Rapid technology change and inconsistent communication can put tremendous strain on channel relationships, but solution providers can reap significant benefits through greater commitment and investment in their vendor partners.
Few individuals can discuss channel partnership with more authority than Cloud Wave Partners founder Vince Menzione, who spent nearly nine years as general manager of partner sales and strategy at Microsoft. There, he helped guide the Redmond, Wash.-based giant's government business into the cloud era and piloted the licensing programs that remain a part of the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider program.
"[Solution providers] need a way to connect with the technology giants," said Menzione in a session at The Channel Company's XChange 2017 conference Monday. "They need a way to get information rapidly, persistently. And the tech giants need a way to deliver that message in a more rapid format."
With solution providers in mind, Menzione highlighted several characteristics of partnerships that have thrived, as well as the factors behind ones that have failed, taken from podcast interviews he conducted with leaders across the channel.
Reinventing a business model is extraordinarily difficult for solution providers to do and requires true commitment at the leadership level to remain in lockstep with vendors. Some partnerships fail because solution providers weren't aggressive enough in buying into a vendor's larger vision – be it cloud transformation or another disruptive technology – or because partners didn't understand how to effectively market their unique value proposition to vendors.
Solution providers need to take a simple, aggressive approach to self-branding, he said.
In addition to being committed to making their own investments in marketing, solution providers need to develop their own pipelines and show independence in generating leads, Menzione said.
Commitment, from understanding the cadence of the vendor's sales strategy to embracing accreditation and training programs, also are key.
Solution providers that have proved themselves valuable to their vendor partners exhibited genuine investment by sales staff in the field, adaptability as vendors tweak program and even shift businesses, and the ability to clearly define the scope of their offerings and, if possible, develop a niche.
Menzione then took the discussion a step further by defining a few attributes of partnerships that cracked the top "1 percent" in terms of quality. Chief among them: shared purpose, organizationwide commitment sourced at the leadership level and, lastly, interdependence.