Reimagine The New Next Together: 2020 Lessons Learned

In our “Reimagine the New Next” video series, Michelle Ruyle, Intelisys’ VP of Marketing and Digital Transformation joins channel industry experts to discuss how the “new next” sparked an industry evolution. In this episode, 8×8‘s Kathy Mazza, SADA‘s Billy Franz, LUMEN‘s Matt Frederickson, and AT&T Alliance and ACC Business’ Chris Jones join Michelle to discuss major lessons learned in 2020 and what they will carry forward.

Michelle Ruyle: Hello. My name is Michelle Ruyle. I am the Vice President of Digital Transformation here at Intelisys. As we “Reimagine The New Next Together,” we actually wanted to just take a few minutes to reflect on 2020 and the lessons learned. So for today’s conversation, we’ll be talking with a panel of indirect channel industry experts. We have Kathy Mazza, our VP of Strategic Channels with 8×8. We’ve got Chris Jones, AVP of AT&T’s Alliance Channel. We have Lumen’s Matt Frederickson, Manager of Solution Architects. We’ve also got Billy Franz, Director of Inside Sales and Channel with SADA.
Matt, glad to have you with us today.

Matt Frederickson: Thank you so much for having me.

Michelle Ruyle: Matt, there were a lot of things that happened in 2020. Let’s talk a bit about how did the way that you engaged in 2020 change?

Matt Frederickson: Wow. I think we have to start with, one day, I was packed for Channel Partners getting ready to go to Vegas, all pumped up, and then canceled my flight that Friday night, before. And I was really disappointed that we didn’t get to have a lot of face time with our partners, because we love that. We love that interaction. And so, to have that yanked from us? That was a little bit of a blow.
But within weeks, we started really using our collaboration platform. And we started out with things like Skype and then quickly discovered that there were limitations there, and moved very quickly to Zoom and Teams. And overnight, the entire company transitioned to a Teams environment. So there were some learning curves there, but it went extremely well, just because people needed that interaction with everybody.

So, with our customer meetings, with our partner meetings, we’ve taken an approach of going all-in with video to get a little bit of that personal interaction back. And then, we’ve built a lot more relationships with a lot of those UC partners and even added some of the more successful ones to our portfolio.

Michelle Ruyle: There’s no doubt that video fatigue was a big part of 2020. Kathy, can you tell us a little bit more how your company and you dealt with this kind of video fatigue that we’re all going through, and how that changed your engagement?

Kathy Mazza: What I think about, and absolutely what Matt said, we all changed on a dime. And the way that we’ve engaged with our partners and customers has really pivoted. One of our executives really coined the term: It’s the golden age of communications, but for all the wrong reasons. And so, we have taken an approach… At 8×8, we’ve always been a demand-gen focus with our channel partners. And we really looked at, how can we help them?

There are partners that have hundreds of sellers, but then there’s also agencies that have one and two. Do they have a marketing team? How do we help them engage with their customers? So we really focused on doubling down on our blitz days. In 2020, we did almost 900 blitz days, and we created about $24 million in deal registration. And a lot of that was leads that we gave our partners, and we helped them. We helped with marketing campaigns via social and email blasts, etc. We did the world’s largest blitz day. We are actually trying for a national… like a Guinness Book of World Records. We had 200 partners globally.

And we really did something interesting with the Intelisys partners. We did… I think it was called a “Sip and Sell.” And we really want to roll that out again in 2021. But we brought on some of our experts, our account development team, and how they engage in calling out to customers and prospects. So it was really a great opportunity for partners. In the channel, we’re used to being in front, face to face, coining the term, shaking hands, kissing babies and stuff. We had to change how we engage with our customers.

And we’re trying to help by educating, not on product, but just how to talk to people in this time when we’re just sitting face to face.

So that was really a focus for us at 8×8. And for the partner community, especially the Intelisys community, it’s really resonated. So we’re excited to continue that.

Michelle Ruyle: How interesting, right? That the shift in what happened with the pandemic kind of also shifted the way we’re engaging with partners and doing more things that they’ve really been asking us to do for a while? So that’s great.

Hey, Chris. 2020 was quite the year. Right? Gosh, what do you think the channel’s biggest lesson learned was?

Chris Jones: Think about the term that we didn’t often use prior to last year, which is “essential worker.” Right? And the definition of essential worker really changed last year, whether it’s the people at the grocery store, etc. We always thought about it as first responders, but what I would tell you… I believe every single person on this call… We’re in an essential industry, right?

So when I think about what Kathy just talked about, right, doing all these Zoom calls or 8×8 calls or these video calls, none of that works without the technology that we provide as companies. So 2020, as big a disaster as it was, would have been a colossal disaster if it wasn’t for what we do for a living. None of our kids would be in school. None of us would have seen doctors. It would have been such a wildly different experience. And so, I think the single greatest thing that happened out of 2020, as much of a mess as it was, is we all realized not only are we essential workers, but we’re in an essential industry. And I hope that people come back in 2021 and beyond really energized about: how do we prepare ourselves for the next pandemic or whatever it is. And how is our industry going to allow people to continue to succeed and to thrive and to survive?

Michelle Ruyle: I have to say, Chris, I always have said what we do isn’t brain surgery. It’s not life-threatening. After hearing you, I actually think I’m going to change how I communicate that, because I really didn’t think about it the way that you just presented it. And thank you for really helping us see that, because it is essential what we do; how we support our partners and their end-customers, more so than ever with the pandemic.

So, hey, Billy. Lot happening. A lot of lessons learned in 2020. What is the most interesting industry trend that you’ve seen over the past year?

Billy Franz: So what I’ve seen, from the industry standard, and what I think will actually remain constant going forward, I fully believe the work-life integration is here to stay. I think gone are the days, especially from hiring people in specific cities and territories. While I still think there will be a need for that, to connect with the customer base at a regional alignment and a regional standpoint, it’s not as big of a necessity for, maybe the operations of marketing, the different verticals within a business.

And then, now, the mobility features. I think people are expecting more and more features to be translating back and forth from… whether it’s their laptop to their mobile phone or to a desktop or a tablet. And they want these capabilities in their technology to be agnostic of OS, of feature device. And then, you’re going to see, even more so, with the internet of things, right? So the connectivity aspect, which I know everybody on this call can certainly speak to that.

So that’s kind of what I’d say, is, at a high level, work-life integration. And then, on top of that, the pairing with mobility and accessibility.

Michelle Ruyle: Yeah. I think you’re spot on. Well, Billy, Chris, Kathy, and Matt, thank you so much for having this conversation with us today. And you can get more information about these suppliers on MyIntelisys. Bye for now.