How to manage your vendors, regardless of your size

How to manage your vendors, regardless of your size

Gen-i's David Crown talks about how resellers of any size can get the most out of their vendor partnerships

Smaller resellers have a difficult time keeping up with accreditation and other qualifications that vendors set in their typical partner programmes.

Then there is Gen-i, which is large enough to dedicate resources to managing relationships with vendors, in the person of David Crown, strategic partnerships manager.

“It’s really an ANZ-wide role,” says Crown. “We’ve transposed the position from vendor manager to strategic partnerships, so we saw a better opportunity in leveraging our partner community in a stronger way in terms of how we go to market, leveraging the vendors’ skill set whenever we don’t have that invested skill set.”

Crown’s job is to oversee relationships with 25 or so vendors, and one distributor, on behalf of the reseller-giant. The company today employs 2500 staff, over half of whom have achieved some technical, marketing or sales accreditation with these vendors.

Managing the strategic partnerships internally, which includes a Gen-i academy for tooling up staff skill sets, streamlines customer engagement for the reseller, but also puts employees on career paths.

“Vendor management was focused on the product, whereas strategic partners focus on capability,” Crown says. “Capability is the thing that gives you the credibility, and the right design to achieve outcomes. So we’ve focused more on the people who support the technology than on the technology per se.”

As with vendor-designed partner programmes, Gen-i’s strategic partnership is a three-tiered internal programme for organising vendor relationships, the top covering core technology partners, such as Cisco, HP and Microsoft. Other vendors fall into the second tier, and there’s a third tier for distribution relationships.

This is all well and good for the reseller that has the resources to do something like this. But Crown says there is a generic approach that resellers can follow when prioritising relationships with their technology supplier.

“It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, there is a decision-making framework to keep you honest about what your true business objectives are,” says Crown. “The worst things you can do is distract yourself from real obejectives and that’s when your costs go up withnout even noticing.”

From Crown’s perspective, knowing exactly what your business model is ties directly to the amount of resources you invest in one vendor or another.

In general, the smallest resellers must remain niche players.

“Scale is your friend in any business,” says Crown. “The smaller you are, the more niche you have to be. Too many people are too scared to be in a niche, so they try to be all things to all people. It’s probably better to figure out your niche, understanding what is not core to your business, and partnering with vendors that are part of that core.”

For any partnering relationship, the exchange is a two-way street, Crown says, where both the reseller and the vendor get equal value. The bottom line is, Crown says, to treat relationships with vendors as a partnership and not just a business exchange.

“Partnership recognises why the vendor and the reseller need each other,” he says.

In the end resellers have to understand what the value being exchanged is.

“There are cases where vendors will tell you they’re training your people for free,” he says. “The truth is they’re just distracting your people for free becuase they’re taking your people away from their core role based on your business strategy.”

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