Vendors Have to Sell Partners on the ‘Why’

Having great products and channel programs isn’t enough to entice partners. Vendors need to define why partners should engage with them if they want robust and productive channels.

By Larry Walsh

Over the years, I’ve seen many good products come and go. To use marketing speak, they were “bleeding edge,” “next-generation innovations,” and “peerless.” They were great until they hit that wall of trying to attract and seal customers.

Many would say companies with so much promise fail because they lack the proper routes to market and sales strategies. Perhaps, but I believe they had a more fundamental problem: They focused on what they did and didn’t take the time to define why they did it. In other words, they didn’t give their customers a reason for why they existed.

Channel programs are much the same as products. They’re full of features and functions designed to facilitate the relationship between vendors and partners. Channel chiefs will point to their program innovations as a means for improving “ease of doing business.” And they’ll highlight incentive programs and enablement resources that make it possible for partners to take products to market.

What channel programs sometimes fail to do is define why they exist and why partners should engage with the vendor.

Making statements about product quality and utility isn’t enough to entice partners. Showing off the attributes of a channel program isn’t enough to get partners to engage. Marketing the hell out of a channel program won’t make partners flock to join. And incentives won’t compel partners to become more productive.

Channel chiefs need to answer the fundamental “why” questions:

  • Why are your company and product good for the partner?
  • Why is your channel program economically superior for the partner?
  • Why is your technology a better fit for partners’ portfolio and technology stacks?
  • Why would end customers want this product and how does that benefit partners?

Yes, saying you need to define “why” is a bit perfunctory, but that’s precisely why answering these fundamental questions is so important. The “why” is often overlooked, which then causes vendors and channel chiefs to focus on less important things that result in sluggish partner acquisition and productivity.

Vendors can define the “why” for partners in different ways.

  • Brand Consideration and Market Appeal: Selling is hard. Partners aren’t good sales and marketing organizations. Vendors with strong brand awareness and purchasing consideration are a better draw for partners because they won’t have to spend countless hours trying to cajole customers into a sale.
  • Reference Architectures: Providing partners with clear direction on how your products integrate with and enhance the value of other products and services in their portfolio is a way to show how a partnership will enhance partners’ value to customers.
  • Engagement Opportunities: Partners earn more than one-half of their revenue through managed and professional services. Showing partners how they can make money beyond product sales is a tremendous differentiator.
  • Economic Equation: Partner economics involve more than earmarking discounts and offering incentives. Vendors should define the total market opportunity for partners, inclusive of value-add services that their products enable. By defining the total economic equation, vendors amplify the value of the go-to-market relationship.

Vendors can define the “why” anyway they want, as long as they don’t violate one simple rule: It’s all about the partner. If vendors can answer one question – what’s in it for the partner? – they’ll find more receptive and engaged partners in their ranks.

Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.