This isn't just a step in the dating process – it's the first stage in the Partner Journey. In this Awareness stage, solution providers are exploring new products, technologies or vendors. How do vendors wanting to recruit and engage new solution providers let them know their company, products and services exist and are relevant? The first step is to find a receptive audience. Don’t waste efforts on people who aren’t interested.
Driven by Customer need or the next cool thing?
The good news is 90% of the solution provider respondents from our annual State of Partnering study* indicated they are likely or very likely to add a new technology from a new vendor in 2018. They report a tendency to bring on two to four new vendors per year, typically driven by looking for options to fill a customer need.
- About a third of the respondents indicated they venture out to engage a new vendor because they are “looking for the next great thing.” This is good news for vendors with cutting-edge technologies. Vendors may reach new partners using a “next great technology” message creating market awareness and customer demand.
- Only 2.5% of the solution providers said they start looking for a new vendor because they are dissatisfied with a current vendor. Don’t mistake this for data that the partners don’t cut vendors! Solution providers are trimming their vendor ranks at an average of 10% a year.
Be where the partners are
Almost twice as many solution providers report they learn about new technologies at vendor events (70%) than at industry events (40%) such as RSA. It seems vendor events give partners’ solutions architects more time to delve into technologies, whereas industry events are busy with customers and sales activities. Many vendor events include a host of complementary product presentations and exhibitors. For example, Dreamforce (Salesforce.com’s yearly conference) features over 400 exhibitors that are complementary (and some competitive) to Salesforce.com products. Microsoft Inspire, a conference for partners, showcases over 200 exhibitors and sponsors. Even though these are vendor events, they still provide a wide range of technology awareness for solution providers.
But the most important way solution providers find out about new technologies is through conversations with their customers. Although this was reported as a little less popular than vendor events, these one-on-one conversations with customers are more significant in creating awareness of potential gaps to fill. The solution provider sales teams frequently meet with their customers, identifying opportunities to solve business challenges. Technology needs are often highlighted in these conversations which send the solution provider sales representative off to find options to solve customer problems.
In our survey, the solution providers could choose multiple methods for learning about new technologies – choosing 3.7 responses on average. Meaning there are several effective ways vendors can and should reach potential partners.
The third way solution providers become aware of new technologies is through conversations with other solution providers and distributors. They sometimes collaborate, often compete, and yet regularly share information about technologies and vendors helping them succeed with customers. In the Partner Advisory Council meetings I facilitate, I’ve heard solution providers competing in the same geographic markets openly share stories about great vendors to work with and those to avoid. The more vendors focus on solution provider satisfaction, the more likely those solution providers are to make positive recommendations their colleagues.
Vendors are not on the same page
In comparison, the vendor respondents indicated they tend to recruit new partners foremost at industry trade shows (ranked at #6 in the solution provider responses). Maybe the vendor respondents like traveling to Las Vegas? A close second for the vendors was ‘recommendations from other solution providers and distribution partners.’ The number one answer for solution providers, vendor events, was only the fourth most popular response from the vendor participants. So, the vendors like events but aren’t prioritizing the right events. Vendors could also pick more than one method for recruiting new partners and they did – choosing 3.1 responses on average.
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*In December of 2017, we surveyed 104 vendors and 220 solution providers on the people involved, priorities and expected outcomes of the partners’ journey.
Tips for your program:
Continuously Recruit Partners
- Enter prospective partners into your partner database so you can keep track of those that have connected with you, including through informal methods.
- Attend other vendor events to identify and introduce yourself to prospective partners. Even if they don’t sign up for your partner program at the event they are worth keeping in touch with.
- Nurture solution providers with relevant content and communications similar to how you nurture a customer prospect.
- Leverage your current partner success/satisfaction and ask for referrals to other solution providers.