Planning Is Only Half of the Success Equation
Vendors like to talk about joint business planning with partners, but solution providers say vendors often fail to follow through on their obligations. Success is a combination of planning and commitment to reaching goals.
By Larry Walsh
A common desire among vendors is to have “the right partners” in their corner. The belief is that with the right – or most committed – partners focused on advancing sales and revenue productivity, vendors will enjoy greater success. This notion runs contrary to the spray-and-pray approach, in which vendors recruit and support masses of partners – regardless of capabilities and output – and only a fraction contribute meaningful returns.
Vendors don’t assume that truly committed partners will perform. In both approaches, vendors look to develop joint business plans that set goals for everything from technical development and support capacities to, ultimately, sales returns. Joint business plans are seen as a way of getting partners to commit to performance targets and focus resources on attaining goals. Likewise, such plans get the vendor to commit materials and resources that support partner efforts. If everything works, the result is a higher return on channel investment that benefits both parties.
While vendors and solution providers appreciate joint business planning, there’s little confidence in it working as expected. And the problem isn’t with the solution providers.
Research by The 2112 Group has found that solution provider confidence in joint business planning is relatively low. Solution providers say vendors are often unwilling to develop and execute joint business plans. Even when plans are put in place, solution providers say vendors often fail to meet their obligations.
The perception of unwillingness on the part of vendors is not inaccurate. Since vendors typically want to commit resources only to partners with a capacity or history for delivering results, they’re more willing to develop joint business plans with higher-performing partners. Less developed or lower-performing partners are often not as attractive for joint planning.
The real problem, though, isn’t developing a joint business plan; it’s sticking to one. Solution providers across the performance spectrum say vendors are inconsistent in following through on joint business plans. Often, they say, vendors will start to execute a plan, but fail to apply resources, while the solution provider is expected to keep up its end of the deal. The result is often lower-than-expected returns.
Why do vendors often fail in their joint business plans with partners? In many cases, it comes down to constant change.
Vendors will shift personnel – typically channel account managers – or reprioritize products and market targets. The changing of internal priorities and resources trickles down and disrupts the joint plans made with partners. Expectations for vendor performance in 2015 are high, as the broader economy is picking up steam and the monetary markets remain stable. Nevertheless, vendors are looking to curb costs, and the best way of doing that is to defer sales to channel partners. If vendors want to get a better result out of their channels, they need to develop programs centered on business planning with partners. Once plans are in place, vendors and solution providers need to follow through to ensure they have a reasonable expectation of success.
This doesn’t mean vendors have to run out and engage in planning with every partner that can fog a mirror. Rather, it means vendors need to remain open to business plans from partners with reasonable development proposals. Data generated by 2112 shows that partners receiving the support of their vendors are more apt to achieve or surpass their individual and joint goals.
The 2112 Group works with vendors on developing and executing partner business planning programs. For more information on 2112’s business development and planning services, send an email to [email protected].