Engagement Rules

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Does the industry really need another "Rules of Engagement" manifesto?

Reluctantly, the answer is "yes."

Can be reached at (715) 282-6561 or via e-mail at czarley@cmp.com.

In recent years, major vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM, among others, have crafted rules that they say are designed to ease channel conflict with their solution provider partners. But those rules came only after those solution providers with some clout complained loudly enough that the respective vendor's direct-sales force had consistently abused the channel. What's more, although cast as a mea culpa, the rules of the game were ultimately defined and refereed by the vendors.

Left out of the picture were the thousands of small VARs who are the heart and soul of the channel. Constant incursions into their accounts from their so-called vendor partners seem like business as usual.

But now the ASCII Group has said enough is enough.
The association, which represents the interests of thousands of small VARs, has written its own engagement rules that it is now presenting to the vendor community. By crafting rules from the VAR's point of view, ASCII Group is putting the onus for fair play on the vendors. Among the key provisions in the document are ones stating that manufacturers don't have the right to employ salespeople who tell customers not to purchase through the channel or who shift existing channel sales to a direct basis, especially with specific knowledge that the customer is a channel-sales customer.

Nor do vendors have the right to introduce another solution provider into an account where there is knowledge of a pre-existing solution provider relationship.

ASCII Group Chairman Alan Weinberger says that the engagement principles draw a line in the sand for vendors: Sign the document and embrace the broad channel, or justify your reasons for not playing fair.

Weinberger says he has received a number of favorable responses from vendors and expects many to sign the document within a few weeks. Manufacturers hoping to capture a greater share of the elusive small-business market should seize this opportunity to win over those VARs who own the trust of small-business owners.

In the coming weeks, CRN will report the names of signees as they jump on board. More importantly, we can't wait to hear the blather from vendors who refuse to sign.

Who's taking responsibility for engagement? Let me know at (715) 282-6561 or via e-mail at czarley@cmp.com.

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