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57% of Solution Providers Forgo Specialization Programs

Properly structured, vendor specialization programs for communications agents, dealers and resellers are critical to taking channel initiatives to the next level. Thats according to Amazon Consultings new report, How Special Are Specializations?”

The California-based firm recently survey almost 400 solution providers, as well as 40 IT vendors, to gauge the importance of channel specialization programs to their business models. The findings were, perhaps, surprising. For example, 57 percent of solution providers who considered investing in a specialization curriculum chose not to once they understood all of the requirements.

As we looked at the barriers to specialization investment, it wasnt that surprising that the high cost and time requirements were the two key factors that kept solution providers away,” said Lee Wells, vice president of B2B client services for MarketStar, which helped Amazon Consulting survey respondents. Despite those barriers, most companies we talked to did perceive specializations as an effective way to differentiate their business.”

The reason partners shy away from specialization may highlight a disconnect with suppliers.

In general, solution providers investing in specializations are most interested in gaining higher profitability and market differentiation,” said Beth Vanni, vice president of Amazon Consulting. Vendors, however, continue to be most interested in increasing partner competency as a way to create end-user satisfaction.”

To that point, Amazon Consulting has compiled five key recommendations to help IT vendors attract more partners to their specialization programs.

  1. Get in sync with the market. Partners need to feel theyre part of a bigger plan, Amazon Consulting said. Define who is getting value first the customer, partner or vendor.
  2. Sell the value. Profitability must remain a priority. Therefore, vendors should make specialization requirements challenging but not impossible, the consultancy said.
  3. Invest. Building and offering unique content, training, testing and support for specialized partners requires significant internal resources, Amazon Consulting said. Be prepared to put more effort into niche partners than into the base channel program.
  4. Technical skills are not a silver bullet. In other words, partners need to have holistic capabilities, such as being able to target vertical markets.
  5. Vendor field personnel need to be on board. If theyre not, partners will lose interest and stop participating in specializing programs, Amazon Consulting found.

Above all, partners and vendors both want and, arguably, need their specializations and certifications to produce return on investment.

Vendors perceive the value of leads much higher than the solution providers do,” said Vanni. In fact, the top three benefits most desired by solution providers had little to do with marketing or co-selling support.” 

For now, about half of partners surveyed said they already hold between three and five specializations with their top four strategic IT vendors.


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