Like any successful relationship, strong partnerships between resellers and vendors are based on honesty and integrity, underpinned by shared goals and regular, open channels of communication.
The most effective and profitable channel partnership programmes are those where vendor and reseller have a coherent agreement on direction and a strategic plan including jointly agreed time-bound goals. For example a reseller who currently has a $100,000 business may have a target of becoming a $1 million business within 12 to 18 months. The strategic plan should map out a jointly agreed path for achieving this. The vendor needs to guide the partner through this, helping them understand how to build, market and sell the solution.
Setting goals is straight-forward, the execution is the challenge. To turn goals into actions, it’s important for reseller and vendor to maintain momentum by staying connected, including scheduling fortnightly updates and meeting regularly face-to-face. When momentum drops, interest declines.
A two-way relationship: vendors must add value
Within this context, vendors selling through the channel also need to ensure they provide their resellers with the tools to help them deliver against the plan. This includes providing sufficient in-depth knowledge around customers and products – the financial aspects; the technology; the support systems; architecture; software, including licensing and networking – everything that the solution should cover. If the vendor is not delivering this, the reseller needs to push back.
Turning powerful partnerships into profit
Channel partners often ask vendors how to turn market opportunities into effective revenue streams. It’s important to assess your current core products, determining where you can add value to existing customers while opening doors to new opportunities.
From a vendor perspective, it’s also about making the right choices when selecting partners. Vendors need to know their efforts won’t be wasted. A reseller will always look for committed partners who are willing to commit to resources (intellectual capital) more than dollars. Likewise, a reseller must demonstrate that the vendor investment in providing training and resources will deliver the desired shared results.
Vendors need to work in partnership with their resellers to support and mentor their sales force. This means developing dual engagement initiatives and shared sales strategies, supported by regular events and meetings. If vendors are involved and build relationships with their partners’, sales force, their commitment to each other keeps growing and the partnership becomes more profitable.
Relationships matter to customers too
A strong relationship based on integrity between reseller and end user makes for a healthy revenue stream. Customers still need the help of their resellers and resellers need to listen to their issues and have the ability to transform those issues into revenue through consultative selling. If an end user has a strong relationship with a reseller, they usually stay 100% committed as long as that relationship is solid.
Becoming a first class reseller requires a substantial investment of time and money. Investing in relationships is critical. In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the knight says to Indiana: ”Choose wisely, because the correct cup will give you eternal life and the wrong one will take it.”
Maximising profit potential from partner programmes requires resellers to make wise choices. From selecting the right vendor to partner with, to creating a cohesive plan with clearly identified goals. Investing the time needed to get this right will deliver a strong partner programme that produces the desired results.
Five top tips for resellers/system integrators wanting to improve/measure channel partner effectiveness:
1. Pick a vendor who does not transact direct with end users
2. Build a joint go-to-market plan agreed by both and commit to it by making it time bound
3. A solid relationship of honesty and integrity are key to driving overall growth
4. Backing a known brand with a reputable name will drive growth
5. Invest in developing a sales force of consultants who understand their solutions and their clients’ business.
Mario Hilmi is director, service providers and channels for Polycom ANZ. This article originally appeared in the March issue of The Channel - go here to subscribe.