Ecosystems should deliver dynamic solutions that enhance customer experience. Joint solutions should make problem-solving easier, not harder, for customers. It all starts and ends with customers in mind.
This is the philosophy of Manoj Bhatia, the Worldwide Sales and Business Development Manager for Partner Sales at Cisco. With degrees in electrical Electrical Engineering, as well as an MBA from UNC at Chapel Hill, Manoj is equipped with a unique perspective in alliance management. Manoj is also the Research Triangle Park-chapter president of ASAP, from which he’s been awarded the prestigious CSAP certification in recognition both from ASAP and his peers for his excellence and expertise in alliance management.
He accompanied us on our Alliance Aces Podcast to address the customer experience and other issues within alliances and ecosystems.
CX: The last frontier.
Manoj lives and breathes the customer experience. This proves to be challenging; Cisco collaborates with a variety of software partners to develop dynamic solutions for its customers — and in total — Cisco pushes $50 billion a year in revenue. Manoj has the complex role of ensuring these collaborations and joint solutions drive a positive, enhanced customer experience — not detract from it.
“The last frontier, the next wave, is on the experience side. Unless you get the experience story all straightened out, all kinds of innovation and all your operational excellence will still fall short if you don’t really get that experience story right.”
CX Challenge: Why are there so many players involved?
While Cisco partners with various large software creators, they also have a variety of small and mid-size start-ups they join with to create dynamic joint solutions. When talking with customers, Manoj has discovered a common question from customers: Why aren’t you providing, or at least packaging, this entire solution as your own? In other words, why have third-parties involved at all?
Manoj understands this. Third-party add-ons can confuse customers. This is a difficult juggle: You have to find a way to streamline your conversation to acknowledge the participation of your alliance partner, and keep it simple for your customer.
Sales Challenge: Why are we falling short?
Besides customer understanding, alliance partnerships provide another challenge in the sales department. This is often exactly why alliances fail. Ecosystems provide an opportunity for the individual alliances to leverage high revenues, yet many fall short of ever achieving their goals because information doesn’t trickle to sales, said Manoj.
Essentially, it’s a lot of work for a salesperson to consider the alliance partners when pitching a sale. He or she is most likely working off a quota. Their goal? Close the deal as soon as possible, and move on to the next sale.
In a company like Cisco, they are dealing with upwards of 10 ecosystems. That’s 10 additional companies for a salesperson to have to understand and have conversations with. Furthermore, they are supposed to bring all 10 alliances into the conversation with the customer, perhaps even do a demo with the customer for each of the partners.
This is a substantial increase in workload for a salesperson. Up until recently, they were simply not incentivized enough to handle this additional work.
That’s all starting to change. Manoj has seen lately that when incentivized with commission and cloud delivery of solutions, sales people are:
- A: More motivated to include partners within the context of a sales conversation.
- B: Finding it far easier to involve a third-party tech partner.
Solving both CX and sales.
Manoj offered two streamlined pieces of advice on how to enhance both the customer experience and drive sales revenue simultaneously:
1: Open your API to your ecosystem:
If you release your API, your third-party vendors will create solutions. This all comes back to the customer — with fluid, joint solutions delivered in real-time. In this ever-changing technology environment, customers are ultimately positively impacted.
2: Cloud delivery:
Consider when joint solutions were always delivered with perpetual licensing: A third-party would sell their piece of a solution to the direct seller, and then when a customer had an issue…who would they come to? Technical support was a nightmare.
With perpetual licensing, the customer experience ultimately paid a price. With cloud delivery, customers can go straight to the individual provider for unique issues.
Enhance customer experience with every solution. This should be the driving motivator behind every decision within development. Consider the customer’s interaction not only with the solution, but with tech support, sales, etc., all the way through their entire experience.
The goal? Expand the conversation.
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: