The 80/20 rule is a reality that all vendors deal with when it comes to their channel revenue. By this, I mean that 20% of a vendor’s channel partners will deliver 80% of their channel revenue. This is nothing new. It does, however, tend to mean that those larger partners (the 20%) get the majority of a vendor’s attention, meaning their time, funding, support and engagement.
While this may seem like the case, there is so much that those partners sitting in the other 80% can do to get the attention of their key vendors. And with a little effort, you might be surprised at how receptive vendors are to supporting partners not sitting in their ‘20%’. Below are 6 tips to help you as a partner get the attention of your key vendors.
You are not too small
The first thing that needs to be done is for you to realise that even though you may not have offices across A/NZ, you must stop thinking of your business as being too small to factor on a vendor’s radar. Vendors are always looking to nurture and support smaller partners. Your success is their success and by building partners up, outside of their larger partner group, they are ensuring new partners progress through the ranks. Vendors want to see you grow and succeed off the back of their products.
Identify your key vendors
As a partner, there are likely to be a host of vendors that you sell solutions for. There will however always be a smaller list of key vendors that influence your revenue the most significantly (in the same way that vendors have a smaller number of partners that influence their revenue the most significantly). It is critical you identify these key vendors and focus your larger sales, marketing and engagement strategies around them. It is impossible to run effective and successful joint engagements and campaigns with every vendor you deal with so limit your biggest efforts to your key vendors.
Make the first move
Don’t sit back and wait for a vendor to notice you. As a partner, you need to be on the front foot looking to engage with your key vendors. Find out who your account manager is and engage with them as a starting point. It is every vendor channel account managers dream to have a proactive partner to manage, so stand out from the competition by being eager to engage.
It is critical you educate your channel account manager (and a host of others within the vendor) on how your business is structured, how your business makes money and most importantly, where the vendor’s solution fits into this picture. What services do you offer that complement the vendor’s solutions and who are your other complementary key vendors? What are your target markets, who are some of your key customers and how do you see your organisation taking the vendor’s solution into these markets?
Next is to make sure the vendor knows what your company’s competitive advantage is, what makes you different from other partners and why your existing customers love you. It will take more than one meeting before the vendor truly understands all of these things about your business, it is however a critical step. Once the vendor knows where their solution fits and how you make money through their solutions, true collaboration and partnership that is mutually beneficial can occur.
Build a marketing plan
Following on from the aforementioned points, you want to now look to generate demand for your vendor’s solutions, ideally using vendor funded MDF. Lots of vendors these days have their MDF programs structured in a way that is not necessarily aligned with the revenue you currently generate with them. You don’t always have to already be doing a large amount of business with a vendor in order to get marketing dollars.
Vendor’s dream of having partners approach them with well thought out joint marketing plans with solid ROIs attached to them. Channel account managers spend much of their time pushing partners to run activities with them, trying to get things executed that generate leads and awareness for their solutions. This is much harder to do than you as a partner sitting on the other side of the fence may otherwise think.
If you go to your vendor with:
1. A structured and comprehensive marketing plan or campaign (leading with your own messaging).
2. Include a closed reporting loop for demand generation
3. A reasonable funding request with a realistic ROI attached to it
They will be hard pressed to not approve it. Vendors are looking for partners to take them into new markets and to expand their market coverage and if you are going to do the leg work for them, they will support you all of the way.
Align Your Teams and Educate
Alignment and ongoing education is key. Align your teams to the appropriate people within each key vendor. It is likely that if you have come this far the Executive Teams have already met but if not, start at the top and have them meet with the Vendor Executives or senior management. Have Sales managers meet and organise for your reps to meet with the vendor reps. Align the marketing teams and the technical teams and with each and every meeting, you need to educate the vendor on:
1. What your business does
2. How the vendor solutions fit into what you are taking to market
3. Why they should want to work with you as a partner
You need all of this understood so you have more advocates within the vendor. Once they understand, see the value in the partnership and that you are ready and eager to engage, there will be no looking back.
The key takeaway from these 6 tips is that vendors are looking for partners who are keen to engage with them. As a partner, you need to be on the front foot with engagement and ultimately lead it in order to get the most out of it. Partnerships are absolutely a two-way thing but it is important to be loud and clear with your vendors on who you are, what you do and how the vendor solution fits in. Vendors need partners as much as partners need vendors, so don’t be afraid to take the lead or make the first move. I think you will find the vendors will love you for it.
Article from the Channel Dynamics blog, by channel marketer Tamara Hodkinson