Partners Want to Sell, and Need Vendors’ Help
Solution providers know that earning certifications, while important, isn’t the key to producing value; vendors need to step up and re-evaluate channel-program requirements.
By Larry Walsh
In reviewing the results of 2112’s 2016 Midyear Channel Performance Report, something interesting popped out when we looked at the challenges partners face. While it might have been expected that issues related to sales and revenue productivity topped the list, what did come as a surprise was that partners are least challenged by vendor channel requirements – the things they have to do to achieve and retain status in channel programs.
Vendor channel program requirements even came in below “Other,” which also was largely populated by issues related to revenue productivity.
At 2112, partners often talk to us about the onerous requirements of training and certifications that vendors place on them. Taking people out of the field to attend training and events is costly. The expense of paying for non-billable time is compounded by the lost opportunity to generate new revenue. Partners would rather keep people in the field than put them in a classroom or ship staff off to Las Vegas for yet-another conference.
Topping the list of partner challenges: generating sales opportunities, finding customers, recruiting and retaining sales talent, and closing sales. Essentially, the entire sales lifecycle is a challenge to partners, as their organizations are often based on technical skills and capabilities. They know the technology, but they struggle with how to take it to market.
The dichotomy of the two ends of this partner challenge list is interesting, as they represent the cornerstones of how vendors value partners: how much revenue they generate and how many certifications they hold.
Certifications involve more than just conveying technical skills and knowledge to a partner that result in higher services competency and quality customer experience. Certifications are a way for partners to demonstrate commitment to a vendor. Through the certification process, vendors compel partners to invest in their products and brands. Certified partners are less likely to gravitate to a new vendor that would require a new investment of time, money, and lost productivity.
In fact, partners are so averse to the new training and certification process that they’ll avoid changing vendors even if the current relationship becomes onerous.
Vendors, for the most part, care about certifications only to the point that they provide real-world value. In truth, many vendors would waive the certification requirement or come up with some workaround if a partner was able to outperform revenue-generation expectations.
And therein lies the rub. Partners know the true way to a vendor’s heart is not through certifications and completing the checkbox requirements of a channel program. The demonstration of value is how much money they can produce.
In recent conversations with resellers and integrators about their vendor relationships, not one complained about the vendor requirements. To them, earning certifications and training credits and complying with reporting requirements were all checkbox items akin to a cost of doing business. A few even described compliance as a defensive measure so they could have favorable terms in the event a customer wanted a particular product from a non-strategic vendor.
Abandoning certifications and other channel requirements would be a step too far. Certifications are an essential part of the partner enablement process. Nevertheless, vendors should look beyond their arbitrary requirements to other factors that return value in the partner relationship, such as joint-business plans, business development management, and sales collaboration.
In other words, vendors should put emphasis on the activities that directly generate revenue.
Partners want to produce. They want to create value for their businesses and generate value for their vendors. And they know the way to do that is not necessarily through channel program compliance, but rather through sales productivity that produces a mutual benefit to them and their vendors.