Missed opportunities are avoidable

Major technology vendors invest tens of millions of dollars driving sales through reseller channels. While they have a raft of support, enablement, and incentive programs to help resellers succeed, they generally lack insight into the risk of revenue leakage caused by a poor buying experience.

When the experience is disappointing, each constituent in the value chain loses out.

• The potential customer fails to receive the anticipated value they seek, or at best, a delay while searching for alternatives.

• The reseller loses potentially profitable sales.

• and the vendor is not only denied revenue but may be associated with the poor experience, suffering damage to their reputation.

While vendors continue to invest heavily in their partner recruitment and support programs, they miss out on opportunities to differentiate their programs by failing to appreciate the critical importance of the buying experience, from the initial search to purchase and consumption.

Partner recruitment drives, co-marketing funds, training, certification, access to resources, account management, sales playbooks, and technical support represent significant investments for technology vendors. While this portfolio of enablement and support provides an essential foundation for most partner programs, the effectiveness of each reseller’s marketing and sales approach can only be determined by the rearview mirror of sales figures generated. Where sales cycles can sometimes take months to complete, this is too late.

If there are systemic weaknesses in marketing and sales, that is down to the reseller to understand and fix. The vendor can only hope that they do.

Get on the front foot through insight

Against a pandemic backdrop, vendors must be proactive to maximize partner sales, now more challenging in the absence of face-to-face selling. This starts by gaining insight into the buying experience and converting this knowledge into constructive support for partners. Secret Shopper is the essential tool that puts vendors on the front foot. It enables them to differentiate their partner support programs by helping resellers maximize every opportunity and avoid revenue leakage.

Why do you need this programme?

At the completion of this program, the participants will be able to …

  • Reduce sales abandonment rates
  • Get better ROI on demand generation activities
  • Increase revenue
  • Improve Customer/Partner Onboarding
  • Improve Customer Support/Service

Companies Secret Shop …

  • when offers are in the market, but not generating revenue quotas
  • when new CEOs, Sales, Offer or Marketing leads to join the company and want a 90-day plan
  • prior to a new product launch
  • before investing in demand generation programs
  • before merger or acquisition
  • before and after website improvements
  • when they are obsessed with offering the best Customer Experience (CX)
  • in combination with Customer Journey Maps, customer or partner satisfaction surveys, and Net Promoter Scores.

You will receive:

  • 60+ page report on best practice, strengths, and areas for improvement
  • Recommendations and insights for all improvement areas; competitive gains
  • Benchmarks

📧 Contact us today to get our white paper.

Technology vendors can boost revenue performance by helping partners focus on the buying experience
— Jeremy Cox – on behalf of Alinea Partners

  • A great example of how common interest between VMware, Microsoft, and Atea Danmark has been 'facilitated' by yourselves, to everyone's benefit: chiefly our customers! Leahanne Hobson and her team have been absolutely instrumental in enabling this position for Atea.

    Sverre Pandurro, Head of Cloud Sales, Atea Danmark

  • We gained extremely valuable insights

    Neil Bolton, Global Future Workspace Product Manager, SoftwareONE

Reviewing your sales journey is a brilliant idea — even if you’re doing well.

When Wirehive does something, it does it well. Their highly experienced partner managers team up with a group of highly skilled cloud engineers to design and build the simplest to the most complex digital infrastructures for agencies.

What makes them good?

Wirehive starts with the customer and they are truly obsessed about providing the right customer experience. Their history started with a laser focus on the digital marketing segment, so they make sure they apply their knowledge to the business objectives of the client, accompanying them through the entire buying journey. Perhaps most importantly, as the results from the Alinea Partners Sales Experience Assessments show, they always want to know how they can do better.

It’s tough to stand out in the world of technology. It’s tougher to do well all around. When Alinea Partners assessed Wirehive’s sales journey they found an engine that was in good shape from beginning to end. Not to say everything was perfect. That’s simply never the case. But for every point where Wirehive could improve, there were five more where they were doing well, excellent, or great.

Wirehive

Wirehive has gone from being a specialist web hosting company doing cool things to building a channel that enables partners to generate revenue.

A new outlook, a new company.

And as soon as you click on the link that takes you to their website, you find yourself in a place that flows. Their website shows Wirehive understands the buyer’s journey, supporting partners and buyers throughout the process. It makes it easy for potential partners and buyers to get in touch with them through clear contact details placed in well-thought places, a functioning online chat, effective automated messaging, and sales representatives that can be reached with one telephone call.

Wirehive has gone from being a specialist web hosting company doing cool things to building a channel that enables partners to generate revenue. A new outlook, a new company. Since the assessment, they have taken some tactical actions and added resources that they train not only to sell faster but to engage in a whole new way with partners such as Microsoft.

Last but not least, Wirehive knows how to sell. Their sales reps understand buyers and their pain points. They know how to outline offers and options without the need to engage additional resources like technology specialists. They back their conversations with an array of supporting materials and they know how to close the sale. Wirehive has even made sure that their sales reps address the return of investment to the client on different solution options.

  • By adding Azure, Wirehive has gone from being a specialist web hosting company doing cool things to building a channel that enables partners to generate revenue.

    Chloe Cameron

    — Wirehive

Once again, no business runs perfectly all the time. Wirehive still has areas of improvement and has taken the recommendations (within and outside of their buyer’s journey) seriously. Alinea Partners’ extensive research shows that 83% of sales opportunities where a strong first call is conducted and proper due diligence is done, result in a closed sale.

Due diligence for today’s sales reps means being more than sellers. They need to be advisors. Order taking has morphed into consultative selling. Wirehive understands the sales world is evolving and has taken unprecedented steps to that end. With a flat structure across the business and a strong focus on connected sales and marketing, Wirehive is becoming a whole new kind of sales organization, one that looks at what they want to achieve and not at people’s roles.

The Optimize Program exercise accelerates sales

Microsoft’s Optimize Program is a Secret Shopper service that reveals exactly how a prospective customer experiences a business offering. It uses a 160 point assessment of the customer journey and employs a very carefully constructed persona. Secret Shopper is the vehicle for a granular, detailed inspection of how calls, emails, website visits and sales proposals are perceived by a typical customer. It means inviting a trusted and competent third party to carry out a no-holds barred systematic analysis of how a chain of technologies, services and people all appear to the outside world.

Microsoft-Openline

Getting good value out of sharp observations

Innovative businesses stay ahead by embracing the very latest thinking. That requires a degree of courage. After all, the best ideas often demand the biggest changes. So getting a clear and honest assessment of how a sales process works in practice sounded like a great deal for Open Line a growing European business.

Open Line is a Dutch cloud services business with customers across the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK. These customers all have one thing in common. They need a cloud services provider they can trust. Confidentiality matters enormously to Open Line. More than a quarter of its customers come from the healthcare sector where client confidentiality is at the core of their service. So Open Line must have both a product offering and a mode of operation that leaves no room for doubt.

Emile Stam, Marketing and Communications Manager at Open Line, recalls the decision to call in the Secret Shopper with some amusement. “This was a great project. And the Secret Shopper title is certainly correct. The person who handled most of the incoming communications from the Secret Shopper never noticed anything unusual!”

Apart from living up to its name, what did the Secret Shopper teach Open Line? “It brought about major changes and minor changes. But some of the little observations had a big impact. For instance, one of the things we were concerned about was the ability of customers to find their way to us over the Internet.” Open Line needed a hook, one simple phrase that would guide a potential customer right to the company. Secret Shopper spelt out the right words. These were ‘cloud-focused hybrid provider’, a term that captures people who are searching around the whole technology ecosystem of the cloud.

Changing the way a business is heard

But this simple phrase was just the start. Secret Shopper demonstrated to Stam that Open Line’s entire website was starting off on the wrong foot. It was a highly technical introduction to the company and that was not working for many visitors. “Secret Shopper gave us a new tone of voice” he says.

The objective external assessment of the Secret Shopper led to Open Line maximising the value of its product offering. Microsoft Azure Services, the new and growing family of secure cloud services that Open Line sells, is a tempting proposition for potential customers. Bundling Azure Stack into a trial offer was one of the attractive additions to Open Line’s catalogue that grew straight out of the Secret Shopper initiative.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for Stam was the reaction of his own colleagues to the announcement that a Secret Shopper had been working right under their noses.

“To be honest, I had expected a few people to be angry that we had brought in a Secret Shopper. There is a lot of work involved in putting a customer proposal together and people might not be happy to find out all of that work was only for a fictional customer.” In the event, his colleagues were fine with the whole exercise. The positive results meant a lot more to them than any regret at working for a carefully constructed prospect that did not really exist!

Creating a cloud that works for every type of business

The flexibility of the cloud is precisely what TeleComputing and customers such as Color Line desire and expect. Telecomputing can plug users into a powerful hybrid cloud resource that embraces the strengths of Microsoft Office 365 and Azure but which also contains Telecomputing’s own private cloud service. Security and rapid delivery of the very latest software updates are the name of the game.

What did Secret Shopper make of this combination? Patrik Lännerberg, Sales and Marketing Manager at TeleComputing sees Secret Shopper as the latest step in the company’s rise to becoming a mature, default choice in Scandinavia. One term that figures large in Lännerberg’s world today is accessibility.

Lännerberg wanted the Secret Shopper to open his eyes to the perspective of the customer. What Secret Shopper discovered is that every customer wants to get right into the heart of the business as quickly as possible. In other words, Tele-Computing had to become more accessible. “Secret Shopper showed us just how accessible we are, and where we had to improve accessibility. It allowed us to measure how we performed from the customer point of view and also from different stages within the buying process.”

Microsoft-TeleComputing
  • Secret Shopper showed us just how accessible we are, and where we had to improve accessibility. It allowed us to measure how we performed from the customer point of view and also from different stages within the buying process.

    Patrik Lännerberg

    Business Area Manager — TeleComputing Sweden AB

Among Secret Shopper’s many observations were poor SEO results for both Bing and Google but a thumbs up for ease of navigation on TeleComputing’s website. Such positive endorsements are every bit as valuable as critical insights.

Lännerberg remembers that TeleComputing’s sales team was very pleased at the tips Secret Shopper gave them to introduce a faster and more seamless sales process. The concrete improvements the exercise delivered soon wiped out any objections to the fact that a covert examination that had taken place.

Staff at TeleComputing are now getting more training to ensure they are completely at home with the whole range of benefits Office 365 confers on customers. And those employees are far more confident in their roles says Lännerberg. “This made us all feel that we are modern company.”

Carrying on with a world-class concierge

Secret Shopper transforms the customer journey with a raft of objective observations and constructive criticism. But improvement should be a continuous process. That is where Microsoft’s new Concierge Service steps in. Concierge is a platform of support and assistance available to businesses that have been through the Secret Shopper program. Incorporating New Customer Acquisition Plans and boosted by options for financial support from Microsoft Concierge is just as diligently executed as Secret Shopper and it runs to a tight four week timetable.

TeleComputing has to carry on the journey that started with Secret Shopper using the Concierge Service. In the space of one month they have worked hand in hand with Microsoft’s own experts to turn best practice into daily routine. Whether it is developing a sales proposal or mapping out a client’s migration into the cloud, Concierge Service will find the ideal route to faster sales and satisfied customers. Getting it right has never been easier. And getting it right is what customers look for in the first place.

The Client

It is not often that a company finds itself in the unique position to get unbiased, professional feedback on the sales journey their prospects and customers experience as they consider making a purchase.
Brentwood Communications, a company that has dedicated itself for over 40 years to providing bespoke radio communication solutions to customers who return year after year, recently had their sales journey assessed by Alinea Partners.

Brentwood Communications’ experienced team understands its customers, who come from a wide variety of market sectors. They know that those who come to them require reliable and easy to use communications. But the company also understands that, as you strive to provide the best solutions in your field, it is very easy to miss developments, changes, or shifts in customer purchasing behaviour. A suboptimal buying experience can translate into missed sales from buyers who abandon websites or sales processes to look for the competition.

Brentwood

By opening the lid on a sales process that too many businesses leave to chance, Alinea Partners’ Sales Journey Assessment provides a scientific analysis of the whole buyer’s journey.
Based on an exhaustive 160-point assessment, a carefully constructed persona tests and reveals how a buyer experiences the process, from finding through sales contact to receiving a proposal. The Assessment drills down into every relevant detail, including calls, emails, and website visits. Alinea Partners has used this methodology to analyse hundreds of sales journeys worldwide.

The Outcome

The outcome revealed Brentwood Communications was doing many things right, but some elements for improvement were identified. For example, personnel was quick to react during the engagement process, eliminating the risk of buyers leaving while waiting for a response. On the other hand, the information about timelines for providing the solution could have been clearer. Also, while employees were extremely knowledgeable about the hard facts of their solutions, they could have been more effective to emphasize the solutions’ diverse benefits for the buyer.

After the assessment, Brentwood Communications received specific recommendations to improve their prospect profiling process and to tune up their sales training to cover a wider set of solution benefits for a buyer as well as to set up additional interactions with prospects after the proposal stage.

  • I think the experience was extremely beneficial for us as it reinforced where we excel in our sales journey while highlighting areas where we can close more business by making some obvious improvements.

    James Miller

    Managing Director — Brentwood Communications Ltd.

Going through this process has enabled Brentwood Communications to become more aware of the wide scope of the buyer’s experience and the related impact on their business. They also have more insight into what buyers are looking for and on which touchpoints they should be reached. Brentwood Communications has taken Alinea Partners’ recommendations professionally, implementing action plans to ensure their sales team can always provide prospective buyers with more insights, clearer solution implementation timelines, and outstanding buying experience.

The Sales Journey Assessment has allowed Brentwood Communications to improve their sales journey along the different segments. Achieving an Alinea Partners Excellence in Customer Experience Gold Certification greatly increased the sales team’s confidence, morale and closing rates.

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  • “It was the best cloud seminar I’ve attended in a long time. I believe the VMware-Azure combo, positioned as IT Modernization and including Atea’s Value proposition in the message, will help me make the cloud transformation tangible for many customers.”

    Seminar participant, Atea

  • A great example of how common interest between VMware, Microsoft, and Atea Danmark has been 'facilitated' by yourselves, to everyone's benefit: chiefly our customers! Leahanne Hobson and her team have been absolutely instrumental in enabling this position for Atea.

    Sverre Pandurro, Head of Cloud Sales, Atea Danmark

  • We gained extremely valuable insights

    Neil Bolton, Global Future Workspace Product Manager, SoftwareONE

  • By adding Azure, Wirehive has gone from being a specialist web hosting company doing cool things to building a channel that enables partners to generate revenue.

    Chloe Cameron

    — Wirehive

  • The sales team were very happy to see the new website. They use it as a sales tool to give advice to and reconnect with the customers.

    Mael Dreano

    Digital Sales Manager for Microsoft — OVH

  • It’s not easy to understand your customer when you are an online business. And we have so many customers, all SMBs. We cannot know why all of these people chose a particular product.

    Mael Dreano

    Digital Sales Manager for Microsoft — OVH

  • Leverating Alinea Partner’s knowledge, experience and language skills proved to be highly important to us. In addition, Alinea Partners “Develop and Test” approach made this collaboration a success and generated results beyond our initial expectations.

    Arrow

  • New market approaches were used. Previously we only sold on price. This approach enabled us to think about adding value to new customer sets. The approach was different than what we or our competitors had used before.

    Base

  • What a surprise from Microsoft. We were very happy to see this analysis and the recommendations. The timing is perfect as we are working on our website now

    Microsoft

  • The partner feedback on the program was very positive. They had identified the right partner “personas”, the right program elements and value proposition. Top points were given for involving them in the process upfront.

    TELCO