Top 10 things resellers want from vendor programs

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This article appeared in the March 2016 issue of CRN magazine.

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Top 10 things resellers want from vendor programs

What do channel partners want from their vendors? It is a question close to our hearts at Band, a company specialising in executing channel programs, strategies and tactics across Asia-Pacific, including Australia.

Through ongoing research and the support of thousands of technology industry partners throughout Asia-Pacific, we’ve identified the most common partner requests, what they want more of – and what they want less of. Most importantly, what partners value from their OEMs and what will drive the most sales.

1. More margin, more rebates

No one will be surprised to see this as number one. Resellers are in business to make money. The more they can make off the same revenue, the better. While we’ve seen the approach to channel rebates evolve over the years, cash remains the preferred rebate at an organisational and individual level.

Stored-value cash cards are best, but incentive trips and redemption catalogues can still work. To truly succeed and drive the desired behaviour, these programs must be particularly compelling, actively marketed and designed to prevent people from “gaming the system”.

2. More demand-generation support

One thing that remains consistent is partners looking for their OEMs to support their demand-generation efforts, be it in DIY packages or via full-service “concerge”-style marketing support. Yet we see huge variation between vendors.

Over the years we’ve provided a whole menu of services to our clients’ partners – digital marketing such as EDMS and microsites, events, content syndication, social media, telemarketing, media packages and more. What separates success and failure is a sophisticated partner marketing concierge team to support and promote these offerings. Without that handholding, adoption can be limited regardless of the breadth of assets available on the marketing automation platform.

3. More sales support

Of course, all partners would love their vendors to provide more qualified leads every day. But most of the vendors we work with remain sceptical of partners’ capability to close deals as well as the vendor can. In general, partners understand this; many would be happy to simply receive more pre-sales support to help them close their own leads. Offering partners a lead response service to qualify their leads for sales handover can be a key element to ensuring leads are successfully converted – and opportunities registered.

4. Better market differentiation

Competition is fierce in the channel. With prospects always shopping around for the best deal, partners are keen to edge out their competitors any way they can.

This is why gaming can be such a pervasive problem with deal and opportunity registration programs. We’ve actually been hired to validate opportunities directly to ensure partners aren’t gaming by putting in fake email addresses and claiming to “own” an account first when no substantive pre-sales has actually occurred.

While partners will look to their competitors for ideas around demand generation, they really want to do something different. Cookie-cutter campaigns can only go so far without the opportunity for significant customisation.

5. Better communication

When it’s quarter close and the vendor’s channel team is looking to hit quota, partners hear the phone ring constantly. But what’s the ongoing communication engagement strategy to build real relationships? EDM newsletters are okay as a baseline, but you have to expect most aren’t going to be read. The human connection still goes a long way.

Next: technical support

6. More technical support

With the never-ending shortage of talent, partners are always struggling to find skilled staff – and keep them. Given the regular upgrade cycles of all vendor technology, it’s near-impossible to stay up to date on every certification. Therefore, having technical solution on call during the proof of concept stage is a primary request we hear from partners around the region.

7. Less program complexity

Channel partners have limited time and attention spans. Expecting partners to know and understand everything about a vendor’s partner program is a rookie mistake, even when those partners  have a supposedly “exclusive” relationship with the vendor.

Commitment is always wavering; it’s based on “what have you done for me lately?”. As a general rule, every vendor should further simplify their partner program and benefits, especially the benefit and incentive elements. If a partner can’t easily understand the points and how they are calculated, how can it serve as a compelling incentive?

8. More and better training

It is often a challenge for partners to stay on top of all the latest market developments as well as changes in the solutions they sell and implement.

As mentioned above, partners have limited time and attention spans. Training needs to be targeted, convenient and immediately applicable to the needs of customers. It should go without saying that partners would like training to be free – or at least refundable if they reach a certification.

9. Cross-sell, upsell and renewals support

While vendor salespeople are laser-focused on new licence revenue, partners gain a lot of business from ongoing service and support income and the opportunities to upsell and cross-sell new solutions to their install base. Our clients generally outsource renewals to third-party agencies such as ours, but it makes sense to support the channel more directly with this as well.

10. Joint annual go-to-market planning

Once a year, top-tier partners will usually sit with their dedicated partner account managers to plan target expectations for the year. However, it needs to be expanded beyond just sales to marketing as well, especially for less-sophisticated partners who need more support.

Partners often report to us that planning with vendors doesn’t expand much beyond, “We want you to sell this much to keep your status and margin points.”

One last point is that partners – everyone, for that matter – like to meet face-to-face at least once a year.

Ben Wightman is channel marketing & sales enablement director at Band Pte Ltd

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