Thursday, May 16, 2024

Join Me at ChannelPro Live - Columbus - June 5-6

I am honored to be presenting a couple of times at the ChannelPro Live event in Columbus, OH next month. Please join me there, if you can.

AND I'm very pleased to say that the good folks at ChannelPro have invited the entire board of directors of the National Society of IT Service Providers to meet there and hold our first in-person board meeting and team building event.

ChannelPro events are always filled with great information and networking. Please plan to join us if you can. 


ChannelPro LIVE: Columbus
June 5-6
Hyatt Regency Columbus

Register now at https://columbus.channelpronetwork.com/e/2138610096.

Secure your spot with promo code “NSITSP” when you register.


100% free for qualified channel partners, ChannelPro’s vibrant regional events feature hours of networking time, exclusive vendor demos and deals, dining and entertainment, and masterclasses presented by renowned channel experts on topics integral to MSP success.  

I will be attending to present on how to effectively market MSP professionalism. You can review the full agenda here - https://events.channelpronetwork.com/2024-channelpro-live-columbus.

Event passes, access to all sessions, dining and prizes is 100% free for qualified channel partners—simply register with promo code “NSITSP”. PLUS, if you book your hotel room directly through the registration page, ChannelPro will reimburse the full cost of your stay for the night of June 5. If you can only make it to the main day on June 6—that's not a problem at all.  

I really hope you can make it on June 5-6—I think it’s going to be a fun and educational experience for you.

Let me know if you have any questions! Thanks,  

- Karl  P.

:-)

Note: ChannelPro is a valued support and vendor partner of the NSITSP - The National Society of IT Service Providers. You can learn more at https://www.nsitsp.org.


Friday, May 10, 2024

Why don't people know WHY their job exists?

Because KPIs teach them to value the wrong thing !!!

More and more, I have come to believe that there's one fundamental reason for almost all bad service: People do not know why their job exists.

How is that possible? Well, it's surprisingly easy. People apply for jobs based on some specific "requirements" that get them in the door. Requirements are not job descriptions. Requirements do not reflect mission, vision, and values.

More importantly, requirements to GET a job are frequently unrelated to providing great service. That's normal. For example, you might need a vendor certification (e.g., Cisco firewalls) in order to get hired on at a new company. But the skills you need every day are general troubleshooting, client communications, and attention to detail. Your cert gets you an interview. It's not related to your job.

BUT the problem is much bigger than that. 

How do companies measure performance? Answer: Horribly!

As a rule, companies FAIL to tell employees why their job exists. They are given tasks, not reasons. And while good client communication is important, what gets measured? Time on tickets. Time to close. Response time. Upselling services. 

In other words, employees have KPIs (so-call "Key" Performance Indicators) thrown in their face every day. Ticket close times are posted on dashboards. Sometimes, close rates are posted on the wall. Sometimes, everyone's performance is compared to everyone else on a big spreadsheet.

Employees are told every week, every day, and every hour that they're being measured on the big red or green number on their dashboard. They're not being measured on actual service. They're not measured on contributing to a positive culture. They're not being measured on whether they're team players. 

In fact, when they have to compete with their friends, who wants to do anything for the so-called team? It's far more likely that they see employees as one team and the company as the other. They are alienated from pride in their own work.

... And then there's an annual performance review. 

Once a year, someone judges them on morale and communications and being a team player. But every day they've been judged on arbitrary targets that have a very questionable connection to actual service delivery.

People can be forgiven for not knowing why their job exists. They're too focused on KPIs that someone needs to measure because someone else told them they should. In reality, no one can really explain why those KPIs exist, except as a way to compare companies. On measures that are unrelated to actual service delivery.

It's worth spending some time with your employees. Ask the very simple question: Why do you think your job exists? Why is this question important? Because it gets to the root of what the company actually needs from the employee. And it helps the employee understand where their job fits in the bigger picture.

For more perspective on KPIs, what to measure, and what not to measure, check out this recorded webinar: https://mspwebinar.com/measuring-success/. Free. No sales. Really.

:-)


Sunday, May 05, 2024

Scoundrels in the Workplace - Employees and Employers

Over Employment is is the opposite of over-working!

In the pandemic era (2020-2022), there was lots of talk about whether remote work was going to be permanent. I always held the opinion that some people would stay remote because bosses learned what's possible - and how to manage people remotely. But I also believed that most people would go back to the office for a variety of reasons.

And, overall, most of the people in the world would finally get a realistic introduction to remote work. In the world of tech, many of us have done some remote work for thirty years. And all of us have been able to do 90% of our jobs remotely for at least fifteen years.

For me, the most unanticipated trend to emerge from the remote work movement was the emergence of a new generation of scoundrels in the workplace. For a taste of this, see the site https://overemployed.com/ or just Google "over employment."

Over employment is basically taking two or more fulltime jobs. That's the basic description without commentary. Once I start to add my thoughts to the mix, I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks this is ethical.

Note: This is NOT a discussion of contractors who take on multiple fractional engagements. This is not holding down two or more part-time jobs. These folks collect fulltime salaries from employers for multiple fulltime jobs. If the jobs actually require fulltime work, then I believe these folks are thieves. The most generous thing you can say about them is that they are giving one or more employers less than a good fulltime effort.

If you've already put in forty hours with another company, and then you want to put in another forty hours, that second forty hour block is going to be far less effective, creative, or productive. If you add a third forty-hour job, then it's probably the case that no one is getting their money's worth.

If your response is, "It's the employer's fault for making it possible for me to take their money and give them little or no work in return," you have seriously flawed ethical standards. 

In fact, if you read through the web sites dedicated to this concept, you'll find stories about over-working, massive stress, and schemes to get away with something that everyone agrees is wrong. BUT, they're "sticking it to the man," so it's okay. The overall theme is, "do whatever it takes to get the money, but do as little productive work as possible." In other words, massive effort can be expelled to log into multiple sites, keep your mouse moving to trick tracking systems, and generate random emails from appropriate addresses all day long. Just don't do anything you're being paid for.

Like all other trends where someone's getting rich, there are a few people earning $750,000 or more holding down multiple jobs and doing little or no actual work. Their strategy is to just cash checks until they get fired, then move on to the next fake job.

Most people can't (and don't want to) work this hard at stealing money from nameless, faceless employers. But it does raise the question: Is this just a big pay-back for bad bosses over the years? Is all of this made possible because there are lots and lots of horrible bosses?

I'm afraid the answer is YES. Many of the people who read this blog became independent consultants because of horrible bosses. In fact, horrible, immoral bosses who care more about money and their own bonuses than they ever did about their team or company culture are everywhere.


Looking Forward: Do What's Right

None of us can change the past. But we all control how we will behave in the future.

Luckily for my readers, this is really a problem for large businesses. If you only have ten or twenty employees, you probably work closely enough to know whether or not you're getting value for what you pay. And, to be honest, your culture is still something you can control from the top down every day. If you have a slacker giving 20% effort, that's really your fault.

BUT, we operate in a world where this behavior exists and is growing. Eventually, those scoundrels will become victims to the pyramid in which they are currently a a brick in the wall. When that happens, they'll come looking for a real job. Most of them have enough technical skills to get an entry level tech job, fake up their resume, and interview well. But their "work ethic" has been completely focused on pretending to work. 

These folks might learn to be good, hard workers. But you can't guarantee that. Here's what you need to do going forward. (Note, most of this is common sense, old advice that you've been ignoring for years. Now you have to actually do it.)

1. Verify resume information. Ask for and verify references.

2. Ask for and verify transcripts or proof of training.

3. Give applicants simple, reasonable skills tests. Ideally, this will be in your office so you can monitor.

4. Sign employment contracts that state the number of hours expected, along with job requirements.

5. Keep your employees engaged with good culture, decent pay, and a great work place.


Please do not go down the road of the big, faceless corporations that caused this problem in the first place. That means, do not monitor their email, their camera, their mouse movement, and so forth. Yes, there are tools to spy on your employees. But if you use them, you will create a layer of expense that only serves the purpose of alienating your workers.

For the most part, we want to believe we are exempt from these problems in small business. But doesn't that sound like the client who says that they're too small to be victims of a phishing attack? 

The world of employment has changed. And whether you like it or not, this affects your business. You are now hiring in this environment and these folks are out there. Luckily, the steps you need to take are simple and inexpensive. 

And they're just plain good business, too. Luckily, most works take pride in their work and gain fulfillment from a job well done. This is particularly true in companies with a good culture and a long-term view of the future.

-- -- -- 

Have you experienced the effects of "over employment" or something similar? I'd love to hear about it.


Additional Related Material

We covered this a bit (ten minutes) on the Killing It Podcast:

https://killingit.smallbizthoughts.com/2023/10/episode-205-overworking-ai-ar-and-more/ 
(Overworking topic begins at the five minute mark.)


I did a Relax Focus Succeed video about a recent Internet blow-up regarding employees and employers. Basically, it's a conversation about how people should go into the marketplace whether looking for a job or looking for an employee.

My main point there is that we should start from a place of honesty. But, obviously, that's a complicated thing. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNUN7P6rIsk

:-)


Monday, April 29, 2024

Gozynta's Eureka Process Announces the Launch of their Groundbreaking Growth Program for MSPs

I got this Press Release from my friends at Gozynta . . .

Gozynta's Eureka Process Announces the Launch of their Groundbreaking Growth Program for MSPs

April, 2024 -

The Growth Program by Eureka Process represents a unique blend of the company's extensive expertise, crafted to support MSPs at any stage of their growth, whether at the inception of their business journey or when looking for a successful exit. This program aims to address the challenges MSPs face, including hiring difficulties, navigating mergers and acquisitions, enhancing service delivery, and much more, with a personalized approach tailored to each MSP's specific needs.

Eureka Process, a Gozynta company, renowned for its comprehensive process, tools, and strategic consulting services within the MSP industry, announces the launch of its innovative Growth Program designed specifically for MSPs seeking sustainable growth and operational excellence.

Heather Johnson, co-founder&COO of Gozynta, as well as the mind behind the Growth Program, describes it:

“It’s like having a C-suite of advisors that help you along the way… MSPs should always be prepared for what lies around the corner and not scramble when emergencies arise. That is what we are here to help achieve.”

The program covers all critical areas such as Human Resources, Company Purchases, Service Delivery, Sales and Marketing Coaching, Culture Development, Tools Efficiency Analysis, Personal Support, and Finance & Exit Preparations. Each participant in the Growth Program will also receive a sapling, representing the growth and flourishing partnership between Eureka Process and the MSPs it supports.

Eureka Process' founder, Allen Edwards, says:

"Since the acquisition of Eureka Process, we’ve been working hard to bring our existing expertise and systems to our community in fresh and new ways. With the help of Gozynta’s leadership and support teams, we realized that goal today with the Eureka Growth Program.."

The Growth Program will also be featured in the upcoming YouTube series hosted by MSP Media Network, “How to Grow an MSP,” premiering this summer. Tune in for an inspiring look into the program’s impact on Processor Centre, fall in love with the people, the story, and the mission, and really see the Growth Program in action.

The Eureka Growth Program is accepting applications from MSPs looking to elevate their business operations, strategic positioning, and, ultimately, their market success. To sign up for your call with the Eureka team, email [email protected] for any questions.

###


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

MSP Professional Sales - 5 week class starts April 23rd

The MSP Professional Sales Program - 5W22

Taught by James Kernan

Five Tuesdays - April 23 - May 21

Register Now - Only $399

All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific


Want to master MSP sales? 

Do you want to stand out from your competitors and win more Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)?  How about winning more business from existing customers and becoming “sticky” so you are the top-of-mind partner when opportunities arise?  By using the “Value Based Selling” sales process you will be more successful in sales!

This course will give you your own Sales Playbook template that you can customize to make your own. Get everyone on your team following the same blueprint to success!

We will help teach you how to get leads from your strategic partners and how to run more marketing campaigns for a fraction of the price of your competitors.  We will give you our Annual Marketing Plan template so you can develop your own series of campaigns that will work in your local geography.

Whether you are an owner operator that wants to improve your sales skills, or one who is starting to hire a team, you need a sales process for ALL to follow.  In this course you will learn the “Value Based Consultative Sales” process. This is an 8-step process that will help you quickly move from qualifying to closing.  Then more importantly, keeping the customer for life with QBR’s (Quality Business Reviews)

We will give you over 10 (ten) handout exercises that will help you create your own Sales Playbook, Annual Marketing Plan, Sales Process, Qualifying Process, and more!

Furthermore, we will teach you what to do when the customer says no to your recommendations by giving you tips and techniques to win the deal.  Other documents provided are Denial of Services Letter, Letter of Understanding, Assessment Presentation template, QBR Checklist and USP.   We will help you stand out from your competition, by helping you develop your unique selling proposition.

Weekly Agenda:

1. What is Value Based Selling?

  • Why value-based selling is best
  • 5 principles of value-based selling
  • Matching your solution to their business challenge


2. Qualifying

  • Why you do not chase after every opportunity
  • 8 step process to qualify all opportunities
  • The power of NO


3. Sales Process

  • 7 step sales cycle
  • Emotional sales cycle
  • The customers buying process


4. Framework for Successful Sales Departments

  • Create your Sales Plan
  • Goals/KPIs
  • Compensation Plans
  • Sales Skill Training/Mentoring
  • Staffing the sales team


5. Negotiating/Closing

  • How to overcome objections
  • Trial closes
  • How to ask for the order
  • Letter of Understand technique


About James Kernan

James Kernan is the author of the 36 Month Millionaire Program, and recently published books, Leadership Essentials for Successful Executives and Business Tips. For the past 12 years, James has served as a Principal Consultant for Kernan Consulting and provides Coaching, Advising and Mentoring programs to entrepreneurs and leaders. Kernan Consulting offers One on One Coaching, CEO Peer Groups, M&A Consulting and online training programs.

James is a frequent speaker for TechSelect, CompTIA, XChange, Convergence, Robin Robins Bootcamp, HTG, Mastermind Peer Groups, SMB Nation, SMB TechFest, and Microsoft IAMCP events. He has been recognized and written up as an extraordinary “example of success” in industry publications such as CRN, Business Solutions, VAR Business, CRM Today, and Inc. Magazine.

:-)


Monday, April 15, 2024

Community Members - Join Our Marketing Breakout - Starts Thursday

We are VERY excited to kick off the new Community Breakout focused on Marketing!

Sign up for the Zoom meeting now so you'll get the reminders.

Starts Thursday

April 18th 

9:00 AM Pacific


We'll start with a bit of information to set the scene. Then we'll have an open discussion and begin working on helping attendees to create and execute a marketing program over the next five months.

Each month, members will report on their progress - and receive feedback and ideas from their fellow breakout members. Like a mastermind group, it's a great way to exchange ideas and help each other to improve our marketing programs.

Breakouts are a special hybrid of content, member engagement, and peer group. They're highly focused like peer groups that live just long enough to accomplish a set of specific goals. They're not intended to last forever. In other words, they're highly focused and intended to get results!

We will be meeting each month on the Third Thursday for at least five months.

FREE - for Community members only.

Sign-up is easy. 

Log into the Community and go to this link: https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/event/breakout-marketing/

-- -- --

Note: This will NOT be recorded – We want participants to feel very comfortable sharing. Given the nature of the content, recording the session might undermine that.

[Not sure if you're registered? No worries. Just register again. That way, you're guaranteed to get a reminder.]

-- -- --

Not a member and want to attend the Marketing Breakouts? Either send me a cashier's check for $50,000 - or just join the community. Joining is faster and easier.

You can learn more about the community at https://www.smallbizthoughts.org.

:-)

Small Biz Thoughts Community Refresh - What's All the Hubbub, Bub?

 With apologies to Bugs Bunny - There's a lot of hubbub over at the Small Biz Thoughts Technology Community. We have a total refresh of the site, which took more than a year to complete. It's way more than a "paint job" too. Kara, our Community Manager and web developer, built an entire new (and very fast search engine.


If you've ever wondered exactly what's inside the community, now's a great time to look. Our search engine is totally open to the public. Just browse to smallbizthoughts.org. The search engine is found at https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/resource-library/.

You'll see the quick access right away. You can also do a deep dive search of all the content. Once you try to access the content, you'll be asked to log in. 

Memberships start at $799/year for one user. We also have memberships that include an all-access pass to IT Service Provider University. And we have team memberships if you want to give everyone access to the content and the classes.


We Get Questions

Recently, someone was looking for my books and inquired about whether MY books are included in the Community. He assumed not. He assumed wrong. In fact, ALL of my books are available in the Community in all electronic formats (audio, Kindle, PDF, etc.).

Using the Seach Tool:

You do not have to enter a search term. For example, if you just wish to browse content, you can simply pick a drop-down filter by your company roll or department. Or just look for all the books or all the Word documents.

In the search pictured here, the user is looking for the client search term. They are looking for information on strategy or book handouts within the Service Department in Word format. Looks like 58 results. Notice that they are not filtering by the download type (checklist, white paper, calculator, form, class, SOP, etc.).

Two things should be obvious from this exercise. First, we have a massive amount of information. Second, we've made it fast and easy to find.

Once you are on the inside (logged in as a member), there are no limits. You can access everything. Every class, every webinar, every recording, every checklist. Everything.

  • You need sample language for raising rates? We have sample memos.
  • You need employee onboarding forms? We have the forms and the process.
  • You need an annual budget in Excel format? We got that.
  • You need documentation forms for Internet services? We have them.
  • You need basic employee training on DNS, TCP/IP, and DMARC? Yup. We have that, too.
  • Marketing, branding, sales, and motivation? We have materials on EVERYTHING you need!


Overwhelmed? 

We got you covered there, too! We have Roadmaps that focus on specific topics. For example, where do you start with Service Manager materials? If you filter by "Service" and "Management" it filters down to 90 results. But the Service Manager Roadmap boils that down to a few key elements. 

Roadmaps try to present about ten key pieces of content to give you a good head start on all the other content. If there's a particularly good book chapter, form, or checklist, you'll find that in the Roadmap. We know we have an overwhelming amount of material. Roadmaps are intended to get you started as quickly as possible.

Ask: And if you want an hands-on assist, we can do that, too. Members can always email Kara or me and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can. And, even better, we have a Concierge email for members that goes to our entire team. That way, no matter who can answer the question, they are free to jump in and make your life easier.

Check it out today. Visit https://www.smallbizthoughts.org/resource-library/. And we hope to see you inside the community soon!

We exist to serve the SMB IT consultant. Our goal is to make you as successful as possible.

Dig in - and let us know how we can help!

:-)


Thursday, April 11, 2024

AI Nagging - Technology Nagging at a Whole New Level

 Almost since the day the Internet became public, we've had nagware. You know what I mean: Software and apps that get you to install on the promise that there is some FREE benefit. But, whether they have any actual usefulness in the free version, they proceed to nag you to upgrade.


In the most benevolent incarnation, these apps have a simple "nag screen" that you bypass every time you open them. For many of us, this is simply the cost of free software. 

But real nagware is much more than one nag screen. It constantly interrupts you. It constantly begs you to upgrade. In other words, the nagging gets in the way of using the software. Many of us choose to uninstall rather than put up with the constant nagging.

Enter AI . . .

Artificial Intelligence is insanely hot. Some might say irrationally hot, given how few actual AI-enabled applications there are. We're probably at the end of the Peak of Inflated Expectations on the Gartner Hype Cycle (see https://www.gartner.com/en/research/methodologies/gartner-hype-cycle) and we're quickly moving to the Trough of Disillusionment.

For me, a LOT of that disillusionment is the nagging nature of AI chat bots, plugins, and all kinds of "features" I just don't need. These annoyances are filling up my taskbar and the periphery of almost every web site I visit. 

In the 1990's it was, "Do you want fries with that?" Today it's, "Do you want AI with that?" For me - 99% of the time - the answer is NO.

The most annoying is on my phone. Every time there's an update, all the nagging AI turns back on. Personally, I hate predictive text. I know what I want to say. I really do. If you want to offer spell checking, I'll look at that. If you were offering a thesaurus of words that might help me improve my thoughts or better express the full intellectual concept in my head, I might use that.

But what's being offered is the most common next word most commonly used by the most common English-speaking people in North America. It is regression to the mean. It takes all uniqueness that I might have and replaces it with the most average thing anyone has ever said. 

Next up is . . . everything Microsoft. I literally cannot open or use any Microsoft product without having to disable or ignore opportunities for them to up-sell me on technology I don't want. I used to think the EU was going overboard by making Microsoft split up their technology.

Note: I might want AI to help me from time to time. I'm certainly not opposed to it. I do want the option. But I don't want it shoved down my throat like a goose on a feeding tube.

Right now, the state of AI for most users is that it is as annoying pop-up advertisements. I would actually pay money for an app that disabled all offers to add or enable AI to my daily routine.

At this moment in history, I am losing productivity because a noticeable percentage of my work day is spent saying NO to AI!

When it comes to interruption marketing, I have never understood how advertisers came to believe that they could annoy prospects into buying their products and services. In my opinion, that's where we are with AI. First, there's no much "there" there. Second, they feel like they have to push it on me a thousand times in order to get me to jump onboard.

That's not being a good marketing or a good netizen. I want the right to be left alone!

:-)


Tuesday, April 09, 2024

The ASCII Group Celebrates 40 Years of Empowering IT Professionals Through Community

My friends as ASCII slipped this under my door . . .

The ASCII Group Celebrates 40 Years of Empowering IT Professionals Through Community

Washington, DC – April 9, 2024 –The ASCII Group, the original MSP community of the channel, proudly commemorates its 40th anniversary, marking four decades of unwavering commitment to its members and the IT industry at large. Established in 1984 by visionary entrepreneur Alan D. Weinberger, ASCII has been at the forefront of empowering Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and fostering collaboration, growth, and innovation.

Founded in Washington D.C. by Weinberger, alongside 40 ex-franchisees of a software chain, The ASCII Group stemmed from Weinberger's recognition of the pivotal role specialized IT professionals played in the burgeoning IT revolution. Since then, ASCII has remained resolute in its commitment to providing unparalleled support, resources, peer-to-peer education, and networking opportunities to IT professionals across North America while upholding a vendor-neutral stance.

"The ASCII Group celebrates a remarkable milestone! Their steadfast support spanning four decades has not only propelled the IT community forward but has also been instrumental in the growth and success of my company, A2Z Business IT,” said Carl de Prado, ASCII member since 2014. “ASCII's dedication to fostering connections and offering invaluable resources has made a significant difference. Here's to their profound impact on businesses like ours and to many more years of innovation and empowerment!"

Continuing its mission to equip like-minded IT professionals with the necessary tools for business growth, The ASCII Group has expanded its programs, services, and opportunities over the past four decades to meet the evolving needs of its members. By staying attuned to industry trends and embracing emerging technologies, ASCII has incorporated new committees (including its newly established AI Pit Crew), peer groups and networks within its regular community while staying connected with cutting-edge vendor partners and channel developments.

"We take immense pride in reaching this significant landmark in ASCII's history," stated Alan Weinberger, CEO of The ASCII Group. "Looking forward, our commitment to empowering our members and understanding their needs remains steadfast. Additionally, I am deeply proud of the dedicated ASCII team I have assembled. With many staff members having been with me for decades, we have shared this journey together."

The ASCII Group will commemorate its 40-year journey throughout the year, culminating in an anniversary celebration at its ASCII Edge event in Newark, New Jersey, on April 17.

For more information about ASCII Edge, visit https://events.ascii.com/


About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, MSSPs and Solution Providers. The Group has members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national and international reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more. ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of leading and major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com

-30-

:-)

Friday, March 22, 2024

Newbie Terminology: What Is A "Channel" and Why Do I Care?

Our industry has so much jargon that we sometimes fail to define our terms. Folks new to IT consulting (and some older folks as well) might not be familiar with the term "Channel." In fact, some people use the term so broadly that they refer to the entire IT community as the channel. Here are some thoughts, intended to clarity.

The the broadest sense of the word, a channel is an industry-specific ecosystem that includes all the actors from the manufacturer or developer, through the distributor and consultant, to the end end user. One simple channel is displayed in this diagram.

In the IT channel, manufacturers include all the brand names you know and might resell. These might include hardware , software, and services. Distributors include aggregators (so, for example, both Ingram Micro and Sherweb).

From a broader perspective, the channel includes industry magazines, news web sites, industry analysts, podcasters, bloggers, membership communities, and all the folks who put on various events.

We frequently refer to manufacturers and developers as Vendors. Vendors make the physical and digital stuff we sell, including services. And, of course, there are combinations. Some distributors create services, so they are both the developer and the distributor of their services. And some developers combine their creations with others' creations or services and begin to look like mini-distributors.

From time to time, you might hear the terms channel-only or channel-friendly. Channel-only vendors only sell directly to IT consultants (their resellers) or through distributors. They do not sell to end-user clients. The most channel-conscious vendors will connect end users to their resellers.

Channel-friendly companies might be very friendly to their resellers, or they might be less friendly. As a rule, the companies that call themselves channel-friendly try to sell through the channel. But, all too often, they also sell directly to end users. 

And that brings us to the natural tension in channel relationships: It is very tempting for vendors to sell directly to end users and cut out the "middleman." That's you. In the big picture, there's nothing wrong with this - unless the vendor has promised to only sell through the channel. All vendors have this temptation. Over time, fewer and fewer of them manage to resist the temptation completely.

Many vendors openly sell through the channel and directly. Perhaps the largest companies you deal with on this front are Microsoft, HP, and Cisco. If you're an IT reseller, you probably refer to this as vendors competing with their channel partners (resellers). Recently, I heard this referred to as co-selling. When Microsoft first admitted that they were going to go all-out to compete their "partners," they referred to it as disintermediation (see this blog post).

If you ever need a great example of how companies do a bad job of managing channel partnerships, ask someone about their relationship with Dell. Time and time again, Dell revamps their partner program. They promise to protect you and never sell against you. They let you register prospects, so their inside sales people know to leave them alone.

But . . . they also do nothing to change the incentives of inside sales people. And because those folks make money by poaching your clients, they poach your clients. Sales people will do what they are paid to do. So, beware of the actions of your vendor "partners" in addition to their words.

Microsoft has been very honest about their approach. As they were dismantling their partner network and renaming it to eliminate the word partner, their message was: You won't make any money by reselling our products. But you'll make money selling services related to our products. Shockingly, that didn't work very well. So, now you can make a little money. But you have to sell a lot of licenses to make it worth your while.

-- -- -- 

Your Action Steps

If you're new to the concept of channel sales, or the IT channel, you need to decide how much you care. Some people do not include profit from resale into their business model. So, sometimes they make money and sometimes not. Instead, their profit comes 100% from labor - consultation. 

Other companies make a point of working with channel-only vendors whenever possible. This gives them a direct channel for acquiring products and services, and maybe even new clients. And they know that their "partner" will not be competing against them. Note: As I mentioned, pure-play channel-only vendors are becoming harder to find.

Here are a few actions to consider. First, determine how much you care. Will you seek channel-only vendors (or "channel first" or "channel friendly)? Second, evaluate your current suppliers. You may need to have discussions on forums or at conferences to find out how channel friendly your current vendors are. 

Third, learn about the channel commitment of future vendors. Remember, the channel-focused commitment goes both ways. For vendors, the commitment to channel-only sales is a tough decision. They are rewarded when MSPs commit to working as much as possible with channel-only vendors. Building a solution stack made up of exclusively channel-only vendors rewards those vendors who have made the decision to forego direct sales.

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Please let me know if you are new to the channel and would like me to give my two cents on other terminology you've heard. Welcome - and good luck!

:-)