Over the past 15 years, I have been covering the North American IT reseller community for many storage vendors.
I joined X-IO Technologies six months ago, with the challenge to build a channel partner ecosystem (strategy, program, recruitment and enablement) for North America. This is the first of many vendors that I have worked for or actively observed who is actually dedicated to the partners.
To demonstrate, we currently run 96+% of our business through our partners and plan to progressively introduce our legacy direct customers into our channel community. On another hand, all (100%) new business is – and will continue to be – handled by our partners.
Another positive remark has to do with the fact, for the first time, I am devoting 100% of my efforts towards the recruitment, enablement and support of our partners… As opposed to battling within my own organization to protect my partners and their interests, something I have had to do quite extensively in my previous channel experiences.
This, however, did not appear sufficient for us to qualify our partner program as “best in the industry”, so we decided to engage with existing and prospective partners to define what would be, to them, the best possible program. In addition, we consulted with Diamond Lauffin, an IT industry veteran I believe to be one of the most influential and efficient channel development expert, and the results of both these initiatives have been, so far, extremely positive.
To further explain what we have put together, one needs to understand that in order to have a successful channel strategy, you need one thing from your partners: mindshare.
I would argue that for starters, being humble and acknowledging the fact that your channel partners know their business far better than you ever will is a good baseline. This translated for us in a couple of ways:
- First, we clearly state that we need our partners’ help to succeed – because we do – and not so much the other way around. Partners have option in the storage industry; we do not.
- Secondly, partners know what they need and when they need it. So we decided to get rid of all (really!) requirements in our program; no tiers, no revenue levels, amount of marketing campaign to run, sales or training certifications, etc. Since we are partners, we can communicate freely and easily as to what is needed for the partnership to be successful.
- Relevance is the next component of the key to mindshare; it translates into three factors.
- First, our portfolio of solutions must fit with what partners want to achieve with their end-users; this includes solving their business problems at the highest level of satisfaction (performance, availability, ease of use and reliability); we have this, and really good by the way!
- Secondly, we also need to protect partners’ investments in time, efforts and money. Most vendors’ programs protect partners only when a firm opportunity exists. What happens before partners get an opportunity is in no way covered…except with X-IO. We have put in place a registration program that protects the entire work partners do or have done during events, call and email campaigns, and their established relationships within their key customers. This results in our partner being very confident in developing sales efforts with us, without any fear of this business being handled by one of their competitors, despite their efforts and investments.
- Lastly, partners need to be properly rewarded for helping us grow. We have therefore introduced the most rewarding margin program in the industry, yielding 40% margins to partners in most cases, and guaranteeing 25% when we commonly agree to engage on very competitive deals. The combined effect of our extended partner protection and margin yields between 2X to 4X the margin partners commonly receive from storage engagements.
- The last element needed to get mindshare is to be actually engaged with our partners. We need to be there, with them, in the field, all of the time, and there is no substitute to that. Partner relationships are not developed remotely (absentee channel management), and this is why our resellers will see our territory field teams frequently when we partner together.
In closing, our goal here is to provide our partners access to a performing and reliable technology ecosystem that makes solving their customers’ problems as efficient, easy and rewarding as possible.
To do that, we are providing our partners with the resources (sales, technical, marketing, etc) and support they decide they need, and reward them far better than any other storage vendor in the industry.
Oh, and did I mention that we also just happen to have a well-proven product line as well? We are only one phone call away from starting a discussion, please do get in contact if you think we can help each other.