By Fernando Quintero
Solution providers exist for two reasons: Vendors cannot effectively or efficiently reach all segments of the market without intermediaries and cannot deliver the value-add services of designing, implementing and maintaining technology once it’s in customers’ hands.
Solution providers know their role in sales and customer relationship management. They know they complete the last mile of the sales process and provide the ongoing support customers need to ensure they get the value from the technologies they acquire. And, in many ways, they understand they amplify sales capacity and expedite the sales cycle.
Then why is it that so many solution providers lodge complaints about vendors’ not understanding their value? Typically, it’s because vendors don’t understand — and it’s partially the partner’s fault.
Vendor sales reps and channel account managers, like all sales creatures, are motivated by performance. They have sales quotas and performance figures they must attain if they hope to cash in on compensation plans. They follow the path of least resistance in working with partners and focus on partners with the highest performance.
However, there are times when vendor reps try to work around their channel partners, believing they could earn greater compensation if they didn’t have to surrender margin. Some vendors’ senior execs believe they would gain more financially if they didn’t have partners as part of the process.
Anyone who has spent time in the channel knows this isn’t true. Solution providers’ intimate relationships with end users earn them trust. Customers will buy products and brands based on solution-provider recommendation, and they know solution providers are their best allies in technical support and access to vendor resources.
Missing from the equation: solution providers demonstrating this value to their vendors. This goes beyond passing sales leads on to reps or registering deals; it’s about letting vendors know their capabilities, certifications and marketing activities. Solution providers need to engage and educate their vendors – specifically their channel account managers – on what they are and do, as well as their recent successes in identifying and closing deals.
Again, the channel exists to amplify vendor sales. A single vendor sales representative can service maybe 50 accounts. If a rep works with 10 channel partners who each have 50 accounts, the rep’s coverage area is amplified to 500 accounts. Working in concert with channel partners gives the rep a greater return with less time and effort. Or at least the theory goes.
The challenge facing vendor reps is which partners to focus on. The top performers are easily identified as their sales numbers are self-evident. Reps will always gravitate to where the most activity is, but they may miss opportunities if they don’t know your customers, what special skills or certifications you have, or if you’re expanding into new technologies and markets.
Solution providers that go beyond investing in vendor channel programs by communicating to their sales reps and channel account managers often see a higher returns, steadier growth and more satisfying relationships with vendor partners.
Yes, vendors do have a tendency to work against the interest of their partners. But knowledge is always the medium for diffusing conflict and building greater productivity. Solution providers need to take the first step to foster better channel relationships with their vendors. The product of a healthy partnership is a better go-to-market relationship with benefits for vendors, solution providers and, ultimately, customers.
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Fernando Quintero is McAfee’s vice president of channel sales and operations for the Americas. He is responsible for partner relationships and building strategies related to sales, marketing, operations and profitability, while promoting product and services growth for more than 10,000 partners in the region. His focus and proven understanding of the channel, specifically around partner engagement, value-based productivity, speed of execution and agility, have marked his career with a consistent track record of achievements around the entire partner experience and adoption of McAfee’s products. He has been with McAfee since 2002, holding key sales management positions. Quintero previously served as McAfee’s channel director for the Latin America region.
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