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Partner Connection Podcast

Four Key Things to Remember When Practice Building

By Tanner Bechtel
| | 9 min read

Summary

“Practice building” is a term loved by technologists, business leaders, software companies, and startup investors, but what does it really mean? Tanner Bechtel outlines four key things to remember while building your practice with ThousandEyes and identifies common pitfalls to avoid.


“Practice building” is a term that technologists, business leaders, software companies, and startup investors simply love to use. But what does it actually mean? And furthermore, why does everyone have an opinion on it but rarely give a prescriptive, repeatable structure to make it successful?  

To anyone in the driver’s seat of a practice being incubated or accelerated—these are seriously tough questions that, unfortunately, only those competing with you can truly advise upon. That conundrum is what led me to where I am today, at Cisco and, more specifically, with ThousandEyes. 

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Tanner Bechtel, and I lead the ThousandEyes Partner Solutions Team as part of our global channel. Before ThousandEyes, I spent the last six years trying to answer these very questions on practice building. Due in large part to a phenomenal team, the right market conditions, and some serious innovation—we were wildly successful. We became the largest global reseller of ThousandEyes and a market-mover in the AIOps and observability world.  

Now that we’ve gratuitously patted ourselves on the back, why don’t we talk about how we did it. In frank terms, shall we?  

Practice building is akin to starting a brand-new company. Even if you focus your current practice on a specific technology, you must approach and operate your new practice like a new business. We had to learn this the hard way. And frankly, I see the errors associated with this mistake repeated more often than you’d think—even at organizations that have been successful in many other traditional lines of technology. 

Let’s outline four key things to remember as you’re building your practice, so you can avoid common pitfalls.  

  1. Have a plan—and know what you’re going to do when you reach it (...or don’t)
    “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” —Thomas A. Edison

    It’s easy to have a goal. It’s hard to have a plan. In many instances (my own practice included), we as partners set out to “build a successful practice” and occasionally overlook the fact that we will need a lot of outside involvement from the company we work within. We’ll need to mobilize sellers, get leadership buy-in, develop competitive pricing in the market, get our services organizations to build expertise in deployment, and so forth and so on. 

    A clear project and lifecycle plan can help you put those pieces in motion, but having one with milestones, dates, and key decision points can really help. Even if you don’t know all the details yet, put together a rough timeline of resources, plans, and personnel you think you’ll need. This step can help you make minor in-motion course corrections instead of hard shifts that can sometimes derail your progress. Federate your ideas, find allies, and don’t be afraid to talk to your peers at competing or geographically separated partners like yourself. 

    Also, don’t forget that the ThousandEyes Channel team is built to help. We can connect you with the Partner Advisory Council member partners or even coordinate conversations with other partners who are doing similar things.
     
  2. Know What Success Looks Like (and How To Measure It)
    "The question is: what are we busy about?” —Henry David Thoreau

    Planning for key goals before you get started is critical. Success will ultimately be determined not only in profitability and scale, but also in strategic impact across the organization. 

    ThousandEyes has a substantial feature set that makes the platform valuable both as a freestanding solution and integrated as a dynamic part of a large-scale offering. ThousandEyes can become an incredibly strategic foundation for observability, automation, network operations, and security. 

    Before building your integrated practice, ensure you understand the important metrics—not only for your practice development and the resale of ThousandEyes, but also for how your integrated business perceives its strategic value. Is ThousandEyes helping you renew your upcoming high-value contracts? Is it expanding the purchase of SD-WAN and networking hardware? Is it increasing the average GP % of each enterprise deal? Knowing these elements—and tracking them for review and decision-making later—can be critically valuable to the success of your program.
     
  3. Keep Your Market Messaging Simple (Seriously. This is Critical.)
    "Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple" —Steve Jobs

    One of the most valuable shifts I ever made as the Practice Leader in my AIOps team was to completely refactor our messaging around digital experience assurance with ThousandEyes into our other lines of business. We focused our value heavily on the business outcome of what we could do with ThousandEyes rather than on the feature set itself. We rarely—if ever—spoke about the features or functions in our initial messaging. We kept our pitch decks to a minimum and saved the technical deep dives for the demos with our engineers. 

    By keeping the messaging simple, we were able to help many people understand what we could provide—fundamentally—without having to have a deep technical knowledge of networking, observability, or the products themselves. When building out your practice, focus on a simple message that you can explain to anyone, regardless of technical prowess. By doing this, you’ll create a memorable, easy-to-recall value proposition that your sellers and customers alike will understand and—ideally—want to know more about!
     
  4. Make Your Value Contextual to Your Audience
    “Context constitutes 90% of a message, words only 10%.” ―Abhijit Naskar

    In line with the previous point, creating contextual value is paramount to your practice’s success. ThousandEyes offers a diverse array of benefits, but when selling it as a standalone solution or integrating it with other offerings, the value it delivers specifically to your buyer, seller, customer's engineer, or network manager is what truly matters. People are curious about technology, but passionate about outcomes. 

    By keeping your message tight, focused, and relevant to your audience; you’ll gain a great deal more understanding and relevance with your sellers and customers, ideally simplifying and speeding up the buying process. 

        In closing, practice development is a daunting challenge for anyone to undertake. But, it doesn’t have to be unpredictable. By following some core tenets, you and your team can predictably build a successful, repeatable business with ThousandEyes.


        To learn more about how to develop a practice, listen to the “Simplifying the Complex” episode of our ThousandEyes Partner Connection Podcast.

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