Partner up

IT vendors and distributors have their own channel programmes, but they all have one goal — growing market share. A solid ecosystem of channel partners can help you achieve growth, but if you aren’t consistently engaging your channel base, you really don’t have partners but reactive order takers

Tags: Dell CorporationEMC CorporationSASToshiba CorporationXerox Corporation
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Partner up Dan Smith, Head, Integrated Marketing for the Middle East and Africa, Xerox
By  Piers Ford Published  March 22, 2013

IT vendors and distributors have their own channel programmes, but they all have one goal — growing market share. A solid ecosystem of channel partners can help you achieve growth, but if you aren’t consistently engaging your channel base, you really don’t have partners but reactive order takers, writes Piers Ford.

Channel partner programmes come in all shapes and forms but unless they help a vendor to consolidate and grow its market share, they can represent a lot of effort for a frustratingly slow return.

Incentives, education, rebates and loyalty initiatives are tried and tested ways for vendors to engage with, cajole and invigorate distributors and resellers. And in such a competitive market, with new technology and IT models showering down on customers from the cloud, the need for a solid ecosystem that supports existing partner relationships, while attracting appropriate and significant new resellers, has never been greater. For even the world’s biggest vendors, mixing traditional programme elements with innovative approaches that reward a more service-led approach to long-term growth has become a priority.

Dell is a typical hardware and infrastructure player in this regard. It operates a three-category programme that embraces Authorised Distribution (stock, sales-out and revenue based, and focusing on consumer and commercial products), Registered Partners (sales support and practical incentives for a broad set of registered partners) and Preferred Partners (richer rebates, deal registration, lead generation, quarterly achievement rewards, online and classroom learning for a select group of strategic partners).

“With Dell’s different focus areas such as PCs, infrastructure design, solutions and services, we must strive to make our programme relevant to a broad range of partners,” said channel programmes and operations director John Coulston.

“Enablement through training programmes, awards and loyalty programmes are critical elements and Dell rewards partners who invest in building and developing their relationship with us.

“Training and enablement are critical. Channel programmes are effective but they don’t operate in isolation. The strategic direction of the organisation has to be aligned with our own. For example, security is an important focus for customers and with Dell’s acquisitions of Secure Works and SonicWall, we continue to build on our expertise with our partners who are specialists in security.”

Initially, a straightforward sign-up process is the key for new resellers. This can vary in depth between wide-ranging vendors with strong roots in commoditised products and specialist, service-led suppliers. At data protection specialist SafeNet, for example, potential partners will usually submit a profile detailing their areas of interest.

“This would then be reviewed, and once approved, the partner can be on-boarded at an entry ‘silver’ level for the selected products and territory, and have access to the relevant training offerings,” said Miguel Braojos VP of sales for Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa. “From then on, the sales opportunities they report would be registered and protected according to our opportunity registration scheme.”

Simplicity is also the order of the day at information infrastructure vendor EMC. “Our programmes are underpinned by a simplified process that can be easily managed by the distributor for the resellers with dedicated demand generation, marketing support and advertising to drive awareness,” said Havier Haddad, channel and alliances director for Turkey, Emerging Africa and the Middle East.

“Our programmes offer simple online ordering processes enabling partners to custom configure solutions to meet their customer’s requirements. An effective channel programme is one that is simple, predictable and profitable for our partners every step of the way – in order, equipping them with the tools to increase their value and profit opportunities but also the flexibility to match their go-to-market strategies, whether they are pure-play resellers, service providers or a combination of both.”

Education and training are two of the cornerstones of partner programmes – and as technology continues to evolve at a challenging rate, they are probably just as important to the future-looking reseller as incentives and rebates.

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