Channel Call

Top 5 Channel Falsehoods

Of the many warning signs that a reseller-vendor relationship might not work, here's a list of the ones I find to be all too common.

Over the last few months, I have had several conversations with people who are either in the channel or are considering entry into a channel relationship. What I found from these discussions were several misconceptions, all of which contribute to non-productive relationships. Of the misconceptions, here are my top five:

1: "It just happens."
Once a reseller signs up with a vendor, leads and opportunities start flowing in. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a channel executive say, "the relationship with 'vendor X' just didn't work out." The reason is simple: The reseller had the wrong expectation of the relationship. Resellers need to be prepared to put forth the appropriate effort into developing business with the vendor.

2: "I don't need to hire a channel person."
A lot of VARs think they can turn one of their traditional salespeople into a channel-related salesperson. Very, very few people can make this leap, but executives continue to believe it can happen. The fast track to success is to bring people into your organization who understand the dynamics of a channel. They can articulate the vision but, more importantly, they know what it takes to drive real revenue with a partner.

3: "I'll make money day one."
While we all want to believe this is possible, the best and most durable relationships typically do not make money the minute the vendor and partner sign the contracts. Both parties need to set the appropriate revenue expectations. By doing so, money will flow in sooner rather than later, but more important than this is that frustrations won't unnecessarily build up on both sides. I counsel people to throw caution to the wind -- build it out the first two quarters at the very least; reap the rewards the following two quarters and beyond.

4: "My salespeople can sell anything."
If I had a nickel for every time I heard this one. Hey, salespeople get stuck on selling what they feel comfortable with – especially salespeople at smaller reseller organizations (what most Microsoft partners look like). So, in order to be successful, the salespeople need to adapt and change to the new technology from the new vendor. There will be different methodologies, different types of presentations, etc., that will be required of the salespeople. Make sure you get your salespeople the right training, then get them more training and then get them refresher training. You get my drift?

5: "Vendors know everything."
Ok, I saved the biggest falsehood for last. There is the perception that a software vendor, because they offer their products to the channel, knows what it takes to make their resellers successful. Too often a reseller will sign up with a program and then nothing materializes. The reseller makes the mistake of believing that the vendors' channel program is "robust," "well thought out," or "complete."

There are clear signs when a program has "gaps," but the reseller needs to be aware of these. How? Well, bring in people that know how channels work. I'm going back to falsehood #2 here, in case you have not been paying attention. Vendors do not know everything around constructing a channel. That's why they hire folks like myself. If you look to enter into a relationship with a vendor, remember the old saying: "buyer beware."

Actually, I think I probably could have written 20 or more falsehoods, if we really thought this through. But, I don't want to alarm all of you. The bottom line to channels: They work when a plan is put into place – from the vendor and from the reseller. Without a plan, falsehoods unnecessarily arise.

About the Author

Keith Lubner is managing partner of Channel Consulting Corp., a N.J.-based global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing and training for growing companies.