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How to Align Sales with the Changing Geometry of IT


Partners and vendors need to change the way they sell to customers given the latest advances in technology and how it is delivered. Joe Batista says he’s seen his share of changes in IT sales during his 40 years collectively at HPE (pre-divestiture from HP) and Dell EMC.

Batista, who left Dell last September and now advises partners and vendors, says the client engagement has changed. During his keynote session, May 2, at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Batista will share his observations and discuss how the sales process needs to evolve based on changes in customer needs and expectations.

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Channel Partners: The title of your session, the Changing Geometry of IT, is intriguing. What’s the meaning behind it?

Joe Batista: If you look at the tech industry, as we all know, it's changing rapidly. And it's not only changing from a triangle to a square, but it’s also changing from a square to a polygon to an octagon. Everything is changing. And the question becomes, everyone's looking at superficial change, but what is the vector that's changing?

CP: What vectors are changing?

JB: The Gartners, the Forresters and the IDCs look at trends, and they come up with the same boring trends every year. It's AI, it's mobile first, it's cloud. But the vector underneath is, what's changing that trajectory? Why aren't people going to the cloud? Or why are sales changing? I call them the vector, and the vector changes the geometry of how IT behaves. If you understand that, you can align the resources of your company.

Joe Batista

CP: What are some of the key vectors you will be discussing?

JB: In the old days, we used to sell the features and the benefits of a product. And the big "aha" for almost two decades was solution selling. And then a few years ago, we got the big brainchild of consumption models — Dell has Apex, HPE has GreenLake. We go from selling feature benefits to a collection of products called solutions, to now this whole thing called consumption. What customers are really looking for is beyond business outcomes; they're looking for value creation.

CP: How is that changing the customer relationship?

JB: I've done more than 20,000 sales calls in my career, and more than 3,000 executive briefings. From my experience, customers are very uneven. To keep with the geometry analogy, customers aren't even. If you can understand them deeply, then you can begin to align and figure out what that structure looks like.

CP: What about partner relationships with vendors? Should they be paring down the number of vendors they work with, or increasing them?   

JB: What I see – which is not substantiated by any research or analytics but just my observation – is that through much of my career, customers always love to disintermediate vendors. So they had these stovepipes. For networking they might go with Cisco, EMC for storage, etc., and this is a very disintermediating approach. And they would rationalize it by saying they would get best-of-breed, and then lowest cost by domain. I think what's happened, is that the complexity index has gone through the roof, that argument of best-in-breed, and the complexity that goes with it, doesn't really hold the savings. Now customers are trying to pick one, two or three vendors, and just standardize. That's a great opportunity for channel partners.

CP: So you think partners should work with fewer vendors?

JB: Yes, there’s too much overlap. And I see I see a lot of channel partners moving to adjacencies. If they're good in one area, they'll move to an adjacency like security, or if they do storage they may move to an adjacency like data. I think that's another winning strategy for channel partners.

CP: How is the current economic climate impacting where partners should shift their focus?  

JB: I'm not a futurist; I don't predict the future. I like to create it. ... You should focus on the muscle that allows you to pivot and have the greatest flexibility. When [New England Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick hires players, the player might play safety, but he might also play cornerback. So you need to build in that flexibility, or the ability to pivot so that when the context changes, you're extremely flexible to accommodate the new realities.

CP: How will you break that down?

JB: I'm going to present three or four frameworks of what the dialogue should look like between your brand and the client, so that you can unlock more value between you and the customer. And I'm going to give them three or four frameworks that create value for the customer.

Channel Partners Conference & Expo