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Putting The Partner Back Into Partnership

Almost every technology vendor claims to be 'channel friendly' but the reality is often disappointing. At a recent press conference, UPS manufacturer Eaton was keen to demonstrate its awareness of this issue.

Here Mark Derbyshire, Country Manager for Eaton's Electrical Sector in the UK, explains what he believes existing and potential resellers should expect from their vendor partnership.

Choosing a UPS vendor partner is an important decision. It's a decision that will have far-reaching consequences for the future performance of the reseller's business, so it's crucially important to get it right.

But what are the key factors to consider when looking at potential vendor partners?

Some of these factors are obvious – the vendor must have a broad product range and a good reputation for supplying equipment that's dependable and competitively priced. A good track record for innovation is also important, as resellers need to have access to the latest technology in order to remain competitive. And, of course, the vendor must be committed to supporting the channel – in particular, they must not compete with their own reseller partners by selling direct or by running e-tail/retail operations.

Note carefully that although these factors may be obvious, they should never be taken for granted. By no means will every potential UPS vendor partner measure up to even these basic requirements.

Even for those that do, however, this is not enough on its own to ensure the success of a vendor partnership. Resellers should also be looking for a well-formulated and well-implemented partner programme, such as Eaton's new PowerAdvantage programme.
The programme should be simple to enrol in and use and, in addition to advantageous pricing, it should also give resellers access to marketing materials and sales tools, channel marketing tools and non-public product and support literature as well as sales and product training.

Another key ingredient that resellers should expect to see is dedicated sales support.

Typically these programmes are open to all resellers that are committed to developing their power quality expertise and growing their UPS offering with the vendor. Some vendors, however, including Eaton, go further by offering a second-level partner programme.

Usually open only to channel partners that have actively participated in the basic programme for a pre-determined period or have met significant business goals, these second-level programmes unlock additional important business benefits. These might, for example, include assistance with lead generation and opportunities to participate in special events.

All that's been said so far could with justification be said to characterise vendors that are 'channel friendly'. But is that enough for a truly successful channel partnership? Eaton doesn't believe so. While a channel-friendly vendor is, of course, a good start, the real key to success is a partnership with a vendor that's channel strong. But what's the difference?

A channel-strong vendor will meet all of the requirements we've so far identified, but will go much further. Importantly, they will demonstrate a commitment to the channel at all levels in their organisation, right to the very top, as this is the only way to ensure that their sales engineers have access to the resources they need to fully support their channel partners.

A channel-strong vendor will also understand that its channel partners cannot be expected to be experts on every product they sell. The vendor will, therefore, make available its own sales engineers to support resellers when they need to handle tough questions from a prospective customer.

The vendor's sales engineers will also be available to assist with product need assessments at the customer's premises, as well as with a host of other pre- and post-sales activities.

And there's another important benefit that channel resellers should expect from a channel-strong vendor: to know the name of their vendor sales engineer. That may sound trivial, but it's not.

Knowing the name of their sales engineer means that resellers have a consistent point of contact with the vendor. As a result, when they're working on a project and they want to check on something, resellers don't have to repeat all of the details every time they call the vendor, because they speak to the same person each time. This single-point-of-contact approach is also a big aid to relationship building and accountability.

Finally, a true channel-strong vendor will, in conjunction with its channel partners, look beyond the supply of UPS systems. Data centres, for example, invariably also need customised enclosures, rack systems, airflow management and even low-voltage power distribution equipment.

All of these requirements are business opportunities and the best vendors will help their channel partners to capitalise on them.

For channel resellers, the choice of a UPS vendor partner is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Hopefully this short article has provided some useful guidance for discriminating between vendors that are merely channel friendly and those that are truly channel strong and can, therefore, provide a sound foundation for future success.