Cutbacks in channel programmes have become more common, but savvy vendors are continuing to invest as they rightly consider their partners an extension of their sales force.
Of course, with budgets being stretched, many vendors must streamline their businesses, but reducing investment in the channel is not going to be a profitable long term strategy.
The goal should instead be to increase partner loyalty and thereby boost profits.
Failure to do so could result in previously loyal partners favouring competitors’ solutions due to the better support on offer, or simply looking out for themselves and offering whichever quick-fix solutions are easiest for them to sell and generate the most margin and ongoing revenue.
Many security vendors do not seem to recognise this, and rather than working with partners to win more business and ride out the recession, they are actually working against them.
For example, it is becoming more common for vendors to actively encourage customers to renew directly, either via their website or through their sales team.
With renewals often accounting for much of a reseller’s revenues, this is only going to alienate partners.
Customers are demanding more for less, and competition in the channel is intensifying.
To help the channel prosper, vendors should look to deliver business growth for dedicated partners. Initiatives such as enhanced support, new deal registration and margin protection, can all build a trusting partnership, giving partners the tools and training needed to beat the competition.
A one-size-fits-all approach will not work either. Partners need access to the specific tools and information that will help – it’s unlikely to be the same set of tools that benefits everyone.
Forcing a partner to wade through mounds of information to find a much-needed nugget, similarly, is a sure-fire way to lose resellers.
Vendors should aim at striking a balance by providing an interactive portal that offers a personalised experience, as well as regular face-to-face or phone contact.
The whole programme should be regularly refreshed to keep up with changing requirements. For example, running a portal is a service, not a product, and on top of the standard product information, white papers and pricing tools, vendors should offer something new and exciting, such as marketing resources or ‘seminar-in-a-box’ packages.
By giving partners the freedom to find what information they need online, vendors can empower the channel and build loyalty beneficial for all involved.
However, it’s important also to be available to partners who want more personal contact, either because they have a pecific requirement a portal cannot deal with, or because strong relationships cannot be built solely over the web.
Jonathan Hughes is vice-president of Sophos UK
Automation firms UiPath and Automation Anywhere close out their funding rounds with $265m and $300m respectively
View photos of last night's awards ceremony in London
View photos of all the winners from the 2018 Channel Awards
After a glittering awards evening in Battersea celebrating 25 years of the Awards, we are pleased to share the list of winners and judges' commended winners