Already today, ASC works for more than 5,000 customers in more than 70 countries. Subsidiaries in 12 countries guarantee immediate contact with local customers. For customer proximity and optimum service, ASC has established trusted partnerships with business and technology partner. What does this look like in everyday business life?
Patrick: Our business partners are local sales intermediaries that purchase ASC products and solutions to sell them to their customers. Usually, business partners also offer technical support for ASC products in their country. For this purpose, ASC trains the partners’ service engineers to be able to offer support for ASC solutions. A business partnership is restricted to a local market and designed to offer a wide range of services. A technology partnership or a strategic alliance for its part, is established with a global parent company that offers solutions complementary to our portfolio and plays a leading role in the market. Technology partners either purchase and distribute ASC solutions in their subsidiaries or recommend ASC to their partners and customers.
Alex: We have introduced an attractive partner program for all partners distributing our solutions. There are three different categories: Certified Partners, Gold Partners, and Platinum Partners. Depending on the category, partners have access to different marketing funds and training opportunities.
How many business partners and how many technology partners does ASC have at the moment worldwide?
Alex: At present, we have more than 200 business partners and 22 technology partners. Every week, we add new business partner from all around the world.
Besides its partner business, does ASC also approach end customers directly?
Alex: Usually not. But that does not mean that end customers do not approach us directly. Especially when it comes to our cloud solutions and our new compliance recording app for Microsoft Teams this is frequently the case. Of course, we are happy to assist end customers than and make a customized offer. When end customers contact us of whom we know that they are already a customer of one of our partners, though, we involve the partner, too, of course. After all, that is what a fair partnership is all about.
So, a major part of your solutions is distributed through alliances with system integration partners, resellers, and local business partners. How do you guarantee that your partners present your solutions the way you want them to be presented?
Patrick: In our experience, all sales partners will only position a product with customers if they know it very well and if they have been trained accordingly to be able to explain the product in every detail to their customers. To this end, we offer our sales partners respective trainings. Among those are, for example, sales and pre-sales trainings in which the main sales arguments of the product and its general technical details are explained. Then, of course, we offer technical trainings lasting three days which will enable our partners to install and configure the system.
Alex: In addition, we offer in-depth technical training, such as advanced recording training which enables partners to install and maintain ASC solutions themselves. This also includes carrying out extensive system analysis and level 2 support. Such trainings takes five days and additional modules such as quality management or analytics can be added separately. After two years, a one-day recertification is required to ensure that the sales team is up to date.
Patrick, what is your role as Vice President for Strategic Alliances at ASC?
As Vice President for Strategic Alliances, I always have to keep an eye on the market: Which new players are establishing themselves; where are market shares shifting; is a company that so far has been of little interest to us suddenly gaining importance. Then I look around for suitable contacts to initiate a potential partnership. In cooperation with Product Management, I then introduce our company and our solutions to these contact persons. In the next step, we work out feasible business cases together and determine the best way to technically connect the solutions of our companies with one another. If both sides like the ideas we have come up with, contract negotiations begin. Then the partnership is taken to the sales level. Usually, I keep in touch with the partner throughout the entire process and have an eye on with whom and how we engage in sales activities. I always involve our regional sales teams so that joint sales activities can be started at local level. That is the process I accompany from the beginning to the end - (laughs) - at least in an ideal world.
And your role as Manager Sales Operations, Alex?
Basically, I take care of operational business in all subsidiaries worldwide, but primarily at headquarters in Hösbach with Sales International Eastern Europe and Central Europe. In terms of partnerships, I get involved as soon as it comes to drawing up the contracts. We have standard contracts that are accepted in this form by many partners, but frequently they have to be renegotiated and redesigned according to individual specifications. All contracts that are eventually signed go across my desk. I act as a kind of central human interface for all the subsidiaries and coordinate the entire process.
Why is it profitable for companies and ASC to form strategic partnerships?
Patrick: On one side, this is our answer to the complex, permanently evolving economic conditions in the market. The technology industry is in a constant flux which means that the market positions of vendors can change very quickly. For this reason, it is necessary to work closely with leading technology providers to be able to exploit their potential in the market and gain access to new markets and customers. For a medium-sized company like ASC, such a partnership above all implies an increase in sales reach. Let’s take Mitel, for example, which, with 3,800 employees, has completely different sales capacities than ASC with 260 employees. Naturally, an increase in sales reach is paralleled by an increase in awareness of ASC. In the end, both companies have the opportunity to concentrate on their core competencies thanks to this partnership. Each company develops its solution further in a target-oriented way and in the cooperation we create a close connection of the two solutions.
What specifically can ASC bring to the partnerships?
Alex: The purpose of a partnership is above all to create synergies. To do so, you take an expert aboard whom you can trust completely and from whom you get competent advice and compliance standards of the highest level. Exactly these are the criteria at ASC. We have more than 55 years of experience in the market. As a German company, we are faced with a very sophisticated legal situation and accordingly closely familiar with all possible requirements in terms of data protection, data security as well as applicable laws and regulations regarding the recording of communications. If a company has high compliance requirements, ASC is the perfect partner.
In addition, ASC has a pronounced service mentality. Basically, there is no ASC product without a corresponding service agreement. Another advantage is that we look closely at the individual customer requirements, take them into account accordingly and check the project for its feasibility. In addition, ASC has an extensive network that our partners benefit from. We cover a wide range of target markets: from police or fire brigade control centers to financial institutions, from insurance companies and contact centers in many different sectors to airports - our end customers come from practically all fields.
Do both companies profit at the end of the day?
Alex: Every partnership is looking for a win-win situation. But of course also ASC benefits from the additional network and the increased brand awareness. We gain access to projects that we would otherwise not have had access to on our own or with a local business partner. The big win for both parties is that they can rely on a competent expert for a precisely defined topic and thus generate additional sales.
What role do shared visions and objectives as well as trust play in the cooperation with partners?
Patrick: A major role. It can be compared with a relationship or marriage. If you do not pursue the same goals, it will not work in the long run. You should have a shared understanding of your long-term trajectory and, of course, pursue the same ideas in the market. Trust is also an important topic. Both sides invest a lot of time and money in such a strategic partnership. You want to be sure to not be caught unaware by the other partner suddenly taking a competitor aboard.
What goals are you pursuing with your different strategic partnerships?
Patrick: The goals depend very much on which market segment the respective alliance partner addresses with its solutions. Let’s take Mitel. One of Mitel’s focuses is contact centers. Which, in turn, drives us to advance the development of our workforce optimization solutions and have an open ear for the customers’ requirements together with Mitel. We then incorporate the feedback from these requirements into the further development of our solutions. In our partnership with Microsoft everything revolved around a recording solution for Microsoft Teams lately. We have developed many business cases to find out for which of Microsoft’s customer segments our solutions and competences could be of interest. And the conclusion was that this is the case for the financial services sector. In the financial services industry, there are strict regulations stipulating the legally compliant recording and documentation of all conversations in which consultation is provided or transactions are carried out. Our solutions are perfectly suited for this purpose.
What partner strategy does ASC plan to pursue in the coming years?
Patrick: The strategy for the coming years clearly is to expand our young partnerships, for example with Mitel, Microsoft or Atos, and to turn them into sales. At the same time, we will be watching how the market evolves and which new players may emerge. In such cases, we have to position ourselves and possibly adjust our orientation accordingly.
Alex: It may be worth adding that our focus is on cloud business. We are trying to take all our partners with us on the journey to the cloud. This trend is already very pronounced with many of our partnerships while with others we are still at the beginning. But no matter where we are on this journey: we will closely integrate our partners in the process. And that is what we are looking forward to.