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At most major law firms there is an elite group of lawyers known as
the rainmakers. These attorneys are not necessarily the best legal
minds in the firm, but are the people with the best client
relationships, which in turn allows them to drive a lot of business for
the all the people that work at their firms.

The channel, of course, has more than its fair share of rainmakers but
many of them are becoming increasingly distant from the vendors that
they once relied heavily on. This is happening for two reasons.

The first is the advent of managed services where solution providers
increasingly feel that they don’t need to specifically handle the sale
of the actual product being deployed by the customer. Instead, they
will offer to manage that equipment while directing the customer to
specifically purchase the product through a company such as CDW or Dell.

The second instance of this trend comes from solution providers that
feel that the price of the products is having a negative impact on the
price of their services. If they sell their service without selling the
actual product, they feel that they can get a higher margin for their
services because the customer doesn’t equate the cost of the service to
the relative cost of the actual product.

In both models, the solution provider more often than not is directly
influencing what technologies and products are being purchased by the
user, but has no particular incentive to guide the customer to one
product or another. The reason this incentive is lacking is because
most vendor channel programs are designed to reward the organizations
that actually sell the product versus the people, aka rainmakers, who
might have actually set up the deal in the first place.

Some vendors offer programs that reward what they call influencers, but
most of those programs are designed to give somebody like an accountant
a modest fee for passing on a lead to a solution provider. What
rainmakers need are channel programs that reward them for generating
product sales that give them the real benefits of being in a vendor’s
channel program, namely technical training on their products and leads
for their IT service organizations.

Some vendors might argue that the rewards for selling the product
should go to the organization that actually sells the product, but
without the efforts of the rainmakers there would be no sale in the
first place.

So the vendor that comes up with a real program for rewarding
rainmakers is likely to gain channel market share over rivals that
continue to ignore the real value of solution providers that don’t
necessarily resell product.

Naturally, this presents challenges when it comes to actually measuring
these contributions because most vendor channel systems are not set up
to track and reward people for anything other than actually selling the
product.

So don’t hold your breath about when we might see actual programs
designed to reward the true influence of the rainmakers in the channel.
But one thing is for sure: The vendor that gets this new equation right
is going to write the next chapter of evolution in the channel that all
rest will have to follow.