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.

 

Executing a Partner Co-Sell Campaign

Selling with partners enables customer exposure, generates qualified leads for sales pursuit, and supports company revenue objectives. The challenge with such campaigns is to ensure the results warrant the time and effort to coordinate across partner organizations. This article shares best practice learning from executing co-selling campaigns.

Target Outcome

The desired result is to not only to drive customer awareness, but also to identify “sales qualified leads”. This is beyond the typical marketing function of attracting prospects and generating “marketing qualified leads”.

Partner Scenarios

The partner you wish to co-sell with must have a vested interest in your sales success. This could be a tandem partner who relies on your capabilities to successfully reach their target market. For example, a complementary software product that unlocks the enterprise suitability for an otherwise mid-market software product or an industry-specific enhancement that enables a broader product to penetrate a vertical niche. The partner could be a platform player (e.g., Microsoft) that wants partners to pull through their underlying technology (cloud services) and is willing to invest sales effort to penetrate a market segment (e.g., line of business solutions) they can’t directly address themselves.

Get Commitment

Once you’ve determined there is sales and strategic alignment for executing a co-sell campaign, the next critical step is getting support from the partner’s sales managers. Salespeople don’t naturally work with partners without a framework that provides compensation (quota credit or spiff) and motivation (sales managers). You’ll need a project manager to own coordination across the partners and to keep salespeople moving forward with prospecting and lead qualification.

You’ll find some salespeople resist partner co-selling. It can be more complex and takes people out of their comfort zone of selling only their own products. If you have the chance, test for receptivity among individual sellers so you’re working with willing participants. Position the co-sell initiative as “doing leading edge work” as well as an opportunity for success beyond the standard sales role.

Note that platform partners have a hard time selling outside of IT. If you represent a line of business software solution, align with industry-specific sales teams instead of general account teams. The natural inclination to sell IT-centric software and services usually supersedes the solution selling intentions of platform partner sellers.

Create a Co-Sell Guide

Develop a co-sell training kit to educate partner sellers and management. This should include the following:

  • A definition of the sales process including which partner owns which step and when sales handoff should occur. This handoff should happen after both a decision maker and an active initiative are identified.
  • An overview of each partner and their contribution to the completed solution. This helps the team understand why partnership is valuable from an implementation perspective.
  • A financial model of a typical deal including the benefits to the customer and for both partners. Sales management and sellers need to understand the revenue motivations for partnering.
  • Targeting criteria including geography, industry, workload, customer segment, and typical decision maker titles. This helps reduce the ambiguity of who the teams are targeting and defines the scenario for qualified opportunities.
  • Email templates with pithy messaging and customer references. Creating approved messaging reduces sales team inertia.
  • A sample call script or qualification guide for sales conversations. Reduce sales team fear and reluctance to engage customer conversations by modeling those conversations.
  • A target list of accounts to pursue. Identify net new prospects that align with the qualification criteria.

These materials can take time to pull together, but the process forces you to address important qualification issues and results in a guide that helps execute the co-selling effort.

Maintain Momentum

Educate the sales teams on these materials and set milestone expectations for sales actions (e.g., 20 emails and 4 customer conversations per week). Activity expectations will depend on other intitiatives the sellers are juggling.

Host regular meetings to capture insights from the sales teams and address additional sales support needs. Be sure to recognize individual successes in context of the broader group, including achieving milestones along the way to the final sale.

 

Contact Competegy to discuss how you can create or improve your own co-sell campaign efforts.

Co-Selling with Microsoft Best Practices – 2018

Microsoft rolled out significant new co-sell incentives in January 2017 and followed-up with a substantial “One Commercial Partner” reorganization mid-2017. These changes align Microsoft internal sales incentives with those partners driving significant Microsoft cloud revenue.

This whitepaper reviews the resources and best practices to effectively leveraging Microsoft’s ISV co-sell resources in 2018. In particular, it addresses how to achieve co-sell status, grow your awareness within Microsoft, and engage productive co-marketing and co-selling initiatives.

Complete the following form to access this document:

Holiday Shopping for Microsoft Partners

If you have an interest in developing new channel partners in 2018, now is an excellent time to prepare by adding Microsoft Partners to your holiday shopping list!Microsoft provides an attendee directory for the Inspire partner conference each July. Over 14,000 people profile themselves in the Inspire networking directory. These profiles include valuable information for partner recruiting purposes including Microsoft Competency, geography, and partner type. This makes it easy to locate partners with common interests.

For example, an ISV with a solution that enables migration to Office 365 may appeal to systems integrators delivering Modern Workplace projects. In this case, the ISV would look for SI partners with a Cloud Productivity competency. The fact that the SI sent people to the Inspire event implies they are a committed Microsoft partner, and Inspire attendees are more likely to be open to a partnering discussion since they opted-in to the partner networking tool.

Unfortunately, the Inspire networking directory is slated to be taken down around the end of the year. All that valuable partner information will be gone until Inspire 2018 (Las Vegas in July), when a new batch of attendees profile themselves.

Microsoft used to provide a web directory (“Pinpoint”) to facilitate this partner-to-partner engagement but that unfortunately is no longer available. The modern equivalent is the Solution Provider Search which only lists CSP partners and provides dismal search capabilities (for example, you can’t search by Microsoft Competencies). There are 3rd party partner directories, but because they aren’t from Microsoft they don’t elicit self-profiling by most of the Microsoft partner ecosystem.

If partner recruiting is an H1 2018 priority, conduct your search now using the Inspire networking directory. In this way, you’ll have relevant partner prospects to pursue in the new year. Note that only attendees of Inspire 2017 have access to the networking directory.

Performing the search is one step in the partner recruiting journey. Other key elements include defining a compelling partner proposition (including a financial model), eliciting partnership discussions, and supporting partners for onboarding and sales development. See the Channel Development Best Practices whitepaper for additional partner recruiting insights.

Happy Hunting and Happy Holidays!

Microsoft Co-Sell Update

This week marks the 6 year anniversary for Competegy! Highlights include 8 Microsoft Partner of the Year awards, 2 Tech Company to Watch awards, and a diverse mix of clients. Competegy was also recently accepted as a Microsoft vendor.

Partnering with Microsoft

Microsoft has taken longer than usual to get the co-sell wheels moving this fiscal year, but they are rolling now! There were significant organizational changes including restructuring the US districts into 8 regions, adding industry headcount, and implementing the One Commercial Partner model. At last partner marketing budgets are defined and people have found their seat. Let the co-selling begin!

Meanwhile, the Microsoft event machine has been at full steam. In July, we had Microsoft Inspire (formerly WPC), Microsoft Ready (formerly MGX), and the US Public Sector Kickoff (ISU). Ignite (formerly TechEd) and Envision conferences were in September, along with a series of ISV Co-Sell days throughout the US.

Last month, Microsoft held their US internal sales kickoff (Digital Transformation Academy). This replaced the individual US district kickoffs from the past. At the event, they reinforced their new Challenger Sales Model and everyone has come back, ready to drive business.

The Challenger Sales Model

It behooves partners to understand the Challenger Sales Model so you can be positioned in context of Microsoft sales messaging, particularly in context of their Solution Map scenarios. In addition, the model is good sales methodology for your own internal use.

In essence, the Challenger Sales Model is about knowing enough about the customer and their industry to relate to them at an emotional level, bringing insight that challenges their assumptions and leads them to a conclusion that aligns with your solution. The key elements are as follows:

  1. Know the customer’s business well enough to relate to their challenges
  2. Bring a new perspective on a problem they are likely to have
  3. Support your position with data (e.g., the financial implications of inaction)
  4. Personalize the impact of the issue so that the customer feels it
  5. Paint the vision of a better way (skewed to your capabilities)
  6. Explain how your solution is the superior match for their needs

Golden Circle

A related sales messaging technique I find compelling is Simon Sinek’s golden circle TED talk from 2009. In it, he explains leading with “why” you offer solutions is more compelling than the traditional “what” and “how” approach most companies deliver. For example, it is more compelling for Microsoft to lead with a Digital Transformation message to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more” than to explain how new features of Office 365 will make your teams more productive.

How might your own product/service positioning change if you led with “why”?

Actions for Managed Partners

If you are a Managed Co-Sell partner, you should have received marketing funding/resources by now. Put those funds to work over the next 4-5 months (Microsoft gets uncomfortable with calendar year Q2 campaigns because they need to have funds fully spent before the end of their fiscal year).

Evangelize your company to Microsoft so they know to co-sell with you. Ensure you are properly profiled in the OCP Catalog and have a productive Partner Sales Connect leads triage process. Lastly, tap into Microsoft account and industry team knowledge to shorten your sales cycle and gain visibility into new opportunities.

Microsoft FY18 Partner Strategy

At the Microsoft Inspire partner conference, Microsoft announced major improvements to how they support partners for the year ahead (FY18). This article summarizes their new partner strategy and the opportunity for managed partners to tap into Microsoft co-sell resources.

Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner (OCP) organization is meant to simplify the partner experience with Microsoft and align incentives with Microsoft sales teams. The framework for partner support is “Build-With”, “Go-To-Market”, and “Sell-With”. This framework applies to ISV, Systems Integrator, Managed Service Provider, and Reseller (channels) partner types.

Overarching customer themes remain the same as FY17: Empower Employees, Engage Customers, Optimize Operations, and Transform Products. These are addressed through 4 main Microsoft workloads: Modern Workplace, Business Applications, Applications & Infrastructure, and Data & AI. Microsoft FY18 scorecard items include the following:

  • Azure Consumed Revenue (ACR)
  • Azure Customer Adds (ADA)
  • Dynamics 365 Customer Adds + Revenue
  • SQL Server + Azure Data Services Revenue
  • Office 365 Commercial Paid Subscribers
  • Office 365 Active Commercial Usage
  • SPE (Microsoft 365) E5 Commercial Subscribers
  • Windows 10 Enterprise Deployment

Organization

Microsoft is implementing a major change in the sales organization structure. The former EPG and SMSP (CAM, CTM, SMB) segmentation no longer applies. Instead there will be Enterprise and Small Medium Corporate (SMC). Historically, the break point for EPG coverage was ~1,000 employees. Employee count will no longer be the criteria for Enterprise account coverage.

The Microsoft Account List will be redefined to incorporate cloud potential: expect this list to be finalized in August. SMC coverage will be provided by tele-coverage teams, shifting field sales resources away from the upper mid-market coverage in favor of more 1:1 management of enterprise accounts.

In the US, there will be East and West regions (vs. East/Central/West in FY17) and 8 districts within those regions (vs. 14 US geographic districts in FY17). This means some territories will merge. While the organizational blueprint has been defined, it will take a few weeks for Microsoft staff to understand their new roles and objectives.

Microsoft is also returning to a strong industry focus (particularly for financial services, manufacturing, retail, education, healthcare, and government). Top partners will be represented in “solution maps” which Microsoft field sellers will use to prioritize which partners to lead with. Note that to qualify for a solution map, partners will need to commit to getting listed in AppSource or the Azure Marketplace.

Enterprise sales teams will continue to have Account Team (ATU) and Specialist Teams (STU), plus a new Customer Success Unit (CSU). Sales teams will not have quota for new Azure contract sales (unlike FY17) and will continue to have quota for Azure Consumed Revenue (ACR). As a rule of thumb, each field seller is expected to drive an incremental $1M in Azure revenue in FY18.

Co-Sell Ready ISV sales will result in ACR quota offset for Microsoft sellers, similar to H2FY17. This ISV incentive resulted in $1B in Microsoft retired quota in H2FY17. New for FY18, partner sales of Office 365 will apply to Microsoft field sales Office 365 quota objectives.

Note: I’ve updated the Microsoft Acronyms for Partners to include the new role and organizational acronyms.

Partner Resources

Microsoft is investing in partner co-sell incentives and headcount (including 600 channel managers worldwide). Partner teams are organized around the “Build-With”, “Go-To-Market”, and “Sell-With” framework. Co-Sell partners will have access to a Partner Development Manager (+ supporting Partner Technical Strategists) for Build-With support. Partner Marketing Managers (+ supporting Partner Channel Marketing Manager) in the Go-To-Market team will manage co-marketing resources. Sell-With is supported by Enterprise Channel Managers. The SMC customer segment will be served by Territory Channel Managers. Note that channel managers are assigned to customers, not dedicated to specific partners.

To qualify for co-sell engagement, partners will have to maintain a Gold Microsoft Partner Network Competency and have a Partner Seller (P-Seller) on staff (in addition to exceeding Azure consumption criteria which will be built-in to the Competency requirements). Azure Marketplace or AppSource listing is preferred but not required.

Sellers will be able to rate partner co-sell execution based on sales and implementation performance. This will keep accountability on Microsoft partners to execute well on the Partner Connect/deal registration management as well as solution delivery.

Product Announcements

This year’s partner conference was relatively light on product announcements. The key news was Microsoft 365 which merges Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility & Security capabilities into 1 subscription-licensed suite. Available in both Enterprise and Business (SMB) versions, it will generate monthly recurring revenue streams for Microsoft and its partners.

Steps to take in July/August

Microsoft was able to communicate enough of the planned changes for the Microsoft employees to intelligently engage partners at Inspire. Microsoft staff will gain deeper insight into OCP implementation and their specific roles/objectives at Microsoft Ready, Microsoft’s Public Sector kickoff (ISU), and District Kickoffs (in July/August). Managed partners should maximize their alignment and exposure as Microsoft sales teams initiate account planning activities (in August). Actions to take in July/August:

  1. Assert your relevance to Microsoft industry stakeholders to stake your claim on the appropriate industry solution maps
  2. Increase your awareness with regional Microsoft teams
  3. Map your leads/opportunities to strategic accounts in the Enterprise segment
  4. Summarize your Microsoft FY18 scorecard alignment and co-sell capabilities in time for the Microsoft account planning cycle

 

Maximize Microsoft Inspire

Microsoft Inspire (formerly the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference) will be held July 9-13, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Inspire is a great opportunity to learn about Microsoft’s product and channel strategy, engage Microsoft partner sales teams, and advance your own channel development objectives.

Inspire is also the forum where Microsoft recognizes its most productive partners with awards. The Microsoft Partner of the Year awards provide credibility for customer, channel, and Microsoft engagement and garners over 2,800 award entries from 115 countries. I’m thrilled to share that 2 Competegy clients won Partner of the Year awards this year: PROS (Global Commercial ISV award) and ICONICS (Application Development award). Competegy clients have won a total of 6 Microsoft Partner of the Year awards over the past 6 years!

I’ve attended 11 Inspire/WPC events and have always found them to be the most productive days of the year. Maximize your Inspire results through the suggestions below.

Maximize Microsoft Inspire

Define Event Objectives

Inspire provides a host of learning and networking opportunities including keynotes, product and marketing sessions, evening receptions, regional lounges, side meetings, scheduled networking, and the expo hall. Most valuable of these is the capability to set up 1 on 1 meetings with other attendees. In general, prioritize side meetings because most of the session content is available afterwards.

Recruit New Partners

There are over 40 half-hour meeting slots available (49 if you include the Sunday arrival day) and a scheduling tool (MyInspire) to locate and organize meetings with prospective partners. About half of the 16,000 attendees opt-in to this networking tool. SIs historically represent the largest group of partners attending. If you wish to recruit new partners at Inspire, I recommend the following preparation steps:

  1. Define your target partner criteria (including Microsoft competencies, company size, geography, and company type).
  2. Develop your partner pitch including projected partner revenue. Consider a short term offer to motivate new partners (that expires 90 days after Inspire).
  3. Research potential partners by mining the MyInspire networking tool and correlating with LinkedIn profiles as needed.
  4. Leverage the MyInspire tool to identify attendees, secure meeting space (over 100 tables are provided), and propose meeting times. Contact partners outside of the MyInspire tool if you don’t get a response (MyInspire meeting messages are sometimes lost/ignored).
  5. Document key points during your onsite meeting and follow-up promptly with viable partner prospects after the event.

Exhibiting at Inspire is best if you sell to other partners. If your intent is to partner with other companies, focus your efforts on scheduling the right MyInspire side meetings.

See the Channel Development Best Practices whitepaper for insight on recruiting channel partners.

Refresh Marketing Plans with Existing Partners

Microsoft budgets and priorities reset July 1 so Inspire is the perfect time to engage partners in context of those Microsoft directives. Meet with your existing partners at Inspire to discuss co-marketing plans and sales-coordination.

  1. Understand your own partner co-marketing objectives, budget, and campaigns.
  2. Identify your existing partners attending Inspire (using the MyInspire tool).
  3. Schedule onsite partner meetings to define H2 marketing plans.
  4. Understand Microsoft FY18 strategy and incentives as articulated in Inspire keynotes and sessions.
  5. Meet with partners to document joint marketing plans.

Grow Microsoft Co-Sell Relationships

Over 4,000 Microsoft employees attend Inspire. Microsoft enterprise sales teams don’t attend so focus your efforts on meeting Microsoft partner enablement roles including Partner Sales Executives, Industry Sales Executives, Partner Business Evangelists, and Marketing Managers. Seek side meetings product group speakers that align with your solution. If you are a managed partner, request Microsoft senior executive meetings via your PSE or GTM Lead.

Prepare for Microsoft meetings as follows:

  1. Create pithy talking points for your Microsoft FY17 accomplishments (in context of Microsoft priorities) as well as what you want to achieve with Microsoft in FY18.
  2. Research relevant Microsoft attendees and schedule side meetings using MyInspire.
  3. Microsoft should have determined FY17 managed partners before Inspire, so kick off go-to-market planning with your PSE/GTM Lead at Inspire, in context of whatever partner status you’ve attained by then.
  4. Seek out and participate in side events including roundtables, meetings, meetups, and parties. Your PSE, PBE, or GTM Lead can help identify these opportunities (the ISV and NSP Kickoff meeting and the US EPG Partner Meeting are particularly useful).
  5. Document meaningful conversations and follow-up. Note that Microsoft has internal training (Microsoft Ready, Microsoft ISU) and vacations in July so don’t expect material progress until August/September.

See the Co-Selling with Microsoft Best Practices and 10 Tips for Partnering with Microsoft whitepapers for insight on maximizing your Microsoft alliance.

Learn About Microsoft Product and Channel Strategy

Use the MyInspire session catalog to determine top priority sessions to attend (as well as alternates in case the content or presenter isn’t compelling). Attend only sessions essential to your business (keynotes and select breakouts). Most content is available afterwards as PowerPoint files and video, so prioritize onsite meetings and diligently review the content afterwards.

Engage presenters after their session if they are important to your business. Also look for opportunities to network with Microsoft attendees at side events. There are excellent contacts to be made everywhere at Inspire.

See the Top Takeaways from Microsoft WPC 2016 for insight on last year’s partner conference themes. See the Microsoft Acronyms for Partners to decode Microsoft jargon.

About MyInspire

Seek to book 30+ meetings with the MyInspire networking app (available June 7). Leverage the delegation feature if you aren’t detail oriented or don’t have the time to manage your schedule yourself.

Unfortunately, many Microsoft attendees do not opt-in for MyInspire (they need to reserve time for their high-priority partners). Request those Microsoft meetings well in advance through existing relationships.

Save visits to the Expo for those meetings that fall through. The exhibitor area is typically nearby and serves as good filler for those inevitable schedule gaps.

For both Microsoft and partner meetings, have a defined “offer” in mind that encourages action. Follow-up promptly afterwards where there is partnering potential, summarizing common interests and next steps.

Next Steps

Competegy provides partner search, meeting management, and evangelism services at Microsoft Inspire. Learn more about partnering with Microsoft via the Competegy ISV Strategy Blog and join the Microsoft ISV LinkedIn Group to discuss cloud, mobile and channel development strategy.

 

What’s New for Microsoft 2017 Partner of the Year Awards

Every year Microsoft recognizes partners delivering innovative customer solutions at their annual partner conference (formerly the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, now Microsoft Inspire).

WPC16
The award nomination tool is now open for submissions and all entries must be received by April 6, 2017.

This year there are a few changes to the available award categories. New additions include:

  • Global ISV Alliance: reserved for a WW DX-managed ISV that leverages cutting edge Azure technology.
  • Cloud Apps: recognizes an SI partner that has designed, developed, and deployed Azure apps for Enterprise customers. Cloud Platform and Application Integration competencies are required.
  • Customer Experience: recognizes a partner who demonstrates an exceptional ability to manage customer demand and exceed expectations. A PowerPoint presentation and customer references are required.
  • Mobile App Development: recognizes a partner who has delivered mobile solutions based on Xamarin. Application Development or DevOps competency (or participation in the Xamarin Partner Program) is required.

A number of award categories were removed, some reflecting Microsoft’s retirement of competencies that don’t focus on cloud or mobility:

  • Volume Licensing
  • Software Asset Management
  • OEM
  • Hosting
  • Microsoft Azure Certified for Hybrid Cloud
  • Microsoft Azure Certified ISV Solution
  • Dynamics Industry
  • Modern Marketing

The nomination process is similar to last year. See the 10 Tips to Winning a Partner Award for proven best practices in writing a winning award nomination!

10 Tips to Winning a Microsoft Partner Award

It is that time of year again: the countdown to Microsoft’s annual partner conference (Inspire) where Microsoft strategy is shared with the channel and top performing partners are recognized. The Microsoft Partner award nomination tool is now available and submissions are accepted until April 6, 2017.

Inspire2017

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 field sales engagement.

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. That’s a lot of competition!

As a former partner award judge (and enabler of 8 Partner of the Year award wins), 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 the award writing process to invigorate your Microsoft partner relationship.
  11. BONUS TIP: Pursue subsidiary awards

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:

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