It’s Hard to Teach a Partner to Fish When You’re Not Fishing Yourself

June 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm 1 comment

Beth Vanni – Vice President

There is a definite desire on the part of vendors to actively market their technology to business decision makers. In fact, in our recent Influencing the Influencer Study, 86% of vendors indicate that succeeding in selling business relevant solutions through partners is very important to them. Yet in this same study, 62% of vendors say that they have only achieved average results in this arena. Another 25% say they themselves do not have a strong focus on business decision makers, but rather are selling to IT decision makers — where the focus is on products, and not solutions.

This type of selling is in conflict with the sales and marketing direction many of these IT vendors give to their channel partners today;  namely, to be true solution providers actively try to penetrate new markets by demonstrating business value. The problem? How can vendors teach partners to do what they don’t have a fundamental sales and marketing commitment to do themselves?

Traditional infrastructure-focused partners have relied on their key suppliers to publish sales tools and prospecting guides that help tell the vendors’ business-relevance story. They want and need vertically relevant case studies and success stories to understand the vendor’s focus and wins with business users.  But if vendors themselves don’t have industry savvy sales teamed with deep vertical market knowledge or corporate marketing teams cranking out strong use cases, the partners are on their own. Or, the vendors are dependent on recruiting and supporting partners who are already deeply engrained in specific business process or vertical solutions.

What are the other barriers vendors encounter in selling through partners to line of business decision makers?  Over a third say they’re not big enough or don’t have the brand clout to get the business consultant or vertical solution provider’s attention.  And, this is likely true.  The more mature, global IT vendors such as SAP, IBM, HP and Microsoft have invested long and deep in building industry-specific sales and marketing teams and campaigns.  They have massive portfolios with diverse products around which partners can build an industry solution.  For decades, they’ve actively recruited and enabled business partners with appropriate vertical skills to be part of their local outreach (remember IBM’s AS400?). This has enabled them to actively cultivate ISVs and SI relationships with proven, established vertical practices, including of course the big global SI’s as well as the more specialized boutique OEMs and integrators.  But the horizontal technology companies (Lenovo, Juniper, Adobe or even VMware for example) have limited investments or experiences living in the solution-selling arena.

The smaller, industry-specific ISVs such as Eclipsys in healthcare or Fundtech in financial services fundamentally go to market to solve specific business process pain points.  And the server and storage “big iron” vendors have been cultivating Alliance relationships with these ISVs for a long time; think Oracle/Sun or SAP/HP.

So, how do IT technology vendors retool their partnering effort to enable their partners to be successful in selling business solutions? The answer begins with “start at home” ….

  • Reevaluate corporate marketing messaging and customer/partner value propositions to test their business relevance
  • Clean up direct vs. partner professional services engagement
  • Reward partners handsomely for helping build vertical industry use-cases that can be shared
  • Share the same sales and technical training geared for direct sales teams with partners.
  • Feature industry partners in corporate marketing campaigns to highlight the ecosystem of partners who speak business language
  • Include partners in local vertical or business focused trade shows or conferences
  • Reevaluate your technical tools and services architectures to check for an industry slant – actively share these with partners

  To learn more about the business relevance challenges IT vendors face with and through their indirect channels, download our Influencing the Influencers Executive Brief.

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Entry filed under: Industry Perspective, Partnering Tips, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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