Shifting the focus from transactions to relationships
Even before COVID-19 accelerated the shift to digital commerce, Forrester reported that 73% of B2B buyers find buying through e-commerce, web direct, or marketplaces to be very convenient. But post-pandemic, the delta in digital commerce between businesses and consumers has collapsed, according to the research firm. ICT resellers will need to evolve to remain relevant in this new world.
Writes Jay McBain, Forrester’s Principal Analyst: “It’s all about speed, convenience, and remote, whether the buyer is acquiring a Peloton or a software product.” For traditional transactional resellers, the question is how they can remain competitive when their small and medium business buyers can get a lot of what they need directly from software vendors or large e-commerce partners.
The answer, according to McBain, comes from embracing new roles in a technology industry that is shifting to as-a-service and subscription-based business models. In addition to the traditional ‘transactional channel’, McBain sees emerging functions for influencer and retention channel partners. Rather than focusing on the transaction, these partners will show up before and after the sale.
New roles for influencer and retention partners
The influencer channel comprises affinity partners, referral agents, affiliates, advocates, ambassadors, and alliances. They help to generate demand before the sale is closed. The retention channel meanwhile, focuses on driving product adoption, providing a great ongoing customer experience, and up-selling and cross-selling to the customer.
These partners, which include value-added resellers, integrators, adjacent ISVs, and even accountants and digital agencies, play a central role in the emerging subscription sales world, according to Forrester. The customer journey in this scenario never ends and technology brands need to re-earn customer’s business every year or even every month.
To thrive in this environment, technology dealers will need to move from focusing on closing big transactions to managing and growing a relationship with each customer. Rather than focusing on sales, they’ll need to focus on helping customers unlock the value of their IT services and applications. It’s about moving from selling to serving to retain the customer’s business.
A successful reseller will not just focus on a client’s specific requests, but also seek to become a strategic advisor to the business. It will discuss their problems and needs, their goals, and their budgets to offer them the best tools to meet their requirements. It will also talk in terms of business impact rather than IT solutions, working with them to get results from the technology they use.
"...thriving in an environment where end-customers have more control is all about a new mindset. Relationships, not products, become the key. Moving from a selling to a serving mentality creates unlimited opportunity by focusing on the customer relationship. Once the relationship is in place, the sales and revenues will follow." Gary Pickford, Chief commercial officer, Tarsus Distribution