As it appears that a lot of the channel tech neglect to ask what the partners really want from their vendors, we went out and asked them. The results are not what you will expect.
We asked the question: What can vendors do to make your life better?
Many responses came back about support from the vendor. If the partner asks for support, it’s for a customer and should be responded to swiftly. The lack of support from the vendors seems to be rife for partners and this is down to the fact that the efforts going into the recruiting the partners but once recruited, the partners are left to do their own thing.
We understand that having a small channel doesn’t justify having two split support teams for direct and indirect but there should be someone who is able to answer both direct and indirect support requests in a reasonable time.
Neglect the support side and you will surely lose the partner.
Once you exceed 25 partners, you should consider having a support person with at least a split role between direct and indirect.
When you hit 50 partners, it’s wise to have a full time partner support specialist in place to answer all support queries from the partners as well as assist in technical training of the new partners.
Support seems to be a running theme throughout and evidently something that the vendors should put more efforts into.
The introduction of self service systems such as marketplaces is only going to add to the lack of support from the vendors side, especially when the distribution layer is being attempted to be removed in markets that requires it.
2. Training of internal staff
The next item to come up is the abilities of the people within the vendor. Account managers and partner development should be multi-skilled with the ability to support low level enquiries and at least perform demos of the products.
Having a lack of resources that are skilled to be able to help the partner end up delaying customer interaction when there is an interest to buy.
Skill up your internal staff before putting them live.
Included in this item is the vendor sales people “lying” about the capabilities of a product before the partner has got their hands on it.
When they are positioning it to their customer base, they end up positioning it with the feature set that has been told by the vendor and when asking the vendor how they activate that feature, they are told “It doesn’t do that”.
They have to go through multiple levels of support (if it exists) to find out that the feature is question isn’t a part of the product and never has been.
This is all down to the training of the partner manager.
Why not use the pod system as described in our previous article on the perfect channel team?
Having a pod system in place allows for members to be skilled across multiple disciplines including technical, sales, renewals, marketing.
3. Put as much efforts into your support and customer service than you do into forcing people into long term contracts
Not to sound like a broken record, the support thing is coming up time and time again. The partners seem bitter that they are left in the dark once onboarded and lack the support to be able to provision products on behalf of the vendor.
Long term contracts are not what the resellers want and they feel it’s an exercise in fast growth of bottom line as opposed to growth of the channel.
If they supported the partners more, that growth will come naturally rather than having it forced by making partners sign long multi year agreements that are designed to inflate bottom line figures and retention.
We understand the multi year contracts allow the vendor to inflate the figures for retention which looks good to investors but is it worth losing deals from the channel just to artificially inflate those numbers?
4. Vendors calling partners with anonymous numbers
One person told us that he called the vendor out on this and they said “It’s the only way we can get people to answer our calls”. This made the partner distrust the vendor and he stated it’s like a used car salesman operation.
When he set his communication preference to email only, they still insisted on calling him again and again.
Move to the future and cut out the cold calling from anonymous numbers. Setup a structure for regular touch points with the partner and you can clear everything up in a uniform manner.
Having meetings set aside for once a month with your partners after they are comfortable should be enough to clear everything up on a monthly call. At the start of the relationship, it will need more regular calls but once a month is enough after ramp up. If the support mechanism is in place for the partner then any contact between that call should be related to sales / technical / marketing support from the request of the partner.
5. Transparency on pricing
We had a response that the vendors should be transparent with their pricing from the outset. They don’t want to fall into the sales funnel of the vendor just to understand how the pricing is for a particular product as this ultimately ends up with the partner blocking the emails of the vendor because it turns into a hard sell.
It’s a fine line between publishing pricing and losing flexibility vs not publishing pricing and being flexible.
Why not have a standard price list that is made available to partners or potential partners that is consistent across the board?
You can have regional level price lists where there are differences regionally but withholding pricing altogether and just providing pricing upon request to partners makes it near on impossible for them to qualify opportunities based on budget. It delays the qualification and makes the partner look like they have no clue about the products that they are selling.
Transparency is the key here. After all, it is a partnership and not a secret operation from the vendor with information provided on a need to know basis.
6. Own your problems
If a mistake is made, it doesn’t matter who made the mistake, you need to admit it and rectify it. It’s a partnership again, not a witch hunt for who has made a mistake. If you drop the ball, you need to admit that you have made the mistake and then work together to fix that mistake.
Admit that a mistake has been caused from your side and the partners can live with that because at the end of the day, mistakes happen. What they can’t deal with is the vendor stating they have done nothing wrong when they clearly have.
7. Focus on the fundamentals
Too much money is being pumped into shiny front ends when the fundamentals of a product are lacking.
Partner sales and marketing teams love those shiny UI’s but when the technical side of the product falls down because of the lack of emphasis on features as opposed to UI, it begins to be a problem.
Put the money into what matters and that is the functionality of the product.
This is a limited list of request from partners for what they really want. It’s all to do with ease of doing business and requirements from their standpoint. Support is the strongest request from the partners in addition to not being bombarded with cold calls every day trying to sell new products.
Keep the relationship a two way relationship and you will win the game in the channel.