I have said before in this column—and in light of the CompTIA Breakaway event being held the first week in August in Las Vegas I will say it again—partnering with other VARs is one of the most critical business decisions anyone in the channel can make. Partnerships should be a cornerstone to your business foundation.
In today’s real-time enterprise world, large businesses and their small- and medium-sized counterparts are embracing technology to increase their reach. They’re looking not just at the number of customers they can take on, but how far outside of their immediate geography they can reach as well.
Technology has allowed companies of all sizes to appear bigger, more professional and to service their own customers on a national, or even global basis.
As a result, companies need service providers that can support them across many technologies and in many geographic regions.
The only way for most VARs to do this without building unnecessary infrastructure and hiring a bevy of qualified service experts is to partner with other VARs.
Woe to the VAR that tries to go it alone and be all things to all customers.
There are many reasons that teaming up with your fellow VAR makes sense and there are many different forms of partnerships.
Whys and Hows of Partnerships
Perhaps the biggest reason VARs come together is to offer a complete solution to a specific customer.
Most VARs I know specialize in some area and have specific technical expertise such as business process management, networking, security, telecommunications or some other skill set.
One VAR specializing in security solutions can join forces with another that focuses on business-process management, to offer a unified, best-of-breed solution.
Both VARs and the customer win in this scenario. This happens successfully everyday in the channel.
The big sticking points are who has account control, or who is the first point of contact for the customer.
Most organizations like to have as few points of contact as possible for their service needs—ideally, only one.
To avoid headaches down the road, the point of contact must be determined before two VARs ever engage the same client.
Trying to figure this out while the customer is in the room or after the engagement has taken place will come across as unprofessional and will end up being counter productive.
The tactic I’ve seen to work most often is one in which the VAR that is already servicing the client, or that received the initial sales lead, should be the lead point of contact.
Another option is allowing whichever company is geographically closer to the client, and is therefore more accessible, take the lead.
Whatever you decide, do it before ever walking into the client’s door.
The revenue-share formula also needs to be determined upfront.
I can write an entire column on the importance and ways to do this, but we’ll save that for another day.
Aside from gaining technical expertise, VARs also partner to gain geographic reach.
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Most midsize and large organizations have multiple locations that need services help. A VAR that can offer the same services and support outside of its central region is a more attractive provider.
This is not to say you need to have a partner in every major city and backwater town across the country.
However, being able to offer your services in New York, Boston, Washington and maybe San Francisco is very appealing.
Where locations you pick for partnerships should depend upon your clients and where they need help.
Take a long hard look at the regional locations of your current customers, as well as those you’re targeting, and see if there is a chance for your organization to do more business with these companies. Then set out on your partnering strategy.
The main thing to consider when choosing a partner is that another company can offer the same level of service you can, has the same business philosophy and is financially sound.
Remember, any partner is like an extension of your own organization; it represents the company you worked so hard to build.
Your company’s reputation is on the line so you need to choose carefully and really feel confident in your choice. Any lack of professionalism from one of your partners reflects upon you.
So, how do you find the right partner? CompTIA is a good place to start. Hopefully, many of you are attending the event in Las Vegas this week and walk away with the right contacts and resources to grow your business and service your customers better.
Elliot Markowitz is editor at large at The Channel Insider. He is also editorial director of Ziff Davis Media eSeminars. He can be reached at [email protected]