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John DeLozier

Top Three Trends Affecting the Channel Right Now

By John DeLozier, CenturyLink Channel Chief

In the face of new technology and increased customer expectations, many channel partners are feeling rising pressure to get ahead of the curve. Think about this: In 2012, less than 25 percent of cloud solutions were purchased through the channel. In 2016, that number was more than 50 percent. For channel partners, this represents a massive opportunity – but laying the right groundwork to capitalize on this can also be overwhelming.

In the midst of planning for Ascend, our annual event for partners, we’re hyper-focused on the needs of our partners and the huge opportunities we all have to serve customers and grow our businesses together.

As someone who grew up in the channel, I have learned the most efficient partners are up-to-date on industry trends and actively looking for ways to rise up and give customers what they need. These three trends will not only transform the industry, but also set the stage for how solutions are delivered to customers now and in the future.

Channel-as-a-Service

With the proliferation of cloud-based platforms, the days of on-site, equipment-heavy installs are behind us. The cloud is here to stay, and these platforms are completely changing how the channel does business. The new model is all about ongoing service, and the channel must rework delivery models, compensation, and sales strategies to be the “as-a-service” provider that an increasing amount of customers need. Partners must design solutions which map directly to business outcomes in order to capture OPEX budgets that support recurring revenue streams. While this makes for longer sales cycles, partners can use this opportunity to strengthen customer relationships and establish themselves as the go-to provider for technical solutions. To deliver this end-to-end customer experience, the new as-a-service channel will emerge to meet customer needs.

The data-driven channel

Data is everywhere, and companies are using it to measure success, profitability, and other important benchmarks – and the channel is no different. Data will play an increasingly important role as vendors approach, recruit, and retain channel partners. The better the data, the better vendors can identify areas to support and enable partners to sell more effectively – and the better partners can identify opportunities to design the experience and solutions customers need. It’s up to channel partners to develop a data strategy roadmap, but it will open up a whole new world of insights. From performance to pricing, to geography, program allocation and compensation, the data-driven channel is moving beyond a “hunch” to instead use concrete data to give partners and customers the right levels of support.

The channel customer experience

The customer experience should be a top priority for every company, and it should be no different for channel partners. With all the changes in technology, it’s no longer just about the upfront sales process. It’s about providing the necessary ongoing support and service that customers need, and building simplicity into the experience is key to delivering on this. Given the lack of initial capital expense when using the cloud, customers have more freedom and flexibility to change service providers, making customer experience imperative to channel selling and service strategies. In a market where selling is no longer about features but is tied to business outcomes, channel partners must deliver a great customer experience at every touch point to guide customers through the sales funnel – and beyond – in a way that builds loyalty.

We are always looking for ways to create the right combination of IT solutions and partners to support business of all sizes. From Feb. 22-24, we’ll be unveiling a reinvigorated partner program that is committed to investing in the tools and resources partners need to be successful. Partners interested in joining us at Ascend can contact their channel service managers. For more information about CenturyLink’s channel programs, follow @CenturyLinkCA on Twitter or join our LinkedIn group.

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