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Nuzoo blog: Has Covid-19 changed the channel forever?

One of the biggest talking points here at Nuzoo is how the pandemic has impacted the relationship between partners, vendors and distributors.

These conversations continued this week as we saw some regions implement more lockdown measures, while others began to slowly open up. But have the changes that technology firms were forced to implement during the pandemic when it came to relationship building impacted the way the channel operates forever? Or we going to revert to how things were, pre-Covid?

We spoke with Scott Walker, senior director for channel and alliances EMEA at Illumio about how the pandemic has affected how the cybersecurity firm engages with partners.

“We used to find ourselves totally engrained in our partners, for example, going to their offices, having 1-1 catchups with various team members, giving time to in-person training sessions etc. We’re used to face-to -ace relationships being what we build our careers on, but when the pandemic hit, that approach had to completely change overnight,” says Scott.

“Vendors like us have had to find new ways of generating brand awareness within the channel but, more importantly, we’ve all had to work out how to work with our partners and continue to enable them to have confident conversations with the end customer and continue to do business.”


First point of call

Scott says the pandemic has not only affected vendors, partners and distributors, but end users also had to change their approach to security. Their first point of call was approaching the channel partners to find out who could add value and support their switch in strategy.

“In times like this, no number can quantify how important the channel is when it comes to reaching end customers, and it’s been up to us as vendors to support them in their role and adapt to the changes brought on by the pandemic,” he says.

One of the biggest challenges as a vendor, he says, has been when it comes to qualifying new partners who they’re unable to meet with in person – and highlights the problem of virtual-only engagement.

“When having those discussions virtually it proves difficult to decipher which partners are compatible as you can’t even guarantee you have their full attention from the other side of a screen. Before the pandemic, those big decision-making meetings would always have been done face-to-face and were much more effective,” he says.

Nevertheless, he notes that one benefit of the pandemic is that it’s brought people together under one common challenge and people have, by design, built relationships off the back of that.

“I’ve found that in virtual settings a lot of people are more relaxed, they open up a lot more. That’s not to say that face to face interaction can ever be replaced with collaboration tools but moving forward I think we’ll have a healthy balance of both.”

 

Meeting high expectations

However, he indicates that there are perhaps unreasonable expectations being placed on businesses, with a partner account manager or other contact expected to be ‘always-on’.

“I’d say that initially expectation from all sides was lowered whilst people adapted and reprioritised. Now however, I’d say the expectation did increase overall during the pandemic,” says Scott. “Due to remote working and limited travel time, partners and vendors alike have become accustomed to the velocity at which we can respond and, vendors especially, are putting expectations on themselves to be on top of everything and respond as fast as we can.”

It remains to be seen how much of the new approaches we’ve adopted over the past 18 months will carry on in a ‘post-Covid’ world. The likelihood is that some new ways of engaging with partners and customers are here to stay, when is some cases, virtual interaction is more sustainable, cheaper and can be a more effective way to communicate.

But it is unlikely we will abandon the traditional face-to-face way of doing business – particularly when the channel is known as a relationships business.

One final thought from Scott: “What the pandemic hasn’t changed, is the fact that channel partners are the central, integral piece of the puzzle. I read something on LinkedIn the other day which said, ‘Vendors come and go based on the need of a business, but a partner is there forever.’ And I couldn’t agree with that more.”

Author: Christine Horton

Publish Date: 06/08/2021 14:17

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