Arrow Electronics shares six steps to building a winning cloud strategy

If you told Tom Ku a year ago Arrow ECS would be where they are now—not only running in the cloud but leading the charge—he would have been relieved.

“When I first took over the team, it was definitely a team in flux,” says Ku, Inside Sales Manager, Cloud Digital Group, Arrow.  “We were very new and needed to get up to speed and understand the Citrix program a lot better than we did.”

In 2018, the global technology enablement company did just that: completely rebuilding their Citrix business, soaring to the top as the Americas’ Operational Excellence & Partnership Partner of the Year award winner for 2018. They accepted the honor at Citrix Summit in January 2019 in Orlando.

So how did Arrow steady the ship and become the poster child for operational efficiency and dynamic growth in cloud? 

“We had a lot of growing pains,” says Matt Hiner, Citrix Business Manager, Arrow. “And, we put in a lot of hard work.”

Hiner, along with Tom Ku and Rod Strand, Citrix Marketing Manager, Arrow Cloud Digital, were part of a team at Arrow dedicated to helping their partners deploy and sell Citrix cloud solutions. We sat down to learn more about their winning strategy.

Master the basics

Tom Ku says Arrow has always taken pride in being the best at what they do.

To achieve that, they needed a better, more efficient process to navigate the Citrix program. “I asked Matt to retrain us because when we looked at where we were making errors and mistakes, I realized we just didn’t understand the Citrix program as well as we should have. So, it was us going back to basics.”

He asked Matt to mentor his sales reps and and help them map out the Citrix program. “First, we made sure we knew what Citrix needed from us, and what our partners needed from us,” Hiner says. “That helped us create a roadmap to a near seamless process.” This essential retraining helped their team get it right the first time and avoid scrambling back and forth to get the information they needed when it came time for an order.

In the previous year, Citrix focused on listening to partners and consulting with industry analysts to design a totally revamped partner program that would remove many roadblocks to the cloud. Hiner said these simplifications made a huge difference.

“Citrix streamlined the program, increased automation, added tracking capability and improved the overall transparency of the process. It saves our partners time so they can focus on their customers.”

Their own internal retraining, along with innovative streamlining from Citrix, helped position Arrow for success. When they encountered partners hesitant to switch their business to Citrix Cloud, the team at Arrow was equipped to confidently take the wheel, and demonstrate they knew what they were doing—and had their partners’ best interest in mind.

“We were able to pass our understanding on to partners and show them how easy it is.”

Simplify the message

“Partners are strapped for time. Our resellers have a lot of supplier lines that they support—not just Citrix. So if they can’t absorb something very quickly, they move on to the next thing,” Strand says.

To make sure their partners weren’t missing the message, the Arrow team focused on making the cloud easy to consume. They developed one pagers, short sales tips and how-to guides that communicated in sound bites and shepherded busy partners through the process.

“We worked with our technical team to put together a 3-minute video explaining how Citrix Cloud removes the management plane and moves it into the cloud,” Ku says. “It was very well received.  When they saw the video, partners would say, ‘I understand. I get it. That makes sense.’”

Don’t leave money on the table

Being a profitable business means making sure you’re not missing opportunities.

And even the biggest companies who’ve been selling Citrix the longest—have blind spots. Arrow put their field team in front of these sellers to help find the gaps in their strategy and sniff out missed revenue.

“When the light clicked on that ‘oh, we’re missing out on huge opportunities here,’” says Hiner, “then sellers got hungry to sell Citrix.”

It’s also imperative that partners have the right certifications to expand their portfolio and maximize their rewards from Citrix, says Ku. Arrow provides training paths and a partner sales portal as a one-stop shop for all collateral and sales enablement materials. They also send out monthly newsletters to partner contacts to keep them updated on what’s new.

In all of their points of contact, the Arrow team seeks to keep it simple and easy to consume. “We give them the high-level strategy,” says Strand. “They can always go to SalesIQ for more details.”

Clearly outline the benefits for partners

Different partners have different needs—and different fears.

For those who have spent decades investing in data centers, the prospect of shifting focus to the cloud can be extremely daunting. 

“We had to take the time to show them they’re not losing their professional services,” says Hiner. “They’re not going to have to put people out of their jobs over cloud computing. In fact, it’s going to create new opportunity and new recurring revenue models.” 

“We show small companies how moving to the cloud means no longer having to invest in a consultant when it comes time to upgrade,” Strand adds.  “We also show them the high quality of their deployments, which makes mobile connectivity much easier.”

Their team created simple three-minute video playbooks around Citrix Cloud, Citrix & Azure, and Citrix & Nutanix that lay out cloud deployment from top to bottom: what it is, how it works, what the benefits are, and how to sell it. For partners who want to keep their solution on-prem, the playbooks cover the value prop, the end users, the buyers, and their needs. “This makes it easier for our partners to understand how to promote this to customers,” says Strand.

Stay 5 steps (or years) ahead

Arrow’s high-level goal is to not only help partners innovate—but to also transform the way they look at technology. Their mantra to partners is: are you looking five years out?

“We embrace the potential for technology to change lives, shift perspectives and generate new opportunities,” Strand says. “Yes, new ideas and new electronics will make life different—but also better, cheaper, smarter and more inspired.”

Looking five years out is also about focusing on the tangible future, and staying ahead of what’s just around the corner.

In 2018, when Citrix announced its focus on cloud for the coming year, Arrow started talking to their partners early. By March 2018, they were already getting the word out about the training required to get additional discounts on cloud products.

“When January 2019 rolled around,” Hiner says, “all of our partners were enabled, trained, ready for cloud—and certified to get those discounts.”

They helped partner companies like Insight stay ahead of the curve with weekly cadence calls between Arrow reps and Insight’s business development team. They made sure their partners were the first to know about any changes happening at Citrix. “We would take the time to explain it to resellers, and make sure that they knew how to explain it to their sellers. We were always looking for ways Arrow could help them grow.”

The proof is in the profits: Insight went on to win the Citrix Enterprise Partner of the Year award at Summit 2019.

In fact, Arrow’s strategy created a ripple effect, with an impressive number of their partners also winning Citrix Partner of the Year awards, including Microsoft (Strategic Alliance Partner of the Year), Entisys360 (US Partner of the Year), ConRes (Growth Partner of the Year), CDW (Commercial Partner of the Year), and Sirius (Mid-Market Partner of the Year).

Don’t lose sight of the relationships

Part of what makes the partnership between Arrow and Citrix work so well is a shared desire to push the limits of what technology can do.

That creativity is grounded in a solid working relationship that extends up the executive channel, from top to bottom. Rod Strand credits Traci Burch, Distribution Manager, Americas Channels and Marketing, Citrix, for fostering that level of engagement.

“We have open, honest conversations about what the opportunities are—as well as the issues—and we work together to resolve those. We don’t always see eye to eye, but she listens and understands our struggles. When things need to be changed, that gets communicated up to management. She’s a valued team member.”

That ongoing working relationship is nurtured at Summit and Citrix Synergy, where in-person meetings elevate trust and understanding—and have a critical impact on the rest of the year.  

“There’s nothing that replaces a face-to-face discussion in driving business together,” says Strand. “We could all be sending emails 365 days of the year and not accomplish what we could accomplish in several days at an event like Summit.”

What Citrix programs are they excited about in 2019?

Strand says the Citrix KickStart program is a really good example of how Arrow and Citrix work together on a joint program.

Strand says the Citrix KickStart program is a really good example of how Arrow and Citrix work together on a joint program.

With Kickstart, Citrix is “curating its best material and providing it to customers in a way that makes it easy for them to deploy campaigns and promote the Citrix message to their customers.” The Arrow team puts those materials into an email nurture campaign that their partners can launch virtually at the push of a button. Arrow makes it easy for partners to track back end consumption of that material so partners can decide their next steps.

“It gives us multiple channels and different multiple products, from networking to Citrix Cloud,” says Strand. “It’s a really great program and we need to help people take advantage of it.”

The Arrow team is also excited about the integration of Citrix Workspace into the IoT and the opportunities it brings to make things even easier for employees through connected devices.

“From printing on any printer in the building from any device, to sensors kicking on a heater when someone is in a room or turning off the lights when everyone goes home, to the ability to notify facilities when something isn’t working—all of these things can be managed through Citrix Workspace.”

Learn more about how Citrix Workspace can help your business.

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