“Bluegrass is Born”

August 20, 2007 at 2:01 am Leave a comment

I saw Lyle Lovett in concert at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA two weeks ago, and in the middle of his two and a half hour set with his large band, he said “bluegrass is born.” Now, if you’ve ever listened to the words of his songs, you know Lyle Lovett can be a bit of a strange guy, so I was paying rapt attention to hear his explanation for this stimulating statement. He was apologizing in advance for his soon to be attempt at a bluegrass tune. Lyle went on to explain that true perfection in bluegrass isn’t learned “you’re born with it.” He, evidently, believes he was not born with the bluegrass gene.

I find it fitting that I’m in Austin Texas this week, “Lyle’s home town” and muddling about being “born” with the channel gene. We talk to hundreds of technology companies in a year and it is always amazing to me how easy it is to pick out a company that has channel DNA: and how difficult it is to connect with those organizations that are faking it. Yes, it is our job to help technology organizations design, implement and automate partnering models. And of course they wouldn’t pay us “the big bucks” if it was uncomplicated and painless. However, there are organizations that “get it at their core” and we quickly gain traction and produce real results and success with partnering sales and profitability. These organizations have channel DNA. They understand the value that partners can bring and simply need to refine the processes to determine who, how and when to engage which types of partners. It got me wondering, is an organizations’ ability to partner effectively in its DNA or can it be learned?

Whether the organization, or more accurately, those that work for the organization, have channel DNA determines the ease at which it develops, engages and empowers partners. You can spot a company with “the channel gene” by talking to their executives and reading their company materials and web site. How prominent a role do partners play in their story? – is the “partnering” tab on the web site? How clear is the business value proposition for partners? Is it apparent what their solution providers, system integrators, consultants or VARs get out of the relationship? Do their executives say “what we need from you is” or do they ask “how can we work with you to help you satisfy our joint customers?”

Organizations that do not have channel in their DNA continue to struggle in engaging and leveraging partners. They seem to “stub their toe,” often or take two steps forward in a partnering initiative, only to take one giant step back when they forget about the partner in the equation and require the partner to book the services directly with the vendor (for example). These organizations try to “leverage partners,” OEM’s, Alliances, Solution Providers, but never seem to be able to get into the rhythm of the relationship. These organizations produce opportunistic sales and an opportunistic revenue streams through their partner relationships.

Having channel DNA doesn’t mean there is never conflict or challenges to overcome. It just means that the general concept of partnering is embraced, widely accepted and the organization is committed to the creating a win-win-win (customer, partner, vendor) scenario.

Cisco has the channel gene (at least now they do: they haven’t always). As does Microsoft. Oracle, hummm? IBM? BEA? VMware? What do you think?

If I was a solution provider, I’d look for a corporate blood test that determined if the organization was pre-disposed to partnering before I invested in building my business around them. Can the executive leadership carry the tune or are they tone deaf in singing the channel’s virtues. Tell me what you think- what vendors do you think really “get it” when it comes to partnering?

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Third Wheel on the Loser Squad

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