Channel Call

The Magic Ingredient: Executive Commitment

Getting partner-company executives in the mix will be essential to your success.

Recently, my wife was making cookies with my daughter. When the inquisitive 5-year-old asked what the most important cookie ingredient was, my wife replied that all the ingredients were important because without all of them the finished product wouldn't taste right. But she added: "Every cookie has a magic ingredient that makes it special." The magic ingredient in this case was chocolate chips. It's the same with vendor-partner relationships. Every such relationship involves many elements, but the single magic ingredient is executive commitment.

Vendor Executives: The Effort Starts Here
In previous columns, I've discussed several important areas to consider in evaluating a new vendor relationship, including analyzing margins, matching technologies with competencies, setting the right marketing expectations and evaluating the ins and outs of the vendor's channel program. Plain and simple: Everything starts with the vendor company's executives. Those executives ultimately bear the responsibility for crafting a complete channel program, initiating marketing activities and developing leading edge products-all efforts that need positive responses from partners. Obviously, if these areas aren't good, the vendor won't be able to find good partners.

So what makes these areas good? Three things: commitment to developing solid products, putting the right procedures, processes and people in place to support the channel, and tweaking the program where necessary. (An additional note: One easy way to gauge a vendor's overall channel commitment is to check the titles of the company's executives. If you don't see "channel" in anyone's title, be wary.)

Partner-Company Executives: The Buck Stops Here
Meanwhile, Microsoft partner-company executives must be committed to taking a proactive approach. If a Microsoft partner enters into a relationship with a vendor, the partner must be prepared to do marketing, sales and services activities. Employees involved in those areas will need an executive "nod of approval." That means that partner-company executives must commit to giving those employees the ability to execute the tasks required to undertake those activities. While that sounds easy enough, it's often one of the hardest decisions to make because doing so might affect other parts of the business.

So keep in mind that while executives may outwardly show commitment, inwardly they might not be ready to actually commit. That's important because if everything starts with vendor executives, it ends with partner executives-they're the ones that will make it happen.

Analyzing Commitment
For the Microsoft partner, figuring out who's committed and who isn't can be a tricky exercise. Most vendor executives can talk a great game, but remember that the proof is in their actions. To get a more complete picture, I recommend interviewing some of the vendor's existing partners. Don't limit yourself to the references that the vendor provides; call some partners on your own. From talking with them, you'll be able to tell right away whether you want to become part of that vendor's program.

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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