What is the number one thing a technology vendor can do to support the success of its channel partners? Carl Fransen, President and CEO of CTECH Consulting Group, a full-service IT solutions provider in Calgary, says it all boils down to one word: “Relationships.” Here are excerpts from his conversation with Lorien Balayan.
Q: What is your approach to selecting vendor-partners?
“We select vendors very carefully, based on their alignment with our vision for our 5-year plan. We engage on a much more personal level. We don’t go into it with the intention of just buying products. We take a deep dive into our partners’ marketing, their development and co-selling solutions to our clients.”
Q: What in your relationships with vendors causes the most friction?
“When vendors present an opportunity to sell something new and innovative, but they want you to sell lots of it before clients are properly educated. This is unreasonable because it takes a while for technical resources and the market to catch up.”
Q: Please describe a vendor-provided program that was/is most supportive of your marketing goals.
“Through the Azure Mentorship Program, Microsoft works intimately with people at every level of CTECH — my junior managers, senior managers, technical staff, and sales and marketing teams — to provide a holistic framework to deliver our solutions in the cloud.
Microsoft has made a strategic decision to devote their attention to channel partners committed to a cloud-first focus, and they’ve dumped tons of resources into our company to help drive us ahead of the competition.
We’re among the select few technology companies Microsoft chose to become Microsoft Field Partners. They jump over the fence to give us everything we need to be successful.
From sales to marketing to quoting, Microsoft works with us at every step to get a deal done. For example:
Our sales staff gets one-on-one training with Microsoft sales engineers and techs on how to approach clients.
Microsoft’s marketing staff gives our marketing team white-labeled collateral and other communications that we can personalize and push out to our verticals.
Microsoft techs work hand-in-hand with my techs to help them solve problems.
Microsoft helps us promote our successes, they created a case study on our behalf and posted it on their website.”
Q: Based on your experience, what is the secret to a mutually-rewarding channel partnership?
“Trust. If a vendor truly believes you’re committed to working with them, they’ll be there for you. The more you give, the more you get back. For example, by serving on Ingram Micro’s Cloud Advisory Council, we get phenomenal service in return. Our partners are a very strong component of CTECH’s success.”
Q: If a vendor were to ask your advice on the three things they could do to improve your relationship and/or better support your business, what would you say?
“First, I’d tell the vendor, ‘Understand your goals and select your channel partners with the greatest of care, because they’re going to be providing what you sell and supporting what you deliver.’
Another thing I’d advise: ‘Go out of your way to build a professional relationship.’ If you’re a vendor, you should always be asking partners: ‘What can I do to make you better?’ Channel partners need to ask vendors: ‘What do you want me to sell right now? What are your quotas?’ Limit yourself to partners with which you can have a deep relationship. Don’t get into a situation where you’re pitting partners against each other.
The last point I’d make: ‘Keep your solution stack simple.’ In other words, ‘Give me one point of contact.’ ”
Q: What advice do you have for other channel partners to help them improve relationships with vendors?
“Share your business. Don’t just sign up and go. Meet with your vendor. Talk to them. Make sure they understand your goals and know how you’re doing. Once you have your vendor’s trust, they’ll go out of their way to make your business better. It all boils down to a good relationship.”