I got it again yesterday. Speaking with a partner they moaned about not getting leads. If I had a nickel for every time…. It is such an old chestnut and this is its root. There is, always has been, and always will be a fundamental schism between how many people in channel partners view vendors’ abilities to generate demand and how many people in vendors view those same abilities in channel partners.
Many people in vendors think that because a partner gets a discount, the partner should be chiefly responsible for generating demand for the vendor’s brand. They overestimate a partner’s ability to promote a vendor’s brand and the margin that a partner is able to earn. The smaller the vendor, the more often one hears this view– and it comes most frequently from direct salespeople promoted into roles where they have overall responsibility for direct and indirect sales. Conversely, partners think that because vendors attract prospects, there is a secret honey pot of leads that they only get rare, teasing glimpses of. They overestimate two things: the ability of a vendor to promote that vendor’s brand; and the vendor’s ability to identify, qualify and manage leads.
Vendors are not well equipped to identify who expresses an interest in their offerings. That is not just for new prospects. Vendors are often are not very good at identifying opportunity in loyal customers. There is a gap between touch points – all the times a customer interacts with a brand – and a potential sale. It often comes from a vendor failing to ask or not having the opportunity to ask “Why?” or “What are you using it for?” or “How will you do things differently in the future?” Plus, customers, often don’t know those answers either because a need and a solution become recursive. There is a gap too, because vendors lack processes to turn a download or web visit or a tweet into a frank conversation that could reveal a need that the vendor could profitably fulfil. That is what keeps marketers up at night. Partners don’t understand how much a vendor doesn’t know. Godot isn’t coming. There is no honey pot.
Let us say all those touch points could become qualified leads with accurate details on budget allocated, who has authority and a decision influence, what need is being satisfied and the timeframe for the project. How could they be fairly distributed? A single lead for a single, simple project could be the product of multiple touch points within a number of partners, strategic alliance members and vendors. It is not a simple, closed system. The honey pot is more like opaque, week old goulash, more ShareSplodge than SharePoint.
As for vendors, understand where your channel partners make their profits and the competitive pressures on their business and you will begin to understand their priorities, their mountains and your molehills. As a salesperson you know you need to walk a mile in your customer’s shoes. Try on a business partner’s pair for a change.