How to be first in line for vendor leads

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This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of CRN magazine.

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How to be first in line for vendor leads

The letter says congratulations on becoming a partner. You’ve jumped through all the necessary hoops, had all your staff trained, achieved the technical certifications, and put together a business plan.

You can almost taste the leads about to come your way.

Over the coming days and weeks, the leads fail to materialise and you start to question your new vendor. What are you doing wrong? You have invested all the time, money and effort in attaining partner status, but it all seems for naught.

There are ways to make the leads roll in and they have nothing to do with your certifications and status. Resellers need to spend time selling to vendors, as well as to customers.

Vendor salespeople have so much going on, that the ‘noise’ can be deafening. There are pricing requests, RFQs, customer visits, missed orders, massive wins, pipeline reports, channel partners vying for attention, internal training, competitors to fend off, sales meetings and more happening every week. A new reseller has little chance of attracting the attention of the vendor.

Vendors crave a few things: sales, information and trust. If you as a reseller can provide these, you will be on their radar and on the way to generating leads. Here’s how to do it.

You must build relationships ‘up the line’ with the people within the vendors who are talking to your customers and prospects.

All of your salespeople and sales support people should have relationships with their counterparts at your vendors. Your marketing teams, sales managers, and finance teams aren’t excluded either. Build a web of relationships that allows for open communication.

Once everyone is communicating, start informing the vendor what you are up to. This is where many resellers fall down. If you are working on a particular prospect, tell the vendor. Don’t be upset if a vendor or other reseller crushes you down the track. If you didn’t tell the vendor, how can they be responsible for working with another reseller?

For some resellers, this is a huge leap of faith. At first it is. Develop a rapport, share information and you will learn who you can, and can’t, trust at each of your vendors.

Vendors thrive on information. Keep them updated on the progress of particular deals, prospecting campaigns, opportunities, etc. With this information flowing, you’ll soon be on the radar of the vendor.

Now really differentiate yourself. Pipeline is critical information to all vendors. This next step may be hard for some resellers, but this is what truly separates many resellers in the eyes of vendor salespeople. Share your pipeline.

Yes, be an open book on what you are working on, progress of opportunities and next steps required to move closer to a win. Send this to your vendors on a weekly basis. Soon you will have them addicted. They will rely on this information and, like any drug, they will miss it if you don’t send it to them.

Once you have built relationships at all levels, developed trust and demonstrated that you can provide accurate and open information, you will start to see leads come to you. Not through a system, but from the vendor’s salespeople. Most of the largest and juiciest leads never see a lead system; they are passed between salespeople when both parties know they can rely on each other.

Vendors see a lot of resellers, and unless you are adding value to them, you won’t be noticed. Work together and build rapport – with that will come trust, inside information and, of course, nice leads.

Greg Furlong has been involved in the IT channel for more than 25 years, including roles at IBM, Lenovo, Network Neighborhood, Acer, Lexmark and Toshiba. He runs ChannelPace.com, the world’s first BYO CRM and business networking system. Contact him at greg@channelpace.com

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