Improving the Agent-VAR Relationship

CHANNEL PARTNERS More agents and VARs are aligning these days, but the partnership is not always harmonious. Hashing out ideas for improving those relationships was part of the focus Thursday at an Agent-VAR Partnering Workshop during the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Chicago.

Its all about understanding one another,” said Carolyn April, director of industry analysis with CompTIA, an IT trade association that co-hosted the workshop with Channel Partners. 

One live poll asked attendees about the major pain points in the agent-VAR relationship. Lack of trust and lack of revenue or return on investment/effort were the most common answers cited. Case in point: One agent said he dropped a partner presumably a VAR because the partner was competing against his company.

There is ample room for improvement in the agent-VAR relationship. During a similar workshop earlier this year, attendees mostly agents cited as current challenges: lack of understanding of the partner business; a divergent approach with customers; inability to speak each others language; and no shared business, go-to market plans.

Some recommendations included setting expectations upfront on both sides and committing to work together in order to achieve results earlier in the relationship. The financial arrangements obviously matter, too.

Revenue drives behavior and if the compensation models internally dont work you are not going to be able to get that shared commitment to the user,” said Tim Byrnes, director of member communities with CompTIA.

Asked about major pain points in the survey commissioned by Channel Partners and CompTIA, many partners cited a lack of commitment.

By far the lack of commitment” relates to the informal nature of these partnerships,” April said.

One partner attendee complained that hes tried the handshake approach with both parties agent and VAR with both parties promising to exchange leads. But he noted the approach never works and hes frustrated.

When asked whether partners have entered into written contracts or handshake agreements with each another, several attendees in the room indicated the former. Others are still doing business with one another under informal agreements.

One partner attendee said his company uses written contracts and includes a non-compete clause. The advantage of such agreements, he said, is that they establish expectations up front. One challenge that both agents and VARs face is that the communications industry is changing so rapidly.

Everything is cloud now and the consumer doesnt understand it because the industry still doesnt understand what it is,” one partner attendee said. Whats going to occur in the next five years, were not going to be able to recognize it.”

Agents and VARs have incentive to work together. One partner attendee noted that the carriers themselves are stepping into the turf normally occupied by agents and VARs encroaching on their clients.

Clearly some of you are having good results so its not all negative out there,” April said.

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