Vendors and partners need more intelligent communications

When it comes to how vendors manage their channels, Middle East resellers often seems to get a raw deal. This thought occurred to me after attending a few partner events recently. One of these, for Cisco, was its global partner summit, held in the US.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  May 23, 2003

When it comes to how vendors manage their channels, Middle East resellers often seems to get a raw deal. This thought occurred to me after attending a few partner events recently. One of these, for Cisco, was its global partner summit, held in the US.

As one of the largest vendors in the world, you would expect Cisco to have a pretty good handle on what its channel want, but I was surprised at just how far Cisco went to really get to grips with partners.

All the attendees at the event had a sort of wireless interactive badge, called an nTag, that could be used to take spot polls. Throughout the conference various senior executives of Cisco would use the nTag to poll partners on various things.

These spot polls were just a very simple and outward display of how Cisco handles its partners, but it certainly showed as a contrast to some of the partner events, and the underlying philosophy of partner relations, that we are treated to in this region. Far too often the only time partners here get to see the vendors representatives is at product launches, which are little more than a presentation on the product and that is that.

Of course, the product is still the main thing—even Cisco’s resellers said that solution sets and the right technologies are some of the most important aspects of a vendor’s offerings, but in competitive, over-populated markets, it is not just a question of having the right box to sell that will win over the channel.

If a vendor wants to see loyalty and close relationships with its channel, something that is good for everybody’s business, then it has also got to listen to them, and find out what their business needs are. Otherwise, when a better product comes along, what is to stop a reseller from switching brand?

Handling partner relations isn’t straightforward though. For those companies that don’t have a direct presence in the region, or even have the time to travel to the Middle East very often, finding out what a partner wants is not easy. One solution is to use the web more.

Most tier one vendors now have extensive dedicated online resources for partners. Cisco’s Partnerview site has thousands of tools for partners. The web provides an inexpensive way of communicating information to resellers in a way that is convenient for them absorb, instead of them taking time out of the office. Resellers have been reluctant to get online in the past, but this is changing as the quality of vendor’s web resources grows.

Overall both partners and vendors would be better off using the time that they can spend face-to-face with more constructive discussion than simply presenting product news.

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