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Picking a Partner is Like Buying a Car

Kick the tires, so to speak, before you jump into your next vendor and technology partnerships.

At the end of last year, all the car companies made a strong push to sell their cars. They do this every year, but last year seemed to be extreme. I guess their advertising worked, as I started looking into buying a new car.

This got me thinking. The process of researching a new car is very similar to the process a partner needs to follow when researching a new relationship with a vendor. Here are five things to keep in mind when researching vendors and their technologies:

1. Style
The first thing that typically attracts us to a new car is the style of the car. The same thing applies when we're looking for that next vendor to add to the portfolio. Does the product look like a nice complement to your existing Microsoft lineup? Can you envision the product being bundled with other Microsoft services and products of yours-possibly creating a suite? Creating a "style" for your company will help you create a niche and generate momentum.

2. Gas Mileage
While the V8, super turbo-charged SUV was downright cool, I would probably find myself filling up the gas tank too often. So my research pointed me toward a more efficient vehicle-like a hybrid or something in between. With vendors, the super cool "Star Wars" technology might seem appealing, but it might not be a rational choice. You'll probably find yourself pouring too much "gas" (meaning resources and money) into making the product work in client environments.

3. Affordability
One of the car advertisements I saw was for a Bentley-a very nice car but way out of my price range. On the surface, some vendors' products may seem attractive, but their prices don't match up with your target customers' budgets. A good example is enterprise resource planning (ERP). Not a lot of partners can take on the bigger ERP products, but an increasingly higher number of partners can take on the Microsoft ERP products (and related products) because of the lower price points and the SMB target audience.

4. Comfort
I narrowed my search down to a few cars I thought would work well for our family. However, I still needed to complete the most important test of all-actually sitting in the vehicle and taking it for a test drive. Style, gas mileage and affordability aside, if I didn't feel comfortable with the ride, I was not going to buy the car. With vendors, everything might seem rosy until you actually test drive the product. You need to feel comfortable that the product or service works as planned, that your people can implement it properly and that it will help you make money.

5. Resale Value
One of the most important criteria for me is a car's resale value. The same applies to vendors' products. Determining if a product will be of value to your organization is a difficult task. I recommend that partners examine their current product lines in order to draw some conclusions on what products provided real value to their organization over time. When you chose your next vendor, align yourself to that category of products.

By taking time to research your next vendor relationship, as you would when researching a new car, you'll increase the likelihood of success.

About the Author

Keith Lubner is Chief Business Strategist at Sales Gravy, the sales acceleration company, and managing partner of C3 Channel, a global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing and training for growing companies. For more information about Keith, visit www.c3channel.com, www.channeleq.co or www.salesgravy.com.

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