It's Time to Re-think the Reseller/Partner Model

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Warning: For customers and users, this post may be a little "Inside Baseball"

Forceworks is a cloud consulting firm. In this role we perform several tasks and provide several services to our clients. We assess, recommend, deploy, and customize various solutions to solve our clients' problems. All of the solutions we recommend are built and maintained by third-parties. For example, we often recommend Microsoft Cloud solutions like Dynamics CRM, Office 365, SharePoint, Lync or a combination. We add value to these third-party products by assisting our clients with things like setup, migration, integrations or customizations.

While the Microsoft solution set can solve a lot of problems, it cannot solve all of everyone's. For unique situations, which most are, we have two choices: custom develop a solution, or find another third-party solution. Custom development can often be quite expensive, so the first task is to see if someone has already developed a specific solution and is offering it for sale at a cost to the customer that is more favorable than custom development. Thankfully, there are usually a myriad of choices. Over time, custom development will give way to these solutions more and more. Our role, like many of you in the future, will become "Solution Explorer" on behalf of our clients, crafting a total solution for a client from various available parts. There are literally thousands of "parts" available to firms like ours to solve any problem imaginable. For any single problem, there may be a dozen or more providers of an answer. Of these answers, many perform basically the same functions. If anyone has "cornered the market", it is only for a short period of time before competition sets in with similar solutions.

So finally I have arrived at the point of this post. As a leading Microsoft Cloud Partner, we are approached daily by companies asking us to offer their product to our current and future clients as a reseller or partner. Their typical pitch has more to do with what our financial gain might be rather than what their product does for our customers. This approach may work in Multi-Level Marketing, but we are a legitimate business. I thought I would outline our dos and don'ts for firms interested in Forceworks representing their products. Let me know if you agree.

I will start with the Don'ts:

  1. Don't waste my time explaining your compensation plan. (If it is too good, your product is priced too high for my clients)
  2. Don't expect me to pay you anything for the privilege of selling your product.
  3. Don't expect me to spend my money on your lead generation.
  4. Don't expect me to let you talk directly to my customers. (Unless I ask you to and I lead the conversation)
  5. Don't expect me to develop your brand. (Just your product)
  6. Don't compete with me. (At all, ever)
  7. Don't call your "Reseller" program a "Partner" program. (These are two different things)
  8. Don't sign up every warm body to resell your product in my market (See number 6)

Now for the Dos:

  1. Do have a best in class solution to the problem.
  2. Do have a track record of keeping your solution up to date.
  3. Do provide me with clear, concise and spell-checked marketing materials.
  4. Do provide me with some level of exclusivity.
  5. Do send me leads in my market.
  6. Do offer a "Certification" path on your product. (I need to become an expert)
  7. Do offer good support to me. (Don't leave me hanging out to dry)
  8. Do consider white-label options. (Depending on the product)

Please feel free to add your own dos and don'ts in the comments.

As a company who has developed a solution to a problem, you have a few choices to make when it comes to monetizing it. You can employ a sales force and sell it directly to users, you can develop a partner channel to sell it for you, or you can do both. We have been caught several times in the past, with those that chose the latter competing with us, so we will not engage in those types of relationships again.

I like the concept of "Partner", but too often that term is really just pasted over "Reseller". There is a huge difference to me. Reseller implies a middle-man between the solution provider and the customer, Partner implies that we are working together for my customer's benefit. I like Partner.

If your Partner Program complies with my Dos and Don'ts above, please call me immediately, otherwise, please call everybody else.

by Forceworks

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