Partnerships play a vital role in meeting customer demands and driving success for organisations. In a recent episode of the KBKast podcast, host Karissa Breen sat down with Raj Sharma, from Palo Alto Networks, to discuss the importance of strategic partnerships and the changing dynamics of the reseller ecosystem. From the rise of direct customer-vendor relationships to the need for resellers to adapt to a rapidly transforming market, Sharma offered valuable insights into the evolving landscape.
The Power of Strategic Partnerships
Sharma emphasised the shift in customer preferences, with individuals now seeking information directly from the companies themselves. Recognising this trend, organisations are focusing on building strategic partnerships rather than maintaining a host of transactional relationships. These partnerships ensure that resellers can provide in-depth knowledge and value-added services to customers.
Differentiating Transactional and Strategic Partnerships
While transactional partners offer various options without much differentiation, strategic partners concentrate on specific areas and provide specialised capabilities. Though strategic partners may be fewer in number, companies are willing to invest more time in fostering these relationships due to the value they bring. Transparency and honesty were highlighted as essential qualities in a partner, with vendors expected to reciprocate the same level of transparency.
Sharma commented,“There’s been a lot of change in the IT industry as a whole, there’s been a lot of growth in the IT industry as a whole, and and, it’s presented significant opportunities for many different types of solution providers.”
Reshaping the Customer-Reseller-Vendor Chain
Traditionally, the IT industry operated within the chain of customer, reseller, partner, distributor, and vendor. However, with the rise of technology, customers now have direct access to vendors and suppliers, including software as a service providers and cloud providers. This shift has led to new opportunities for vendors and partners, providing customers with more competition and choice.
Adapting to Change and Remaining Relevant
In response to these changes, resellers face the decision of resisting or adapting to the market’s transformation. Sharma emphasised the need for resellers to disrupt, create, or complement existing markets to remain relevant. Complementary solutions can add value to an existing customer base, while new vendors with innovative approaches may threaten established resellers. Consequently, resellers must continuously evaluate their strategies and invest in new technologies or approaches to stay ahead.
Empathy and Human Connection
Sharma underlined the importance of empathy and understanding customer challenges when forming successful partnerships. It is essential for vendors to recognise the human element and provide solutions beyond technology. Irrespective of their role, both vendors and partners share the responsibility of driving relevance, focusing on individual customer accounts.
The Role of Resellers
While the IT industry has witnessed significant growth, resellers have become the critical link between manufacturers/vendors and customers. However, as customers increasingly conduct their own research, the role of resellers in the decision-making process may evolve. Sharma suggested that manufacturers and vendors should educate resellers about better solutions, enabling them to add more value to the customer.
“Organisations that stand out are the ones that can lead with facts and lead with proven outcomes that they wanna repeat for certain customers of similar environments or verticals or those that face similar challenges. Everything leads back to the relevance of the customer, the reseller or the partner environment in which they’re focusing on a certain vertical or a certain approach”. Sharma went on to say.
Becoming Value-Added Partners
Resellers are striving to become value-added partners by offering a wide range of services, including networking, telephone services, internet links, printing services, and software sales. With the goal of delivering exceptional technologies, solutions, and services, resellers aim to enhance customer experiences and increase relevance in partner conversations.
As organisations adapt to direct customer-vendor relationships and seek strategic partnerships, resellers must embrace change and become value-added partners. By focusing on empathy, understanding, and investing in new technologies, resellers can navigate the evolving industry and deliver exceptional outcomes for both customers and partners. The key lies in maintaining relevance and confidence in these partnerships in order to meet the unique requirements of each customer.