Alyssa Fitzpatrick General Manager, Worldwide Partner Co-sell, One Commercial Partner

SMB customers: co-sell opportunities for partners

Man on surface laptop

With digital transformation reshaping the competitive landscape and customer needs, utilizing co-sell to collectively grow business and foster long-term relationships through partner-led products and services has never been more important for you, for Microsoft, and for our customers. Together, our powerful ecosystem connects partners with Microsoft, customers, and the rest of the partner network to drive evolution for all of us—regardless of business size.  

As I discussed in a recent blog post, co-sell is our end-to-end selling engagement with you, from the initial stages of onboarding into the Microsoft Partner Network, building your solutions, publishing to the Microsoft commercial marketplace, and engaging in Partner Center, to sharing referrals and working with Microsoft and other partners to close deals. It includes any collaboration between Microsoft and our partner ecosystem including building demand, sales planning, sharing sales leads, accelerating partner-to-partner empowered selling and delivering marketplace-led commerce for customer transformation. By co-selling with Microsoft and other partners, you can be discovered, deliver your expertise, and expand your footprint. Partners can also sell directly to customers in the Microsoft commercial marketplace, including Azure Marketplace and Microsoft AppSource

In particular, given how the small and medium business (SMB) market continues to grow and adopt the cloud, Microsoft is increasing its focus on amplifying co-sell activity surrounding this customer segment in fiscal year 2021. As stated in a recent research report from Accenture, “Selling to small-and medium-sized businesses can be a major growth opportunity. They are vast in number, accessible through digital channels, open to conversation and advice and, once a purchase is made, resistant to switching.” 

In this post, I’ll explore the strategies and priorities we’ve set to better serve this customer base over the next fiscal year. 

Microsoft strategy for SMBs  

If you’re interested in pursuing SMB co-sell opportunities with the Microsoft Partner Network, a great place to start is to build a real understanding of how we view the SMB customer market and how we incorporate that view into our core strategy.  

Targeted marketing and investments on high-propensity SMB customers: 

We look at the SMB customer segment as three distinct audiences.  We have our traditional small businesses, medium businesses, and third is what we call top customers that are enterprise-like organizations but do not have a Microsoft account executive seller assigned. To give you an idea of the scale of this third audience, we currently have over half a million customers (with 300+ employees) who have a high propensity for our modern work and secure remote work solutions today. They also have a high propensity for Microsoft Azure in terms of transitioning to the cloud. Let’s look at how we can together unlock this opportunity. 

  • Firstly, we’re investing in boosting digital sales and driving account-based and programmatic marketing enabled through an AI-based propensity model to our top customers. This allows us to engage with these organizations more accurately when we see a potential opportunity to help support their cloud transformation.   
  • Secondly, we are making programmatic investments specifically into this customer base that will generate opportunity for partnering and co-selling. 

Support and grow our SMB ISVs

Continuing to engage in recruitment and activation with our SMB ISVs (independent software vendors) is a top priority for us. We’re currently pursuing two primary approaches, which include: 

  • A digitally-led approach that uses digital connected sales and marketing to help ISVs onboard through the right technical expertise and migrate their applications. 
  • A partner-to-partner motion, which centers on working with our global indirect partners to help scale those ISVs and migrate to Azure. 

Scale with our partners

This third strategy deserves the most emphasis. When we think about our SMB segment—particularly the way we go to market and scale with this customer base—it really is through you, our partners. As a result, we’re making a number of investments, both now and in the future, to streamline how we help you develop your practices and scale our engagement together. 

What does this mean for your business? 

We have very clear priorities with our SMB customers in terms of the go-to-market strategies and specific business plays we will be landing in-market (see chart below). Each of these plays—which are grounded in modern work, security, apps and infra, data and AI, and business applications—stem from two core go-to-market strategies that we have as a global business this year: responding to our customers’ crisis management needs and providing cost savings. 

I encourage you to think of these strategies and tactics as a foundation for the practice development areas we would love for you to continue building upon. We will be engaging with partners that have developed practices in each of these areas, which can open additional opportunities for your organization. 

As part of the Microsoft Partner Network, your success equals our success, which informs every interaction we have together. Through our renewed focus on SMB co-sell opportunities, I’m confident we will better serve this customer base while unlocking opportunities to build new relationships and generate additional revenue for your organization and the partner network. I look forward to seeing what we accomplish as we work together throughout FY21 and beyond.