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‘Partner-led’ is the way forward
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‘Partner-led’ is the way forward

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Carine Braun-Heneault, Vice President, Commercial Sales EMEA, Red Hat, elaborates on why enterprise partnerships are most effective when they are built on a foundation of mutual respect and trust.

Partnerships are at their most effective (and most enjoyable) when they are built on a foundation of mutual respect and trust. At Red Hat, we have been thinking about what this often uttered sentiment really means? The conclusion we’ve reached feels quite radical. For us, partnership means that we must stand back when a partner can do things better than us. It means letting our partners lead.

This shift from the traditional ‘partner-with’ to ‘partner-led’ model is subtle, but vital to a modern sales organisation. Business partnerships should enable growth. Yet too often they block progress. Partners that wait for their vendors to furnish them with leads and knowledge suck away capacity and slow down both parties. Instead, scaling is best achieved when a business relies on its partners far more than they rely on you. This is all the more true when customers consume solutions composed of a large variety of components such as software, hardware, consultancy, and vertical expertise.

For partners to be proactive, businesses must promote their autonomy. This amounts to relinquishing some control, and that can feel scary. Traditional sales has taught us to be focused on the details. Instead, we must become more comfortable with liberating ourselves and our partners, within the context of a well monitored and aligned plan.

It’s a simple matter of numbers. Across EMEA we work with thousands of partners; ISVs, system integrators, consultants, other technology vendors. Handing them the wheel gets us much further, much faster than us being in the driving seat. Many eyes and ears are better than one. It creates more opportunities to find prospects in the places we aren’t looking; more time with customers, producing a deeper understanding of how to connect the dots; and advice that is more independent, and so more valued.

Technology and software vendors have too much skin in the game to be truly objective. But partners can look across the market with a neutrality that vendors never can, and are free to assemble the best components they find on behalf of customers.

If this feels like a risk, then you only need to take a look at the incredible things that can be achieved when partners lead. At Red Hat, the evidence is everywhere. With Microsoft we transformed how CRV, a 150-year-old Dutch agricultural company, breed and care for cattle. With Agenda Open Systems we’re supporting the Slovenian National Police Force to build advanced crime fighting capabilities. With SAP and HPE, we’re ensuring Hotelplan Group adapts to the new opportunities of travel and tourism. These are the sort of groundbreaking, game changing projects that we can enable when our partners lead. If you are confident in your products, there is nothing to fear from the go to market to be partner-led.

Becoming partner-led is not simply a case of saying it should be so. There’s a lot of investment you need to do first. In order to create the conditions for success, Red Hat mapped all our partners in EMEA, to ensure we had capacity in the right places. We weren’t just interested in the territorial spread, or that we have coverage in all our key sectors. We wanted to assess potential too; in other words, who has the engagement with customers and connections to prospects that will grow our business.

We also created a brand new role – Partner Sales Executives. We now have ‘PSEs’ covering most EMEA countries. Their job is to ensure our partners have what they need from us to develop and close their pipelines, be it joint marketing activities, learning resources, certifications or deeper integration into our sales platform and processes. And we have defined new rules of engagement, so partners can be confident they will be justly rewarded for the input they have in a deal.

All of these steps (and more) answer a very basic and self-serving truth; that by getting closer to our partners, we get closer to our customers, giving us the best chance to capture the enormous addressable market. This is what being a ‘partner-led’ organisation ultimately means. Mutual respect and trust — yes. Mutual profit — absolutely.

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