Thinking of Firing Your Vendor? Six Questions to Ask

The old wisdom tells us having more product options from a variety of vendors for your customers is good business. It means no matter what your customers are asking for, you have it. But this wisdom is

Sophos Guest Blogger

November 9, 2012

4 Min Read
Thinking of Firing Your Vendor? Six Questions to Ask


The old wisdom tells us having more product options from a variety of vendors for your customers is good business. It means no matter what your customers are asking for, you have it. But this wisdom is being challenged by the increased complexity of managing multiple product types and relationships with a long list of vendors, and nowhere is this more true than in the security industry. Many VARs are starting to consolidate vendors to simplify their practices while still meeting customer demands.

Here are six questions to ask yourself before deciding which vendors to ditch and which ones you should continue or grow your partnership with:

1. Is your partner commoditizing its security product?
If your vendor does not focus on security as its main source of revenue, there is a chance it will use the security products in its portfolio as an “add-on” or value-add to close other deals. Rather than lead with the value of the security product, the vendor could offer the security solution for free to customers that purchase certain products or spend a specified amount of money. This reduces the value of the security product and severely hinders partners’ ability to make sales, as customers then expect the solution for free.

2. Has the vendor stopped innovating?
The IT security industry is a constantly evolving market as new threats emerge and network needs develop. If your vendor is not committed to security, you have to ask yourself if it is keeping up with the market and if it is innovating new ways to simplify network security or new products to meet emerging security needs.

3. Has the vendor lost its channel focus?
A channel-focused organization protects deal registrations; provides technical, sales and marketing support; and doesn’t compete with its partners for business. When you find yourself having issues with any of these areas it is time to ask yourself: “Is this company still channel-focused?” If your vendor has lost its channel focus it may be time to consider other partner programs, as the potential for growth with your current vendor has been restricted.

4. Are you and your customers getting the technical support you need?
Even the easiest-to-use products require support from time to time. Because security is an essential part of any network it is important to know both you and your customers can speak with a live person on the security vendor’s support hotline and issues are being addressed in a timely manner. When customers are not satisfied with support they are less likely to renew their license, causing you to lose revenue – especially if you only offer a single line of security products.

5. Is your relationship a one-way street?
Do you find yourself calling your security vendor with questions only to be greeted by a voicemail message? Does your vendor contact only get in touch with you to ask about deal closings? Your relationship with your security vendor should be more than just closing deals and passing leads. A true partner will work with you to help develop your business by helping you learn about new geographical and vertical markets and by training you on the latest in security technology as well as their own product.

Having a two-way relationship means you are not simply a means to an end (read: source of revenue) for your vendor; instead, you are a valued business partner working together to grow both organizations. When you have a strong relationship the vendor is less likely to undercut you on price and sell direct, as this won’t be part of the vendor’s channel culture.

6. Are you making money?
Perhaps the most important message you can ask yourself about vendor-partner relationship is: “Am I making money?” After all, this is why you partnered with the vendor in the first place: to increase your business’s revenue by solving your customers’ security challenges. If you find yourself eking out profits  due to shrinking margins or being forced to reduce your profit to beat the price of a direct sale or competing partner, then your business will suffer. Margins matter, as does deal protection, so make sure your vendor is not only offering you a great product to sell but also the ability to make money selling it.

Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy’s annual platinum sponsorship. Read all of Sophos‘ guest blogs here.

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