When you look through the literature and website of a technology provider that works with the channel, you often find a mass of verbiage which, after reading, leaves you none the wiser about precisely how that company supports its channel partners. So, if we cut through phrases like ‘added value’, ‘close working relationships’, ‘innovative support processes’ and all the other insincere clichés, what should a partnership really look like?
Of course, the answer could fill quite a thick book. Yet in these few paragraphs I can at least cover off the main headers. Elsewhere, I’ve talked about first finding out whether the technology firm is really dedicating resources to a 100% indirect sales strategy. After that, I would say a real partnership is built on three pillars: intelligent pre-sales support; concentrated account management throughout the customers’ lifecycle; and marketing support. Let’s take those one by one.
Marketing support means materials, sales tools and insights that help you to successfully present the vendors proposition to generate, nurture and close sales opportunities. Examples might include: data on market size, competitor information and sales analytics to help partners identify opportunities and where to focus/expand your business efforts; sales playbooks for key vertical market applications – that educate your salespeople by providing knowledge to ensure your sales team truly understand the sales proposition for new business pitching; ready-made marketing campaigns – which you can simply top-and-tail with your branding and then deploy; joint PR in markets you want to develop – that shows you are a real thought-leader and vertical market expert, which is critical to building credibility. Of course, there are many ways a provider can offer marketing support, but these examples serve to illustrate the point.
Intelligent pre-sales also covers a multitude of options. Activities may include; knowledge transfer, where the solution provider gives workshop-based product and market insights not just the bells and whistles of a solution, but also the subtle aspects of the overall proposition to aid in closing the deal and over-coming objections; solution configuration and advice, where the provider becomes an extra technical expert in your sales team; input into Proof of Concept (PoC) analysis and deployment support – helping you to create a really convincing and compelling business case and return-on-investment model which is then proven when the PoC is deployed. Again, these are just a few examples.
Finally, there comes smart partner account management. This includes, but is not limited to, sales & technical training, joint business planning, professional services, technical query resolution, solutions architects for customer solution development, partner program effectiveness, all facilitated through ‘high touch’ responsive, collaborative Partner Account Managers. Of course, that support will be commensurate with the level of business that a partner is delivering to its technology suppliers portfolio of vendors, that’s just a business reality. However, intelligent technology companies will have identified existing high revenue and potential strong growth markets and should be investing in building those markets in collaboration with their channel partners.
So, next time you’re reviewing which vendors to invest your resources in, cut through the fancy words and see whether they perform on all these three counts.
By Simon Watson, Alliances Manager - UK, EMEA & APAC Sales, Spectralink Corporation.