know that the issue of cybersecurity poses more risks to your business than just actual hacking. If you aren’t educating yourself on how to talk to your customers on the topic, someone else is. Usually, if partners feel uneasy to broach a subject that is outside their areas of expertise, they’ll avoid it altogether with customers. But that tactic leaves room for another company — perhaps one that has done more research — to home in on those customers.

So, short of spending precious hours training to become a security expert, how can you approach the issue?

Look to the experts. Seek out partners who have already established themselves as security experts. A Fortune 500 customer hired one of our partners who is a security expert, and that relationship enabled the partner to gain a ton of buying power from the customer. The customer’s trust in that partner translated into giving the partner a blanket of sorts to recommend any provider they deemed fit. The power involved in being the expert in your field is real.

Try to educate yourself. Ideally, partners are taking the initiative to educate themselves each week on a broad view of topics — not just security — to stay relevant. But, of course that is easier said than done, especially when sales and customer service are at the forefront of business priorities.

Training! If both of those points sound daunting it’s because they can be. MicroCorp established the Ultimate Partner Training program to enable partners to learn about security, SD-WAN, cloud, and other topics that they might not be experts in — or even familiar with — so they can get high-level views of those subjects and stay relevant. Sticking your fingers in your ears and pretending nothing is changing makes you irrelevant. We want to help our partners be as well-rounded as possible.

The nature of the security world mirrors the nature of technology: it’s dynamic, ever-changing, constantly surprising, and difficult to keep up with. Our Ultimate Partner Training program aims to make the fluid world of technology easier for partners to navigate so that both partner and customer stay successful. Security expertise is a part of that equation now, more than ever.

Co-opetition – Your New Specialist

team-FieldsMicroCorp CEO/COO, Karin Fields, on Industry Evolution and our Team Alliance Program.

About two years ago one of our top partners, Tom, called me needing some advice.  As many in our industry, Tom started as a Direct Rep for a carrier.  After the umpteenth lay-off he decided to take a package and start his own agency.  He was very lucky and had great relationships with some large customers that he could lean on to help get his fledgling business going.   Within a few years he was making better money than he ever expected, was valued by his long list of customers and loved what he was doing.

Being the “outsource telecom expert” for his customer was a role Tom took very seriously.  He was constantly learning about new products and services, attended trainings and voraciously read books and articles to keep up his knowledge.  But in the last few years Tom started realizing that his customers were asking him more questions about things he didn’t have a lot of knowledge.  They would ask him about back up and storage or data centers.  He knew a little about those products but they needed solutions.  Even with all the reading and classes he took, Tom couldn’t keep up.  They need more of a specialist.  Something he was not.  And that is what led him to call me.  How could he continue to be the “valued” resource to his clients?

Well two years ago my answer was a lot different than if he asked me today.  Today I give advice about becoming a specialist – either vertically within a specific industry or horizontally by product line. That specialty can serve a partner’s customers, give them status as a thought leader and make them sought after as a specialist by a competitor. Who could have predicted that the competition would one day become the strategy for customer retention.

I am pleased to say that today my solution for Tom is MicroCorp’s Team Alliance Program – or TAP.   We will pair Tom with other MicroCorp partners who are specialists in any area his customers have need.  And for Tom’s specialty – we’ll market his expertise like crazy so he can be brought in as a specialist to someone else’s lead. Moreover, MicroCorp oversees the rules of engagement so customer relationships are protected and all parties are paid.

As we say at MicroCorp, #BetterWhenTogether.