Vendor’s View: Prioritize Relationships Over Sales to Find Success in the CompTIA Community

Want to develop better MSP relationships within the CompTIA Community? Take off your badge and help the industry, says Vince Crisler.

Prioritize Relationships Over Sales to Find Success in the CompTIA CommunityThe CompTIA Community is a diverse, energetic and forward-leaning community comprised of individuals with a wide range of skill sets ranging from students to professionals who have “been around the block a few times.”

I was introduced to the CompTIA Community while building my cybersecurity product company, Dark Cubed, over five years ago. Many vendors find their way into the CompTIA Community and get excited about the many opportunities to grow their sales, booths at events, speaking slots and networking socials, all offered at prices significantly lower than many of the MSP events around the globe. However, I strongly recommend that any vendor interested in growing in this community take a step back and reflect on a few points before barging in like the proverbial bull in a China shop.

My experience, and the experiences I have heard from countless others, proves that the CompTIA Community is about relationships, personal growth and the strength of a fully engaged and aligned community tackling issues that make us all better.

Within the CompTIA Community, vendors need to behave differently than they do at other MSP events to succeed with members. Many MSP conferences have become excellent opportunities to promote your product, engage MSPs and aggressively focus on building your profile and reputation in the channel. But CompTIA events are different for three reasons, each providing a unique opportunity for vendors to find success.

First, CompTIA fiercely defends its reputation of being vendor neutral. One of the most liberating things about walking around a CompTIA Community event is the ability to throw company logos aside and engage equally with vendors, MSPs, IT professionals, educators and many others to discuss the key issues affecting our industry without getting into a US vs THEM mentality. This vendor neutrality creates a space for MSPs to take a break from the barrage of vendor marketing and allows vendors to get to know their market first-hand without the sales process getting in the way.

The first lesson learned is that vendors should take advantage of the opportunity to engage the CompTIA Community on critical issues to sharpen their messaging on their product and look forward to where their product should go to meet the ever-changing marketplace. Having these discussions without prejudice to your current product or offerings is key. Your product or service will be more successful if you learn from the community.

Second, the CompTIA Community provides leadership opportunities that you cannot find anywhere else in the market—take it seriously. Early in my CompTIA Community relationship as a vendor, it felt strange to be put in charge of committees alongside MSPs. However, I quickly discovered that if I removed my vendor hat and engaged the community genuinely, the relationships quickly developed. I am not sure I have ever been a part of such a welcoming community of professionals that all genuinely care about making the profession better for everyone. I discovered that by opening myself up to leadership opportunities within the CompTIA Community as a vendor, and not acting like a vendor, that I was welcomed wholeheartedly into the community. As a result, I have built some incredible friendships and relationships that I have never actually engaged in sales discussions with.

There is extreme value in those relationships because they become channels for feedback and advice that you may never find elsewhere. Did my role in the CompTIA Community help with sales? Certainly. But those sales were the result of respected relationships and the development of trust that led customers to ask the question about what we did and why.

Finally, the CompTIA Community provides opportunities for vendors to showcase their products through booths and provides the opportunity for vendors to present on key topics to the community. This offering is a huge benefit and value add to vendors, who should take full advantage of these opportunities. However, due to the unique nature of this community, you need to approach it differently. When I see vendors that are complaining about their booths not getting visits or not having success at CompTIA events, I can typically pin it down to the fact that they are simply trying to “hawk their warez” like they might at MSP shows instead of focusing on adding value back to the community.

Having people from your company present on educational topics to the CompTIA community—really trying to educate, not thinly veiled product pitches—is  one of the best ways to get people to stop at your booth to learn more about you. Having fun at the booth and the event is another way to generate interest. This community is fun-loving, and it is OK to let your hair down and enjoy it.

I am ever grateful to the CompTIA Community for everything I have gained: Friendships, knowledge and opportunities. It is a uniquely diverse community where the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. So, vendors, hopefully, you can benefit from this community like I did, engage, seek out leadership opportunities and enjoy the events!

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Vince Crisler is the chief strategy officer at Celerium and vice chair of the Cybersecurity Interest Group in the North America CompTIA Community.

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