For most vendors, developing an effective partner channel is a critical success factor says Tony Abrahall, GM of First Distribution.
“As a distributor representing the premium global IT vendors, our role is to help them build their businesses through effective channel partnerships,” he says. “There has been a shift by the vendor and the channel in terms of customer relationships.”

Historically, the vendors have focused on and controlled the direct relationships with the large enterprise customers. However, as the vendors look to take advantage of the high growth mid-market, they are turning more to the business partners who control these relationships.

Some of the vendors have become very transactional, driven by quarterly targets, and the business partners are now often seen as being the ones offering strategic value to the customers. These days it’s the channel partners who have those meaningful relationships with the customers and it is important for the vendors to understand these relationships and how to benefit from them.

“Partners also have the advantage of being able to offer and build solutions tailored to each client’s needs and budget. The vendors can only ever sell their own solutions. As a business partner, you can give an unbiased view on what will work for the business, and customers thus value this independent view.”

Veeam, which makes software for managing virtual environments including products such as Backup & Replication and the Veeam ONE Monitoring & Management tool, is an excellent example of a vendor who understands the value of a channel strategy and is a great case study on how to build good channel relationships.

Abrahall adds: “Vendor commitment and channel loyalty is absolutely key. If a vendor is going to pursue a channel strategy, they should be 100% committed and channel centric and not compete with their own partners, despite having immense pressure from customers to deal direct. You have to be consistent and predictable in the way in which you deal with the channel and your customers.”

The vendor meanwhile, has a responsibility to create demand for their product, but at the same time not overtrade the market, so that it remains profitable for all.

Abrahall goes on to say: “Veeam’s deal registration system, which gives partners protection on deals they’ve invested in developing, works particularly well. They are very consistent and committed to helping their partners maintain a sustainable business.

“We have all seen cases where one partner has worked on a deal for months, only to have another partner called in at the last minute to give a second quote and undercut the deal.”

“Veeam’s success is due to a combination of great marketing, an affordable product that serves a real need and an undying commitment to the success of their partners” says Abrahall. “One is no good without the other.”

“The company also offers good in-country pre-sales and Sales (to add) support from a highly skilled local team”, he adds. “It’s further proof of their commitment to the South African market and to their channel partners.”