Changing the Channel: Putting the Partner at the Center, Not Products

by | Jun 8, 2015 | Opinion

by Jon Pritchard, Executive Vice President Worldwide Channels for Unify (

Jon Pritchard

Jon Pritchard

Technology trends have created and transformed entire industries. Virtualization, mobility, social, and cloud-based solutions are just a few of the businesses that have changed the way we’ve conducted business for years.

The communications and collaboration market is the latest to be caught up in these transformational changes. Players are entering or leaving this space, or simply redefining themselves.

While there is increasingly a blur between personal and business use of communications technology, the industry is largely committed to the New Way to Work— or, the ability to collaborate more smoothly regardless of location or device. A lot of this shift is being driven by the demands of today’s workforce, and their changing profile.

These trends are driving a monumental shift resulting in one powerful truth — the customer and their needs have changed. We, likewise, must change.

Some in the channel use traditional means to sell technology, citing features and capabilities in the hopes of better appealing to IT heads. But the buying decision and process is changing rapidly. More so, the buying center is shifting away from traditional CIO/CTOs and towards line of business owners. Innovation and technology have become a priority for all within the C-Suite. Software-as-a-Solution offerings empower lines of business to leverage technology to make work better for its teams, and it customers.

As a channel player, focusing on business outcomes will better help partners in the channel understand and serve these new customers, such as the CMO and CIO. The market and the channel will continue to evolve, and so must our understanding of buying centers, buying behavior and buying decision makers. It is critical that we evolve our sales models, relationships and engagement models for both existing and future partnerships to continue to drive revenue.

When companies invest in new technology, they’re committing to growth, efficiency, and the expectation of increased competitiveness in their market. In today’s complex ecosystem there are many challenges that slow a company down, such as migration paths, technology complexity and integration challenges, multiple locations, vendors and service levels, so it’s important that we humanize the enterprise by selling solutions based on the needs of people and expected business outcomes.

At Unify, we have a commitment to deliver more than the solution. We are embedding a partner-centric belief system and business model into our organization. We are putting the partner and their business needs at the center of our business model; not the products.

Partner’s feedback helps shape Unify’s enhanced partner program, offers input on what capabilities to add to our products and services, determines where improvements are needed in business processes, and suggests where we might invest resources as we continue our transformation into a channel-led company.

In my 25 years in the industry, most of it in the channel, I believe that the channel is more important today than ever before. New types of business relationships and markets are being created. Companies have shifted their go-to-market strategy to more fully embrace the channel, thereby providing them with reach and scale to service and grow customer bases wherever the solution is needed. Partners can also provide their own integration capabilities and services to provide more comprehensive solutions to end customers. These sales strategies are fundamental to selling the New Way to Work, and service providers have come to find that nothing can replace relationship building to drive revenue.

Understanding marketplace shifts, understanding evolving buying centers, putting the partner at the center of everything a vendor does, and supporting them with a high-value, properly structured partner program helps partners drive increased business. As the industry expands the definition of the New Way to Work, we gradually evolve from being “software-centric” to also being “partner-centric”.

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