This talk was given by Kevin Kent, Director of Channel Development, ScanSource at SaaS Connect 2019 in San Francisco, Mar 26-27, 2019. Get the slides

Innovation happens at the software layer. This is a conceptual problem for many resellers, who instead think in terms of hardware and infrastructure.

This is a problem that, left unchecked, will only accelerate because at the software layer the pace of innovation continues to increase.

To take advantage of this software innovation, resellers have to learn new information in order to shift out of the hardware and infrastructure-based perspective. Doing so is difficult.

Why resellers struggle with a software-first paradigm

For many companies, one of the biggest problems in distribution is perspective. Changing perspective takes a lot of time and effort.

For example, a reseller’s domain expertise is in hardware, infrastructure and the like. As a result, their perspective tends to be infrastructure-based.

From this perspective, an infrastructure that expands as a business’s customer base grows makes total sense. However, this perspective is missing a key fact: Innovation is happening not at the hardware and infrastructure layer, but at the software layer.

This perspective shift is also essential to understanding how new software solutions work together. For instance, is there an online tool available that will help your customer service staff upsell based on a customer’s individual needs, rather than merely taking orders? If so, is it compatible with your existing systems?

Why resellers and some SaaS companies lose sight of UX

Perspective also plays a role in the struggle between functionality and user experience. Although user experience increasingly drives customer satisfaction and loyalty, resellers in particular focus on functionality — and functionality can ignore or even diminish user experience.

For SaaS companies, the challenge becomes how to integrate user experience in a way that makes it easy for resellers to understand and implement.

SaaS companies struggle with questions of perspective as well. When SaaS providers get bogged down in the details of the system or installation, they too may ignore or overlook the user experience. The result is a platform that may be highly innovative, but that both the client and their customers struggle to use. A key opportunity to demonstrate value is lost.

How SaaS providers can shift back toward a user-first perspective

SaaS providers can help bridge the perspective gap. For instance, understanding a customer’s environment can be essential to improving user experience and to building a functional relationship, but many SaaS professionals never set foot in the coffee shops, warehouses or offices they serve.

Making the human connection can help these companies understand which tools and capabilities have to be present in the client’s environment in order for their business to thrive. It also allows SaaS companies educate resellers and other clients, changing their perspective on business and encouraging them to embrace innovative software solutions. The human connection also helps software innovators reach the right market for their products.

Understand your users to understand your value for resellers

By understanding real-world uses and the ways that value gets added to a particular reseller’s or client’s business chain, SaaS providers position themselves as the solution to sticky use problems or to lost value. Instead of getting stuck on the message “we can save you money,” for example, Saas providers switch to a stronger position: “We can add value — and here’s how.”