BUILDING NON-IT vendor relationships and sharing referrals can pay dividends for channel pros.
Think beyond the cabling and VoIP vendors you may do this with already, and instead connect with landscapers, office supply and furniture companies, electricians, HVAC contractors, carpet companies, and construction firms, suggests Erick Simpson, a strategic technology business growth and transformation consultant. A former MSP, he made a point of identifying and connecting with every vendor that his current and potential clients were buying from. “We reached out to anyone and everyone,” he says.
Moving companies proved an especially good source of referrals to potential clients, Simpson notes, because they quite often know months in advance when a business is making a move. “We built one of our best relationships with a couple of executive suite operators who had people moving in and out all the time,” he explains, “so we set up a deal where we provided IT services to these folks under a revenue-sharing arrangement.”
This way of generating referrals started out informally with selected vendors, but over time Simpson says the strategy became intentional. “This eventually made such a big difference in business for us that we assigned one person responsible for doing nothing but identifying and maintaining these relationships,” Simpson says.
An easy way for channel pros to identify possible referral partners is to simply ask existing clients for some names of non-IT vendors they work with, “and be completely open about how you are trying to build a referral network,” Simpson says. “If you have a good relationship, they will be happy to help.”
Maintaining mutually profitable referral-swapping relationships can be just a matter of building on personal relationships, according to Simpson, but he also suggests having a written agreement to protect against any bumps in the road. Simpson’s Reciprocal Affiliate and Influencer Referral Agreement, which requires registration, defines and documents the referral relationship.
Of course, sometimes a referral-swapping relationship can remain informal, while still of benefit to all involved.
“Typically, we formalize this type of agreement with tech-related vendors, such as cable companies and software developers, with a vendor referral form,” notes Benjamin Pearce, president and CEO of MSP and IT consultant ACP Technologies, based in West Seneca, N.Y. For non-IT referrals, Pearce typically reciprocates with items such as a gift card to a high-end restaurant.