Protectionism is a natural reaction in challenging economic conditions, not least with our European cousins across that other channel, but vendors that take back key account responsibility from resellers are short-sighted.
Nobody is suggesting we should ignore market conditions, but let’s not over-react.
If resellers and VARs have shown the commitment to training, improving solution-based sales and building their propositions to wrap services, support and consultancy around products, vendors must show the same commitment to their capabilities.
Trust is a big word in business, and it is only achieved through consistency. Vendors have a mixed reputation regarding genuine, focused and reciprocal channel engagement.
Resellers could be forgiven for being wary of vendor promises. True commitment is delivered through actions rather than words.
Vendors trying to work closely with resellers will maintain margin in bad times and good, ensure deals are not delayed or lost and invest in training and co-marketing.
In our view, commitment means continuously working together to create value and revenue opportunities for partners that can be delivered by those partners.
And for partners, we think it means consistently improving their service offers and quality of proposition to the end-user businesses.
Partners who have invested through the good times in up-skilling and building a services portfolio will more easily capitalise on new sources of revenue.
The vendor’s responsibility is to allow these businesses to do what they do best and avoid closing down the opportunities.
Inviting resellers to take on increased services activity is a further demonstration of trust and collaboration. Vendor brands rise and fall on the customer experiences delivered through alliances and intermediaries.
Having confidence in the channel’s ability to exceed customer expectations is the ultimate test of commitment.
Our partners are an extension of our sales force, but more importantly an extension of our services opportunities. We will rely on them as much as they do on us to maximise this.
The greater our partners’ service capability, the greater the opportunity. We must let our channel retain the initiative and support the deal throughout.
Of course, we also expect our partners to be totally focused on successful delivery.
In the mid-size enterprise space, our resellers can deliver first and second-line service around mid-range products through our Authorised Service Partner Programme and also deliver NetApp-designed Professional Services via our Authorised Professional Services Programme.
We anticipate this will enable our channel to get into more high-value service and professional services accounts.
Trained and certified partners are expanding their solutions capabilities to offer an end-to-end customer experience. Vendors today must support such ambitions through flexible financing.
Only offering financing options for our own hardware will obstruct our alliance partners from designing and implementing integrated virtualisation and efficient storage networking solutions.
If we choose the channel as our route to market and the interface with end-user customers; and if we individually select, train and develop our partners, we must allow that investment the time and opportunity to bear fruit.
Tempting as it may be, taking centre stage as the vendor may prevent VARs showing the customer what they can do.
A channel programme is only as good as the people who can take advantage of it. We are fortunate to have some of the best channel partners around and making sure we work together is something we take seriously.
Pete Rawden is regional director of channels and general business at NetApp
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