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Bob Knepp is the Senior Global Alliance Manager - Video Collaboration at Logitech where he is one of two people internally focused on the relationship with Microsoft.
Bob believes that the most critical part of a successful alliance is fully understanding your partners ecosystem. Part of this mindset is thinking about how you and your team can help other partners reach their goals. What is the best joint solution to meet customer needs?
Specifically in his day to day role, Bob manages the field side of the relationship and his job is to understand what Microsoft is being measured on and what they consider success. Bob and his team need to show that they understand what Microsoft is trying to accomplish.
We interviewed Bob at Microsoft Inspire for this episode of Alliance Aces to talk about challenges faced in alliances, best practices, and managing difficult relationships.
Here is Bob’s mindset when it comes to working alongside partners: If we can align to our partner’s goals, we become more relevant to their business and they can integrate us seamlessly into their business plan. We become essential.
If you have this mindset, this is a mutually beneficial relationship for both you and your partner. If you come to the table thinking of how you can help your partner before yourself, you will stand out. It comes down to the importance of “you before me”. If I put you first, you will build me into your solution.
In Bob’s industry, there are so many companies competing for a small part of the market, so companies need to differentiate themselves. Logitech can be seen as a company that sells peripherals, and there are bigger margins in service providers than goods sold. So how does Logitech gain market attention in a place where their margins are already small? How do they add services around their current products that enhance what they are already selling?
Bob says that Logitech looks at the solution set they are aiming towards and builds around that. They are looking to move from “commodity” selling toward “solution” selling.
Many times Logitech’s goal is to talk to system integrators. Since so many companies have gone away from engineering in favor of just providing services, they don’t want to install anything themselves themselves.
So Bob and his team like to think about how they can expand their solution set and meet customer (and partner needs) and really start telling a story with their product. This makes end users happy, but also does wonders for the partner ecosystem as well.
Bob knows that taking the time to understand your partner is undervalued.
He suggests the following:
Build out a partner plan.
Think about how to align to your goals.
Review your plan every year.
This type of rhythm holds each other accountable if you make it a repeatable process. It gives you tangible data and responsibilities so you can see if you are hitting goals and if you need to reevaluate. It’s really the only way to build a two way street, a tight partnership, and a healthy ecosystem that other partners can be a part of.
Microsoft has a lot of partners, so Logitech knows that they need to differentiate themselves. Trust is such a critical part of this differentiation.
Bob does not have a problem with over-communicating. He coaches his sales people to make sure they call Microsoft before speaking to an account that they know Microsoft owns. This allows for the opportunity to work jointly on an account and align goals. It keeps Microsoft in the loop by showing them their due respect because they own account.
Logitech has been successful in part because they have built healthy partner ecosystems. They listen to their customers and partners, they plan ahead with their partners, and they respectfully and clearly communicate at all times.