In this sponsored Q&A with Vertiv's EMEA channel programs director Brent Owens (pictured), read how partners form a key part of the vendor's future growth strategy
1. What have been the highlights of the past year for Vertiv?
Despite the obvious impact of Covid-19 on lives and businesses in 2020, Vertiv channel programs in EMEA continued to build on our 2019 successes with strong year on year growth in both partner recruitment and VIP incentive pay-outs, as the partner awareness of our offerings continues to grow.
The pandemic has underscored the importance of doing business digitally. Throughout the past year, Vertiv has increased investment in the online channel business and accelerated the rollout of new technologies for the channel. We invested over five per cent of 2020 sales in research and development to boost product innovation and now have more than 2000 channel only products covering five lines of business including; channel services for installation, commissioning and support. Growing our channel is a key part of our strategy. Without our channel business, we cannot meet growing demand in our UK and other markets.
2. How has working with partners enhanced the business? Are there any recent successes you are particularly proud of?
First and foremost, the needs and opinions of our partners should always drive our channel business. Their feedback in 2020 given during sales calls, surveys, events and Teams/Zoom meetings across EMEA was, and is, critical in understanding an ever-shifting landscape, allowing us greater speed and agility in responding to business opportunities and threats. Consistent partner engagement whilst demonstrating value is key for us. One memorable instance involved one of our inside sales representatives in the UK, I was delighted to hear how this person while following up on a relatively low face value partner lead, and by taking the time to engage with the partner and understand the real opportunity, turned it into a £100,000 plus win. It wouldn't have happened if we had just sent them an email with the requested data.
3. What have been some of the main challenges of the pandemic and how have you overcome them?
Initially, we had planned to execute 50+ physical roadshow events across various locations in EMEA for our channel partners and had to quickly adapt this concept in light of the pandemic. We ended up running a successful virtual event - our 2020 Digital Channel Summit, to ensure we could engage with partners and industry leaders on key market trends and insights, the Vertiv roadmap and awards recognising our best performing partners of the year.
Additionally, from a program's perspective, the overnight shift to home working created an immediate challenge to our VIP Incentive Program as the quarterly rebates are paid on to a company credit card we provide. With a lot of offices closed, getting the credit cards to the partners by registered post suddenly became an issue. To mitigate this, we quickly added bank transfer as an additional option for anyone who could not receive their card by post making the program even more flexible.
4. Can you tell us more about the Vertiv Partner Program and any new developments and partner tools introduced in the past 12 months?
The Vertiv Partner Program (VPP) is Vertiv's global partner program under which all of our channel programs, incentives, tools and initiatives sit. The program is designed to be easy with a five-minute email confirmation registration, no pre-requisites for the partner to join, and with a single click on the VIP button in the portal, resellers can start earning money back on all their Vertiv channel product purchases via distribution. Even better no reporting, we do all the calculations from distribution point of sale point of sale (POS) reports, so partners just need to sell Vertiv and collect their money on the Portal.
Over the last 12 months, I think one of our greatest achievements was the successful global rollout of our new Partner Relationship Management platform (PRM), with a new partner portal making it even easier to submit deal registrations, demo product requests, do online training, download content syndication tools for ecommerce with much more besides.
5. What are the key benefits of being a Vertiv channel partner?
I think some of the greatest differentiators are the ability to join a program without any pre-requisites and earn rebates (actual money - not vouchers or credit notes) and the ability to access deal registration discounts from day one. Vertiv is on a mission globally to carve out a greater space in the channel and you will continue to see the results drive our investments in channel centric solutions, programs, people and tools to make that happen.
6. What do you see as the main opportunities for Vertiv and its partners in the coming year?
Partner sales enablement sits at the forefront of our channel strategy. With the recent launch of our solutions configuration tools and new Vertiv XR app , an augmented reality experience that allows our customers to view our products from the comfort of their own home, or on site, we continue to enable the channel in new and innovative ways. Our teams are quickly developing this technology, so eventually all our major product ranges will be available to access in this way.
Alongside this, we are also planning to launch a new virtual showroom, our new dealer locator with enhanced partner editable profiles and partner lead generation tools linked with it, as well as having several other new programs and benefits on the horizon for 2021, Vertiv is looking forward to continued channel investment and growth.