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The Critical Elements of a Good Supplier-Partner Relationship

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OnRamp's Denny Riley

Denny Riley

By Denny Riley, VP of Channel Partnerships, OpsRamp

Channel Partners Insights logoPartnerships are just that: partnerships. Sounds trite, but in my past experience, many organizations forget the fundamentals of good partnerships and, by extension, good partner programs. Large, public companies have been built on the backs of strong partner programs, so it’s good to take a critical look at what comprises a partner program. I’ll review those characteristics on behalf of both sides of the table – the independent software vendor (ISV) and managed service provider (MSP), systems integrator (SI) or value-added reseller (VAR).

Committing to a vendor is a two-way street. On the one hand, you’re aligning your business to a particular horse in the race, perhaps even at the cost of other ISVs (for example, if you have custom application technology that only works on one platform). It’s fair to expect reciprocal commitment. However, winning also means delivering value to the vendor in a way that enables them to deliver greater support back to you.

Consider four major categories of benefits that a good partner program should deliver: simplicity, support, communications and business. If you’re the ISV, these should factor heavily into your program to attract top industry partners. If you’re the managed solution provider, VAR or systems integrator, these are the fundamentals you must require from your ISV before you commit development and sales resources.

Building a Partner Program

What should any of these organizations be on the lookout for when it comes to building strong partnerships?

Ease of Program: A mistake that many software vendors make is not understanding how important it is to remove barriers to entry which otherwise discourage participation. This includes both the simplicity of the program itself, as well as making the product easy to sell.

  • The ISV. If you offer a “logo program” or other qualification mechanism for resellers to demonstrate expertise to customers, how achievable is it? Members should have a clear set of goals and requirements for each stage of the program, with clear benefits. Training materials, guidelines, roles and responsibilities should all be delineated so that any potential solution provider knows the expectations for success. The harder you make it to sell, the less likely anyone is to do so.
  • The partner. You should look for ISVs (or their programs) who make it as easy and seamless as possible to sell their products. This means making both deep technical and business development manager (BDM)-level content across the sales pipeline, support for answering customer questions – perhaps even in RFPs, and simplified training tools to help your field organization get up to speed quickly on existing, new or updated offers. If reskilling is needed to qualify for the program, the ISV needs to provide adequate support. Some programs offer incentives to partners who meet certain milestones, unlocking greater rewards as criteria are fulfilled (e.g., accelerators).

Overall, the program should be easy to qualify for, align to, participate in and get trained on. If there’s anything in the program that seems as though it would be a disincentive to new members, the ISV must be willing to …

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