Many vendor channel directors believe future-proofing the business is the partner manager’s role. But statistics – and my experience – shows that the partner manager is too busy chasing special bids or answering technical queries to sit down with the key decision makers.
We recently asked senior managers in reseller organisations about their vendor relationships. We found that just 10 per cent of those surveyed always had an account plan with vendors. The conclusion we are forced to reach is that most channel business happens by accident.
Senior executives and sales teams are targeted and rewarded for short term results, so the channel must better identify who has enough interest and vision to plan for the medium to long term.
Distributors and resellers with diverse vendor partnerships may struggle to find the time and energy to discuss, agree and execute a plan with everyone. Otherwise, how can you forecast and plan effectively?
If you consider your business to be in that 10 per cent minority, ask yourself whether your current account plan truly reflects a shared commitment to your partnership.
Does it contain ideas that will inspire your sales team and clients and does it differentiate you from all other partners?
About half the respondents to our poll felt that their organisation rarely has a say in the strategy of key vendors.
While you cannot run a business by committee, there should always be room to listen and react to the people on which your success and, ultimately, job depends.
Resellers need to take more responsibility for identifying key vendors, and establishing who is driving the strategy, then ensure that they have that debate with said vendors.
Most of the people we surveyed felt that they had a good relationship with vendor executives – but I would suggest these are more tactical engagements rather than reflecting any long term planning.
If the vendor isn’t being proactive with its channel, it is the reseller who drives debate, planning and initiatives that will stand head and shoulders above peers that wait for the vendor to lead.
From a vendor’s point of view, there are several ways of tackling the issue. One of the quickest and more effective is an executive partner forum. Here, the vendor hosts interactive workshops with small groups of key partners to float new strategies and get feedback before roll-out.
Other vendors choose to spend time with key partners in one-to-one workshops, a move which facilitates an interactive and open debate around strategy. This should result in a specific action plan for each reseller.
Antony Young is director at Demuto
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