Channel Call

With Vendors, Fertilize, Water and Weed

My theme for the last several months was how you can differentiate your firm from the masses of other resellers in the world. Hopefully you've been able to implement some of the strategies. As we head into the middle of the year, I'll be shifting gears to discuss strategies for accelerating growth in your vendor relationships. This month, I'll talk about marketing strategies, followed next month by sales strategies. Then I'll wrap up this mini-series with measurement and management strategies you can employ with your vendors.

Spring has finally come to the United States, and after one of the worst winters in recent memory, it's a welcome relief. Many families do what mine does during this time of year -- spring cleaning. We dust off some things and spruce up others. One of the tasks my children particularly enjoy is planting flowers in the garden.

Resellers can also do some planting with their vendors during this time of year. A few well-executed, joint-marketing tactics in the second quarter will result in a bountiful harvest later in the year.

Know the Fertilizer
Before you can market effectively with a vendor, you need to understand your own strengths. In earlier columns, I talked about ways to differentiate yourself through marketing. By this time of year, you should have a good feel for what unique marketing tactics are working which ones aren't. Pick the tactics that are getting traction and do more of them.

If you have a garden and a certain fertilizer seems to really help the plants, keep using it. A great example of this is a reseller who recently started writing articles around a certain technology. It had never done this before but had been increasingly frustrated with the low-quality leads it was getting from webinars. In a very short time, user groups and bloggers started to identify this reseller as the expert on the technology. Having marketing techniques that are already working for you will help you bring something tangible to the table in discussions with your vendors.

Water the Garden
Have you signed up with a new vendor but not yet seen much traction with the relationship? Don't dust off and resend the original press release announcing the partnership. It's time to get tactical with the relationship. In order to make things really work, both parties must roll up their sleeves. Recently, a relationship a client has with a vendor wasn't going in the direction that either party wanted. What I suggested was to have a meeting so that both parties could get extremely tactical. We shifted from the "honeymoon" period into what I call the "watering the garden" period.

Activities became incredibly focused. The companies shared target customer lists and put together a definitive action plan for calling the names on the lists. Both parties were thrilled that the relationship was finally moving in the right direction. The tactic here was quite simple, and often this is what needs to be done to get things back on the right track. No fancy chemical fertilizers or organic methods were needed here, just plain water.

Weed out Old Ways
As you examine the older vendor relationships in your portfolio, it may be time to weed out the old way of doing things. Take initiative and visit the vendor yourself, instead of waiting for him to visit you. Do a lunch and learn with the vendor's sales people, instead of waiting for them to do a lunch and learn with you.

Even consider doing a press release highlighting a current piece of good news on the vendor. For example, a client of mine recently had some major news hit the wires. An article appeared in USA Today, referencing this client. Some progressive resellers within the client's network put together press releases around this news, even though they weren't mentioned themselves. The "old way" would have been to wait for the vendor to do a press release about both companies.

Weed out the old ways of doing things, and make room for something new to blossom.

Net Time: Selling Strategies

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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