Choices we make in times of crises ultimately determine our success or failure. Remember, the Chinese symbols for crises encompass both danger and opportunity. That's something that every vendor and solution provider should think long and hard about as they refine their 2009 sales plan.
What's troubling is how many vendors from longtime channel stalwarts to startups are making knee-jerk cutbacks in their channel organizations as they grapple with a difficult IT spending climate. They are cutting seasoned channel management. And then they are reducing channel staff and field reps to such a level that they are virtually assured of sending any partners that were working with them packing. Others are cutting back on MDFs or joint marketing initiatives. What these vendors are doing, in effect, is putting a gun to their heads. But why would any vendor voluntarily blow their channel brains out? In the end, it's not surprising, given that most CEOs do not treat their channel as an extended sales force.
What solution providers have to be sure of is that they don't get dragged under the water by these vendors. Make no mistake: Solution providers invest in those vendors that invest in them. They are looking for partners who will back them up in the sales trenches, not run for cover at the first sign of trouble. If you've got a vendor that is running for cover, you'd be wise to spend less sales time and resources pushing its products.
What's exciting, however, is how many vendors are making the effort to step up and invest more in the channel. Look for new Kensington President Chris Franey to absolutely invest more in the company's channel initiatives, rewarding partners for selling more of the Kensington product line. Another channel bright spot: General Displays and Technologies, a joint venture between multibillion-dollar conglomerates General Electric and Tatung, is bringing a line of HDTVs and displays to the market in the March to April time frame. That venture is being headed up in North America by Peter Weedfald. Both Weedfald and Franey are veteran channel executives partners can count on to do the right thing. In this climate, it's important to bet not just on products, but on people. That's something vendors that are running for the channel exits would be wise to remember.