Monday, June 29, 2009

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Adding a New Vendor to your Arsenal - A Partners Perspective

Last week I wrote a post on recruitment from a vendor's perspective, today I'll look at it from a Partner's perspective. While the vendors are looking to recruit new partners, the partners are analyzing the cost/benefit of taking on a new vendor's product. There are more considerations than one would think.

  1. Is the vendor's product a good fit for your arsenal? If you focus on virtualization and cloud computing with products like Hyper-V, VMware,, and StarWind then EMC approaches you about selling one of their Back-up and Recovery products you certainly aren't going to change your entire business model to add on additional product.
  2. What is the ROI of introducing a new vendor? To sell a new technology and do it right there are costs incurred by you and your team. You must figure out the value this partnership could bring you (i.e. REVENUE) then subtract out the costs and decide if it is worthwhile. Costs include administrative, certification requirements (both time out of the field and the payment for training), changes to your website and other marketing materials, and marketing programs around the new products and services.
  3. What are the benefits the vendor is offering? If the vendor product sells itself, great, but we know of few that do that (except for maybe Microsoft). Otherwise, you need to look closely at the level of MDF, technical support, training, incentives, and marketing programs this vendor is going to provide. Walking into a relationship saying "Where are my leads" isn't going to work; a) the vendor will see you as not valuable and b) what good are leads they give you if you haven't been trained to sell the product yet anyway?
  4. Are you weakening any of the brands you already sell? I would never suggest that a partner should only have one vendor product per solution, however, you need to take into account that any claims may be weakened by bringing on a competing product. If you have based your company around selling NetApp because their iSCSI SAN technology is the best product for your trusting customers, you can't then take on Dell EqualLogic's iSCSI SAN touting the same thing. You would weaken your own brand as a trusted adviser. You could play on different uses for each (performance versus price), but you'd have to get pretty creative.
  5. Does the vendor value you? This may be part of "the benefits they offer you" but I felt it was important enough to get it's own bullet. Does the vendor truly value you and their other partners? Do they have a reputation for dealing poorly with channel conflict between their direct reps and partners? Are their requirements in-line with the benefits they offer or are they asking too much? If you only do one transaction a quarter will they provide you with the support you need to improve that or treat you like a second class citizen?

Overall, taking on a new vendor is not a decision one should take lightly. It's like hiring a new executive or board member: are they going to add value, do they fit with the culture, and are they willing to learn from you as much as you are from them?

My opinion on channel relationships in general is that it must be one of reciprocation. I do not appreciate when channel partners expect to get leads or other benefits without putting any skin in the game and I do not feel vendors have the right to expect more out of their partners then they are willing to give. I think partners and vendors both have the right to decide if the other is a good addition to the team, and once they have, to treat each with the respect that the mutual relationship deserves. I'd love to hear others feedback, comments, or stories of a channel relationship gone bad!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Recruitment Dilema - Vendor's Perspective

When a vendor channel is in the early stages of development, their requirements for channel partners are usually only that they have a pulse. Fast forward 12 to 18 months and the channel is 5% partners who are actively engaged and 95% who sold once on a customer's request and then disengaged.

As an early stage channel program I'm not suggesting that you turn partners away, but there are a few easy ways to assess the level of involvement they may have in your program. For all the others, set up a referral program. This allows partners following customer instructions to still make the sale but not take up valuable administrative time from the vendor's channel team.

So how does a channel team assess if a partner is recruitment material? Below are some suggestions, I'd love to hear others:

1. Analyze the overall partner fit. A partner application should include a question around their annual revenue. If a partner did $250K last year and your product costs $250K, chances are they are not tapped into the right customers to sell your product or they may not have the resources to provide the support your joint customers may require.

2. Does your product fit the partners business model? If a partner focuses on projectors, laptops and phone systems they most likely aren't familiar with, or capable of, selling a vendor's enterprise storage array. This is probably a one-time request and the vendor would be better served to assist this partner or set them up with another partner who could offer a referral fee. If the partner, on the other hand, sells a competitor (NetApp to Dell EqualLogic) then the partner is very familiar with the product type and is probably looking to expand their offerings.

3. Is the partner willing to put skin in the game? If a partner is willing to attend training or has a lot of questions around how to better sell/market a product they are willing to put as much into the relationship as they hope to get out. If they immediately ask for leads before they know how to sell or market the vendor product chances are good they aren't going to add a lot of value. How can you distinguish between the two? Put requirements in place that easily measure this such as a 30-minute introductory webinar that walks partners through the facets of the partner program and product value proposition with a few (literally no more than 10) questions about what they've learned. If the partner can't attend a 30-minute webinar or podcast you certainly are not going to get them to attend a 2-day training.

4. Set a probation period for inactive partners. Maybe they've already been recruited and did a deal here or a deal there but for the past 12-months nothing is really happening. It's time to clean house. Set up a renewal certification, business plan requirement, or sales certification update and be clear that if this requirement is not completed in 3-6 months their partnership will not be renewed. This is not to say that partners who aren't currently selling your products are not worth working with, but they need to ensure you that they are still engaged.

These are just a few thoughts for getting the right partners with the right customers into a channel program. I'd love to hear what other tactics vendors are using to improve their recruitment accuracy.

Tune in later this week for the recruitment suggestions from a partner's perspective.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Channel Tools: Portals, syndication, and demand generation

There are a ton of tools out there that boast they could make your lives easier and bring you closer to your partners. I've spoken to several companies that do so and reviewed the ones I liked here.

In the past PRM has had a bad rap but some interesting options have come along. Recently I had a demo from TreeHouse Interactive, an enterprise class SaaS solution with ALL the bells and whistles. TreeHouse allows vendors to keep track of leads and opportunities along side their partners but also provides information to partners on their requirements and benefits, deal registration, and links to marketing automation.

TreeHouse allows different navigation for different tiers of partners so your top tier partners are able to see the appropriate information for them but it is blocked to your lower tier partners. MDF and Co-op can be uploaded to the system from distribution partners and channel partners can then apply for MDF and get approved. Partners can also link to marketing automation tools provided to them by the vendor and all information is available in text so it can be read via blackberry or iPhone. TreeHouse also fully integrates with SFDC and Oracle's CRM which TreeHouse claims they can integrate in 5 weeks.

Overall I was very impressed with TreeHouse having looked at a bunch of similar vendors and even managed the development of something similar while I was at EMC. The interface is very intuitive and the ability to assign leads to partners is slick! I didn't catch myself once thinking, "it's too bad they don't do this". Of course with such a robust tool comes a robust price and TreeHouse wouldn't be worthwhile if a vendor doesn't have hundreds of partners. CEO Erich Flynn assured me that they can cater the solution to the vendors needs and possibly the price somewhat. Lastly I was also impressed by how TreeHouse, or I should say Chris Frank of TreeHouse, found me via twitter. I tweeted I was looking for something like this and had a tweet back within a few hours.

In the syndication arena I spoke with Josh Gibbs of SharedVue who I should mention also found me on twitter. Syndication allows relevant content to be pulled from a vendor's website and displayed on the channel partners' websites. There is usually a container page with the partners' look and feel around the top and along the left side and the content is updated on a regular basis. Vendors get their product and value prop information relayed accurately up-to-date in hundreds of other sites and the Channel Partners are able to inform customers on their own sites without having to send them elsewhere. How many times has a partner's site shown the old model or the current model with the wrong image or information!?

When I was at EMC I worked with a company called WebCollage to make this happen. I don't know if they've changed their process at all but it was incredibly manual to the point where we had requests from partners in email and would then fax or email them to our client manager to initiate the service. SharedVue's tool Syndic8 is completely automated. Partners can even login and change their current view of products or services shown on their website.

SharedVue also provides some lead generation and tracking tools (don't think PRM but every little bit helps right?). Using their tool Communic8 vendors can provide traditional and new media tools so partners can launch campaigns and track them all on the SharedVue tools. Partners of course get worried if vendors can see their leads (more so with some vendors then with others) so SharedVue offers a way to turn the visibility on or off.

Very impressed with SharedVue as well. There are more bells and whistles that I didn't go into here including their specific new media features (webinars, SEM, and Google AdWords). I haven't used WebCollage in 2 years but SharedVue is certainly more user friendly and robust than WC was back then.

I hope this information is helpful and always remember, if it's not stupid simple for your partners, they won't adopt it and you will waste a lot of money! Before implementing anything like this it is important to survey a broad slice of all of your partners, not just the advisory council.

Are their other systems people have seen and liked? I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Social media; fad or here to stay?

Last week I wrote a post about vendor activities in social media that praised the vendors who do it well and criticized those that could use a little help. I would be lying if I said I wasn't pushing the envelope to see who monitors their social media and who, again, could use some help. Within 36 hours of posting I received a comment from Cisco, a call from EMC, a question from Dell, and a call from Symantec. Well done!

So what are they up to? Quite a lot.

Cisco ran a partner event in Second Life, allowed The VAR Guy to blog during the Cisco annual Partner Summit, and launched Partner Space, a partner community quite awhile ago. Cisco was doing this back in 2007 when most companies thought social media was a new reality show with media professionals trapped on a desert island (Fox don't get any ideas). Cisco also has several channel executives on twitter including @CSCOChannelNews and Senior Vice President of Worldwide Channels, Keith Goodwin @keitheg. Excellent use of social media!

I also had a great discussion today with @SymantecNews around their social media initiatives and plans for the channel. Their Symantec Connect platform allows communication among employees, partners and customers. Amazing! Customers are starting discussions, asking questions, and telling stories and partners get to engage them in conversation and provide value...genius! I was most impressed with the shear volume of activity. There are almost 80,000 discussions on the forum with over 200,000 comments, blogs about everything from technical support to channel programs, and RSS feeds on every single page. Admittedly, they have yet to begin their external social media efforts for the channel, but keep your eyes open over the next few months.

It also turns out, while I was writing my post, EMC was planning the launch of their internal social media platform for partners that went live this past Monday. Velocity Partner Xchange has the discussion and sharing capabilities you would expect but at this point, is in its infancy. Lets hope it meets with the same success Symantec has had in its first months with Symantec Connect. Some promotion through social media outlets might help ramp their participation levels, but we'll check back soon to see how they're doing.

Kudos to these vendors for jumping in on the conversation! Now lets not treat it like a fad on it's way out. We need the conversation to continue, not amongst ourselves, but out where it adds value for customers and partners. As Seth Godin would say, people are tired of being "interrupted" by traditional marketing. Interrupted by your e-mails, your phone calls, and even your television ads. We need to find a way to let them get the information they need, when and where they want it. All sound like a lot of work? It is, but it's better than being this guy:

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be a seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." - Western Union internal memo, 1876

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vendors get their Social Media Score Card

There's this new trend called social media out there...maybe you've heard of it? Blogs, facebook, twitter, LinkedIn...what's that? Oh! It's been around for a while? You're kidding! To look at IT vendor's partner program involvement in it you'd think it didn't exist until last week.

Don't get me wrong, some vendors have been very involved in social media. Dell has had the Dell Channel Blog since May of 2008 and DellChannel on Twitter has over 500 followers.

While others are well behind. Cisco, a few short years ago was the partner program other vendors were trying to emulate yet they just launched their channel blog this week. Mazel Tov! It's a boy. Cisco does have a CiscoChannels account on Twitter with one, you heard me, one update. That's the equivalent of a "ding-dong-ditch" you get the person's attention, leave them with nothing, and make them annoyed they gave you the satisfaction of opening the door in the first place.**PLEASE SEE UPDATE BELOW

Don't even get me started on Symantec! No LinkedIn groups, their only Facebook groups are run by customers (one is called 'Symantec Sucks'), their blog is up, it hasn't been updated since October of 2008 which in Social Media time is like a decade. Better to have nothing, than to say "I'm putting this blog thing up because you wanted it but I think it's stupid so I'm not paying attention to it".

Others haven't yet jumped into the game. EMC Channel has no blog, no Twitter, no LinkedIn, nothing. Like I said, it's better to have nothing than to have something and not maintain it but maybe it's time to get their feet wet.

Microsoft gets a B+. Yes they're a massive ship that takes awhile to turn but at least they are making an effort. They have MSUSPartner on Twitter where they could do more meaningful updates but at least they're listening, they have a great fan page on Facebook with 914 fans, and their blog was updated in the past 2 weeks. Not frequently enough for my taste, but they've lapped Symantec many times over in this respect.

Why is any of this important? If your partners and customers are using social media how can you not? Companies need to at least be monitoring what's being said about them or they could be missing an opportunity to engage partners and customers. Here's an example of Motrin really pissing off some customers and recovering well. Think it's not for you because you're in're wrong. Your customers/partners/end-users have even bigger mouths and bigger wallets to get the word out. If you're not involved in social media or at least monitoring it you're missing a huge opportunity and, dare I say, damaging the brand you've spent years and millions of dollars to build up.

Update: I stand corrected and what a perfect example of a company monitoring social media! Here is what Lang Tibbils, Public Relations and Communications Manager at Cisco had to say about their involvement in social media. As you can see Cisco has been highly involved in social media including early involvement in The Var Guy, internal social media, virtual partner conferences, and numerous executives on Twitter. An apology to Cisco. Perhaps it's worth another blog post - how can partners and press find these resourcse more easily as social media proliferates so quickly?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Keeping your Channel Programs Straight

How do solution providers wade through the numerous channel programs they are a part of? While at a channel event I met with upwards of 30 solution providers that sold for the same set of vendors. When asked about things like incentives, tiers, communications, and training I did not get a single consistent answer.

My first inclination is that with so many different vendors it is hard for the solution providers to keep the programs straight but I realized that many of these solution providers only sell 3 or 4 solutions. The programs have so many different elements with so many changes per year, per quarter, per month, at any given time channel partners have no idea where they stand.

What would help you as a solution provider? Vendors, what are you doing to help already?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Are you Tuned-In to your Channel Partners?

Some partner programs pride themselves on their extensive number of partners. Congratulations, are partners supposed to be excited about that? Welcome to our partner program! You now have more competition for your business then you did before you joined. I'm not saying vendors should have fewer partner, let's be reasonable. But, don't be so out of touch with your partners that you promote your partner list as a benefit to them.

As I wrote in "One size does NOT fit all" channel partners want a tier and a program that fits their business. You must recruit them with this in mind. Telling them their competitive landscape has just tripled doesn't really help. So what does matter?

1. Ease of Use: Please! When I was an alliance manager I worked with several vendors. The one we sold most often was the one whose program was straight-forward and whose portal did not require a PhD to navigate.
2. The "What's in it for me?" factor: Do I need to explain? If a partner sells your competitors product and makes more money, the only time they will sell your product is when a customer demands it. You'd better either have great margins/rebates/incentives or you'd better have the best product out there.
3. Lead generation: Ask any solution provider what they wish their vendors would do better and they will say lead generation. Either handing over nurtured leads or providing them with the right tools to get the leads themselves. This doesn't mean sending them email campaigns that only talk about your products' value prop. They need to be customizable so the solution provider feels it represents their business as well.
4. Support, support, support: Not just technical anymore. Partners need to know that they can get what they need from you in minutes. If they are out on a sales call and need a quote or piece of collateral it better be smooth.

Vendors who do this have the highest satisfaction ratings despite some of the largest communities of partners. They aren't talking about how many partners they have, they're talking about what they do for them.

Who does this right? I'd love to hear from solution providers and vendors.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day...are we as green as we think we are?

In honor of Earth Day this year I'm looking for vendors and channel partners who do it right. The "Green" thing that is. About 18 months ago (before the entire economy imploded) all we heard about was going green. Some companies did it right like IBM lowering the energy expenditure of their products and finding lower emission options for transport. While other companies such as Dell were using green as a marketing tactic talking about skipping their old piecemeal ways and shipping entire infrastructure solutions to end users in one big box. This sounds like a worthy green initiative, but don't the pieces come to Dell as a bunch of little boxes first? Partners were also up in arms as putting it all together is part of the value they add. In Dell's defense that was over a year ago and they've done some great things since then. The important thing is that Green initiatives are actually doing some good!

There are other positive signs that green is still top of mind. The Interop conference in May is dedicating an entire track to Green IT with speakers from Deloite, Forrester, Alcatel Lucent, and Juniper.

So that's what some of our market leaders are doing. Now what are the rest of us doing in our daily lives to make a difference? Think about using public transportation whenever possible, reusing grocery bags, getting a BPA free water bottle instead of buying water bottles every day, or buying locally grown produce whenever possible. There are many more things you can do, find out more here.

Wherever you are get out and enjoy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What does Cloud Computing mean to the Channel?

I wrote a post 'Is Saas Channel an Oximoron' a couple of months ago but having just come from the Babson Alumni Technology Council's breakfast on cloud computing I wanted to revisit it from a different perspective.

There are huge opportunities in cloud computing, HUGE. Right now any developer with some business sense and a good idea could put together an application on and let 'er rip! Salesforce's partnerships with Facebook and Google make that even easier.

What does this mean for the channel? Are solution providers going to become the new vendors? Is there going to be a flood of applications that crowd the space making prospects numb to their value propositions.

One thing I know for sure is that vendors and solution providers alike need to be more in tuned to the options out there and the way advances can and will effect their business.

Do you have experience building applications for the cloud? What are the pros and cons?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dell using Twitter to boost sales

Working with B2B companies on their social media strategy, the first request I always get is "give me an example of another B2B company that has used social media." The one vendor that comes to mind is Dell. While they are a B2B and B2C company their social media practices have paid off in both arenas.

Dell's Channel Blog is a place for channel partners to hear up-to-date program and product news, comment on posts, and join the conversation.

Dell actually made $1 million from Twitter in 2008. By setting up a following and tweeting discounts and promotions Dell created a community of loyal Dell followers that are willing and able to buy. Not only that, they are most likely talking about their experience to other prospects. These aren't simply B2C products either. Channel partners are following the tweets as well. Let's not kid ourselves, this is only $1M to a company like Dell but how else could they use this exposure to boost sales? How could you?

Stay tuned for more social media success stories, who knows the next one could be you. Are you looking to figure out your social media strategy? Have you tried things that have been successful? Have you tried things that have failed miserably?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Microsoft to open Retail Stores...this is not an April Fools joke.

Microsoft hires former Wal-mart executive David Porter to lead the development and execution of their retail stores. No details on when, where, and how stores will be launched but with the success of the Apple stores, Microsoft wants to through their hat in the ring.

How is this going to effect the channel? While corporate clients most likely aren't going to make large purchases through the stores themselves is there going to be a WebMD effect? You know, the sick person goes to their doctor and says, "I think it's something-or-other-itis". "Oh really", says the doctor whom has been through a few years of medical school and training to be able to make an accurate assessment. "Yes", says the patient, "I read about it on the internet".

Are channel partners going to be faced with customers who think they know best because they spoke to a pimple faced 17-year old for 10 minutes at a Microsoft store?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Has dell made the grade in the channel?

While working at EqualLogic, about 2 months before the Dell deal was finalized (and I was to become a Dell'er) I was at a conference where solution providers were giving vendors feedback. There stood a very articulate solution provider who had just given the audience some great feedback on what works and what doesn't when it comes to communications, rebates, margins, and incentives. "And one more thing", he added enthusiastically. "I don't care what they do, I'm NEVER doing business with the four-letter word in channel!"

A gave a little chuckle with the rest of the vendors in the room, then it hit me. Wait! He was talking about me! I was going to be Dell, I was going to be the FOUR-LETTER WORD IN CHANNEL! Over the next 8 months I watched Dell flounder and put forth a very strong channel program. But had the damage already been done? Could Dell dig themselves out of the hole?

Well what do you think? Has Dell made progress? Would love to hear from solution providers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What is a Channel Master?


In December of 2007 I took part in IPED's channel masters program and was very impressed with it. They get a great group of channel professionals together and put you through a boot camp of sorts until you are beaten up, sweating, limping, and crying in some cases. At the end of the 3-days however you are a better channel professional.

As channel professionals we can fall into the trap of sitting in our bubble while creating our programs and not keeping tabs on how our solution providers needs are changing. IPED slaps you with some cold hard reality around the developments in channel programs and what we need to do to become and stay competitive. Did you know that solution providers have a choice whether to sell you or sell someone else? Some vendors don't act like that is a reality.

Surrounded by Directors of Channel from SAP, NetApp (I was at EqualLogic at the time so that was funny), EMC, Oracle, Panasonic, HDS, and others; it was nice to see we ALL had something to learn. IPED even brought in solution providers to tell us how they really feel, whether or not we were prepared to hear it.

After the three days there are once a month webinars that you participate in to keep the conversation going. I had some great connections and have kept in touch with some in my group to continue the channel banter.

Regardless of how much you think you already know, you can definitely learn something. Who knows, maybe you do know it all and you should go just to teach the others.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Incentive Programs...worthwhile or waste?

With vendors vying for the attention and mind share of their channel partners incentive programs have become a standard in most channel programs. While I believe that a channel partner would not decide whether or not to do business with a vendor based on an incentive program, it may come into play on a deal by deal basis.

In other words, if a solution provider is a certified Dell partner and a certified EMC partner and their customer is looking for storage, both are identical in capability and price, an incentive program may push the solution provider to lead with one or the other.

Some vendors have very structured program such as EMC's Journey to the Top where you get points that can be turned in for merchandise such as flat screen tv's or a mountain bike, others have a less traditional approach on a deal by deal basis....we like to call that more margin.

I understand the benefit to points in that you can get partners more deeply engaged and put some cheerleading behind the program "you're only 100 points away from X". Also, individuals are more likely to brag about getting 400 points then they are about $1000. But Cash is King right?

Which incentive programs do you think deal with this right and which need help? Is it worthwhile to do an incentive program or do the deal by deal negotiations suffice?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The 3 P's of Channel Management

Anyone who has even sat in on a business school seminar has heard about the 5 Forces, 3 M's, 5 P's, SWOT, or 4 Q's more than enough times (I made the Q one up by the way) so why can't the channel have one?

This is the 3 P's of Channel Management; Product, Program, Price.

If you don't have a good product, no one will want to buy it. If no one wants to buy it you can bet no one will want to sell it! I know what you're thinking. As a channel manager or marketer you have little to no control over the product. What you do have is feedback from the solution providers and customers. You should do everything you can to get that feedback to the right people. If you don't have a good product and you've done everything you can do, maybe you should think about moving on.

Product being equal, with your competitors the next thing solution providers are going to look at is your program. Do you charge an arm and a leg for training? Are your requirements realistic and do the benefits fit? How easy is it to get business for your product? Do you assist with marketing efforts? Are your solution providers going to be competing with your direct sales staff for the same opportunities?

I bet you thought price was going to be first. Not so. Don't get me wrong if your margins are a fraction of your competing vendors you're going to lose but if your margins are reasonable your solution providers care more about being able to sell your product. It also depends on your place in the market. If you have 25% market share and customers are asking for you and nobody else but you (thanks to your product, see 2nd paragraph) then you can give less of a margin. However if you are at 8% market share and seeing the same 5 competitors in every sales call your partners are making there should be more of a benefit to those solution providers.

Where does your company stack up? Solution Providers do you have any input?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Are you at Xchange 2009 in New Orleans?

If so I'd love to hear all about it! Comment back here or email me directly and post a "guest review" of the show, the products, or the speakers. Check out their list of top products to see.

I hope some people take part in the Habitat for Humanity rebuilding project on the 11th in New Orleans. Please send notes, comments, and pictures!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Is SaaS Channel an oxymoron?

In my last position I was working for a SaaS vendor that has a legacy premise based product being sold through the channel.  As our SaaS business picked up the channel was going to being selling that product as well.  Stepping away from this business I needed to take a look at how a SaaS based channel product differed from a premise based software or hardware for that matter.

Biggest difference?  MARGIN.  To sell something that has a one time cost of $1M is very different then selling something that has a lifetime cash value of $1M.  How do you incent your partners?  How are they compensated?  There's not much out there about this.  When searching on google the most recent document I found is from 2006.  

Anyone have more information or is doing this right now?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are you a fair weather VAR/Solution Provider?

Do you belong to more partner programs then you have sales people?  Do you sign up to become a partner simply because your customer wants to buy that vendor's product?  Do you sign up for vendor programs then never complete the requirements?  With all of the vendors and products to choose from no one could really blame you, but is it truly benefiting your business?

The best way to get the most out of a channel program is to commit to the requirements and position yourself as the "authority" on that product or solution.  So why then do so many solution providers spread themselves too thin?  Should vendors have a referral program instead so the solution providers with customers ready to buy don't have to act like they are going to commit to the program?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Channel Programs, one size does NOT fit all!

Most channel programs have tiers they put their partners in.  Gold, Platinum, and Diamond or Professional, Advanced, and Super-duper Advanced.  Whatever you call it, just because you have neat little tiers that your solution providers fit into that does not mean those partners all need the same support whether financial, technical, or sales/marketing related.  You've tiered these companies most likely based upon how much revenue they bring you, how many events they attend, whether or not they've bought a demo unit, and how many certified professionals they have with you.  Does that mean you wouldn't give top tiering to a solution provider who has brought you $10M in revenue, has 20 certified professionals, and attends an event a month just because they won't buy a demo unit?  It had better not or you are SO missing the point.  

Solution Providers want a tier that fits THEIR business not yours and as the channel evolves vendors need to start realizing that they need to cater more to their Solution Providers.

How are your tiers set up?  Do you take your partners' business models into account?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Training. To charge or not to charge, that is the question.

Charging for training is something you would do to a customer or client.  So why do so many vendors charge their partners A LOT for training?  I understand that there does need to be that give and take.  Still, I don't see that paying thousands for training exemplifies this.  

If you are being charged by the company administering the training and testing I can see just covering that cost or giving some sort of guarantee that if they don't sell anything in 6 months they will be charged in the future but only to cover the cost, not make a profit.   For the vendors who truly see their solution providers as an extension of their own team, there should be absolutely no training costs.  It would only benefit the vendor if the channel partner actually knew how to sell the product and sell it well.  The other benefit to you is that ostensibly that solution provider is more likely to sell your product then another if barriers to doing so are low.  Two birds, one stone.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Channel Partner; customer, client, partner, or team member?

Different channel organizations treat their partners differently; what do solution providers prefer?  Should solution providers pay for training?  Should everyone in the same tier be treated the same even if they don't need the same support?  What differentiates one program from another and who cares?  Well it turns out that solution providers do...who knew?

Having spoken to many solution providers at last year's Everything Channel Xchange event I saw evidence of the changing tide.  Many vendors used to treat their solution providers as customers or clients because they could.  The SP wanted to be selling that vendor's technology.  Now many SP's, the right SP's, are sought after by vendors but the vendors haven't changed their model.  

How do you treat your channel partners?  Channel partners, how do you want to be treated?