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Partnering by numbers: How Blue Chip works to understand their partners and maximize collaborative opportunities

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Blue Chip

Partner-to-partner collaboration can be a powerful method for organizations looking to expand to new markets, develop their customer base, and innovate with revolutionary technologies.

According to a report by Gartner entitled The 2017 CIO Agenda: Seize the Digital Ecosystem Opportunity, “Top-performing organizations have, on average, 78 partners in their digital ecosystems, up from 27 partners two years ago. These organizations expect to double the number of partners to 143 in the next 2 years.”

Collaboration offers partners the chance to learn best practices from one another and to leverage rare and valuable skillsets from across multiple organizations. Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President of Global Partner Channels and Programs at Microsoft recently said, “How you define your business, and who you choose to partner with, must evolve as more and more companies embrace digital transformation. Defining your unique core is critical to finding truly complementary partnerships, so look inward to figure out your secret sauce. Remember that it’s not about becoming a different partner – it’s about doing things differently. Blue Chip gets that and is a partner leading by example”

For Cleveland-based Blue Chip, partnering is in their DNA. They work closely with the partners in their channel to extend the value of their services and close challenging deals together.

Blue Chip’s engineers are trained to work with their partners’ account managers to help close deals, augment staff, implement services, and drive increased consumption.

Partnering by the numbers

Blue Chip maintains its own partner channel and espouses a practical, numbers-based approach to partnering. Blue Chip thinks deeply about their partners’ priorities and works to understand how individual account managers are measured. This understanding enables Blue Chip to collaborate successfully and pinpoint what drives the individuals who comprise the partner organizations with whom they work.

“For years, our strategy when working with partners has been very simple. First, they need to be aware that we exist and they need to be educated as to the kind of expertise we bring to the table. Second, we need to know what makes them money, and determine if we can be instrumental in helping them hit their numbers,” said Brian Bradley, Senior Vice President of Advisory Services at Blue Chip, regarding their approach to partnering.

To accomplish this, Blue Chip involves itself heavily at partner events, including Microsoft’s WPC (now Microsoft Inspire), and publishes case studies and customer success stories across their digital platforms.

Upon establishing a reputation with a partner, Blue Chip sifts through the opportunities they receive, looking for what Bradley refers to as “red-zone deals” – deals that are far enough along where Blue Chip can come in and provide the expertise necessary to help their partner close the deal.

Investing in their people

Blue Chip’s success hinges on their consultants’ technical expertise and their ability to add value in the pre-sales and sales cycle for their partners; Blue Chip has their own engineers that act as consultants alongside the account managers who comprise their channel.

“We pride ourselves on the ongoing training and development of our key resources and our resources take pride in educating one another,” said Bradley. “Blue Chip is a consultancy made up of full-time employees, so our partners get the broad knowledge of the firm in addition to the specific knowledge of the resources on their project. That is why we ask our partners to bring us in to solve their clients’ toughest technology problems.”

By focusing exclusively on Microsoft technologies, Blue Chip maintains a deep level of expertise regarding the products they sell, service and support, keeping up with the updates and features Microsoft rolls out on a regular basis.

“Our War Room sessions offer an opportunity for our resources to share best practices with one another,” said Bradley. “With our two MVPs on staff, we take full advantage of our early access to the newest Microsoft products and features.”

Beyond internal training, Blue Chip maintains a specific hiring profile they use to staff their engagements with the right resources – people with extensive, up-to-date technical knowledge and a consultative mindset.

“It is important that our technical resources know Microsoft inside and out and come to our clients with an understanding of how technology can be used as part of a business solution rather than simply selling features,” said Bradley.

Selling solutions, not features

Blue Chip’s consultants are trained to assist their partners at any stage of a deal, helping with implementations as well as driving deals to the finish line. Therefore, Blue Chip’s consultants are not only trained to be experts with the Microsoft products they work with, but are also trained to speak to how those products can be implemented to drive business outcomes.

[…] Remember that it’s not about becoming a different partner – it’s about doing things differently. Blue Chip gets that and is a partner leading by example.

- Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, Global Partner Channels and Programs, Microsoft

Blue Chip emphasizes a solution-based approach to selling and speaking to technology, contextualizing products within the business problem the solution addresses.

This approach enables Blue Chip to speak credibly to business decision makers and bridge the gap between the capabilities of the technology itself and the day-to-day business problems for which it is used. In doing so, Blue Chip has seen tremendous success helping partner reps at larger firms close deals.

Finding the right partners

When offering other partners advice on how to partner, Blue Chip adopts a practical, persistent approach. They advocate working with solution-based partners whose values mirror their own and finding organizations where their resources and expertise can add value.

“When looking for partners, the ones we look for are solution-based organizations themselves – sometimes they are our competitors,” said Bradley, Senior Vice President. “We work in a space where the level of technological complexity is always ramping and where experts are always needed. There aren’t enough experts out there – it only makes sense to work together.”

Building trust

Identifying the right partners is just one part of the battle. Embedding yourself as a trusted advisor with a larger partner organization takes legwork and persistence. Blue Chip works tirelessly to get its name out with the type of partners whose work aligns best with their own. In doing so, Blue Chip has identified numerous strategies that, when used together, have resulted in collaborative success.

“We look at digital platforms, we create our own digital content, we attend events and we look at lists,” said Bradley. “We identify areas where we can become a critical success factor for a partner or client. Then, through successful project work - helping them reach their goals - we earn credibility and the partnership becomes sustainable. That’s truly when it becomes a win for all parties, including end-clients.”

This strategy paid dividends with CDW, a major Microsoft partner and P2P collaborator with Blue Chip. CDW and Blue Chip have worked together on several deals. Most recently, the two partners collaborated to build and deploy an online data store using Microsoft Azure for the Save the Children Foundation, an international organization dedicated to promoting the rights of children. The system will enhance the foundation’s security, increase sight speeds and improve integration with internal and external applications; providing employees, members and sponsors with real-time information where and when they need it.

Keeping it simple

For Blue Chip, the formula for partnering is a simple one. Focus on the most recent and applicable technologies and work to hire and train your resources to ensure they are constantly up-to-date on the latest and greatest industry information. Train your resources to sell solutions – not products – to speak credibly and in the right language to business decision makers looking to purchase solutions. Then, find the partners who can use that same formula to win big with their clients.

We work in a space where the level of technological complexity is always ramping... There aren’t enough experts out there – it only makes sense to work together.

- Brian Bradley, Senior Vice President of Advisory Services, Blue Chip

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