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The Critical Elements of a Good Supplier-Partner Relationship

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… adapt it. If there are things in the software that make it difficult to deploy, manage and use, or you don’t have sufficient documentation (or automation) to compensate, then you, the ISV, needs to be prepared to mitigate that with support mechanisms and tools.

And finally, the most important key to a usable program: people. People want to talk to people. People don’t want to talk to websites. Online support is critical, but if you want your partner to be satisfied, there should be someone willing to answer a 1-800 number.

Partner Support: What naturally follows from simplicity is support. This means more than break-fix engineering (which is still critical, though) or tele-sales, and speaks to the quality of the program. The right training tools, rather than just the quantity of tools, must address the breadth of scenarios you wish to sell into. Teaching sellers how to sell a solution is as important as teaching them what to sell. How do you differentiate your ISV offering? How does the partner build differentiable value with respect to others in the program? This is true partner enablement.

  • The ISV. Most enterprise systems require considerable customization, configuration and integration. This means that partners have to be experts not only in your product, but in other platforms, and how yours fits into existing infrastructure. If you don’t train sales engineers on how to build both inside and outside your ecosystem, you’ll be DOA in the marketplace.
  • The partner. Do you have what you need to get started? Expect the ISV to help you understand and communicate the unique value proposition of its products:

> Train your sales teams on the marketplace they’re walking into. Look for content on market dynamics, breadth, addressable share and other factors likely to affect customer interest.

> To enable your field sellers, ask for a suite of collateral that addresses sales and marketing tactics to all levels of a customer’s organization, from the C-suite on down.

> The marketing department should be able to easily deliver directed materials, such as customized presentations, data sheets, emailers, testimonials, ads, videos, experiences / demos and other white-label content.

> The sales pipeline doesn’t stop once the ink is dry. The ISV’s partner program must include an end-to-end strategy from initial customer engagement and presales activity to feed the funnel, sales support to guide the process, and post-sales customer onboarding with ongoing support.

Partner Communication: Good partners are simpatico. They create and join events together, drive customer programs together and create industry excitement together. Going into the market with a unified front connotes commitment, investment and competitiveness. Customers will see the value in a partner being backed by the vendor, as well as a vendor who has the confidence of their partners. Case studies pretty much write themselves after that.

  • The ISV. To keep your brand front and center in the hearts and minds of your customers, you need to engage and collaborate with your partners. You need to constantly reach out with news, updates, tools, offers and other tactics to meet everybody’s common goals — these are the “to-partner” and “through-partner” messages. The partners are your face to the market, so their success is your success. You need only look at the biggest software vendors in the world to understand the value of partner enablement.
  • The partner. Provide feedback. Give the ISV insights into what works and what doesn’t — share success stories. What could the ISV do to enhance your go-to-market approach? What changes should the ISV plan for in their product road map – you have the ability to influence the next generation of their platform. Look for opportunities to bring customers into the planning process and communicate that information back to the vendor. You own the customer relationship and are thus uniquely positioned to lead the ISVs where you want them to go.

Business Opportunity: In most situations, neither the ISV nor the partner exist solely to make the other one successful, and no one is …

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