Regardless of what you believe about the channel and the need for relationships between the channel and vendors, there is one thing that we can all agree on – the channel has deeper and better relationships with the vast majority of the end-users who buy IT. It does not matter how big the vendor becomes, there will always be a need for people to do business with people – at least in the foreseeable future.
See below for Apple’s latest store in San Francisco signals the next phase in how the vendor viewe their customers. Their new store is more like a community center than a retail store. It is becoming part of the city as well as for the people who live and visit. It is about walking the talk to connect with people on a meaningful level. Will it pay-off? Only time will tell, but I think it can if it stays true to relationship-building.
Can all of the tens of thousands of vendors really get to this point?
That’s where the channel comes in… Vendors need meaningful points of contact between the end-users and themselves. Since the vendors do not have a physical presence everywhere, the channel partners can represent them. These relationships between channel and end-users are of the utmost value to vendors.
However, before this value can be leveraged by the vendor, they must build some sort of a trustworthy relationship with the channel partners, somewhat similar to a marriage. Vendors need to work smart and hard with their channel partners to ensure the relationship works both ways. Channel partners also need to put in the effort to market and stay loyal. When either partner neglects their responsibility, the relationship starts to crack. If it continues, the relationship falls apart and just like a marriage, the end result can be messy.
In my daily work, I see hundreds of vendors and thousands of channel partners. Sometimes, I do feel like a marriage councilor, but mostly I feel like a matchmaker. I am always creating conditions where we put vendors and channel partners in the dating phase. Hopefully they end up with an engagement and eventually get married, but that’s up to them!
Smart vendors understand that the “marriage” with the partner is only the beginning of the journey. The hard work must continue to deepen the relationship. Vendors and Channel need to understand and view their partnerships as relationships and nothing should be taken for granted. Both sides will evolve and change, but if you find a way to change together, you will not only survive, but flourish!
Whatever the channel is evolving into or however automated everything becomes, remember that it is people who ultimately do business with people. In the end, P2P will always prevail.
One last thing…Please do not think that CRM manages the actual relationship between you and the customer. It may manage the activities and reminders between two parties, but you cannot manage the real relationships with any automated tool, just like you cannot have a meaningful conversation at a dinner table by texting each other. But, some will try anyway…
How good is your relationships with your channel partners? How good is your relationships with your vendors? How good is your relationships with your customers? Good questions to ask yourself and team from time to time.