Most channel partners aren’t taking advantage of all the benefits of distribution. Here are three things to ask for that could change the nature of your partnership with your distributors.

Channel Partners

October 1, 2014

3 Min Read
3 Things You Should Demand From Your Distributor

By Stephen Tessitore

One of the questions I get at industry events is, “As a company, are we taking advantage of all the benefits of distribution?” I love giving a quick and emphatic “No way!” when I am asked this, because it allows me to have one of my favorite conversations. This conversation draws a striking parallel to my own personal purchasing. Specifically, have you ever bought a really awesome gadget and neglected to read the instruction manual? You go on using it at its most basic functionality convincing yourself that it’s fulfilling your needs and wants. But between you and me, I know you have a nagging feeling that this thing could fold your laundry, start your car and probably make you a sandwich if only you’d take five minutes to understand it.

To many channel partners, distribution is a Smart TV with bunny ears plugged into it. 

The reason it’s easy for me to say “no” so emphatically is that there are really only a handful of partners who can afford to invest in the relationship at the most optimum levels. So let me quickly open the manual, tear out the pages written in languages you’ll never hope to understand and give you three things to ask your distributor partner. The answers to these questions could change the nature of your partnership.

  1. Ask us to help you develop your vendor/manufacturer relationships. To be more specific, ask us to help you create an integrated marketing strategy that focuses on your unique niche market capabilities. Industry buzzwords aside, define your marketing strategy with us. Take this professionally developed strategy to local manufacturer teams, sales teams, ecosystem partners, random strangers and basically anyone who will listen. It’s about presenting your brand in a manner that will tie you into the thought process of your most important business partners and stakeholders.

  2. Ask us to train your teams for you. Focus on topics like sales enablement, Web tools and operations. This has long been one of the best kept secrets amongst my personal partner network. You don’t have to know what tools, curriculum or starting points are most important, because we know all of that.  We use the tools, we see best practices and we know the tricks, quirks and gotchas — and believe me, there are many.

  3. Ask us to develop a written, formal plan that will last for at least a year. Ad hoc activities simply don’t yield the same returns. By sharing your long-term goals with us, we can appropriately align resources to your business and prepare our teams for your growth. This also allows your brand to earn more mindshare internally, something that helps you in numerous ways. Good alignment has a way of creating very special partnerships.

Don’t get me wrong, at the core of distribution is operations, logistics and credit efficiency. We have to be unbelievably good and dedicate extremely talented people to these foundational elements in order to transact billions of channel dollars in business every year. But take the time to read the whole manual and test out all of the capabilities, and we could very well become one of your most valued relationships.

Stephen Tessitore is a partner enablement manager at Tech Data Corp. He has worked with major vendors in sales, product marketing and alliance management capacities. He and his teams currently work exclusively with Cisco Channel Partners, leading the Momentum partner enablement platform.  For these efforts, Tech Data was awarded Cisco’s Global Distributor of the Year at Partner Summit in March 2014.

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