A rocky economy means greater risk that a reseller’s sales will decrease, or that such an organisation will go out of business. This is obviously more of a problem for the head of a partner company and the staff, than it is for others.
However, the flow-on effects of decreased success reach everyone this business works with. This includes customers and other businesses a reseller has chosen to partner with. But most importantly, it includes the vendor.
In happier times when industry contraction was not so prevalent, and when pencils didn’t need to be so pointy-ended to make a sale, vendors could afford to be less selective in the number, and type, of partners they recruited and retained.
Retention seems the word that is more on vendors lips these days than recruitment, as the costs of supporting large numbers of partners weighs heavily.
The composition of a partner base will always depend on the technology being sold, and how mature it is, but vendors are recognising the importance of doing more business with the partners they already have.
This is evidenced by the way in which vendors are rewarding resellers. Two or three years ago, partner programmes were hallmarked by larger and larger incentives, such as overseas trips, the use of leased cars, and even significant amounts of money.
These rewards, although not as extravagant now, are still being used, and should continue to be. Vendors need to reward partners appropriately, but the focus must not be solely on driving sales of products specified by the vendor. Such a strategy may boost the next quarterly result, but there is less chance of a long-term payoff than planning for the channel’s involvement in the future plans of the business.
Part of working with select groups of partner specialists requires that vendors recognise partners’ skills rank as highly as those within their own channel teams. If staff at distributors and resellers aren’t as skilled as they need to be, the vendor must accept some fault.
More emphasis is being placed on rewarding technical skill – both broadening it across a channel company’s staff, and deepening it. This is a key plank of successful business consultancy by partners. Another important facet of this is knowledge of particular market verticals. Vendors are increasingly asking how existing partners can broaden their reach by breaking into new areas, rather than taking on new resellers who can’t offer specialisation.
Combined, these skills play the biggest role in allowing vendors to chart new waters in the geographies they play in.
If a partner has invested in training to acquire specialist skills in a vendor’s technology area, or already has them, they should be given the tools to make the most of them among their customers. Manufacturers are making evaluation equipment and in-depth marketing resources more available now, to capitalise on partners’ role in the education process.
A joint share in risk is more crucial now, so a vendor must acknowledge that the success of a partner business is as much their problem as the channel’s. Accordingly, this should be reflected in shared strategic planning and reward.