This month's cover story looks at the support - or lack of it - that resellers get from their vendors. It's a pretty sad state of affairs. Many small to medium vendors are becoming isolated from the channel and from users. They expect the channel hierarchy to provide elements of the relationship which five years ago vendors automatically provided themselves.
Distributors are taken on to satisfy and manage the channel but, despite assurances they will do more, only supply product. Vendors are surprised when their resellers are unhappy and source elsewhere.
These days, vendors call support 'added value'; at the end of the eighties it was a standard feature of reseller/vendor partnerships. The reason is obvious - cost. Far from reselling being a cheap and easy way to get product to market it is proving as costly as or even more expensive than the traditional direct sales force method.
Some vendors have realised this, opted to pull out of the channel and fostered a direct sales force instead. But then they realise the big advantage of indirect over direct is that it is not finite and geographically it has far more potential. A group of resellers can achieve far more than a direct sales force. Although they still require financial investment and support, the cost to revenue ratio is infinitely better.
In response, some vendors are investing heavily in the channel. Hewlett Packard in particular, and also Sun and IBM, are making channel-aware noises to indicate that they have finally realised resellers are the best way to achieve market penetration. They have also realised that a happy and loyal channel does not come cheap. Most importantly, they have committed to paying their direct sales executives a commission on indirect sales so that it is in their interests to pass as much through the channel as possible.
Yet other vendors continue to screw up. I heard this week of a reseller invited to a Compaq Partners meeting only to find his customers there as well.
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