Products, solutions, and go-to-market strategies have endless possibilities within alliances and ecosystems. As an alliance professional, how do you determine the appropriate solutions to develop and then take those solutions to market?
Those are real questions needing expert answers. So we asked a pro.
Phil Sailer, a leading enterprise alliance strategist, joined us on our recent Alliance Aces Podcast. As Director of Software Defined and Cloud Group at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Phil leads strategic alliances, tech solutions, and go-to-market enablement.
Why joint solutions?
As powerful as their solutions can be, gaps in products can arise — even at a powerhouse like HPE. If there’s a problem that an HPE product doesn’t solve out-of-box, Phil’s team steps in and identifies those alliances, builds partnerships, and delivers customer-focused solutions.
Phil provided a recent situation where some customers were necessitating a non-cloud backup of data, and they didn’t want to utilize a second office. So HPE joined with another company to provide a joint data backup solution. The software architects within HPE helped script the product for the end goal.
This type of customer-driven solution is by far the ideal situation in Phil’s mind; your team creates a product for which there is already a demand and buyer in place. Phil has no interest, time, or resources to create unused products:
Consider: “How are we planning on selling this?”
While you don’t always have a customer coming to you and asking for a specific solution, building a product towards an end goal can still drive your engineering.
When Phil first arrived at HPE, he had waiting for him a small change to a pre-existing joint-solution: HPE’s partners wanted Phil’s engineers to make a minute change to a product. The issue probably only needed an hour’s worth of scripting.
Even then, Phil didn’t even want to spend a single minute creating a solution without considering how the product would be used.
Phil first went to their alliance partner and asked the question: “How are we planning on selling this?”
The alliance partner pointed to their resell partners. Phil pulled them in and asked each how they planned on reselling the product. Partner B had a convincing plan and ended up drafting the first MOU.
Now, as HPE’s engineers went into the development phase, they already had sellers excited to execute a strategy around the solution, with an idea on how much business would be created, and the engineers had specific goals.
Listen to your partners.
Instead of going to a partner and saying, “We need to sell more servers, more of our hyperconverge product, etc.,” Phil approaches his partnerships with listening ears.
Phil goes to alliances and asks, “Where are you trying to drive the business?”
While asking a partner how HPE can sell more of its product is a valid question, it isn’t a very compelling story.
Strategic listening is what keeps everyone aligned, all the way up to the executive level, and you can really see some fantastic results within this approach.
Ultimately, the goal is to drive revenue.
But you can’t use revenues as the only results indicator, because there will be a lag. It’s akin to looking through your rearview mirror while driving forward.
So Phil says to start with questions like:
Then, drill that down to how many unit sales will we need, what’s our conversion rate, etc. You’ll need to reassess as you go, and reboot and possibly even alter the solution to another iteration to meet expectations.
Find and partner with competent alliances.
Phil searches for competency on the other end of the deal — there’s an excitement in working with high-caliber alliance managers.
To determine what alliances HPE will enter into, they use what Phil jokingly referred to as an “alliance IQ test.” When a company applies to be a technical partner with HPE, they are given a questionnaire to provide the potential partner with broad exposure to HPE’s global partnerships.
“It differentiates the partners that are really looking to build unique value versus the ones that just want to get in front of our sales force because they think that all of a sudden everyone at HPE is going to start selling their stuff. That can happen, but that’s really not the starting point. You really have to start with customer value and the ability to build that together and deliver.”
Execution and delivery are difficult under the umbrella of one organization. When you add in multiple entities, the issues compound. By using a customer-focused development strategy, and listening to your partners, truly valuable solutions can be developed and tested efficiently.
Ultimately, this provides more value for the customer and drives more sales. Thanks to Phil, hopefully you now have some great thoughts to lead your strategy.
Check out other Alliance Podcasts here.
To contact the host, Chip Rodgers, with topic ideas, suggest a guest, or join the conversation about alliances, he can be reached by: