Happy New Year, West Region Partners!
Let me begin the year by thanking you for the tremendously strong start you gave us to the first six months of our fiscal year. Now at the halfway mark, I am confident that the next six months will be even stronger, particularly with the exciting launches of Vista, Office and Exchange.
As I’ve traveled in the West over the last several months, partners have often asked how I think about business opportunity and what advice I would give in terms of aligning with Microsoft initiatives. Since this is the first communication of the year, I thought it might be helpful to frame my thoughts in terms of the customer trends I’m seeing, as well as the traits I see with very successful partners, and finally, tie that to the actions I’d recommend you take at this time.
In our SMB market, I’m seeing more and more customers partnering with their IT teams to create a competitive advantage for them in the market. This takes several forms:
· Increasing business efficiency through IT-enabled process improvements
· Driving growth through richer customer relationships, new customer acquisition and retention
· Controlling IT costs
· Ensuring compliance
At the same time, I’ve seen more customers moving to place a bet on fewer, more strategic vendors – a strategy that aligns well with the single, integrated platform that Microsoft offers. In fact, Redmondmag.com recently published a feature article on this trend entitled, “Real Simple.” In that article, Mike Gilpin, vice president and research director at Forrester Research said, “Some companies will be able to solve all or most of the IT problems with Microsoft technology and should probably consider going with all-Microsoft solutions…interestingly, you hear a lot about the risks of mono-culture…however, I have yet to see a business case that would demonstrate to me the sheer business value of taking a heterogeneous approach simply to avoid a mono-culture.” So, there is a great deal of opportunity in the SMB market, coupled with the largest product launches in our company’s history.
The following are two successful partner traits that I would highlight for you:
1. Stay current on market trends and experience the world from the customer’s perspective.
To help customers leverage the value that technology can provide, it is crucial to understand trends in the market and to ask the right questions about a customer’s business objectives. What economic factors are driving them? Is your customer most concerned with growth? Cost optimization? Cash flow? Compliance issues? Having insight into these drivers will enable you to align your solutions most effectively.
2. Become the customer’s trusted technology advisor.
Dealing with their own business issues is challenging enough for a customer, without also having to stay current on technology trends. There is so much to consider, from hardware to software-as-a-service, virtualization, connectivity and storage options – the options can be so overwhelming that it may be more comfortable to do nothing. As a Microsoft partner, you have the opportunity to become a trusted advisor, translating new technologies into meaningful solutions that help meet their business objectives faster and more efficiently than ever before.
Let’s now look at some concrete actions you can take for your Microsoft business.
3. Become skilled in translating the Microsoft road map into customer value.
This is the key differentiator of very successful partners. The ability to help a customer envision how technology can deliver value to their business, in their terms, is the hallmark of great sales professionals. Microsoft offers a number of tools to help you do this. Our marketing model uses the Customer Campaign framework to address trends and key customer challenges. It provides messaging, customer offers and training that can help you deliver more compelling solutions. You can find information here: https://partner.microsoft.com/US/salesmarketing/createdemand/marketingcenter/.
4. Partner with other partners to offer end-to-end solutions.
Since very few partners provide services and solutions that address the complete Microsoft technology platform, I believe that strong partner relationships are a critical success factor in being able to offer the end-to-end solutions customers are looking for. We provide a number of ways for you to develop these partnerships, from local community events to online resources, such as Networking with Microsoft Partners – you can find that information here: https://partner.microsoft.com/US/program/partnernetworking/).
Thank you again for your partnership. I look forward to many successes with you in the coming year!
All the best,