A balancing act: Accelerating growth through vendor and reseller relations

As the UK economy shows signs of recovery, robust channel relationships are becoming more important to help sustain growth, says Epson UK business manager John Kelly

We’re turning a corner. The CBI has found that UK business optimism last quarter grew at the fastest rate in 15 years, with the IT sector singled out for success. We’ve been trapped in a depressed economy for years, and whilst we’ve all been hardened by recent difficulties, it’s often worth being reminded of what it takes to succeed. You will all have been told about these and other similar considerations time and again but it’s important to continue to keep competitive, future-proof and add value.

One key way of delivering these objectives, often overlooked, is through a robust supplier-reseller relationship. As the economy picks up, both vendors and resellers need to work together to drive revenue growth, and in this piece I’ll consider the key elements of this partnership.

Greater vendor involvement

Before the recession, in times gone by, suppliers could almost drop product off with a reseller and leave it to them to go and sell. Unfortunately, we’re not quite back to those comparatively easy and prosperous times. We’re in a highly competitive market, with a huge number of VARs, and vendors need to work hard to make sure their products are front of mind for their reseller community. A central part of this is delivering reseller support throughout the sales process.

Here are three ways in which the vendor needs to support the reseller community:

  • Provide training support: A salesperson shouldn’t turn up on the shop floor and advise customers without adequate product training. A vendor could play a key role in this process, getting under the skin of the reseller’s business and their customer base, and helping match product or service capability with end-user needs. For example, with business inkjet now being a highly viable alternative to laser, resellers can evolve a more consultative sales approach to focus on total cost of ownership and help their customers achieve big savings. It’s insight from vendors which can enable partners to offer this informed consultation, win customers and differentiate themselves.
  • Deliver marketing and sales support: Vendors and resellers are battling to be heard in a competitive market. Vendors need to help resellers get the message out there because, if they’re not, they can be sure their competition will be. At Epson we only operate through the channel so our partnerships are a crucial way for us to communicate to our customers. As a vendor we offer resellers a range of support programs, customisable collateral and we also work with partners at exhibitions.  The best channel-focused vendors will also provide sales support to resellers; in effect a reseller can think of a vendor end-user salesforce as an extension to their own.
  • Incentivise the sales team: Financial incentives, rebates, promotions or product giveaways can all help motivate those on the front line – the sales team. If a supplier offers a salesperson £100 to sell X product, the individual will tend to make sure they have good product/solution knowledge and look for the opportunity to sell it over competing product. These incentives shouldn’t be offered at random but should form part of a coherent strategy mapped out by both the supplier and the reseller.

Push for vendor support

Suppliers and resellers shouldn’t work in silos and should share information on forward-planning and sales opportunities where appropriate.

Here are three tips for resellers to help them make the most of a vendor partnership:

  • When forming your growth strategy, consult your vendor: Where appropriate a partner should share their business plan with the vendor because it is difficult for a supplier to offer tailored support if they don’t know what the partners’ goals are. For example, if the reseller is looking to expand their print offering, the vendor can help tailor the reseller education and customer marketing material they offer to help the partner achieve this.
  • Use vendor support in a big sales pitch: A vendor should be brought into a big sales opportunity at the earliest stage to help add weight to the deal. If, during a negotiation, the reseller has the supplier on hand to offer the customer a joint value proposition, including set up support and technology maintenance, they’re going to have a more convincing case than if the partner goes it alone.
  • Explore customer requirements to expose upsell opportunities: The best results are often hard earned. A customer may contact a reseller and buy 30 Epson WorkForce Pro printers. That may seem an ideal scenario but wouldn’t it be better if the salesperson had a conversation with the customer and found out that they previously had cost issues around sourcing printing supplies such as paper and ink cartridges? You could then upsell a managed print service, potentially cutting the customer’s printing costs. That would not only net you, as a reseller, more than just the value of selling 30 printers but it would also mean that the customer would see you as a trusted advisor for purchases moving forward and they’ll be more inclined to consider you in future.

Both parties want to secure more business and in order to do this the vendor and reseller need to work together to drive revenues in a challenging market. These collaborations are easy once initiated and drive immediate and lasting return, both in the relationship and in revenue growth.

John Kelly is business manager at Epson UK

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