Originally published via LinkedIn Sept 9, 2015
I have never worked for a reseller. I’m not going to pretend to know what it is like. I cannot imagine the stress of keeping your customers happy while trying to increase your credit line at your distributor and dealing with vendor certification requirements just so you can try to sell their product for margin equivalent to a slice of bologna only to have to rip it out six months later from your customer’s corrupt database. If this is you, I’d switch to Veeam, by the way.
Like most vendors, at Veeam we strive to work by the belief that partner success is our success. But sometimes we are blinded by all the ‘good things’ we think we are providing you. Partner portal, anyone? One of my favorite parts about my job is sitting with a partner in their office at their conference table next to their water cooler and hear how they run their business. I like to hear what they really need from us (leads!) and not what I think they need from us (best email campaign ever!). I learn a lot at these meetings not only about their business but how much vendors, distributors, and customers can drive or stall it.
Over time I have noticed some common threads in my most successful partners. And by ‘successful’ I mean they sell a lot of stuff. Not just Veeam.
- They have found their niche market. Did you know that according to The Poverty Initiative section 8.9.12B the U.S. government is mandated to spend 678 million dollars a year on technical companies that headquarter and employ in impoverished neighborhoods? I just made that up, but I am willing to bet 678 million dollars that there is a rule like that out there that a savvy reseller is banking on. Now we all know dealing with the government is no picnic, but the point is successful businesses thrive because they fulfill a need, they meet a requirement, they fill a void, they solve a problem. Sometimes those problems or requirements aren’t as obvious, but a little research can open a revenue stream just waiting for someone to scoop up. Differentiate yourself from the thousands of other resellers out there by finding your slice of the pie.
- They have a dedicated internal marketing resource. If your Sales Director is your Vendor Relationship Manager and your Director of Marketing, I hope you’re giving him shares of stock in Rolaids. Crafting your voice, building your brand, and telling the world who you are requires a special skill set, just like running a sales team, and is a full time job in itself. Even if you just have a marketing coordinator whose entire job is to manage all your vendor portals, you’re winning and not like Charlie Sheen #winning. If marketing is treated as an afterthought, it will become one. Use outside resources to help you manage social media, procure lists, or cold call to prospects, but always have a marketing point person who provides the messaging, understands your business and knows exactly what you stand for. Your value-add is what you are selling, and your customers need to know what it is.
- They build their own stacks. Sell them. And Repeat. Create three stacks (one for each tier-SMB, Mid-Market, and Enterprise) of best-of-breed products that you know like the back of your hand, you believe in and trust, and, if possible, you can demo, install, and service without requiring a vendor engineer every time. I see my channel managers hand over leads and approve deal registrations for partners who repeatedly champion our product and know what they are doing. Partners are both the trusted advisor of the customer and the face of the vendor. Wield that power to guide the customer to the products that are easiest for you to manage in the long term and result in vendor actions that are beneficial to your business.
- They are loyal to their stack. Turning down a customer’s business can be bad for, well, business. So it can be easy to be reactive and jump on every order that comes in. Resist this urge and advise your customer that while you will sell them that product, since it is not in your recommend stack, you won’t service it. Chances are the customer will buy the recommended product. If not, you still make the sale, and when they come back to you because the product in questions has, ahem, pooped the bed, you can sell them the first product you recommended.
- They have a technical field sales team. This is not always the easiest to accomplish. Some sales folks can sell salt to a snail but ask them one layer deep into the technicality of a product and they’ve got their engineer on speed dial. Some engineers can run a customer’s entire business for a week and half on a paperclip and silly string, but get them in front of a group to close the deal and they fold like a beach chair. Sales reps that are technically inclined and product smart can appeal to all the decision makers at the customer and seal the deal without having to call in reinforcements. This can also cut down on staffing expenses. Keep an in-house engineer for complex installs, a dedicated sales team on the phone, and, as I fondly call them, the best sales nerds you got in the field.
- They milk the system wisely. Like a Jersey cow in spring time, vendors are bursting with resources for their partners. Find the ones that work for you and take advantage. I know partners that supply their entire sales team every holiday season with incentives they have earned from a vendor’s reward program. Remember your coordinator from #2? She’s in charge of this, too. Don’t tell my boss I’m telling you this, but Marketing Managers have access to other budget besides their own. Alliance vendors often offer funds to help push joint deals. And don’t forget your distributor, whose entire job is to prove their value-add to the channel day after day. They have entire teams of Product Marketing and Sales dedicated to providing you everything from customer service, to technical support, to marketing dollars.