Accelerating the digital economy has a side effect that’s having a significant impact on the way companies do business … It’s bringing more people and companies together.
At our most recent Intel Partner Connect virtual event, my colleague and new Intel global channel chief, John Kalvin talked about “extreme partnerships." That’s a great description for the connections needed to deliver these complex solutions.
As we navigate new routes to market and a world of extreme partnerships, we must change our traditional views of partnerships, forge new ones and, recognize the changing landscape IT decision makers are facing. It also requires a new approach to selling, and new skills to help navigate and build new routes to market.
Complexity is here to stay: I’ve said it before, today’s solutions are much more complex, with many moving parts. No one company can do it all.
How to adapt: As the pace of transformation continues to accelerate, the only way to keep up is by bringing together best of breed companies who, together, can deliver a complete solution and the best outcomes. For our customers it’s all about business outcomes and that’s how we need to align our partnerships and solutions. This means bringing the right parties to the table.
We also need mechanisms for these diverse partners to connect and scale solutions. It's a key reason why we launched Intel® Solutions Marketplace – a platform to bring partners together in a more frictionless environment.
New collaborations are coming. Related to the complexity of the new solutions is the fact there are a lot of new companies coming into our ecosystem … both as new businesses that emerge to respond to market demands, as well as legacy partners who are adding new solutions to their portfolio.
How to adapt: Collaborative approaches to selling require strong communications, an ability to acknowledge you don’t know everything and a willingness to defer to those with the greatest expertise.
For example, we are seeing companies that are born on the cloud, and have never lived in an "on-premise" world. Bringing together our infrastructure knowledge and understanding of the value of optimized compute to their cloud-first model lets us deliver the deep knowledge end user customers need to navigate the many cloud world. At the same time, we are seeing companies with deep vertical knowledge, like industrial manufacturing companies who know manufacturing processes and workloads in an analog way but need help with the technology capabilities, and no one knows compute better than we do!
Think service: XaaS is continuing to expand into new areas as businesses look for help to rapidly deploy systems, and manage capital expenses, while leveraging the advantages of cloud solutions.
How to adapt: More and more vendors are selling their product as a service rather than a stand-alone system so that means rethinking how we work together, compensate, and support each other. We need to ensure partner programs support the shift to a services-led model versus a more traditional procurement model. It also requires a change in the way we are approaching the sale. Services can be less tangible which require a shift in how we position and talk to the advantages, ROI, and outcomes.
Sales structures need change too: The breadth of technology becoming mainstream (AI, HPC, IoT/Edge) continues to grow and these technologies require specialized expertise and skills. In this environment, your existing team structure might not fit anymore.
How to adapt: Don’t get stuck in a rut. Be willing to create specialized focus areas that can dig deep and offer that expansive knowledge and expertise. Sticking with your internal structures could be detrimental to delivering these new and advanced solutions. Stay nimble and stand up new teams as needed (I know I have) to support new market segments.
Effective marketing tactics are shifting: When we moved from in person to virtual, customer interactions abruptly changed, and we needed to pivot in our sales motions to adapt. Even as we return to the workplace, some of those changes will remain.
How to adapt: Just because we can return to pre-pandemic sales motions, doesn’t mean we should. McKinsey found 70%-80% of B2B decision makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service, and they find remote and online sales are as effective as in person interactions. I’d suggest we take the best of both worlds approach as we continue to navigate the post-pandemic world.
So, what’s working? 96% are looking for content that speaks to their industry, 91% of buyers want "easy access to content without long forms" and 92% of buyers say that their choice of vendor is influenced by "an extensive menu of thought-leadership content".
At the same time, recognize that customers are doing more research than ever. The average B2B tech buyer today consults 6.9 information sources before making a purchase (which is up 35% over last year) so we need to provide the information they want in a self-service world. What are the top sources of information? Demos, vendor/product websites and user reviews and vendor reps remain top sources.
And don’t overlook the importance of the customer experience. 42% of businesses cite poor customer service as the reason they are looking to change vendors, which is up from 10% in 2019. Just because we’re virtual, you can’t drop the ball on service.
Big Decisions: Decision-making committees are getting bigger and will continue to have both IT and line of business reps. 30% expect the average number of IT people involved in decisions to increase, and line of business influence is expected to remain steady. Another survey showed 56% of B2B tech buyers work outside IT.
How to adapt: Remember that you are selling to highly technical and non-technical audiences when presenting solutions. At the same time, recognize that each of those audiences will have different questions and priorities. Ensure you are addressing both groups and be prepared to include education as a trusted advisor so that they can make informed decisions.
Sales cycles are getting longer: 68% of buyers are saying that the length of their B2B purchase cycle has increased significantly compared with a year ago. At the same time, buyers are spending more time researching their purchases.
How to adapt: Sales models need to respond to the extended review period and not lose sight of leads just because they are taking longer to close. We need to continue to be creative to stay top of mind during the sales journey, no matter how long it takes.
Navigating the Route Ahead
There are a lot of companies, including ours, talking about new routes to market and the need to understand who is driving decision making around technology consumption and purchasing. The pace of digital transformation means that technology companies and their partners must change the way we produce, sell and support solutions.
And while change is a certainty in technology, so is the critical importance of forging partnerships. The best and most innovative solutions will be driven by those who embrace extreme partnership as we travel these new and winding routes to market.