From The Expert Feature Article
October 09, 2015

The Channel Pro's Checklist for a Winning Partnership

By Special Guest
Bob Skelley , Vice president of global channel

Solution providers play a critical role in enterprise technology. While customers depend on them for expertise, support and differentiated solutions, technology vendors rely on these partners to broaden their end-user audiences and contribute to the momentum of their products, solutions and business strategies. Every solution provider has access to a different set of technical resources, demand generation tactics, geographical coverage, regional competitors and go-to-market strategies. However, whether you’re starting out as a new business, considering a shift in your approach, or growing your established organization, it’s imperative to build customer and partner relationships rooted in trust and strength. Below are four tips to help establish these values, strengthen your vendor and partner relationships, and solidify your team’s long-term success:

1. Define your area of expertise, and stick to it.

Perhaps you’ve achieved early success in a key solution area, such as data security. You can become versed in the trends and leading technologies that dictate this industry, build your expertise and follow thought leaders in order to remain ahead of the curve while delivering insights to your clients. Or, you may choose to align your organization with customers looking for consultation and guidance regarding all aspects of the data center stack, requiring you to diversify your sources and remain up to date with the wider scope of the technology industry. Each of these paths can be lucrative and rewarding – but stick with one, and build a company identity around it.

2. Plan your approach and alignment with industry vendors.

By adopting a vendor-driven strategy in the channel, you’ll develop a close relationship with one vendor’s products and its sales, marketing and executive teams. As a result, this partner may reward your loyalty and increase its investment over time. On the other hand, a vendor-agnostic strategy will grant your team the flexibility to assemble a best-of-breed portfolio. While you’ll lose the trust and alliance of focusing on a single vendor, your customers may increase their trust in your organization, knowing that it lacks allegiance to a particular vendor. Pick an option that complements your area of expertise, and find ways to highlight its unique benefits to your customer base.

3. Learn about the vendor's business model and ensure it aligns with yours.

As you evaluate a new technology partner, ask yourself what the vendor's go-to-market strategy is, and whether it is in line with yours.  Add-ons like incentives and rebates may seem appealing, but they can lead to deeper issues with communication, the deal registration process and conflict resolution. And each of these areas can ultimately impact your customers’ experiences.  What's more important is understanding if the fundamental business model the vendor espouses aligns with yours.  Evaluate every touch point, from everyday engagements to long-term agreements, before entering a working relationship.

4. Work with vendors and technologies that support your ultimate vision.

Research the market opportunity for each of a new vendor’s products and services, and consider the adoption curve and amount of training and enablement involved with each solution. You may find that some technologies will involve more effort and industry education than their market demand can return, while others are at critical points in their growth and can likely bring your organization a good deal of success.

Finally, when you’re evaluating any relationship – partner, customer or otherwise – ask yourself how the company’s overall goals support those of your team. The right partnership can benefit everyone involved with the transaction, but a poor match will do little but cause tension and waste resources on all sides. Careful partnership decisions dictate the success, or failure, of every solution provider organization, and they’re easy to establish and grow – as long as you know what you’re looking for.

Bob Skelley is the vice president of global channel for Infinio. He has more than 20 years of executive-level experience in the channel, most recently as executive director of North American Channel Sales at Dell (News - Alert). Skelley also served as global vice president of channel strategy and operations at EqualLogic before the company was acquired in 2008 by Dell.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere