IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Industry Insight: A Critical Component of a Channel Pro’s Business Strategy

Whether it’s engaging with consumers, deploying branch offices, or meeting regulatory requirements, channel partners need to understand what keeps their customers up at night. By Ariel Cruz

Master agents and channel pros face increasing pressure to focus their business development strategies on growing revenue from existing customers, rather than chasing new ones. One way to do that is to integrate new offerings, particularly IoT-enabled solutions for specific applications, into service portfolios. The broader goal is to develop strategic, advisory relationships with customers. Such relationships, meanwhile, are built on a foundation of trusttrust that is earned through empathy and an understanding of critical business requirements.

Put simply, you need to know what keeps your customers up at night. A good place to start is by developing industry-specific knowledge of your customers’ business challenges and priorities. Such insight can then help you transform a commodity technology sale into a strategic, value-add solution that makes you an indispensable part of your customer’s leadership team.

Take network connectivity and cybersecurity. Everyone needs circuits and firewalls, right? But if that’s all you have to offer, your value proposition is limited to abstract features and benefits or, even worse, the lowest price you can absorb. In either case, you’re just another box in the cereal aisle. But what if you frame your connectivity and security offering in the context of a critical industry problem? This gives you a better chance of standing out in a crowd of generic vendorsand in the process, establishing yourself as a strategic partner. Consider these examples:

IT/Operational Integration

For manufacturers, network connectivity means addressing the longstanding challenge of integrating IT and factory floor operations. While these functions have traditionally been managed as discrete islands, convergence is essential to driving automation, enabling smart factory capabilities, and supporting Internet of Things (IoT) applications. By restricting worker access to shop floors, while at the same time boosting demand for certain products, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified competitive pressure to drive automated “ghost factories.”

From a security standpoint, manufacturers are particularly concerned about protecting IoT systems that, by virtue of linking vast arrays of networks and devices, create almost endless potential points of vulnerability. In other words, the real-time interconnectivity and openness of IoT systems are the same attributes that present risk. This makes the ability to shrink attack surfaces and contain the damage of any breach imperative.

Connecting to (and with) Customers

Retailers, meanwhile, face a brutally disruptive business climate that puts network connectivity and bandwidth at the forefront of technology requirements. At a basic level, processing pandemic-fueled volumes of online transactions is essential. Innovators moving away from brick-and-mortar models need fast and flexible connectivity for pop-up locations. Traditionalists sticking with storefronts need bandwidth to support digital signage, beacons, and smart interactive screens. And all retailers require connectivity to collect, analyze, and learn from data in order to better understand and respond to customer interests.

Security priorities for retailers center on protecting customers’ financial data. Relatedly, they need to align with Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance regulations, which involve a wide range of vulnerability assessments and detailed checklists. Many retailersparticularly smaller ones that lack resources for cybersecurityfail to comply with these standards and risk facing significant fines and penalties.

Integrate and Expand

Many financial services organizations today are focused on customer engagement along with optimized operational efficiency. To address these priorities, flexible connectivity capabilities are essential to support bandwidth-intensive applications and digital branch locations with minimal staff and advanced, personalized self-service capabilities. In addition to driving transformational initiatives, banks and insurers need to modernize existing infrastructure and transition to cloud-based delivery models to integrate legacy systems with new platforms.

Since financial data presents such an attractive target to cybercriminals, security concerns focus on protecting physical and virtual networks. More specifically, financial services organizations need to protect increasing numbers of remote workers accessing sensitive data from home offices. Continually evolving regulatory requirements pose an additional challenge.

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