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  • Larry Gregory

Vendor Management – Learn and Communicate in Context

As a software company, you probably depend upon other software companies for platform elements of your own solution such as database, operating system, middleware, cloud infrastructure, and components/plug-ins.  The idea behind vendor leverage is to get the most from the relationship with those software providers.

In the Advise stage, you want to communicate in context of the relationship.  Learning the organization and role dynamics of larger partners is important.  You can waste a lot of time with the big platform players if you don’t narrow your efforts to those groups that have meaningful alignment.  Stay current on primary roles that influence your product, particularly over fiscal year boundaries as strategies &and scorecards change.

When you first engage a vendor, you’ll need to research their partner tiers and programmatic offerings.  Also explore the benefits and eligibility of unofficial partner levels (e.g., managed partner status).  Renew your learning efforts around larger partners’ fiscal years.  To be considered for account management, engage your contacts t-minus 3 months before their fiscal year change.  Account coverage decisions are likely to be made just prior to their new fiscal year: you want lead time to learn the criteria and see if you can align with the new initiatives.

Even as an unmanaged partner, you can sometimes qualify for marketing support if you align with a vendor’s strategic initiatives.  This will entail some risk because the vendor is probably looking for adoption stories that represent early bets on a new technology.

If the risk of new technology adoption isn’t worth the potential marketing payoff or you’re otherwise unable to get out of the unmanaged status, focus more on leveraging what the programs offer and how other partners in that ecosystem can help you.  Reassess partner benefits after each major vendor’s annual partner update.  These events catalyze their messaging and programs development.  New opportunities to slot into value-add programs will be at their height right around that timeframe

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