Building channel resilience in 2023 and beyond

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With a slew of tech giants announcing layoffs, the mood of the IT services market is cautious. Big investments and expansion plans are likely to be on hold, at least in the short term. 

But while it’s easy to see all of the negative headlines and fear the worst, it’s also important to think long term. There are positive predictions for the year. Gartner has predicted that the IT security market will grow over 11% in 2023, and it’s perhaps a mixed blessing that cyber criminals are keeping the security market buoyant. 

Rather than panic, the channel should prepare, and focus on communicating the value of security to grow this part of their business.

Cultivating a resilient ecosystem

Key to creating a compelling security offering is building an ecosystem - working with the right vendors with solutions that work together and can create sales opportunities. For example, email security and endpoint security are essentials that every customer needs, but these can be complemented with security training for users. 

John Nolan, managing director at Westcon-Comstor UK&I
John Nolan


John Nolan is managing director of Westcon-Comstor for UK&I, where he leads a team of more than a hundred sales, technical, and operational professionals across the UK and Ireland. Formerly serving as sales director, John has spent 17 years at Westcon-Comstor, having joined the business in 2005 as a key account manager. 

Email protection and user awareness together can protect a business far better than just email protection, but businesses will often only demand the first. It’s natural for them to assume that a technical solution will fix what they see as a technical problem. It may take time to educate users, but having the right solution will make this much easier.

Similarly, protection is vital, but there needs to be a backup plan - literally. Data loss prevention is a critical addition to this suite of solutions that can be added later if the customer is not immediately convinced of its necessity.

The key is to create a jigsaw that can be slotted together all at once or completed over time, rather than a cacophony of overlapping products. Providers should be looking to create an integrated suite of vendors and solutions that will segue into complementary sales.

Channel partners should also embrace more of the solutions within existing vendor portfolios. Vendors have done a lot of the hard work in creating solutions where a need exists, and this should be taken advantage of. Just because a vendor is known for its network firewalls, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer worthwhile security solutions outside of this niche.

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It can be tempting to focus on the here and now, but building resilience means creating a foundation for future growth. It’s natural to say that you should repair the roof while the sun is shining, but that doesn’t mean the roof shouldn’t be repaired during inclement weather.

Even in straitened times it’s necessary to invest in the right training. This is true for sales people, it’s vital that they know exactly what they are selling, but also engineers. 

Time needs to be allocated for learning and development, whether that’s gaining certification or learning through communities. 

Staying resilient means customers have faith in the partner they work with. Firms will also be using this time to consider how they are spending their money and thinking about value.

But need will be a consideration, and so partners should be proactive in undertaking account reviews to accommodate businesses' evolving needs.

Annual refresh cycles are a thing of the past with as-a-service products, and there’s no need to wait a year to approach a customer and suggest a review if things have changed. By working with vendors that provide strong analytics and dashboard features, insights can not only preempt issues, but be used to upsell.

Partnerships and customer success 

Not everything offered by a partner has to be delivered directly. By working with businesses offering complementary solutions then it’s possible to offer a more comprehensive service. This can be a stopgap until a service is brought in-house. 

Either way, the point is to let the customer know we are a one-stop shop and can cover all their needs. 

That’s important, as one of the key parts of resilience is understanding how important current customers are. We all know the old adage that winning a new customer costs ten times as much as retaining an existing one. Resilience means a sales team has to treat every customer as a potential lifetime partner and show that they are not forgotten once sold to. 

Ultimately, resilience means looking at where your business is healthiest and making sure that everything possible is done to make sure this aspect is supported, through sales, customer service, employee education and the right product suite.  

It may also be the right time to think about who your customers are - are you a generalist, or are you serving a niche market? 

Targeting an audience, rather than limiting options for future sales, can increase resilience - there are benefits of more targeted sales material, a consolidated product suite, even better word of mouth as businesses talk to similar businesses.

Resilience is not a case of battening down the hatches and waiting the bad times out, it means being proactive. It means keeping up with changes that will keep a business going through the worst of times, and being prepared to take advantage of better times. 

Most of all, it means looking to the long term as well as making short-term decisions - ”duck and cover” will only work for so long.

John Nolan
Managing director, Westcon-Comstor UK&I

John Nolan is managing director of Westcon-Comstor for UK&I, where he leads a team of more than a hundred sales, technical, and operational professionals across the UK and Ireland. 

Formerly serving as sales director, John has spent 17 years at Westcon-Comstor, having joined the business in 2005 as a key account manager.