partner management

It can be difficult to determine whether vendor relationships are healthy, especially if you don’t communicate with your vendors very often. But vendors typically send leads to their favorite resellers, which could mean you’re missing out on quite a few opportunities if you don’t pay attention to your vendor relationships.

During the Q1 iteration of SMB TechFest, several speakers discussed ways to improve relationships with vendors. Here are a few tips to becoming your vendor’s favorite reseller and making your partnerships work for you.

Pick a Specialty and Stick with It

Some managed services providers try to do too many things for their customers, rather than specializing in a single area. Unfortunately, this can damage relationships with vendors because they know they aren’t a priority to the MSP. Vince Menzione, the founder of Ultimate Partnerships, said in his SMB TechFest session, “Rather than boiling the ocean, successful partnerships often require stripping out complexity and friction to focus on the one thing two organizations can accomplish together for the customer and the market.”

Successful partnerships often require stripping out complexity and friction to focus on the one thing two organizations can accomplish together.

Vince Menzione, Founder of Ultimate Partnerships

MSPs and resellers need to pick a specialty and work with their vendors to serve their customers. When MSPs only focus on one thing, vendors in that sector will know that they’re more likely to get business from the reseller if they cultivate that relationship. With MSPs who do too many things, it doesn’t matter how much the vendor nurtures the relationship if the reseller doesn’t have customers that need their products.

See also: The Top 22 IT Channel Partners of 2022

Have a Clear Value Proposition

MSPs have to compete for both vendors and customers. They have to be able to convey what sets them apart from other resellers in order to get more opportunities. A value proposition explains how an MSP is different from other resellers and what they offer that others don’t.

Vendors need to understand why they should favor a reseller. Do they have the best SLAs? Are they the only company that offers a 24/7 helpdesk in this market? MSPs should be able to explain to vendors what makes them different and why the vendor should pass leads to them over someone else. But it’s important to keep in mind that everyone thinks they have great customer service or the best people. A value proposition has to be measurable and provable for vendors to care.

Document and Share Action Plans

The top vendors want to know that resellers have a plan for selling their products before they’ll send them leads. Before pitching to a vendor, MSPs should create a clear action plan for their process and document it. Then they can share that with the vendor to put them at ease. Resellers should also find out if they’ll be listed on their vendor’s partner website once they have an agreement in place.

Vendors and resellers have to be on the same page for a partnership to succeed, and there has to be trust on both sides. Menzione said, “The sooner you set clear expectations, the sooner you will make better decisions that cascade to build an enduring partnership.” Clear expectations are a great way to build trust between partners because no one has to guess about what the other party needs from them.

Involve Vendors in Marketing

MSPs also need to involve their vendors in marketing plans. Vendors may have marketing materials that they require resellers to use. If MSPs don’t communicate with their vendors before marketing, they run the risk of violating an agreement or marketing products incorrectly. If there aren’t assets already available, MSPs should create co-branded assets that showcase both their brand and the vendor’s equally.

There also might be marketing development funds available for resellers to increase their reach and provide more leads. But those funds will likely only go to resellers that have a solid marketing plan. Vendors don’t want their marketing dollars to go to waste, meaning they need to see the plan before distributing any money.

Create a Partnership Scorecard

One of the best ways to determine which partnerships are working well is to create partnership scorecards that measure important KPIs, like offerings, payment history, and delivery rates. Partnerships are a two-way street and these scorecards can help MSPs determine which vendors they should be prioritizing. This also makes it easier for resellers to compare vendors directly, giving them a better idea of which partnerships are paying off for them.

Here’s an example of a partnership scorecard that an MSP might use:

KPIVendor AVendor BVendor C
Available discounts10%10%15%
Delivery time1-2 weeks2-4 weeks~2 weeks
Payment termsNet 60Net 30Net 90
Leads received last month10075120

Clearly, each vendor excels in different categories, so MSPs need to determine which KPIs are most important to their business and prioritize the ones that meet them. Alternatively, this gives resellers a better idea of which vendor they should choose for specific sales, especially if price point or timeline are big factors in the deal.

Also Read: How Channel Partners Can Use Data to Find Business Opportunities

Separate from Vendors That Aren’t Working for Your Business

Once you understand what you need from a partnership, don’t be afraid to stop working with vendors that aren’t serving your business. No matter how well you communicate with them or what you can offer them, some vendors will prioritize personal relationships or resellers they’ve worked with for years. If the relationship isn’t paying off, it’s okay to find other vendors and focus on those partnerships instead. Vendors won’t hesitate to separate from resellers that aren’t serving them, and MSPs should have the same mindset.

Further reading:

The Top Opportunities for MSSPs to Grow Their Business

The Channel Outlook for 2022: Get Ready for Major Change