The To Ten Things Channel Managers Want From Partners
There’s always a lot of discussion concerning what partners expect from vendors. But in truth, channel managers have their own issues. Every channel manager needs to answer for the actions of their channel partners. If a channel manager is going to go the extra mile to make more resources available to one channel partner or another, there’s usually some form of quid pro quo involved. After all, channel managers typically have the luxury of working with multiple channel partners.
What most Channel Managers really want from their best Channel Partners are:
Channel managers generally recognize there is no way a vendor will have any market all to themselves. End customers, for any number of reasons, may have a marked preference for one vendor over another. But channel partners that drive the lion’s share of their business to a vendor are always going to get a little extra special treatment. Channel managers don’t mind playing second fiddle from time to time. But over the course of the year, the partners that build their businesses around them are always going to be sitting in the first chair.
There’s nothing more difficult, or expensive, than trying to land new business. By comparison, up-selling products and services to existing customers is a piece of cake. New customer logos represent new opportunities. Opportunities to not only gain market share but also set the stage for additional opportunities down the road. After all, there’s only so much any one customer can possibly consume.
Solution providers that regularly ask for special pricing discounts will eventually set off a red flag inside most channel organizations. It may very well be that fierce competition is driving pricing down across an entire sector. But most savvy channel managers will know that long before the partner. It’s often just as probable that all those special product pricing requests are being made to protect the margins on the services the partner is providing at the expense of the vendor.
Nobody minds being played on occasion with a nod and a wink. But when special pricing requests become a regular habit, tempers will inevitably start to flare.
Vendors typically generate the highest margins in any deal via either additional products that get bundled into the deal or services contracts that engage their professional services teams. Channel partners that regularly increase attach rates on deals are worth their proverbial weight in gold to any channel manager.
Most IT vendors are only too happy to generate sales leads for partners. But none of those leads are going to be of the same quality as the ones a partner generates on their own. Partners that have proven marketing capabilities that they regularly employ to generate their own sales leads are considered more advanced than partners that pour all their resources into hiring sales and engineering talent to the exclusion of marketing.
Most vendors have product portfolios that span multiple classes of product categories. Therefore, they don’t want partners to necessarily specialize in one product category, such as data protection when there’s also an opportunity to sell servers or cybersecurity solutions. Partners that don one thing well are valuable.
but partners that can generate revenue across multiple products categories are always going to be a little more attractive to IT vendors.
Generate Recurring Revenue
Investors in the age of the cloud are punishing vendors that don’t generate significant amounts of recurring revenue. Subscription revenue is now considered a key indicators of future economic performance. Partners that don’t help vendors generate subscription revenues are rapidly falling down the list of priorities for channel managers, especially if they work for a public company.
Nothing says a partner is committed to a vendor quite like being willing to take sales and engineering talent out of the field for training. It’s a clear signal that a partner is committed to making a return on the investment. After all, as everyone in the channel all too keenly knows, every minute an employee isn’t in the field, is another minute the channel partner isn’t generating revenue.
Channel managers are measured on how strong the sales pipeline is in any given quarter. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is ultimately responsible for making forecasts that investors can rely on. That means the sales leadership of that vendor needs to provide accurate sales forecasts. The pressure channel managers are under to provide that data is immense. Partners that register deals are not only protecting their own self-interests, but they also provide channel managers with critical insights into the overall health of the business. Partners that engage in business planning meetings with vendors always enjoy most favored partner status.
Develop Repeatable Use Cases
IT vendors are great at building technology products. But they don’t always know how their products are utilized. Partners that share use cases based on solutions that have been proven in the field can be invaluable. Many partners might consider that information core to their own intellectual property (IP). But the more they are willing to share that IP with vendors that can then pass those insights on to other partners, the more willing most IT vendors are going to be, for example, to share product development plans with partners.
In fact, partners that share IP usually have the most influence over where those product development plans will be headed next.
Obviously, any partnership in the channel needs to be a two-way street. But it’s worth remembering that being a channel manager is one of the most stressful jobs there is.
Channel partners need to give a little to get a lot.
It’s all too easy for a channel partner to get lost in a series of spreadsheets and dashboards that the channel manager relies on to navigate a complex world. The channel partners that stand out are the ones that make the life of the channel manager just that bit easier, by going above and beyond what it takes to be just another registered partner.