I’m often asked by new SMB cloud partners how they can quickly become trusted advisors to their customers relating to anything Office 365. The typical Microsoft response to this question is to flood the poor partner with enough training and learning resources to make their head explode! I am certainly guilty of this.
My goal of this blog post is to make that initial plunge into Office 365 as painless as possible. You the partner are still on the hook to invest some significant hours in “learning”, however the following guidance is aimed at assisting you in putting together a clear and concise learning path for your team. I’ve broken down the guidance into specific roles:
Office 365 Practice Lead
Sorry, you have the most work to do! It’s your job to understand everything Office 365. The Cloud 1-2-3 website on the US SMB Partner Center is your home base. Everything you need to know relating to Office 365 for your role and the below roles is on this page. My colleague, Todd Sweetser did a great job introducing this site back in November. Your main action items:
- Focus on Stage 1: Get in the cloud, on the Cloud 1-2-3 website
- Make sure your registered correctly on the MPN site so that you can get paid on O365 deals.
- Make sure your partner benefits are applied to your Office 365 tenant, so that you have the Partner Portal tools (see my previous blog post on this).
- Assign your sellers an account that has access to the Partner Portal quoting and trial tools.
- Set your strategy for the below roles. Define a learning path and hold your team accountable. My guidance for these roles below should assist you in putting together your plan.
- Define your marketing strategy and learn about current partner incentives that can increase your margins on every deal (Both of these tasks can be quite challenging. Most likely you’ll need help, so be sure to contact your distributor; Ingram, Tech Data, Synnex or D&H. All of our fantastic distributors have cloud teams that can assist you with your plan).
- Define your selling model: Advisor vs. selling through Open. What’s the best fit for your organization?
- Explore additional revenue opportunities to relay to your selling team; Can you provide simple (or advanced) SharePoint Online customization? Will you offer a managed services package for your customers that includes Office 365 support? Will you offer Office 365 training?
Office 365 Seller and Technical Seller
A common mistake that many partners make is to have their Office 365 sellers focused on the activities typically handled by the Office 365 Practice Lead (outlined above). This type of strategy focus can be distracting and overwhelming for sellers that are often tasked with selling much more than Office 365. Here are the core learning activities for your sellers and technical sellers:
- Learn the Office 365 value pitch; Why Cloud, Why Microsoft, Why Office 365? Here’s a good Cloud 1-2-3 webinar for you to view titled “Showcase the power of Office and Office 365 to your customers”.
- Learn how to Demo Office 365 leveraging the MEC Demo
- Learn how to answer tough customer questions by reviewing the Service Descriptions. Most customer questions can be answered by reviewing the Service Descriptions. This one’s important for the Technical Seller.
- Learn how to send customer quotes and trials through the Partner Portal. Your Office 365 Practice lead will set you up with an account.
- Learn how to set expectations with your prospects and customers on how the deployment will work. This will vary depending on your strategy (use of third party tools, fully managed deployment vs. assisted deployment, etc.)
Office 365 Implementation and Support Team
Your organizations has a few options when defining your Office 365 deployment strategy. Below are some activities that your deployment leads can get started on right away:
- Review the Office 365 deployment and migration best practices webinar
- Review the Cloud 1-2-3 section titled “Migrate, deploy, and Manage”. There are a lot of great resources that will assist you in defining your deployment and support strategy. (Recommendation: a lot of partners are using third party deployment tools like the one provided by SkyKick.com. These fantastic partners are covered in the above webinar).
- Choose a strategy that aligns with your organizations strengths.
- Familiarize yourself with the Delegated Admin Partner Portal tools that allow you to manage your customer’s Office 365 tenant.
Hopefully by breaking out your Office 365 ramp-up into specific roles with defined action items, the opportunity to successfully sell Office 365 is not as daunting as you initially thought. Please let me know your thoughts by commenting to this post.
Partner Technology Strategist