A Blog Series for U.S. Partners by Jenni Flinders, Microsoft U.S. Vice President, Partner Strategy and Programs.

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The most successful Microsoft partners don’t sell products—they sell solutions. It’s a significant distinction. Rather than entering into customer conversations intent on selling a specific device, server, or productivity suite, what works in today’s marketplace is approaching customers to, above all else, listen. Only after listening and being inquisitive can partners propose more than products or services, but real solutions to meet business needs.

Today’s consumers and businesses are smart, social, connected individuals and organizations who are demanding devices that work everywhere, securely and optimally. Your advantage as a member of the Microsoft Partner Network is access to both Microsoft-powered solutions that deliver on any combination of technology requirements and our support and resources in helping you market, sell, and deploy them.

All of Microsoft’s device offerings offer captivating experiences, so build on what you already do well to find new opportunities. For example, many partners have expertise in one of our highest selling products, Microsoft Office including Outlook. With that existing selling muscle, you can easily introduce a broader solution to the customer by asking some simple questions: What would make your employees more productive? Do they need the ability to respond to customer inquiries quickly, edit documents on the fly, or easily join a meeting while on the road? This starts the conversation down a path that subsequently leads to telling the Windows Phone story as part of an overall productivity solution.

As much as customers want what’s hot, they also want a phone experie nce that offers end-to-end connectivity in a familiar way. Microsoft Office and Outlook could be your entrée to building that sense of security in the context of an exciting form factor. With the forecasted growth of connected devices, it is well worth it to invest in your device strategy. It’s estimated that there will be five billion connected devices this year alone and by 2016, a three-fold increase is forecasted. Analysts are very optimistic about Windows Phone, saying it will be the second-most pervasive device in the world by 2015. That means by 2016, Windows Phone will own an enormous share of the mobile device market.

imageOur device momentum has me energized about the future. Apparently I’m not alone! Last month, Peter Han, general manager, Microsoft U.S. OEM Division, met with reporters from The VAR Guy, Redmond Channel Partner, CRN, Tech Target, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Boston Herald to demonstrate and talk about devices from the Windows 7 ecosystem. These top technology media echoed our excitement about the future of Microsoft connected devices. You can keep current about the latest OEM gadgets in our Microsoft OEM Newsroom.

And here’s something else to get excited about: the SMB Tech Makeover contest! Would one of your SMB customers benefit from an upgrade to its devices or operating systems? Do that customer a favor and nominate it to receive a tech makeover worth more than $7,500. Simply interview your eligible small business customer on video about how a Microsoft/Intel/HP Tech Makeover would help grow its business. The SMB that wins will never forget the nominating partner who made this solution possible.

Knowing that customers are hungry for the access, productivity and engagement of modern devices and Microsoft operating systems, I encourage you to seek new ways to approach and support your customers. Don’t lead with products, win with solutions. If you have thoughts or questions about this topic, connect with me on Twitter @Jenni_Flinders.

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