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4. TOO MANY CERTIFICATIONS
What drives Ronnie Parisella crazy are all the vendor certification programs he has to keep track of. "Partner certifications are a big pet peeve for me because every vendor does it differently," he said. This is a big problem for Power Consulting Group, the New York service provider where Parisella serves as business development director, because it works with about 20 partners. He has some 15 engineers who need to be certified by vendors. "The training and certification Webinar schedule is a disaster," he said.
Parisella suggests that vendors allow major distributors to become a central source for managing training and certification programs, giving small service and solution providers a central place to go to manage those requirements. "One centralized portal for certification, training and sales proficiency," he said.
3. RESTRICTIONS, RESTRICTIONS
One of the easiest ways to tick off a solution provider? Tell him there's a product that he's not allowed to sell. See Exhibit A, Microsoft, which has raised the ire of many of its solution providers, first by refusing to allow any IT channel partners to sell its Surface tablet and then by opening up channel sales to only 10 of its biggest Large Account Resellers.
Jude Daigle, president and owner of Computer Connections, Greensburg, Pa., said Microsoft's go-to-market strategy for Surface is mystifying. "Microsoft just doesn't get it. It's foolish to not allow your distribution partners to authorize resellers for Surface," he said. "What's so hard about selling Surface? Why are they only authorizing a select few?"
2. WHERE ARE WE GOING ANYWAY?
For many solution providers, the strength of their vendor partnerships comes down to access: access to top executives, access to product road maps and access to information about strategic shifts on the horizon. There are few things solution providers hate more than surprises.
Some partners complain that they don't have access to top executives at vendor companies -- some, apparently, because those executives considered the channel to be beneath them. "Some of these top management people didn't take the partner program as seriously as we would have liked," New Signature's Geevaratne said of technology vendors he has worked with in the past.
Geevaratne said a major issue with vendors he once worked with was their refusal to provide partners with access to product road maps. Letting partners spend time and money on products that are suddenly discontinued is something that really annoys him.
Another solution provider said Cisco has a reputation for rapidly obsoleting products with new models with better performance and lower prices. Isn't that a good thing? Sure, the partner said, if solution providers were given a heads up about the coming switch, which he said they weren't. So customers would pay $4,000 or $5,000 for a Cisco product, only to see it quickly made obsolete by a lower-priced model. And Cisco wouldn't offer an upgrade. The result: a valued customer angry at the solution provider.
Cisco didn't respond to requests for comment.
Sometimes just spending a little time together is all a partner needs to feel loved. "We're not in a big, huge market, so to get [vendors] out of Houston and Dallas and Atlanta to come see us, it always helps," said Haggai Davis II, sales director at Gulf South Technologies Solutions, a Mandeville, La.-based solution provider.