E31 – Partner of the Future with Meaghan Sullivan, SAP

Digital transformation has become a trend across many industries in recent years. Businesses must keep up with the times as digital technology advances and plays a larger role in our everyday lives. It's straightforward from a wide perspective: keep up or fall behind.

In this episode of Tech Sales Insights Live, Meaghan Sullivan, the Head of Global Partner Marketing & SME at SAP talks about the developing trends in the tech and channel marketing spaces and what businesses must do to adapt.

Meaghan also discusses the importance of having coaches and mentors and what she looks out for in people who want to build a successful career in channel marketing.

As the person who runs the Global Partner Ecosystem at SAP, Meaghan is in charge of helping their partners, from startups to big companies, flourish. Her team is responsible for all of SAP's programs, activities, and messaging for partners, as well as how their products and solutions may help grow companies.

Key Trends in Global Partner Success

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how businesses function and plan for the future. The typical three-year plans, according to Meaghan, have become one-year plans. Everything that should have taken three years now just has one. And so there was an urgency for businesses, big and small, to become nimble and flexible to cater to the changing demands of their customers.

Businesses now have to think about implementing flexible payment terms for their customers, switching to an online sales model, or building intelligent operations.

Despite the challenges, Meaghan also saw how successful their partners had been in navigating through this period of change. Companies of all sizes were able to pivot their business models to respond to the times. One example was how a whiskey company was able to pivot its operations to produce hand sanitizers.

Despite the difficulties this period has brought, Meaghan remains positive that companies have the capability to adapt their business models to remain relevant and achieve success.

Transformation to the Cloud

Part of digital transformation is moving business operations to the cloud. The cloud is key to providing on-demand, flexible access to the resources that enable new digital business services. It also enables businesses to grow infrastructure as needed to meet changing business needs, while decreasing the risk of squandered IT resources, which has previously stifled investments in innovative digital services.

Meaghan shares that IDC reported that 23% of their partners failed to make a transition to the cloud and as a result are struggling to remain competitive. Conversely, 25% successfully managed to transition their operations to include the cloud and are now thriving. The remaining 52%, were “born in the cloud” and were already prepared for a full migration of their operations.

But the focus is now on the 23% of companies that are struggling. Her advice is to pay attention to those segments. How can we help them make the transition to the cloud, if that is possible for them at all?

Meaghan also talks about the revenue opportunities that the cloud provides. The cloud gives the potential for partners to build a recurring revenue model, but this is not guaranteed. They still need to build great relationships with their customers and provide excellent customer service.

For her, those that will be successful and will stick around the longest are those that are able to build excellent relationships with their customers by putting service first. Businesses have to think about how to provide their customers with a compelling reason to keep choosing their business beyond their products. For Meaghan, it’s all about the value of the relationship between business and customer.

The Importance of Mentorship and Coaching

Meaghan also talked about how important it is to be mentored and to be a mentor in the industry. She considers herself fortunate for having great mentors and sponsors that have given her opportunities to learn and grow. Because of that experience, she tries to pay it forward by mentoring young professionals.

She differentiates sponsors and mentors. For Meaghan, sponsors see the potential in you, voluntarily mentor you, and would possibly bring you with them to the next company they join. This is different from a mentor, which she describes as someone you look for.

She says she enjoys mentoring early talent, especially those that are passionate about customers and building partnerships. These people, to her, are also able to teach her plenty so she enjoys listening to their ideas and implementing them.

She also mentions that it’s become harder to identify talent. The skillset needed for CROs and channel chiefs has become so different in recent years that it’s harder for them to find the exact people they need to help them do the things that are needed.

Succeeding in Channel Marketing

When describing success in channel marketing, Meaghan says that while revenue is definitely a top KPI, how much a partner is willing to spend on marketing is also important. She illustrates that if a partner shows that they are willing to hire people and back them with marketing, they will demonstrate greater success.

Meaghan then talks about the importance of being innovative when it comes to being a successful channel leader. She sees this at SAP, where they’ve been doing the same thing for years but are still looking for innovative ways to do business.

Finally, Meaghan describes what it takes to be a successful professional in channel marketing. For her, if you can navigate relationships well, then that would be a good indicator for future success in this career. This is because the industry is all about building relationships and finding common ground with another person so that both of you will win.

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