Vendor Management – Plan for Success
Vendor management is most relevant where you have a material impact and can affect some leverage on your upstream platform providers. If you’re a smaller company, focus on other areas of the Partner Strategy Framework.
Last time, I talked about the need to learn about the organization and role dynamics of larger partners so you can efficiently engage them. Once you have a sense of their goals and how they are measured, it’s time to work out a joint plan for success.
Joint business plans are often driven by the platform vendor, seeking to gain your commitment to a certain level of sales and ensure your satisfaction with the partnering relationship. This satisfaction may be measured through surveys: ask your vendor contact if there is such a measurement and the outcome they are seeking.
Partner business planning typically occurs after the managed partner list is locked. You have to be collaborative and approach with a win/win objective of course, but realize you have leverage to request more support in context of the business plan if that’s the case
The platform vendor may request technical certification of your developers, regular sharing of your pipeline & roadmap, and that you accomplish certain pull-through sales or internal share shift. In turn, you should seek their commitment across technical, marketing, and sales efforts including:
Preferred positioning with field go-to-market teams (particularly if your solution is industry-specific) in context of playbooks, solution maps, and ongoing field communications
Prominent positioning in online directories & advertising/sponsorships
Joint marketing support such as tele-sales campaigns, case studies, and placement in prominent launch events
Channel building efforts (e.g., introductions to a target list of SI partners)
Executive sponsorship (perhaps speaking at your annual user conference)
Access to preferred technical training and support
Partners often view joint planning as an administrative task rather than a tool to define and guide the relationship. Review the business plan quarterly with your account manager to ensure you’re both on track. Seek concessions where the vendor isn’t fulfilling their end of the plan. If done properly, partner business planning gives you the justification for greater resources (to achieve common goals) and permission to ask for more as the year progresses.
Next time, I’ll discuss how best to activate platform vendors to achieve your marketing and sales objectives.