Category: Channel

Partners can collaborate in an educational ecosystem at Ultimate Partner Training.

Get Inside UPT: A Day by Day Account

Have you ever wondered what Ultimate Partner Training is really like? Two MicroCorp Strategic Partner Managers — David Burgeson and Monica Lester — journaled their experiences during UPT last year to give you a taste. Read their real-time, day-by-day accounts to get a feel for what’s in store this year for partners!

Day One:

David:
We kicked off Ultimate Partner Training today, and the classroom is full of attendees from all over the country. The excitement and desire learn about the data center, colocation and security businesses is off the charts! The talent among this group is clearly evident for best practices, and new ideas are being shared as partners are forging new relationships. Looking forward to a great Day 2.

Monica:

As a trusted advisor to many MicroCorp partners, I made the commitment to invest in my own data center and cloud computing education by spending a week engaged at Ultimate Partner Training. It’s day 1, and already I can feel the energy and enthusiasm to learn and succeed in this space of technology from everyone. Looking forward to diving in to the history and evolution of technology, and learning how to assist my partners even better in this space. We will all be chanting, “I love data center” once we see the ROI from our training investment. 

Day Two:

David:

AM session

Day 2 started with Todd Smith presenting on the various business and pricing models within data center providers. Whether the business model is wholesale, retail or both, Todd Smith emphasized that properly negotiating power, space and cooling costs is a must between the customer and provider.  

Paul Carrico continued the training to cloud where everything is “as a Service”: Hosting-aaS, Infrastructure-aaS, Software-aaS, Platform-aaS, and Infrastructure-aaS. When architecting a solution for a public, private, hybrid or hyper-converged solutions, scoping the right requirements is a must. Client engagements begin with what applications are they using and why. 

PM session

Cyrus One, VxChnge, Cologix, Telstra, Level 3 and Greenhouse Data are sitting on the Hot Seat Panel. Tough questions from the audience! Usually providers talk about their strengths, but a question was asked what their weaknesses are. I can’t go into detail here but it was rather interesting.

Scott Kelly with Windstream is now talking about SD-WAN, and he says “All roads lead to the cloud:  Rapid growth in data, apps and connected ‘things’.” 

Some great things about SD-WAN:

  • Money to be made with SD-WAN:  $6B by 2020 per IDC.
  • Gives complete visibility
  • Real-time control
  • Plug and Play ability
  • Active/active connectivities
  • Any type of access
  • Scalable
  • Goal of 100%

But the realities are that SD-WAN:

  • Will not replace MPLS
  • Cannot guarantee QoS
  • Is not WAN optimization

Monica:

Not all data centers are created equally. Today I gained a better understanding of the differentiators amongst our data center providers. Telstra, Cologix, Xchange, Greenhouse Data, Level 3, CyrusOne….just to name a few from our line card. Now I am empowered to help my partners better in matching the right provider for their clients. A fun fact I learned was the least expensive data center space can be found in Quincy, Washington. Why? Lowest cost for power at 3.5 cents!!! 

Day Three

David

AM session

A contest for How to Frame Questions and Team 5  is in the lead. This is proving to be harder than it appears….Teams 3 and 4 are catching up.

Jeff, founder of Bigleaf now talking about SDWAN. The SDWAN market is getting crowded with providers trying to position themselves uniquely. Jeff says get out of speed and feeds discussion, but what are the applications?

He says — though SDWAN is causing different conversations about MPLS, MPLS was disrupted by the data center and cloud. SD-WAN and network security are inter-related. To stay relevant, SD-WAN and security must be part of any technology conversations.

The agent channel has a great opportunity to be the trusted advisor for their clients with SD-WAN and to make money on it.

PM session

Windstream is doing a live demo of their SD-WAN service. The management portal is collecting data on everything and touching their network. 11+ Android devices are hitting a non-productive website. He just disconnected a circuit while on a live VoIP call, and the failover was seamless. This is a must-have for customers who run a lot of apps on the cloud.

Monica:

We have reached the topic of SD-WAN, presented by Bigleaf! This segment is most important to maintain my relevance in the marketplace. With the movement to the cloud, an alternative for MPLS was desired, and SD-WAN allows us to build a solid network to many locations, hosting vital applications and enhancing effectiveness. I endorse Bigleaf as a solid provider — they go the extra mile for my partners to help them gain comfort with this new technology and will do the heavy lifting to provide the solutions to the end-users. 

 Day Four

David:

Just completed our team role-playing competition based on actual customer situations. Each team consisted of 3 attendees and there are 6 teams. The objective was to dig for information from the judges and apply what we learned to identify SDWAN, data center, colo, security, hosting, and cloud applications. We are awaiting to see which team won. 

This was the most interactive training ever. Thoroughly enjoyed the people here.  As we conclude UPT, the spirit of partnership is alive and well. Relationships matter!

 Monica:

It’s the last day of UPT, and it’s the first training of my career where I can walk away feeling as though I have the knowledge, resources, excitement, and hunger to aggressively help my partners tackle this segment of the market and succeed in new revenue in the DC space.

Today was a competitive day where we displayed selling skills coupled with knowledge gained on solutions in a real-world customer scenario. As part of Team 5, we came in 2nd place. Practice and experience leads to success in all aspects of life. The practice I’ve learned from UPT is priceless, and — not to mention — what a great group of folks to spend my week with!

Contact MicroCorp today to learn more about Ultimate Partner Training.

Being a part of an educational ecosystem is the best way to ensure ongoing sales.

Channel Partners: Learning Leads to Selling

Being a part of an educational ecosystem is the best way to ensure ongoing sales.Every sales rep has a go-to tool to help make sales. Maybe it’s an emotional pitch. Maybe it’s a close relationship or spending time building trust. These are useful enough, but there’s one tool that’s often overlooked, but never should be. It’s ongoing learning, and every sales rep and channel partner out there should know how valuable it is to keep as current as possible on what’s being sold. If partners do not stay relevant and up-to-date on technologies and how to sell them, another technology advisor will step in to take their place.

Why Should a Channel Partner Take Ongoing Learning Seriously?

A channel partner that keeps up with learning allows several important advantages to take hold.

No costly stops-and-starts. Those who try to pack all their learning into one blast every so often incur substantial costs, and not just in course tuition. Having to stop other activities while getting caught up on the latest developments represents an opportunity cost, allowing competitors to make inroads while the partner in question is busily cracking the books.

Better chances at sales. It goes without saying that knowing one’s product is one of the best ways to make sales. The benefits of being educated are two-fold:

1)  It allows the partner to more effectively demonstrate a product’s value and illustrate the value proposition at hand. When customers object—and there’s almost always an objection somewhere—the partner is better equipped to take on that objection head-on and walk out the other side.

2) Staying educated about technologies enables partners to feel more confident in their conversations with customers, and allows them to stay a step ahead of their competition. Guiding customers through new technologies will be the clincher for recurring sales.

Developed relationships. While this relates to the last point, there’s something to be said for developing a reputation for expertise. When businesses discover their sales reps are knowledgeable about a certain point, it opens up a path for those businesses to consult sales reps about technology strategy. The astute channel partner will, naturally, be ready to upsell.

Improved Learning Quality. Some might say that it takes time to be an expert anyway; what’s the difference between spending 10,000 hours all at once or 10 hours a week for a thousand weeks? For technology, the difference is simple: technology is what’s known as “auto-catalytic.” New developments follow from old ones, so the more that’s understood about old developments, the faster the new ones can be internalized and capitalized upon. It becomes easier to learn new technologies when old ones aren’t foreign.

How Can a Channel Partner Best Keep Up With Ongoing Learning?

Keep up with all the changes in a product line by joining a product ecosystem. MicroCorp, for example, has The Solutions Alliance, a portfolio of vetted IT service professionals to help keep channel partners in the loop and to ensure they deliver your customers top-notch service. For those who want to keep up and keep ahead, just drop us a line to get started.

Why an Ecosystem is Crucial for the Survival of the Channel Partner

Any company today is consuming IT on a recurring revenue basis. All solutions are delivered on recurring revenue bases. That means partners that have relationships with end users have immense opportunity to sell them various technologies on an ongoing basis. You can sell your customers a network, and stay with them to sell a host of other things. The waterfront of opportunity is getting wider and wider. But in order to sell a variety of solutions, you have to know what you’re talking about.

That is where partners get hung up. So we’ve provided a solution.

A Play Store for Partners
The Solutions Alliance is essentially a play store of solutions made available to our partners. Just like how your smartphone comes with apps you can download, the Solutions Alliance provides offerings for partners that come together to help them grow including training and education from experts in a variety of areas such as IT maintenance, asset management, domestic and international IT project management and other critical services.

One of the ingredients in this secret sauce is the contracts we put in place for members to ensure proper service delivery and commission payment. We make sure that members of the Alliance play well together. If someone misbehaves, we make sure our partners get paid no matter what.

Partners get access to a range of service providers — some of whom offer hundreds of solutions. Some providers offer a few specific solutions and help partners educate themselves on these niche technologies. We contract with both broad and focused service providers so they are obligated to provide solutions and pay our partners.

Auto-catalytic Technology

It took 50 years for everyone to get electricity. It took 5 years for everyone to get smartphones.

Never in my career have I seen the channel poised to change so much. Technology is now auto-catalytic, meaning it is changing so quickly that it is feeding off itself and changing even faster. You can’t train your way to learning about every solution anymore because technologies are accelerating on themselves.

The channel is going to look more and more like a selling organization leveraging recurring revenue contracts delivered from the cloud by manufacturers and providers. Creating an ecosystem — or being part of one — is going to be vital. It already is.

If you do not diversify your business, and learn from others in your market, you will not have a business in 5 years. That fact is becoming more and more apparent.

To learn more about the Solutions Alliance, and how you can future-proof your business in this ever-changing channel, talk to MicroCorp today.

Effortless on the Benefits of Staying Niche

Effortless, a technology and network security provider and one of MicroCorp’s provider partners, has made a name for itself in the medical, legal, and construction markets. Over the years, it has found success by staying niche. I caught up with Ben Gayheart, founder of Effortless, to talk more about why and how the company stays focused on those industries, and what benefits partners can experience from narrowing in on a couple of markets instead of trying to sell to every industry.

Phil Keenan: How does Effortless approach specific verticals to stay experts (and maintain success) in those fields?

Ben Gayheart: Our verticals are medical, legal, and construction. In the medical field, compliance is a big deal, so we stay current on HIPAA regulations and third party applications. For legal, we stay relevant on legal packages that are used by lawyers– specifically on how they operate working remotely from courtrooms. And we’ve been in the construction space a long time, so we understand the applications. We can do information-assisted selling because of our expertise.

Keenan: What are the benefits to focusing on specific verticals?

Gayheart: The markets are large spaces, so there are a lot of clients out there. And we are able to get a focused understanding of business processes in these areas.

I love business, business processes, and making business more efficient. Technology is an enabler — it’s your most important tool. But I don’t focus on the latest and greatest technology. I look at what technology can benefit a business to allow them to be more profitable. Staying in these three markets helps us focus on bringing the right technologies to businesses to make them the most successful.

Keenan: How should partners find their niches to specialize in verticals or other specific areas?

Gayheart: Focus on what problems people in those industries need to solve. For example, in the medical industry, compliance is a big buzzword. Most doctors are actually in the business of risk management. They need to stay compliant, but they don’t have time to focus on what that takes because they’re busy with patient care and a host of other things. What we do is allow them to check that box off their to do list, and for many, that is a huge deal. We close medical sales because we understand compliance. They feel comfortable with us because we enable them to do what it is they do best.

Keenan: Since you’ve always been cloud-only, what are some of the recent changes you’ve seen in cloud that are meaningful for partners?

Gayheart: We come from the MSP space, and ended up in the cloud. We were doing cloud before it was called cloud. We’ve always understood the value of using cloud technologies for lowering administrative costs, increasing flexibility, and enabling business.

But right now, the focus is on cybersecurity and disaster recovery. We are working with partners who understand those components, and that technologies need to have cybersecurity wrapped around them these days.

To learn more about how to make a name for yourself in niche markets, contact MicroCorp today.

Infographic: Don’t Go at it Alone: Six Reasons You Need a Master Agent

Selling telecom and cloud services in today’s business environment may, on the surface, seem straightforward. But with the many moving parts involved in selling these services — from commissions to provider relationships and beyond — working with a master agent makes selling and supporting these services much simpler.

Continue reading

As the Channel Shifts, We Grow

Learn how MicroCorp can help channel partners in the wake of the CenturyLink acquisition of Level 3.In the wake of the CenturyLink/Level 3 acquisition, MicroCorp is uniquely positioned to succeed as no other master agent can.

The number of significant mergers and acquisitions that have dominated Channel news over the last year have some partners wondering what the future brings. Here at MicroCorp, we are working closely with the impacted providers, and leveraging our deep, tenured relationships and experience to chart a certain and protected course for our partners.

When CenturyLink completes its acquisition of Level 3 later this year, we will be one of the few top master agents from a billing base and sales perspective, and number one in terms of support and experience. They have recognized MicroCorp by awarding us the coveted Diamond level status and all the benefits and status associated with that. The combination of our strategic relationships with both companies will lead to a position in the newly combined company that is second to none.

As we anticipate certain elements of the Level 3 channel program to influence the new CenturyLink forward, it’s worthy to note MicroCorp’s significant growth with Level 3 over the last two years. At Channel Partners, Level 3 recognized MicroCorp’s achievements in 2016 as follows:

  • Achieved the largest single sale award of 2016
  • Won MVP each and every quarter in 2016
  • Won MVP for all 2016 and 2015
  • Earned and maintained Elite partner status for 10 years
  • Participant in Level 3’s advisory board as the voice of our partners

Relationships are everything.
Over the years we have developed and maintained multi-threaded relationships not only with the Channel Chiefs and executive staff, but with folks on the ground level of each provider. Our partners benefit from these time-tested relationships to provide the best possible experience for their customers that reflects in their own brand promise.

As a member of the advisory boards for both CenturyLink and Level 3, we are actively in touch with providers’ executives and service delivery teams, representing the needs of our partners, and getting early visibility of strategy and direction that will affect our partner base. We are often the sounding boards for new products and services, and the first to test new programs and processes. And we make sure our partners benefit from our unique position with these suppliers.

What do our partners get out of working with MicroCorp?

As our partners contemplate what the future landscape of the Channel looks like after the CenturyLink/Level 3 acquisition, consider MicroCorp’s position:

  • Partners can be sure to receive the best pass through commissions as MicroCorp receives the highest commissions in the industry based on our expected continued performance.
  • We will be a trusted advisor to the company, helping to make sure our partners’ needs are met and we are getting early visibility to future direction.
  • The Agent Alliance is the largest sales channel in the industry and is highly influential with the leading providers. It has long-term and extremely successful relationships with CenturyLink. MicroCorp is a founding member and chairing the Alliance for the next two years. Our partners can be sure that they are further protected by the Alliance, going over and above what MicroCorp brings.
  • Navigating a complex bid through these organizations has its nuances, and it’s an art form MicroCorp has perfected. We have done this repeatedly for years, and our operations support process for CenturyLink and Level 3 are the very things that built MicroCorp’s strong support foundation.

From a leadership, sales, education, and support standpoint, we are ready to help partners launch full steam ahead with their CenturyLink/Level 3 business. Call us today to find out how we can help you succeed.