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RingCentral Exec Urges Partners to Own Customer Life Cycle

Customer life cycle

The partners who provide more pre- and post-sale services to their customers will form stickier accounts.

So says Brandon Thomas, assistant vice president of partner success at RingCentral, who is encouraging partners to own more of the customer relationship.

Thomas will host the session, "The Road to Partner Independence," at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, March 11-14, at the Venetian Las Vegas. His abstract contends that partners who "fully own the sales process" will see a lower cost of customer acquisition, shorter sales cycles and lower value.

He added in an interview with Channel Futures that vendors like RingCentral are increasingly incentivizing this behavior.

Thomas spoke to Channel Futures about owning the customer relationship and other topics in his upcoming session.

Channel Partners: Your session abstract talks about partners who have started “owning more of the customer relationship.” What has that looked like for some of the technology advisors (agents) who have sold RingCentral? What are some elements of them taking on more ownership? Where is a good place to start for agents that are new to professional services?

Brandon Thomas: Professional services are certainly a part of it, but the idea of owning the full relationship starts way before that. I’m talking about fully owning the entire pre-, during- and post-sales process independent of vendor involvement.

At RingCentral we enable this through our Ignite sales model, under which the partner can register the deal, generate quotes, finalize customer contracts and own implementation, ongoing support and upsell. This allows them to add value as the customer’s sole point of contact and go-to resource for all things communications, and eventually, IT.

Of course, vendors can still support where needed for joint customers, but it’s the trusted relationship the partner establishes that allows them to differentiate themselves and create a stickier relationship with that customer.

To get partners started, vendors need to put the tools, resources and processes in place to equip them for success. At RingCentral this takes a few forms: developing new portal capabilities to support both deal progression and escalations or support issues, and providing ongoing training like our Certified Delivery Partner and Expert Services Desk certifications.

CP: Some agents say they don’t plan on adding professional services like implementation unless the vendor or customer requires it or is willing to pay more. Do you anticipate the vendor community offering more incentives for partners that adopt more of the life cycle?

BT: Simply put, when a partner takes on more responsibility, they deserve more in return. Any vendor who overlooks this, deliberately or incidentally, will eventually fall out of favor.

There are a number of ways vendors can reward partners who go the extra mile: increased residual compensation, SPIFFs or other incentives. And yes, we have already implemented some of these for our own partners.

CP:  You in your abstract envision the partner providing more “end-to-end support.” How do you view the difference between support and management?

BT: RingCentral has historically provided managed services on behalf of its agent partners, while MSPs selling RingCentral have often chosen to manage it themselves. Would this push for partner independence reflect a merging of those two worlds?

To a degree, yes, there’s certainly some blurring of the lines there. This is a continuation of a trend we’ve been seeing in the channel for years. It’s true that much of RingCentral’s past history was built upon the agency model, but over time, more and more partners have gravitated toward a managed service model, though with varying degrees of what they take on. Our goal is to meet partners wherever they are on their journey and help them progress toward that value-added position of owning more day-to-day customer management.

Also, Gartner recently noted that the enterprise IT labor shortage will require companies to turn more toward managed services. So while vendors should always support when they are called in for large or otherwise complex deals, the general trend shows successful partners shifting from resellers to active advisors; [for example], independently owning more of the customer relationship.

CP:  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

BT: I briefly touched on how a partner can add value for their customer when they’re equipped to serve as the sole point of contact – mainly, the partner cements their role as an end-to-end expert, ensuring a front-row seat for the next deal. Additionally, the partner can react and respond quickly in a dynamic situation, whether it be a technical issue or market adaptation.

But there’s an economic benefit as well. When a partner can pursue and close new business independent of vendor involvement, it lowers the cost of customer acquisition, improving margin.

Lots of vendors talk about being channel-first or partner-friendly, but here’s where they can prove it – by recognizing the efforts of their partners who have put in the time and effort to become experts, and passing along a greater share.

RingCentral, sales, Channel Partners Conference & Expo