The Irony Behind Vendor Leads

Published On: September 3, 2013Categories: Buzz, Uncategorized

By Ken Presti, Senior Consultant, Channel Impact

Through the years, we have done large numbers of partner satisfaction surveys, gauging the overall effectiveness of different companies’ channel programs, and asking partners for their thoughts on how to improve those programs. Whenever this type of initiative is launched, we can always bet our bottom dollar that a number of partners will step forward with the request to, “Send us more leads!”

This common refrain brings to mind one of the great ironies of the indirect sales model. Partners love getting leads, and often lean towards the vendors and service providers who provide such leads on a regular basis. But vendors and service providers, on the other hand, are most covetous of channel partners who do not need leads fed to them, but have their own effective marketing and business development efforts that drive transactions without the need for outside help. The call for more leads is often interpreted as a signal that the partner might not have its biz dev house in order.

I’ve shared this observation in a variety of presentations, and, at this point, a channel partner in the audience will always ask me, “Do you really think that if any of us would still be in business if we were out there waiting for leads and not doing our own hunting?”

It’s always great when the correct answer is also the most popular. The truth is that partners who just wait to be fed have either gone the way of the dodo bird, or have otherwise adopted a fulfillment strategy based on massive scale and logistical efficiency, as opposed to one of the more typical channel models.

Yet, at the same time, the send-us-more-leads refrain continues unabated. So what gives?

Partners are aware that they need to find their own deals to survive, but additional deals that fall out of the sky are always welcome. And if that doesn’t happen very often, partners tend to wonder which competitor is getting the leads. In an environment in which tight relationships can make a huge difference, the absence of vendor leads can be seen as a bad sign.

Meanwhile, the vendor experience is very much the flip-side. “If I send them too many leads, they either won’t hunt, or they’ll be more focused on products and technologies where they need to drive their own sales because they’ll take my leads for granted. At the same time, I want my best partners to be happy, plus I definitely need to toss leads in the right direction when an indirect sales opportunity crosses my path.”

Optimally, it all boils down to balance. The precise balance point is dependent on a variety of factors, including the size of the market for the particular technology, the relative maturity of the technology, and a host of other matters.

Partners need to be aware that pushing too hard for leads sends a negative message to the vendors, suggesting that they might want to be spoon-fed. Vendors, on the other hand, need to make sure that their partners are given the proper resources and compensation to hunt effectively, as well as to service whatever leads might be given to them.

Both sides need to keep in mind that successful partnering is about building solid synergies through which each partner is better off by virtue of working with the other. Vendors can gain traction with partners by throwing a few leads their way, but partners should also take precautions to demonstrate that the necessary sales and business development efforts are in place and fully funded, in order to avoid the perception that the call for leads is reflective of an empty pipeline and minimal efforts.

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