The Technology Sales Channel is Changing
I’ve spent much of my career working within, thinking about and researching technology sales. While there are certain tried and true paths to success, the past few years have seen new channels emerges, ones that don’t always run directly through the CIO’s office. To illustrate this change let’s focus on the business example of a restaurant chain.
If a large restaurant chain acquired a sizable group of franchises all at once, then it would need to establish a central business office to support the stores, their onsite POS terminals, Wi-Fi, PCs, printers and more. With hundreds of stores under its umbrella, the cloud makes it easy for this central organization to consider a new managed service provider (MSP) for business solutions as well as localization of each store’s website with contact info, driving directions, e-commerce ordering/paying, and promotional programs. The franchisor can then sub-license Serviceaide through the new MSP to provide IT service solutions for its corporate employees as well as support to franchise stores, their business software and IT equipment.
In this use-case, the MSP customizes new skills for Luma, our virtual agent (VA), and Intelligent Service Management (ISM) workflows to fit many specific customer requirements. The unique benefits of Serviceaide’s Luma+ISM help the MSP sell into more franchises, setup/enable/support new stores quickly and efficiently, provide a better experience for all users, and save money by automating low-productivity support tasks.
This use-case is an excellent example of a trend in channel sales that can shift the selling cycle somewhat away from just the CIO and towards a provider, such as an MSP or consultant, who can customize a solution for individual needs. In fact, Forrester Research estimates that two-thirds of technology sales will eventually be directly into a line of business, allowing departments within a company to choose solutions that best solve their unique challenges.
Jay McBain, a principal analyst serving global channel professionals at Forrester Research, refers to the new sales pathfinders as the “shadow channels.” He says that unlike traditional technology reseller generalists who adapt their knowledge to a range of IT reseller channels and vendors, selling in the shadow channels to business buyers (not necessarily CIOs), requires specialization in particular business functions or regional expertise. These sellers need to be even more customer-centric and offer solutions focused on a specific line of business (LOB), industry, or problem. They will be even more successful if they can provide “hyper-specialized” consultative skills and services.
Ideal for Shadow Channels
Our initial franchise example demonstrates one way that Serviceaide is an attractive low-risk ITSM option for Solution Providers who want to extend and enhance their product offerings to clients. To sell through the shadow channels it first helps to offer products that are consumer friendly, so both sellers and buyers can easily understand and implement the solution, and midsize companies can quickly tailor once monolithic offerings to address their unique industry or region. Solution-focused sellers with more domain knowledge can then provide better solutions and services than generic ISV’s or even in-house IT development. The result is a lot of new prospects for Solution Provider partners. The value proposition checklist for “Shadow Channels,” which can be consultants of all kinds as well as MSPs, VARs, SIs or ISVs, is as follows:
We are finding Serviceaide provides differentiation, business improvement, added revenue, and cost reduction for Shadow Channels at various points. It is important to note that ITSM in general, and Serviceaide specifically, are still typically a “core” product, like security, backup, and other components that are managed by IT Ops or CIO’s. However, Shadow Channel LOBs can be empowered to develop solutions that may have their focus or infrastructure. Solution providers working directly with a specialized business can yield excellent results. While we know how to detail Serviceaide in an ever-evolving business landscape, we are also now helping seller and consultant partners make a shift. They are revisiting general messages aimed at the CIO and evolving them to highlight specific ways our technology solutions can solve problems in particular lines of business. McBain says this Shadow Channel trend is accelerating, and from what we’re seeing he may just be right!