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The Partner Channel Podcast Episode #10

The Channel Hunger Games

Show Synopsis

In this episode of the Partner Channel Podcast, Daniel sits down with Janet Schijns to discuss why the channel has become a battle of districts. They also discuss the significance of SEO for you and your partner’s website as well as what to expect in the channel five years from now.

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The Script

Daniel Graff-Radford:  Welcome to the Partner Channel Podcast, the voice of the Partner Channel community. I’m Daniel Graff-Radford. In this episode, I will be sitting down with Janet Schijns founder and CEO of the JSGroup, and a very proven leader for many channels of many different sizes and types. Welcome. Janet, thank you for being on our show.

Janet Schijns: Thanks for having me. Excited to be here and excited to talk to the channel, as always.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Awesome. Maybe we could just start off by having you walk us through a little bit of your background and how you started JSGroup.

Janet Schijns: Yeah, absolutely. So I was born a geek, so we won’t go all the way back there. But it is important to the story. And I have a finance degree that I never used because I fell in love with technology and the channel and went into technology. And I’ve been the channel leader for Verizon, for Motorola was an EVP at Office Depot, and now I run my own company that’s dedicated to just one thing, saving the channel. That’s our entire mission in everything that we do. We’re all about making sure that the channel maintains not only its relevance but its growth, because the channel truly has always been and will always be the lifeblood of our technology economy. So we make sure at JSGroup the channel wins at every turn. 

Daniel Graff-Radford: That’s what we do. What an impressive background and what an impressive opportunity. So when we talked earlier, one of the things that was really compelling was you talked about an analogy of today’s channel comparing it to the famous movie Hunger Games. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about what you mean by that. 

Janet Schijns: Yeah, and if anybody is listening, it doesn’t know The Hunger Games. The basic premise is, depending on which district you’re from, you send two people. And those two people compete. And only one person in total wins from all of the districts and everybody else dies in the process. And so when I relate it to The Hunger Games, there are so many different kinds of channel partners. Right. You’ve got your VARS, your MSPs, your SIs, your CSPs, your agents, your you know, I could go on and on and on your AV, your print. So there are almost these different districts that are battling it out to see who’s going to win. Now, the media always seems to say the channel’s in trouble, that the channels are hurting, the channel going to be in trouble. And by the way, those forecasts never come true because much like a Hunger Games with a twist, if we will, as the battle begins, you know who will win? Years ago, it was VAR versus MSP. MSP wins, so the VARs convert their business model over to managed services. Now we’re seeing managed services going to win or is CSP going to win? Cloud service provider gonna win? Starting to look like cloud service provider. So you’re seeing 40 percent of the MSP say, hey, we’re going to join that winning team. So I really see this environment in the channel where the battle is happening and the real live touch of the customer via a channel partner. And by the way, those vendors who are smart enough to really engage with those partners are turning up a couple trends that are making our Hunger Games theater odds be forever in our favor. And we’re seeing this digital trend, everything in the cloud and edge compute coming together with 5G and creating this new normal that we’re going to call everywhere compute. And that hunger game is happening right now. So who’s going to win in the everywhere computer? We’ll talk about that a little more, I’m sure, in a few minutes. 

Daniel Graff-Radford: Well, that sounds great. And as you know, in your own words, kind of talking about that, the types of channels that are leading to this recurring revenue, you know, we’re seeing some win and something’s not win in our customer base. Maybe you could say what you’re seeing at JSG. 

Janet Schijns: Absolutely. So, you know, we do channel evolution, sales and marketing enablement. And here’s the three things we’re seeing. So first of all, recurrent revenue is starting to evolve to forever revenue. So when I talk about forever revenue, think about your personal Netflix subscription. When you first got it, it cost a certain amount of money. It cost more right now. And I’m not really sure I would even know how to terminate it as a contract, nor would I ever do that. It’s just something that every month I pay and it’s part of the fabric of my life. Well enterprises are seeing the same thing. So this recurrent revenue where you signed up for a contract, the contract terminated and a couple years and then you renegotiated and the price went down. This has disappeared. It’s now a forever revenue channel that we’re seeing winning. Those folks that are signing people up, taking the risk on things like month to month, using the vendors that are taking the risk. T-Mobile, great example, right? The only carrier that has a month to month contract for branded devices. So we’re seeing those channels that have understood that and understood that it’s a forever revenue. It’s more month to month. It’s scalable up or down, which in our current environment is important, and then that are taking that to market in a way with their vendors where the customers are more comfortable because they can sign those scale up scale down.

So that’s the first thing is is forever revenue trend. The other two things go along with that. Obviously, the cloud solution providers are excelling right now. We’ve seen more purchasing in technology in marketplaces in the last 90 days than we did in the three years previous. So that’s the first trend, this concept of a digitized marketplace, a cloud solution provider, allowing a customer to scale up and scale down, simply. That’s the second trend. And then the third trend is digitization. Those partners that are out there stimulating demand digitally are the ones that are winning the folks that are still in the old school way of selling in the old school way of marketing, doing email campaigns or goodness forbid, mailings or something else. They’re the ones that are suffering in that new environment. So forever revenue done digitally on a marketplace or some way where it’s easy for someone to buy a cloud solution. So as a CSP model and then digitally promoted, those are the three things we’re seeing.

Daniel Graff-Radford: That makes a lot of sense. We’re also seeing the advancement of cloud technologies, digitization, security technologies with people stuck at home in new ways that threats are happening and everything as a subscription. I like your concept there of the forever subscription. And I’m sure when people are looking to partner with great providers in cloud and security, that it is important to find those people that can be that for you. That’s a really good point. And then the last time that we talked, you had a really interesting insight that I think everyone could benefit from, which is talking about forecasting the partner’s survival through the partner’s website. And I think this is a really important item that everyone should listen to.

Janet Schijns: You got it. And I’m going to expand that even a little bit because I think it’s important. So the first thing is your website matters and it matters whether it’s because you’re doing a marketplace through your website or whether you’re merely promoting your solutions so that you’re found. But here’s what we’ve found. Sixty-eight percent of channel partners in our recent survey said they are largely a regional or local journey. Right. So their services provider, whether it’s cloud or managed and their local in nature, yet only six percent of them scored well in local search engine optimization. So if you go through your website and look for your top keywords, let’s just say you’re a on mobility partner. Since I use the term example earlier, I’ll keep with it. Your mobility partner and you likely have mobility solutions. Maybe there Iot may be their workforce enablement, maybe their compute everywhere oriented. And if you just look at the top words that are in your website about your solutions and then you go out and Google them and you’re not on the first page, you’re looking to get hurt. Because Ninety-seven percent of people now look online first. Seventy-nine percent in B2B technology, Google before they do anything else. So there’s ways for you to get a real look at how you’re doing in that. But take the sanity test first and just go search yourself locally and see if you come up.

Most people come up on the second or third page. You could commit and admit to murdering someone on the second page of a Google search result and not even the police would see it. It is not a place for you to be. So you’ve got to get to that first page of the search engine optimization. So how do you find out scientifically if you’re there or not? Well, there’s at least for the US listeners, there’s a site called Moz M-O-Z. It’s free. You can sign up and you can go in and see what your domain authority is. Your domain authority says basically, how often do you show up in searches? I am oversimplifying it for the listeners. Go on MOZ put in your website, see your domain authority. It’s on a scale of one to one hundred. You should be at least 70 for the things that you want people to go to you for. You get 30 points for having a website that doesn’t have any broken links. So go check out your score. If you’re super low, you know you need to do search engine optimization. Many partners will try to hit it by buying Google AdWords. It’s not the same. People see, it’s an advertisement. They don’t look at those. You need to come up in natural search. The second thing you can do is check your website value.

There’s a website called Web Worth, but you can just Google what is my website worth? And there are 20 sites that are free put your URL and find out the amount of your site. And are you trending up or down. In a digital world where everyone is looking online first. Where 29% of buyers are buying first online. You’ve got to show up and you’ve got to have worth. If your website is not worth $50,000 or more, you’re likely not viable right now. So fix the search engine optimization. You’ll get more visitors, more conversions. Your wealth of your website will go up. By the way, investors look at this when they’re looking at how much to value and then finally audit your salespeople. There’s something called a LinkedIn social selling index. This is the bonus tip. LinkedIn social selling index can be found by Googling “What’s my LinkedIn social selling index score”? Look at your sales people. What is their score? If their score is not 70 plus, they are not sufficiently ready to sell in a digital world and they’re going to be hurting your brand. So that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for a score, right? You’re looking for scores. So go check out MOZZ, Web of Worth, and your LinkedIn SSI score to get ahead and survive through the digital world.

Daniel Graff-Radford: I think this is just really great if people want to do this for their own brand, for their own Linkedin scores, that’s great. But it also just, you know, to your point, could be applied to your partners. You know when you are thinking, you know, here we are at the end of 2021. Will these partners that I have carry me through to 2021? As we’re at the end of 2020, you know what, what is their score? And do they have the sales team that is going to make sense to carry you and are you promising results to your company based on declining partners. And if you want to help Janet at JSG is here to help you out with, with your team to evaluate your partners and figure it out. But in that process, people can find other partners that might be scoring better in some of those areas. And those are the people to go recruit and seek out. This is practical, very helpful.

Janet Schijns: And I would tell and I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I would tell anyone that’s a vendor, channel account manager, or channel leader, you should be having that conversation to your point with your partners. Let’s pull it up together. You’re selling my solution, but you’re not having any search engine optimization, websites not worth what it is, and let’s look at your sales, people’s SSI scores, which you’ll need the sales people’s logins for. But that’s easy. You can ask the partner to have everybody just print the report out on a PDF. And why would you give marketing money to a firm that has that lack of prowess? So the first thing you should focus on as a vendor, then, if that’s a valuable partner for you because of their technology or because of their competency, you got to help them. We’re happy to help them or they can get their own help. But you’ve got to help them then get to that next level or as we said, find different partners.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Yeah, optimize your time with the friends that are investing in the right things for you. That’s right. That’s right. Well, you know, this has been really great. And as we wrap this up with the final four questions, I’m sure people want to know a little bit more about your thoughts, given your extensive background, what they just learned from you. So to start it off, if you had one superpower, what would it be?

Janet Schijns: I would want the instant transportation ‘beam me up Scotty’ moment? Because I could then go and be with the channel wherever they were.

Daniel Graff-Radford: That would be wonderful, and if you could share with everyone one mistake and one success that you’ve had on the channel.

Janet Schijns: The mistakes are going to be fun. So when I first left Motorola and went to Verizon, I had not been engaged with agents yet. And I didn’t know the power that they had in recurrent revenue. And a lot of people do miss that. And I was in a meeting and I was having this conversation with one of our biggest partners, and it was like he was speaking one language and I was speaking another because I was speaking about a VAR model at the time and he was speaking about an agent model. So I think the biggest mistake I made was probably for the first four weeks of my role, I thought they did something different. And then I realized what they actually did and ever since then have leveraged that community very successfully for a lot of big growth. But it was just interesting. There was a channel, because when we say channel, right, everybody has a different view. It’s like when you say chocolate, some person may think of M&Ms and somebody else may think of a chocolate bar. Right. Would you say channel? Everybody has a different definition. So that was my mistake. And the success I’ve had on the channel, I’ll be very transparent. I found a way to outcompete all of my competitors by tweaking my program in a way that the channel partners wanted versus the way our internal brains told us it was wanted. And that’s how I’ve made my living ever since. And that’s what I do at JSGroup for vendors is tweak their program in the way that the partners want and use the funds and the people and the resources and everything else to actually give the channel what they want versus what the vendor wants to give them.

Daniel Graff-Radford: I think we’re starting to see that as a recurrent theme for success is that you have a company that you work for, has its goals, and your goal as a head of channel is to make what you’re doing very relevant and make sense for your channel partners almost more than what is for your company. And they’ll work on your behalf. I think that we’re hearing that over and over again.

Janet Schijns: If it’s good for the channel, it’ll be good for your company.

Daniel Graff-Radford: So for some of our listeners that are aspiring to become channel leadership one day, what’s a business that you’d recommend that they read?

Janet Schijns: Well, first you have to read Ender’s Game because it tells you everything you need to know about game theory, which is a lot of how you do well and channel leadership. So that’s a fictional book, not a business book. And then, frankly, there’s a book called Fearless Leadership by Chris Baron, and I would read that one at the business book.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Those are great ones. My kids love Enders Game. And so taking out your crystal ball and here we are at the end of 2020, five years from now, what are what will be some of the major changes in the channel that people will need to be thinking about right now?

Janet Schijns: Well, I think we have to acknowledge that five years from now we’ll be in a compute everywhere world. But that doesn’t mean remote work, although it’ll enable that. It means that the majority of devices and compute intelligence and data will be at the edge of the network. And that’ll inspire some really amazing things from autonomous vehicles to instantaneous crime prevention and supply chain improvements. And it just does everything when the data doesn’t have to go back and forth. So you’re going to see the Cloud devices all of the edge, and that’s going to drive this big shift in the channel towards vendors and partners who come up not only with the solutions that work, because, by the way, you can have the best solution and still not penetrate the channel. So the solutions that work, but more importantly, the channel programs at work. So I think you’re going to see the channel partners evolve past this cloud solution provider preference right now to something I’m going to call an edge solution provider. They’re going to be all recurrent revenue based. It’s going to be very highly services oriented and most of it is going to be not paid for by the end-user customer, but in fact, paid for by a brand or an enterprise. And so I think we have to prepare for a channel that doesn’t direct sell and that has more influence. And I think you’re going to see that influence channel really rise up here over the next few years and take over in our channel and still make money. Of course, they’ll get paid for that influence, but it’ll just be a different commercial agreement.

Daniel Graff-Radford: I think those are some technology trends that have everyone thinking about what those changes are and the concept of the edge partner, edge solution channel partner and having an influencer channel market that matters more and more, we’re starting to see that across the ecosystem that we see. And so those are really good things to think about. Well, I want to thank you Janet for joining us. And as always, I want to thank our listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you want to learn more about Allbound, please visit our website in the description.