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May 6, 2021
By Matthew Courchesne
Last year as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shake up the world as we knew it, businesses were faced with significant challenges nearly overnight and had to quickly come up with new ways to maintain business as usual in the most unusual of times. For the unique relationship between partners and vendors, this meant a significant shift from in-person meetings and events to strictly virtual opportunities to foster new, mutually beneficial relationships.
Throughout the height of the pandemic, Kaspersky’s sales team was aware of the challenges partners were facing and began to evolve our channel program to better fit the needs of resellers based on their feedback. However, as we optimistically look ahead to restrictions easing, we wanted to learn more about how partners plan to develop their sales strategies. As a result, we commissioned a survey targeting IT channel partners, resellers and distributors to learn more about what they say will be best practices for working with them in the year ahead.
To understand what partners were looking for from their relationships with vendors, we asked them what their biggest challenges were. According to the survey results, the ability to make fast purchasing decisions (42%) and adapting to the fast-changing landscape (40%) were the top difficulties when working with vendors due to COVID-19. In addition, the two main ways partners responded when asked how COVID-19 initially changed the way partners worked with their vendors were to shop around to find vendors who would give them a financial competitive advantage, or to continue working with existing vendors (both at 37%).
While these responses may seem contradictory, they offer an interesting perspective: partners are looking for creativity and flexibility, particularly when it comes to financing options, extended terms, etc., when considering if they will remain with their existing vendors. This type of good-faith strategy addresses their challenges and gives vendors insight into where they may need to implement change to better serve partners’ needs.
When developing this survey, it also was important to ask what qualities stand out among top vendors when partners choose who to resell for. Support was the top benefit, according to IT channel partners (47%), resellers (46%) and distributors (65%). In addition, the most important criteria vendors said they require to recommend vendors to clients included good value (37%), high level of support (36%) and good previous experience (36%).
These responses align with our previous point that partners are looking for vendors to put in the extra effort to uncover their pain points, make a concerted effort to support them and come up with creative ways to help them through financial challenges. In doing so, partners agree they will be more likely to develop their relationship with existing vendors and prioritize selling their products.
Having an extensive understanding of where resellers are geographically located also is an important factor for vendors to consider, as working with partners in different areas of the world can yield different needs. When considering North America (U.S. and Canada), partners had different responses about what they felt were the biggest vendor challenges were. In the U.S., partners said organization downsizing was their biggest hurdle (62%), whereas Canadians said the shift to remote work (69%) was the main challenge. However, when it comes to best ways to engage partners, respondents in both regions agreed that video or phone calls were best when it comes to communicating with existing partners (54%).
Since partners in different areas of the world have different sales priorities and strategies, it is clear from the data that they are looking for vendors who are able to customize their partner program offerings in a way that is more consistent with what resellers are looking for. In doing so, partners will be more likely to conduct a higher volume of business with the vendors they are working with if they feel they have the tools, skills, education, etc. needed to sell their products.
As we continue to navigate the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, it will be more important than ever for partners to communicate with their vendors so that they are able to adapt their partner programs as needed. Flexibility, highlighting competitive advantages and understanding resellers on a deeper level will all be important when maintaining or even growing partner/vendor satisfaction in the year ahead. The more partners are able to communicate with their vendors about the different hardships they’re facing, the easier it will be for vendors to address their needs. Showing compassion and a willingness to help goes a long way. In the end, it’s a partnership, so open communication at all times, pandemic or not, is a must.
Matthew Courchesne is head of channel at Kaspersky North America. He previously held sales positions at Kaspersky and other tech companies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter @Kaspersky or on LinkedIn.
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