Writing Compelling Win Wires

Win wires are partner-confidential summaries of influential customer deals. They serve as a valuable tool in alliance relationships, providing examples of sales success and accelerating joint business development. They apply to any alliance-channel partner relationship but I’ll describe the process in context of Microsoft due to their partner co-sell focus and momentum.

Inventory Your Customer Wins

Begin by considering what recent wins you’ve closed that would appeal to your alliance partner. Look for wins with a meaningful deal size (at least $25K) in enterprise or upper mid-market customers (where Microsoft has account team coverage).

The stories should include a co-sell element, where Microsoft played a role in your sales success. You can produce win wires without that co-sell story line, but it is much better to showcase how you are working together as a team.

You will want to represent all the industries that you play in. Align with Microsoft industry terminology as appropriate (Government, Education, Healthcare, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Retail, Media, and Automotive).

Also seek stories to represent each region where you have a local sales presence. For example, Microsoft US is organized as Northwest, Southwest, North Central, South Central, Great Lakes, Northeast, New York, and Southeast.

Lastly, consider how you are showcasing each of your top product or service offerings. Plug the data into a spreadsheet and you can keep track of how well you are representing product wins across Microsoft industry and regional stakeholders.

Develop the Story

Microsoft provides an online form for globally managed partners to submit win wires, but every managed partner should generate win wires on their own. These can be in a Word or PowerPoint format. PowerPoint is easier for inclusion in Microsoft-facing presentations.

The ingredients for a win wire are below, but key to a successful outcome is using a “Microsoft voice”: write succinctly in terms that resonate with Microsoft teams.

Summarize the customer situation

In a couple sentences, represent the customer industry, size, and offerings. Company LinkedIn profiles and About Us website pages are good sources for this information.

Represent the customer problem that triggered their search for a solution. Align with Microsoft solution map terminology when describing the scenario. Be sure to highlight any competitive products that represented a customer concern. Microsoft likes competitive displacement stories.

Describe the sales process

Where did the lead originate from? This is an opportunity to showcase your marketing engine. Also identify if the lead was sourced by Microsoft (a behavior you want to encourage).

Who did you compete against? If it is a competitor that uses a non-Microsoft platform, be sure to call that out. If the competition is with another Microsoft partner, decide if you have a regular pattern of winning against that partner and want to show that you are the better Microsoft co-sell partner in your space.

What was required to win? Describe the sales process including if an RFP response or pilot/POC was required. If your end to end sales cycle is less than 6 months, be sure to call that out as it shows Microsoft sellers can invest in the co-sell relationship midstream in their fiscal year and still realize the quota recognition benefit in that year’s sales incentive check.

What other partners were involved? Demonstrate your ability to scale through channel partners. Microsoft wants partners to work together (a core purpose of the Microsoft Partner Network).

Why were you selected by the customer? This is a chance to tout your unique product features, superior sales process, and/or deep Microsoft technology integration.

How did Microsoft help advance the deal? Identify if Microsoft sourced the lead, helped overcome customer technical objections, provided strategic insight into the customer needs, or otherwise championed you to the customer.

What insights or best practices can you highlight? Microsoft is a learning organization so if there is a bit of insight to share on how you worked with Microsoft or other partners, be sure to surface it.

Who from Microsoft was involved? Identify the roles that helped you on the co-sell journey (e.g., ECM, AE, ATS, SSP, TSP, ISE – see the Microsoft Acronyms for Partners if needed). Recognize (by name) those Microsoft people that were influential.

Represent the customer benefits

What benefits were realized by the customer? Quantitative results are better than “improved productivity” types of statements. It is okay to represent forecasted $ savings or % improvements. Most projects should have some kind of expected return or benefit (revisit the customer problem statement if unclear).

If possible, include a customer satisfaction statement as a quote. This can be difficult for confidential win wires, but Microsoft loves to see evidence of customer satisfaction.

Define the Microsoft co-sell benefit

Quantify the value to the Microsoft. You can easily represent Azure pull-through if you are a co-sell partner. You can further highlight expected actual Azure consumption if your solution runs in the customer’s Azure subscription. If you are a SaaS provider, you can represent the Azure consumption the customer represents to you internally.

Add the finishing touches

Create a compelling headline for the win wire that uses Microsoft terminology (e.g. from industry or solution maps) and include a footer that highlights the document as confidential.

Taking Action

The initial win wire draft can be formed from an internal CRM record and/or email summary. You then need about 15 minutes with the internal seller to validate the story and fill in the gaps. Lastly, run the draft win wire by the Microsoft account team so they can identify things they did to advance the sale. Internal sellers tend not to make note of Microsoft co-sell contributions, but this is an important part of the story and helps raise your profile with the Microsoft account team.

Once you’ve gathered all the feedback, use the resulting win wire in Microsoft-internal meetings to evangelize the success of co-selling with your company. Also ask your partner manager (PDM or PMA) to socialize the win wire internally within Microsoft. Post win wires in OCP Catalog for further Microsoft discovery.

Writing win wires sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves because it requires in-depth knowledge of Microsoft priorities and terminology. Competegy offloads this task with win wire writing services. Contact Competegy to learn more.

Co-Selling with Microsoft Best Practices – FY19

Microsoft rolled out significant new co-sell incentives in 2017 along with the “One Commercial Partner” organization . These changes aligned Microsoft internal sales incentives with those partners driving significant Microsoft cloud revenue.This whitepaper provides insight into effectively leveraging Microsoft’s ISV co-sell resources (revised for Microsoft’s 2019 fiscal year). In particular, it addresses how to align with Microsoft initiatives, grow your partnership with Microsoft, and engage in productive co-marketing and co-selling activities.

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Microsoft Inspire 2018 ISV Insights

Microsoft recently hosted over 18,000 attendees at the 2018 Inspire partner conference. Inspire was hosted in Las Vegas and featured an overlap day with Microsoft’s internal kickoff (“Microsoft Ready”). As usual, it was a well-executed event with amazing networking and side meeting opportunities. Registration is now open for Inspire 2019 (price goes up $300 July 27) which will again be held in Las Vegas.

Most of the Inspire 2018 session content is available online. I recommend copying the PDFs locally for easy reference and watching relevant sessions you missed from the MyInspire video library.Microsoft Inspire 2018

Last year the recurring message was about digital transformation. That is still an underlying theme, with the enabling approach being articulated as Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge. Microsoft sees IoT and edge computing as enabling tremendous Microsoft and partner revenue potential in the years to come. “Microsoft Hosting” and “Windows Embedded” has come a long way since the 2000s. 🙂

Programs

In 2012, Microsoft eliminated the ISV Competency and directed ISV partners to the Application Development Competency. I’m pleased to see the ISV Competency has returned for FY19. Note that Microsoft is requiring AppSource or Azure Marketplace listing as a Competency and co-sell prerequisite going forward. ISV partners should assess the relative value of the ISV Competency as compared to the “cloud competencies” (Cloud Platform, Cloud Productivity, Cloud Business Apps, Cloud CRM), which are eligible for Microsoft incentives.

MPN Competency benefits will be aligned with Microsoft’s 4 solution areas: Modern Workplace, Apps and Infrastructure, Data and AI, and Business Applications. Benefits will be structured as Core, Earned, and Paid (by the partner). Expect these changes to roll out later in 2018.

Advanced Specializations will be introduced for some competencies. They afford a way to differentiate on specific solution areas within a competency.

Microsoft is also creating a new program for ISVs newly entering the Microsoft partner ecosystem (ISV Starter Kit instead of the Action Pack).

Managed ISV Co-Sell

Microsoft had great success with the IP Co-Sell initiative in FY18 so they’ve extended the Microsoft field seller Azure quota offset for co-sell ready partners into FY19. Enterprise Channel Managers remain the primary “sell-with” role for partners.

Microsoft has expanded the co-sell credit program to Dynamics 365 embedded ISVs. The corresponding ISV Cloud Embed program requires publishing to the AppSource catalog, customer references, CSP direct enrollment, and co-sell target commitments.

Microsoft is expanding their industry focus in the Enterprise, with Automotive and Media & Communications getting added to the existing industry priorities (Education, Financial Services, Government, Health, Manufacturing, and Retail). Industry Sales Executives are the primary sell-with role for vertical accounts.

Microsoft will continue to invest in co-marketing and proof of concept (ECIF) funding. Submit a Go-To-Market plan to request co-marketing funds before they are fully allocated. ECIF funding is dependent upon the Azure pull-through potential (it generally requires a 20:1 return).

Top actions post-Inspire include defining your GTM and Territory Partner Plan, engage ISV Co-Sell Days, and potentially participate in Digital Transformation Academy.

See the updated Microsoft Acronyms document, revised based on the new terms used at Inspire 2018.

What’s New for Inspire Networking

Microsoft has released the “MyInspire Connections tool” which allows you connect with existing partners, potential partners, and Microsoft staff at the upcoming Inspire partner conference. This article summarizes what is new in the tool and how to use it effectively.

Microsoft’s partner conference is very efficient for organizing onsite meetings, saving travel costs and providing opportunities to connect with people you may not have a chance to meet otherwise.

As part of the conference, Microsoft provides the MyInspire Connections tool to identify attendees who have opted-in for networking. Over 10K attendees are visible now and a couple thousand more will appear in the coming weeks. You can search by name, company or a variety of attributes from attendee profiles including competencies (not verified by Microsoft), industry focus, business type, and customer segment.You identify people you want to meet, have a table assigned (or specify your own location), and the recipient will receive an email that they can accept (or ignore). Once accepted, a meeting request will be placed on your calendar. Note: the description you use in your invitation will appear in the body of the meeting request.

There are 41 half-hour spots available to book meetings Monday through Wednesday, plus 4 slots during the Welcome Reception on Sunday. The networking area isn’t available on Thursday (the departure day). Networking tables are conveniently located in the Mandalay Bay convention center. Meetings not accepted within 2 weeks get deleted (so tables are freed up for other meetings).

Microsoft’s internal sales kickoff meeting (Microsoft Ready) overlaps with Inspire this year. Microsoft staff who have opted into the MyInspire Connections tool will be available to meet Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday afternoon (although Wednesday afternoon is the most likely time they will be available). You’ll be able to meet partner roles throughout the conference so focus your Wednesday time on account and specialist team connections. This year, Microsoft employees are a separate search filter, allowing you to distinguish between partner, corporate, and field employees.

Messages can now include hyperlinks and Windows 10 emoticons (press Windows key and period key). However, the number of sent messages is limited (20 messages every 24 hours once they fix a bug). This limit is meant to deter spam and encourage wider use.

Unfortunately, messages and invitations still look like spam in email because all line breaks are stripped out. Craft your message carefully so it is compelling when all jammed together. This is a known bug and may get fixed.

Searching by business type was easier last year (ISV, Reseller, MSP, etc.). This year, there is a lot more choices (over 60). Understand the taxonomy hierarchy by reviewing your own user profile so you search by the exact partner type you are looking for (e.g., “Systems Integration” instead of “Services”).

Two critical search criteria were removed this year: Country and Company size. For example, if you are looking for a mid-sized services partner in Canada, you’ve got over 4,000 people to review. Microsoft is working to add Country back as a search filter (should be resolved this week) and I’ve requested Company Size return as well.

In sum, there are a few bugs but with less than 4 weeks until the conference now is the time to start organizing your Inspire meetings. If you have a large partner recruiting effort, stage your messages over several days (due to the message send limitations). Note that Competegy provides an “Inspire Concierge Service” which helps companies recruit partners and maximize their Microsoft connections at Inspire.

Microsoft 2018 Partner of the Year Award Winners

See the full list of Microsoft 2018 Partner of the Year Award finalists and winners at the Inspire website – including 3 Competegy clients. In total, Competegy clients have won 10 Microsoft Partner of the Year awards!

Winning partners will be recognized at Microsoft Inspire (July 15-19 in Las Vegas). Inspire is a great opportunity to learn about Microsoft’s product and channel strategy, engage Microsoft partner teams, and advance your own channel development objectives. This year there is overlap with Microsoft’s internal kickoff (“Microsoft Ready”), affording the additional opportunity to connect with Microsoft account teams.

The Inspire networking tool is slated to go live June 13. Everyone who has opted-in will be able to schedule meetings (with assigned meeting tables). The Inspire directory is the only effective tool Microsoft provides for partner-to-partner search (since Pinpoint was deprecated years ago), so use Inspire to identify new channel partners and renew existing partner relationships (in addition to your Microsoft meetings).

I’ll update my Maximize Microsoft Inspire article once the new networking tool goes live. Note that I’m offering my “Inspire Concierge Service” again this year, which helps companies maximize their value from Inspire.

What’s New for Microsoft 2018 Partner of the Year Awards

Microsoft recognizes top performing partners at their annual partner conference (Inspire). Winning a Microsoft Partner Award can help attract new customer prospects, provide sales credibility, trigger new partnerships, and facilitate Microsoft sales collaboration.

The 2018 Microsoft Partner of the Year award tool officially opens for nominations March 13, 2018. The deadline for all entries is April 17, 2018.

While the process of submitting nominations is similar as past years, the award categories have changed significantly. The awards are no longer focused on each Microsoft Competency. Instead, most award categories are aligned with Microsoft Solution Areas (Applications & Infrastructure, Business Applications, Data & AI, Modern Workplace) and industry scenarios (with retail and financial services industries notably missing). There are also country awards and a handful of other global awards that don’t fit neatly into the solution or industry areas.

If you are a “co-sell ready” ISV or have a Microsoft cloud competency, you are eligible for most of the awards. There are only a couple that are limited to SIs (e.g., App Innovation, Microsoft 365 Powered Devices). This reflects Microsoft encouragement of all partners to build repeatable IP.

You can find detailed award writing recommendations in the 10 Tips to Winning a Microsoft Partner Award download.

Over 2,800 nominations were received last year, so competition is stiff. Competegy clients have won 8 Microsoft Partner of the Year awards (including 2 of the current 2017 winners). If you want to improve your chances of winning an award this year, request a meeting to determine your potential.

10 Tips to Winning a Microsoft Partner Award

Receiving an award from Microsoft can serve as a valuable marketing tool: awards help attract new customer prospects, provide sales credibility, trigger new partnerships, and facilitate Microsoft sales collaboration.

Microsoft Partner Award

Microsoft has the largest software partner ecosystem.  They receive thousands of submissions for the partner awards, with winners recognized at the Inspire conference in July.

As a former partner award judge (and author of numerous successful award nominations), I offer the following helpful tips to improve your chances of winning:

  1. Understand the process
  2. Meet the criteria
  3. Follow the rules
  4. Answer the questions concisely
  5. Quantify your results
  6. Tell customer stories
  7. Write like a journalist
  8. Take Microsoft’s perspective
  9. Don’t wait until the last minute
  10. Leverage your nomination to evangelize Microsoft

A detailed explanation of these steps and the keys to writing a successful nomination are included in this whitepaper.

Complete the following form to access the document:

Innovation and Digital Transformation

In my early days at Microsoft, we used the term “Digital Nervous System to refer to the agility a superior IT environment provided for responding to customer needs and reacting to competitive threats. That was in the 90s, so IT infrastructure at the time centered on networking and email (yes, the wheel and fire were already invented).

I’ve worked with several innovation consulting companies over the years (e.g., Doblin, Desai). Their innovation models apply to the digital transformation journey many companies are now undertaking, helping identify the forms of innovation that support digital transformation.

Product Capabilities

Most people think of product when it comes to innovation. In the age of cloud computing, product innovation occurs in a less disruptive way. New capabilities must be valuable enough to sustain customer value, but not change so much as to incite consideration of and defection to competitors. Disruptive, “bet the business” product innovations are no longer required after the initial SaaS offering is delivered. Instead, it is better to innovate without introducing breaking changes. Focus major innovations on product extensions and adjacent areas instead (see Product Ecosystem).

Business Model

Subscription pricing delivers the gift that keeps on giving: recurring revenue. Steady growth with recurring revenues and high customer retention rates yields better company predictability and therefore higher valuations.

Product Ecosystem

The broader opportunity is to bundle products and services such that the combination generates more customer value that the individual offerings alone. This worked for Microsoft Office in the 90s (anyone remember Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect, and Harvard Graphics?) and applies to SaaS partnerships today. SaaS solutions are deployed quickly, and integration with other systems is exceptionally fast. Multiple SaaS solutions can even be deployed in parallel. Distributors have taken steps toward providing marketplaces for cloud products, but the innovation opportunity remains to aggregate a portfolio of related cloud solutions to target common industry scenarios. For example, where is the A-to-Z startup manufacturing company SaaS suite (beyond ERP)? Instead of innovating through just your own products, think about complementary applications and services that could enable holistic, customer-centric solutions. That is the line of business platform of the future.

Organization

Organization changes are necessary as ISVs transition to SaaS products. Salespeople will gravitate toward a bigger ticket perpetual license unless commission structures incent them for subscription licensing. It is sometimes easier to create a parallel sales organization with compensation models that account for lower, recurring revenues rather than force fit a traditional sales organization that is used to a higher touch/higher cost customer selling process. Note there are development-related organizational improvements (e.g., scrub, agile, low code platforms) that are covered elsewhere.

Support Systems

Providing too much or the wrong kind of support can eat up SaaS profits. Understand and implement the “minimum viable support” requirements for your products. Consider innovative approaches to support (e.g., AI/knowledgebase-driven customer service bots that escalate to human support) that can keep customers satisfied while keeping costs low. In addition, invest in post-sales support that accelerates adoption. These “customer success teams” should enable adoption of cloud solutions at existing customers to maximize usage and secure the recurring revenue stream.

Marketing

Opportunities exist to innovate through marketing including branding, social media, and lead nurturing. Traditional ISVs must adjust to SaaS marketing, developing more online qualification and transaction capability and relying less on direct sales involvement.

Digital Transformation is about leveraging the power of software and cloud economics to revolutionize business models, solutions delivered, and markets served. Software companies can innovate in ways beyond product development to affect their own digital transformation and better enable their customers’ digital transformation journey.

Charleston Offsite

I took a page from Brad Feld (Venture Capitalist) and decided to work offsite in another city for a couple weeks this month. I’ve never been to Charleston so my wife (also a consultant) and I packed up the car along with our little terrier (not a consultant) and ventured south from Connecticut to the land of excellent food, scenic views, and unique history.

I approached it as kind of “Microsoft think week” with daily “offsite topics”, meeting with local high tech contacts, and studying books by Tim Ferris. I managed to stay on top of client commitments while enjoying some strategic thinking.

The SaaS Threat to Systems Integrators

Microsoft has encouraged its SI community to embrace cloud products, citing higher profitability and company valuations generated by including “repeatable IP” alongside SI service offerings. This intuitively makes sense: smoothing your revenue volatility makes for a more predictable and therefore more valuable business. I previously translated the Microsoft message simply as “sell more Office 365”.

I met with the former head of Microsoft Consulting Services while in Charleston. He asked about several SIs that I happened to have reached out to recently as part of my ISV-SI matchmaking service. He was surprised they were still thriving given the shift to Software as a Service. When SaaS solutions are adopted there is configuration, but little to no customization. The customer trend toward SaaS solutions means SIs have less deployment work to do and have to find new business areas to drive growth. Cloud computing will disrupt systems integration consulting firms over the next 5-10 years because customers will require less customization and deployment.

I typically engage SIs (on behalf of ISVs), making the case for expanding their services into an adjacent practice area. I reference the financial benefits of reselling software but commissions are typically small relative to services revenue. The impact of SaaS provides a new lens to the SI recruitment challenge and ISVs should augment their SI partnering proposition accordingly.

Microsoft Inspire 2018 Update

The schedule is published for Inspire 2018, Microsoft’s annual partner conference in Las Vegas (July 15-19). The price for Inspire goes up $300 on March 1, so register now if you plan on attending. This year Microsoft’s internal sales kickoff event (Microsoft Ready) will overlap the partner conference, affording an opportunity to engage Microsoft teams where previously you had to sponsor and travel to Microsoft Ready separately

Stay tuned for the announcement of the Microsoft Partner Award nominations later this month. The final submissions will be due early April.

 

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