The best channel managers are those that can envision themselves standing in the shoes of their best VARs. And, honestly, vice versa. But all too often, channel managers forget that solution providers have businesses of their own to run, while solution providers find that the proverbial glass slipper offered by their vendor partners doesn’t fit quite as well as they’d like.
Forrester’s recent channel trends report, introducing a new benchmarking tool for partner programs that it hopes to sell to vendors, is a classic illustration of this disconnect. (Information about the Forrester service and the related report can be found at this link.) Nowhere is the gap more profound than when it comes to sales and marketing programs. Simply put, the 20 vendor executives surveyed by Forrester for the benchmarks think that partners do an average job, at best, when following or participating in the various programs they provide. To illustrate, consider a quick recap of the following question: “Please rate your partner’s performance in the following sales and marketing activities.” A result of 5 indicates “Excellent” and a mark of 1 indicates “Poor.” Here are the mean responses for each activity:
Participation in lead/deal registration program – 3.3
Selling “solutions” to business problems (as opposed to product features) – 3.3
Conducting marketing activities – 3.1
Selling to business decision-makers (not technology decision-makers) – 3
Leveraging the sales and marketing collateral and tools that you offer to them – 3
Nurturing and closing leads that are supplied by the vendor – 2.7
Reporting the results of marketing campaigns – 2.3
My colleagues over at the TechTarget channel group actually went out and surveyed some VARs about the survey results. The results of their reporting can be found at this link. The biggest bones of contention, of course, surround motivations for deal registration as well as the ever-classic, chicken-and-egg argument over lead generation. Vendors are irked that resellers don’t follow up their leads, while resellers are irked that many of the leads they are given are not only weeks old but woefully unqualified. This debate will continue into eternity.
Another finding that really ticked me off, actually: Half of the people surveyed by Forrester felt that it wasn’t important to solicit partner feedback about their programs? That’s really a bad attitude. Granted, you shouldn’t necessarily change something on the whim of one partner. But if you don’t know what your partners think about you, it’s a whole lot easier for a competitor to go find out and then use that information against you.
To be fair, the vendor channel execs also rated themselves along a number of metrics and they didn’t exactly ace this thing either, although they scored themselves higher than they scored their partners. Here are the average scores the vendor execs gave themselves for different elements of program management. Again, a score of 5 means “Excellent” and a score of 1 means “Poor.” I’m providing the mean results for each area. Here goes:
Marketing program management – 3.8
Partner management – 3.6
Partner sales management – 3.6
Partner communications – 3.5
Partner recruiting and administration – 3.5
Partner training – 3.3
Partner collateral management – 3.3
Partner profiling analysis – 2.7
Finally, if you’re a channel manager wondering where your peers are going to concentrate their partner enablement activities over the next year, here’s the top response: Enabling partners to sell to business decision-makers. This response received a rating of 4.1. Two other priorities tied for second place: Fostering partner-to-partner community and collaboration (3.6), and Providing partners with marketing skills training (3.6).
All I can say is: Lots of work to do all around. Here’s hoping these vendor execs use dialogue and debate with their partners to help drive their strategy.