Vendor Management – Align with Sales Motions
Last time we covered the benefits of synchronizing your product development and marketing rhythm with platform vendors in order to benefit from their marketing resources. Let’s now shift to the selling effort and how to leverage vendors to accelerate your own sales. An important step is to align with their go-to-market messaging and channels in order to maximize customer engagement.
Vendors take several approaches to partner selling: partner led, sell with, and peer partner selling.
Partner Led (most common) is where you are expected to drive and own all opportunities. This works best when the vendor’s platform provides an inherent competitive advantage and is a hindrance if the vendor products are viewed as non-standard or lacking innovation. Aligning with the vendor brand should strengthen your credibility. After you’ve qualified the opportunity, ask your account manager for introductions to the corresponding vendor account representative servicing that customer (assuming the vendor is value-add to your own selling efforts – some platform vendors have a hard time working outside IT).
Sell With scenarios are where you and the vendor jointly engage customers in the lead development process. This is rare, but more likely when you dominate a critical market for that vendor. Their desire to access that customer segment may result in short term sell-with activity, perhaps enabling you to reach or scale in an adjacent market. Sometimes vendors provide financial incentives to achieve certain revenue targets or pull-through sales. Evaluate the ROI of chasing these incentives and whether it is a natural motion to your sales process.
Peer partner selling can be valuable if the vendor has taken steps to differentiate and inventory their ecosystem such that you can efficiently engage other partners. These relationships can generate complementary partner referrals (e.g., between ISVs and SIs) as well as enable more complete solutions (where ISVs loosely integrate their products, perhaps to take on a larger competitor).
To maximize your vendor leverage, align with their field sales themes. Managed partner status (often not explicitly represented in partner programs) is a pre-requisite to getting this kind of placement. Also pursue preferred placement for field engagement and go-to-market positioning (e.g., industry-specific solution map or guide). Engage those roles (e.g., industry-specific account managers, solution sales specialists) that have the greatest applicability to your offering and provide quick -reference materials as a job-aid for their customer engagement. I’ve prepared a vendor leverage article specific to Microsoft (“10 Tips for Partnering with Microsoft“) – it is the same as my initial post if you’re keeping track.
From Marketing to Sales
Leverage your early adoption efforts as marketing fodder to attract other customers. Check for joint marketing dollars that sometimes accompany vendor product launches. If you’re a reference win for the vendor, engage in joint events (a source of quality leads if data collection is planned in advance and event leads follow-through is effective).
This finishes up the cursory pass through each of the initiatives and stages in the Partner Strategy Framework. The verbs in each cell are meant to sum up the intent of each point of intersection. I’ll spend more time in future posts on strategic planning, leadership & people development, managing different partner types, and measuring satisfaction.