Many consultants and business owners of today’s Small Business IT companies understand the importance of growing quality relationships with their client base however it is equally important to create strong relationships with your vendors and other partners. A successful, positive relationship with vendors and partners is just as critical as obtaining quality clients to today’s Small Business computer consulting firm.
Why is it important to master the “vendor factor?" Vendors and partners can become a lifeline to your small business consulting practice. They are the ones that will be there when you need that additional leverage for a client deal. They will be there when you need help in getting the right solutions for a deal that you are working on. They are the ones that will be available to you when you have those answers to difficult questions.
A strong vendor and partner relationship is one of the most important pieces of your business puzzle. Weak relationships with vendors and partners can sink your consulting practice. If you are the type of business person that hops from partner to partner or vendor to vendor just because of price—well, this practice will hurt your business faster than treating your clients with no respect. Small Business IT consultants need to create strong relationships with everyone up, down and all around in their business.
The power of two is one of the most powerful forces in the small business computer and network support business. Pick one or two main vendors and stick with them. Find two major distribution partners as a source of your systems, a couple of OEM partners where you purchase your systems and a couple of other types of manufacturers and partners for additional products that you resell to your client base. Having two resources to rely on will give you flexibility when attempting to source items for your client base. Not every company can do everything themselves.
It is also critically important to understand how your vendor representatives are compensated- what makes them tick? Having a firm understanding on how your reps are paid for the services they perform to the partner base is critical information for your success. Are they compensated on the number of items they ship? Do they get compensated on the number of new partners they bring into the company? Or are they simply paid on the dollars of sales that their partners close?
If your vendor or partner is paid on the number of boxes that ship to the end customer, then they will be motivated to have all of their orders booked with enough time to ship before the end of the month or quarter in order to have the credit applied. This can work to your advantage if you need to get product quickly near the end of their sales cycle.
What if your vendor or partner receives compensation for the number of new partners that come into the system? Then you need to introduce your colleagues to the vendor companies and open the door for your reps to successfully sign these new clients up to their company. You just may become their best friend—a real advantage when you need that item in stock and it is in the warehouse with another company’s name on it.
Your partner reps may be paid straight commission based on the number of sales that come from the channel just like any commissioned salesperson. The reps get paid commission on the number of sales that happen. Consistently using this vendor puts you into the position of a prime account worthy of extra time and effort.
You may create an atmosphere of leads or other benefits like market distribution funds, case studies and other sources which build your company as the “go to" organization. Reaching out and helping your vendor reps and organizations, having a proven track record for bringing business to their companies, showing loyalty to the their channel and with distribution partners, along with not hopping from partner to partner based solely on the price can reap rewards for your company.
I cannot say it enough – get involved with the day-to-day business of your channel reps, distribution partners and others within the chain of your organization. Each one of them will have different ways for you to become active with them– search out how to get involved. When you can help your reps gain or advance in their own companies, you become their immediate best partner or first contact person.
One last tip for success with the vendor factor: when you travel to locations where your vendors or partners have offices, reach out and visit their offices. Most of the small business computer consulting firms don’t do this. When you visit their operations or visit with your reps in person, you immediately gain the upper hand over your competition because now you have an immediate stronger relationship and also an understanding of how the business is run on their end.
Besides creating strong relationships with your vendor and partner reps, make a point of introducing yourself to the executive levels at all of your partner and vendor companies. Creating relationships with the executives at your partners will thrust you into the top ten percent of their clients. For a channel focused company- you ARE the client. That is exactly where you want to be for your vendors and partners—a first priority.
The vendor factor is one of the most important relationships you can form in your Small Business IT Company’s long list of relationships that need to be formed. The power of two will give you a backup or alternate source when some partners do not carry a particular product line. Add the power of two to give you leverage with your clients, let your reps assist you with your clients. They love joint sales calls. When you master building relationships outside of those with your clients you have taken a huge step forward to achieving the vendor factor.
Stuart Crawford is a business leader in the Calgary, Alberta small business computer consulting business. He has taken his best practices of success in this market and is sharing this with other IT consultants throughout the world. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .