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Consistency key to strong channel relationships

NetApp and Canalys share their thoughts about what underpins strong vendor and partner relationships

No vendor sets out to have a poor-to-middling relationship with their channel partners, but some end up in that position, causing frustration and low levels of partner satisfaction.

Words such as “simple”, phrases including “easy to do business with” and positive soundings can only go so far, and possibly the most important things are around listening and being open to a two-way partner relationship.

Each year, Canalys pulls together its Channel Champions list of those vendors that have been praised the most highly by resellers across its Canderfero network. One of those in that top right quadrant is NetApp, and a conversation with Kristian Kerr, vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) partner organisation at NetApp, and Alastair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys, provided insights that could be useful for those looking to improve their partner relationships.

“We really listen. We take on board the feedback to help shape our future strategy, because it’s all about continuous improvement. It’s really about having a channel-first strategy,” said Kerr.

“The market is moving extremely quick, with the onset of cloud, and it’s changed everything. So we want to make sure our partners are bought into our vision and where we’re going. I think it’s critical that we pay attention to partners as they’re evolving their business models,” he added.

Kerr is also aware of the competition that vendors face to attract partners and keep them from having their heads turned by rivals.

“When you stand in the shoes of a partner, they don’t only work with one vendor, they are working with multiple vendors. So, they have a choice, right? I think simplification is critical. Transparency is something that we focus on a lot, being fair in terms of where the partner sits within the deal cycle. It’s around transparency of earnings, it’s around predictability as well,” he said.

Edwards said there were a few things that vendors that want to have a strong relationship with their partners could do.

“Where vendors are actually executing against that and and performing well, we see a few kind of characteristics. One is that it’s very basic thing as a level channel commitment,” he said, warning that this is not as easy at it sounds, with so much of the market in flux.

On top of a consistent channel commitment, Edwards said that improving partner experience was also important and something that vendors needed to invest in.

“The opportunity if you’re not a champion is really a call out to the vendors to look at where the weaknesses are and how they can improve those channel engagements. Consistency is the is the key here, and where vendors can fall down is around consistency. As the industry is going through so much changes, maintaining that consistency is one of the hardest things,” he said.

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