On a typical day, the social media forums are abuzz with at least one or two complaints about suppliers’ business practices or the injustice of a recent change in programs. Though the online discussions often meander into long, drawn-out dialogues concerning other issues and vendors, many originate from legitimate complaints. Conflicts with direct sales teams often top that list, followed by warranty issues, customer service shortfalls and a wealth of other issues that can negatively affect a solution provider’s perception of a key business partner.

While the online discussions often highlight the negative aspects of these IT industry alliances, you rarely hear what solution providers really need from their vendors. What does it take to build quality IT channel relationships? Based on the diverse requirements and capabilities across the solution provider ecosystem, finding all the answers is next to impossible.

Some point to competitive pricing as a major differentiator for channel programs, while others won’t partner with vendors not offering MDF. After all, generating a significant number of leads and securing new customers are two of the most important goals for the sales and marketing teams.

Other solution providers look to their vendors for support. From pre-sales engineers to professionals who can promptly answer technical questions during and after implementations, having access to real, live experts on the products and services is invaluable.

Resources, spiffs and incentives are prized by the vast majority of solution providers, but there is one much bigger factor in building long-term partnerships with their vendors: trust.

Setting Proper Expectations

Do your vendor partners carry through on their commitments? That’s an individual assessment that solution providers have to make for themselves, which makes it extremely difficult for others to measure. It often starts with a “good faith” exchange of information followed by monetary commitments and long-term partnership agreements.

Trust is earned incrementally in the IT channel, growing with each deal and partner interaction. These bonds also can be quite fragile. The slightest disagreements could result in a major dustup unless the lines of communication are open up (and down) the management hierarchies.

Whether allied for two months or 20 years, both parties have to make firm and continual commitments if they truly want their relationship to endure. That may include revisiting the terms, conditions and value opportunities on a regular basis, with each side willing to give and take to ensure the exchange is mutually beneficial. That concept may seem odd to those unfamiliar with the IT channel, but experienced insiders know it’s essential to maintaining long-term alliances.

Trust is something vendors and their partners have to earn. Program stipulations may change over time, but when the commitment is solid, success for both parties comes much easier.

Brian Sherman is the Principal Consultant at Tech Success Communications, a firm specializing in IT channel marketing and business development.