CT News Bureau
Building a customer-centric strategy can be the answer for most organizations, but in order for it to be successful, IT vendors are embracing a strong channel partnership in their strategy to help grow their businesses.
The relationship created through channel-vendor partnerships need to be nurtured to yield results. You can have many sales channel partner agreements signed but they lead nowhere or have little results or actions. If you are going to spend the time and money preparing and negotiating legal contracts that govern sales channel partners and vendors, then you want to see better results from the relationship. Vendors want to engage the right sales partners and after that, they want to determine how and if both can work together to tap the potentials in the market.
A full and proper engagement is needed between the channel partner and the vendor. It is the starting point to develop a successful partnership that is beneficial to both parties. A flourishing partnership is founded on the ability of the channel partner to achieve their goals using the vendor’s products and the vendor being able to succeed in the partner’s channel market. Now that you know a thing or two about sales channel partners and why they need to engage properly with the vendor, you may want to find out the ways to build a successful relationship between the two:
1. Make Channel Partners Fit in the Partnership
The relationship being built is aimed at selling the vendors products and taking a good share of the market. The product or service that is being offered for sale should be one that is not just mentioned occasionally when you have the partner’s weekly sales and management meeting. It should be the core of a brand and high on the agenda list during every functional meeting. It is important you identify, approach, and secure a “partner fit” who is the ideal colleague to engage with. An assessment should be done to make sure that you are getting the right partner. Otherwise, if there is a mismatch between the vendor and the sales channel partner objectives and goals, it is going to create an environment where the channel partner doesn’t work. It is not going to see an effective sales channel development.
2. Mutual Trust, Integrity and Respect
Mary Whittle, the director of Worldwide Channel Development, Avaya Canada says that the foundation of the sales channel-vendor partnership is based on mutual trust and respect. Both parties should share the same goal and offer exceptional customer experience. In order to accomplish this goals, vendors need to recognize and appreciate that sales channel partners have strong links. They often have local presence or even industry specialty with customers. Channel partners can deliver a wide range of services and products, often from many complementary vendors and within multiple client business lines. Partners value their customer deeply as they do value vendors.
Another important thing that comes up when looking at trust and respect is that partners should realize a vendor is offering and sharing their most valuable asset, which is the vendor’s brand. Therefore, they need to have the competency needed to represent the services and products of the vendors including having accurate pre-sales positioning as well as design and configuration.
Channel partners should be able to have effective implementation and after-sales customer support. The sale channel partner is the face of the vendor’s brand, whatever they do, how they relate with customers, and how they present the brand is going to impact on the success of the vendor.
After all, if a service or product won’t perform as it was promised, the vendor’s logo is the one that is visible to the user. Hence, a collaborative spirit should be displayed between the partners and vendors with each performing their role intuitively and with a lot of integrity. Both vendors and sales channel partners should demonstrate their support for each other in the eyes of customers.
For example, if AvaCare Medical is selling an aluminum bath bench by Medline, they should collaborate with vendors that purchase the bath benches for sale to end users to ensure mutual trust and integrity in the supply chain.
3. Open Lines of Communication
Considering the proliferation of vendors in the past few years, sales channel partners are less likely to keep track of programs, products, certifications, or clip levels. Vendors need to streamline their product offerings and make programs to be simple and refrain from putting artificial tiers or certification programs and clip levels to sales channel partners to participate.
Partners are nowadays moving towards community groups and peer networks. When you look at the vast amount of information available about products and services as well as the challenge for customers to validate it, partners have put trust in their peers and at times even their competitors to help in sorting out the maze. To be able to have a successful relationship, vendors need to add value to such communities in an authentic way. Cold selling or pitching isn’t expected to work here, as the Levono’s director of Channel Development and Communities, Jay MacBain says.
4. Personal Interaction and Engagement
Partners are interesting agreements; they are incredibly resourceful, fiercely independent, and eternally adaptable. Their ability to thrive and survive is pegged on the strength of relationship that is forged with vendors and customers. The senior vice-president of Info-Tech Research Group, James Alexander says that they have surveyed as well as interviewed over 2000 partners and the message they get is that a successful sales channel-vendor relationship is founded on personal interaction, trust, and respect.
At a time when self-service portals are on the rise, social media are influencing customer behavior, and peer-to-peer communities are playing part in influencing brands, it is critical that partners get someone to represent their specific needs. Having a phone or in-person representation is key to a sustainable, ongoing, and successful partner-vendor relationship.
A very important element in vendor-partner relationships is visibility. There should be visibility into transactions by the partner with the vendor. This is especially true if some vendor transactions are directly executed with the end user. Similarly, the vendor should have visibility into the pipeline of the partner so that assistance is offered proactively when closing deals. This also help understand when deals are about to close so that consorted efforts are made to help close them. Besides, there is need for visibility into marketing and advertizing campaigns because it benefits both parties, according to president, EnabledSuccess Inc., Paul Doucet.
Although there may be no single part of vendor-sales channel relationships that can stand out on its own, applying the different strategies can go long way in building a strong partnership. A win-win approach in needed in these partnerships and not a take-it or leave-it approach. The success of the relationships should be built on mutual commitment, shared goals to customers, demonstrating of flexibility, and showing trust, integrity, and respect. The value proposition of the partnership is based on the ability to make money and engage the customers on long-term basis.
Vendors need to ensure there is ease in doing business. For example, you can put yourself in shoes of partners. These have numerous vendors they represent with every vendors having different portals, approaches to training, pricing tools, deal registration programs, and so forth.
If the sales channel partners are encountering more points of frictions with the processes or programs of the vendors, it is less likely that they are going to work with the particular vendor. What may happen is that the channel partner could limit their effort and willingness to give more information about the brand to the customer. They could add a lot of burden to the partner manager of the vendor or even decide to choose and work more for the competitors at the expense of the vendors in deals that come out. So, if you make it easy for sales channel partners, it is going to enhance the relationship and increase loyalty, which may in turn translate to increased sales and customer base.