It’s time to shed the “Channel” Tag

For decades, we in the Technology Sector have referred to our path to the market as a channel. As a result, we have Channel Strategies, Channel Programs, Channel Account Managers, Channel Incentives, etc. Well, it is time to look at the route to market differently.  This route is changing from a one direction flow of vendor products and services to a bi-directional flow reflecting the increased importance of delivering to client solution needs by leveraging multi-vendor capabilities and Solution Provider integration services.

According to Merriam-Webster, a channel is: “a way, course, or direction of thought or action.” This naming of our VARs, Distributors and DMRs as Channels was appropriate when the technology world was vendor-driven. The vendor community set up the Channel, so it should not be a surprise that the benefits were oriented to the vendor:

  1. Inventory staging for vendor cash flow
  2. Faster response to consumption demand leveraging channel logistics and systems
  3. Coverage of niche and small business markets requiring specialization and/or local
  4. Tech support for Level 1 and Level 2 services

Technology consumers are more knowledgeable today than ever with easy access to product
information and buyer ratings. The power in technology buying has shifted to the consumer and its
trusted representative, the Solution Provider. Because of the vendor community’s failure to recognize this power shift, traditional vendor- partner relations are deteriorating. CompTIA reports, in their most recent survey in 2017, that only 39% of solution providers are very satisfied with their vendors. A third of solution providers are exploring other vendors to work with. As an indicator, how many vendors design partner experiences and measure partner satisfaction?

Our recommendation to the vendor community is to treat their channels as partners. To take
“channel” out of their vocabulary and insert the word “partner.” Again, according to Webster, the
definition of partner is “one that shares.” With this shift, vendors and their partners look at the
market opportunity through the same lens, sharing ideas, resources and financials. Titles
become Partner Network, Distributor Partner, Solution Partner and Partner Success Manager.

Under the “partner” banner what would vendors do differently? A few examples are:

  • Listen to solution partners and accept suggestions regarding new offerings
  • Share resources to include co-investing in opportunities
  • Develop comprehensive plans with partners to include commitments which show a grasp of the partner’s business
  • Have fewer partners with deeper relationships

Years ago, a friend of mine accepted a position as VP, Information Systems, for a very large fast food
company. He had experience as an IT Applications and IT Operations Director in the restaurant industry so the career move was a logical one. He was, however, new to this company. His first two weeks were spent in a store, 1,000 miles away, cooking tacos, taking orders and cleaning rest rooms.

He walked in the shoes of his “soon-to-be” information consumers, in the shoes of his partners.
Sounds like a good first step for vendors to emulate, to have their Partner Success Managers (PSMs)
walk in the shoes of a Solution Partner. AchieveUnite is a Partnering Company. We think and act
consistently with the “partner” tag. Try us out if you would like to take a partnering journey.


Bob O’Malley