This blog can also found on Comstor’s Edge 360
Most IT buyers have little awareness of the elaborate, behind-the-scenes dance occurring among their solution providers, distributors, and IT vendors. It is a symbiotic ecosystem known as “the channel” with IT buyers sitting alongside their solution providers squarely atop the food chain. How thoroughly IT buyers’ appetites are satisfied ultimately depends on how well vendors and distributors build and maintain support structures that enable solution providers to excel as educators and problem solvers.
The channel is very dynamic, as evidenced by the constant stream of new and changing participants, methodologies, and innovations. It has also been known to have a long memory and can, at times, be unforgiving. A cavalier vendor who circumvents or undermines otherwise loyal channel partners soon realizes that their gains may be short-lived. Hungry competitors are always ready to displace an incumbent so the mistaken vendor either makes amends or is made extinct. The lesson is that trust and loyalty are the mother’s milk of the channel.
But an unforgiving channel is the exception. Most often, the channel offers rich rewards and eagerly embraces newcomers, innovators, and even adversaries. Last week, Cisco hosted its annual Partner Summit (#ciscoPS16), where Wendy Bahr, Senior Vice President of Cisco’s Global Partner organization, announced a new suite of services to help partners engage with their customers and other partners within the Cisco ecosystem to drive more revenue. This is a great example of an organization that supports its partner priorities, creating a personalized experience.
Another example is Dell Computer, the former paragon of direct, anti-channel selling. With stagnating sales in the early 2000’s, Dell realized the need to access new markets which could only be reached through a channel that eventually became quite welcoming. Along the way, Dell built more credibility with several channel-friendly acquisitions. Today, Dell is arguably one of the channel’s most influential vendors.
That brings us back to what it takes to be a channel-savvy vendor and the requisite investments. Almost every vendor has a basic channel program that includes deal registration to protect enterprising solution providers, an online resource center, available market development funds, and attractive incentives. The industry’s most powerful vendors attack both ends of the market by driving a combination of programs and motivators into the channel while leveraging brand awareness and demand generation, otherwise known as a “push-pull” strategy. It is incredibly effective but also requires massive scale and marketing budgets. On the other hand, successful mid-tier vendors must be lighter on their feet, delivering a highly-differentiated value proposition “to and through” their solution providers. The recipe includes customized and highly flexible channel programs, personalized service, and products that consistently deliver a uniquely-advantaged selling proposition.
Equally important is a foundation of global logistics, smart configuration capabilities, custom financing, and engineering assistance that is only available by partnering with a high-value-added distributor such as Westcon/Comstor. As a dedicated Cisco distributor, Comstor is investing in helping solution providers build their Cisco practices. In fact, they co-invest in that success by offering their unique EDGE program.
It all adds up to incredibly well-supported and empowered solution providers that consistently “punch above their weight” and deliver the broadest range of capabilities, cutting-edge technologies, and satisfaction to their customers.