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One of the things that came out at the end of the annual Symantec partner conference last week was an initiative under which the security and storage software vendor plans to hook up solution providers that have complementary skills sets.


The basic idea is that Symantec will give solution providers that identify deals a commission if they find they need to tap the expertise of another solution provider in order to fulfill the needs of the customer. Taking that concept one step further, Symantec has also said that it will essentially serve as the matchmaker between solution providers by doling out the leads identified by solution providers to partners with the appropriate skills needed to build that solution.


Randy Cochran, Symantec channel chief for North America , was quick to remind the attendees that solution providers that are asked to participate in this program need to remember that they are “invited guests” in these accounts. That means that there should be no predatory efforts made towards completely taking over that account.


Read: Symantec Needs to Focus on Relentless Execution


The question is how exactly is Symantec going to about policing that activity? As part of its goal to increase the number of Symantec products in each account, partner networking makes sense. After all, Symantec admits that on average it only has 2.8 products installed per customer. Given the Symantec portfolio, there’s a lot of upside in the existing customer base as Symantec continues to transform itself.


Solution providers are judiciously paranoid when it comes to working with other solution providers in their accounts. And they are doubly paranoid when that solution provider has access to the same products they do at a time when a troubled economy has a lot of customers wondering surfing for better pricing and few providers.


That doesn’t mean that solution providers don’t see the value in partnering. But it does mean that they are going to be a little hesitant about any partnering effort that is led by a vendor versus one that is based on their own efforts. In other words, the date they make in the course of their normal activities is far preferable to arranged marriages.


What this means is that if vendors really want solution providers to partner with peers, then economic incentives are a very good thing. But trying to be arbiter of matchmaking services in the channel might be one step too far. A vendor should do everything they can to get partners in the same vicinity in the hopes that they will find each other. But trying to administer a dating service that brings relative strangers together at the point of a transaction might not be the most productive way of making things happen.


Instead, Symantec and other vendors would be better off hosting a series of social events that brings partners together on their own terms. They might also consider working through any number of existing independent partner networks or the ones that have been created by distributors.


Understandably, companies such as Symantec are in a hurry to make things happen. But trust and ultimately true love take time to nurture. Facilitating partnerships across their channel networks is an area that vendors have not paid as much attention to as they should have in recent years. Now that the economy is changing, vendors now see partner networking as opportunity as a good way to expand their product footprint in existing customer bases.


The thing vendors need to remember is that there is a fine line between profiting off the activity of bringing two relatively anonymous parties together for a transaction and actually trying to facilitate the development of lasting relationships.


Of course, there’s always a class of partner willing to take commission, especially in these hard economic times. But true partnering in the channel, as in life, needs to be built around lasting relationships rather than individual transactions.


Mike Vizard is a member of the Ziff Davis Enterprise Market Experts Team. He can be reached at