A great deal of our success comes from choosing vendor partners wisely and working closely with them. But before you choose your partners, you have to decide what products and services you’re going to offer, and narrow down the number of vendor partners you need and the product lines they carry. We decided to focus on infrastructure, and that led us into virtualization. You have to do your research and find the products that fit from vendors that have good reseller programs.
When people ask me what a good reseller program looks like, I go through the list of important attributes. First, the vendor shouldn’t compete with us by selling directly. Many vendors that used to follow a direct-sales model only, like Dell and EMC, are now coming to us and other SMB VARs to talk about their reseller programs. They know their direct sales force cannot reach the millions of SMBs in the United States with a phone call. They cannot reach their goals without the strength of the channel.
Second, we like to see that vendors have a strong local presence. If not, we rarely engage with them. When we find a large opportunity, we want manufacturer representation with us.
When our company was starting out, we had an awesome local HP rep. And the current local HP team still takes time to educate our salespeople, and as a result we’re selling more desktops and laptops than ever, up 100 percent this year. These engaged, channel-focused vendors—like HP and Citrix—truly make a difference.
But while the local rep is important, so is the vendor’s back-office staff. Does the company have a dedicated 800 number for its resellers? Does it employ technical support people who know their stuff? How quickly do they respond? Is there a specific person to talk to for RMAs? The company’s product might be only one of 10 in the solution, so it must work seamlessly. We need to develop close relationships with our partners, so we ask these questions early.
OTHER CRITICAL ELEMENTS
For the partner program, a critical element is a good registration program. The best ones let you register an opportunity online through the vendor’s portal, and provide you with price protection to help win business. We design solutions for customers by working with engineers and CIOs, not hounding the purchasing department. We have a large sales investment, and we need to be protected.
The sales cycle for many of our projects is about six months from the time we first meet a customer through to integration of the solution. After we give a customer a quote, someone else can come in through the purchasing department and quote a lower price because the transaction won’t include any sales costs. Even though we’ve been working with the customer for six months, someone will try to grab the business at the end. The registration program should guarantee the reseller gets a special price, if needed, to protect their sales cycle.
Registration does something huge for the manufacturers too: It gives them an unbelievably accurate sales pipeline. Through one portal they can see every opportunity in every territory. They can also tell which resellers are registering the most prospects, so they can support them with marketing dollars, local shows, and the like—a tremendous win-win.
I also think it’s strange when vendors come to talk about their products that have long sales cycles and evangelization periods, and they ask how many salespeople we have. When they ask that rather than how many engineers we have, that’s a big red flag. The salespeople are not the ones to evangelize a product. Salespeople get your foot in the door, but your engineers really know the product and its benefits for the customer.
We also look for vendors that let us share in their annualized revenue, such as maintenance contracts. Sometimes I feel like we’re in the insurance business because we have a steady stream of annual revenue from continuing customers. Small resellers should understand that channel model, and not just sell and go on to the next customer.
New vendors that call and want to come meet with us aren’t given that opportunity until they and their channel program have been vetted. Because when we look for new vendors, we concentrate on the ones that value their relationships in the channel and want true reseller partnerships.
Profile: Peter Anderson
President and CEO, Bayshore Technologies Inc.
Location: Tampa, Fla.
Web site: www.btfl.com
Number of employees: 44
Company focus: We’re a Microsoft shop, concentrating on infrastructure. We do a lot with Exchange and virtualization, and that now includes storage. We are also Citrix’s only Platinum solution adviser in Florida, and a Gold partner for HP.
What people would be surprised to know about me: I played professional soccer for 15 years in the 1970s and ’80s in Europe and for two different U.S. teams, one of which was in Tampa. I loved the area and came back after coaching in England for three years and working with Nike for one year.
Written by Peter Anderson