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The channel isn't just about sales, says Billy MacInnes, it's also a mine of information and advice
Image: Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

5 July 2024

What two words do you think can best be used to describe channel businesses (apart from ‘channel businesses’). I bet a lot of you replied ‘trusted advisers’. After all, it’s a label that’s become a large part of the job description over the years. No wonder when, for the most part, a large part of what channel companies do is provide advice to prospective customers. They’re not unique in that regard, though.

Plenty of shops will give you advice when you’re looking to buy something like a TV or a bicycle or a car. In fact, advice is something that can be found and freely given in quite a few places. Sometimes when it’s not even wanted.

But when it comes to technology, the quality of advice and whether it can be trusted or not, is becoming ever more important as companies become ever more reliant on their IT and, as a consequence, ever more vulnerable if something goes wrong with it.

I mention this because of a recent article on the MicroScope website concerning some research by Sage which found that more than half of resellers had “reported an increased role in providing strategic advice over the past year”.

Sippora Veen, vice-president of global partner marketing at Sage, argued that partners would have to “start looking at a much more advisory approach to your customers, because you’re now able to offer technologies that are allowing them to change the way that they do business”. In other words, as the impact of technology on the business becomes more pronounced, the advice becomes more valuable.

Similarly, the greater the impact of the technology, the more requirement to ensure the business is more secure andmore reactive while remaining compliant, The problem for many customers is that they don’t have the resources to address the greater responsibility attached to the greater influence of technology on their business.

“All of that suggests that partners are going to have to step up,” Veen said.

Of course, the corollary of the greater role of IT within the business is the heightened risk that resellers have to try and manage for their customers. The greater the risk, the greater the burden of trust placed on the channel partner aka the trusted adviser. In fact, the role of trusted adviser becomes far more significant as IT expands into and across the business because it becomes increasingly about the impact on the business rather than the technology.

But as the role of trusted adviser becomes more influential, it also becomes more dangerous and leaves the channel business more exposed to risk. Is there a limit to just how ‘trusted’ a channel partner can be – or even want to be? I suspect there may well be. There’s a danger that as technology helps customers to change they way they do business, it also forces channel businesses to change what they do, perhaps not as comfortably as they’d like.

Let me leave you to reflect on this. The common complaint of someone offering advice that another person has foolishly taken is always: “If I told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it”? But thinking on it the other day, it struck me how odd it is that no one ever thinks to reply: “Hold on, what kind of pyschopath would tell their friend to jump off a cliff?”

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