Asking the Right Questions? Your Answers Can Make or Break Your Channel Program

Why does anyone buy or resell your company’s products and services instead of the available alternatives? Are they lured solely by pricing or the unique features of your offerings, or does your branding and company culture play a role? It may seem simple, but every business has to know the answers to those questions. Frankly, savvy entrepreneurs are rarely, if ever, surprised by what they hear.

That’s because they script the answers in their business strategy. Before selling the first router or email archiving solution, they do their homework. They learn about the market and specific business needs, identify and study the competitive environment and, most of all, spend time talking to end users and partners.

The hardest part is getting the right connections. For channel companies, that means finding the partners who will take time to share their experiences and crucial needs. Not those just interested in getting the most features for the best price, but those more interested in discovering the ideal product or service that will help them solve their customers’ real business problems. Vendors who can complete or help advance an MSP’s solution set for specific clients are more valued than those that simply offer a commodity.

When you do get the attention of those providers, are you asking them questions that could not only strengthen your business relationship, but help you build out a more relevant product road map? These are conversation starters, allowing you greater insight into their long term plans and their clients’ true business needs. Their responses should validate the value they place on your current offerings and uncover gaps that may need to be addresses in the future.

For example:

  • What keeps existing partners from deploying your entire product and services portfolio to all their customers? That question may seem too bold for some to pose, but you can break it down into smaller inquiries or bring up the topic in general conversations. As long as you obtain the same information.
  • Are there situations where a partner wouldn’t use your company’s products or services? If yes, why? The point here isn’t to hammer them into submission, but to elicit information that can help your company improve its portfolio and better respond to their needs (as well as those of their customers).
  • Which features could you add to your products and services that would have the most positive impact or their clients? Think both short and long-term here. Looking ahead 3-5 years, do they expect to move upmarket or tackle new verticals? Are there things their clients would be willing to pay a premium for now that could be moved forward in the development cycle?
  • What new technologies are they and their clients exploring? This is an opportunity to explore integration opportunities and uncover complementary or potentially competitive offerings.
  • Are your partner programs meeting their needs? Of course, every MSP would like to see more (it’s a natural response), but vendors simply have to know where they stand with key customers at all times. That allows them to allocate resources most effectively. Is your marketing team meeting their promotional needs? Are your sales and engineering resources truly as good as you think they are?

These are just a few of the questions vendors need to be asking their partners. Since it’s impossible to make every feature and program enhancement request a priority, these discussions could and should help determine what needs to be done today, tomorrow or next year. No company has ever been able to meet fulfill every customer and partner request. The end user and channel ecosystem is just too diverse to satisfy everyone 100%. But, with the right focus and good dialogue, your team can better qualify and quantify their priorities. We’ll share best practices for making that happen in future posts (or give us a call, we’ll be happy to discuss the options).

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