Channel Partners and Vendors – a Marriage of Equals?

One party is used to being in control and telling the other what to do. One party likes to speak and not listen - Julian Patel
One party is used to being in control, one likes to speak and not listen – Julian Patel

Season 5 of Downton Abbey has just ended and it’s been compulsive viewing (don’t worry, there’s still a Christmas special to come).

Watching the shifting relations between the upper classes and the servants was enjoyable escapism for a Sunday night. And, strangely, the relationship dynamics between those ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’, could be compared to the relationship that can exist between vendor and channel partner.

Think about it. One party is used to being in control and telling the other what to do. One party likes to speak and not listen. While one party is used to being told what to do and often simply ignores it. And finally, one party may get fed up with the relationship and go and try and earn some money on the side, illicitly!
Can you guess which is the vendor and which is the channel partner?

When relationships break down there are no winners

The point is, when the relationship between vendor and channel partner is broken, it can lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction on both sides and, more importantly, both have missed out on an opportunity.

I know this only too well because I’ve worked on both sides of the fence.  I understand the gripes and get the issues and it’s why I’ve come to Xerox with a personal mantra of ‘Making it Easier’ – for both Xerox and our channel partners to enjoy each other’s strengths, thrive and grow in the process and, ultimately, make more money.

My mantra could become yours in your organization too

I read this Channel Pro article “How can vendors help their partners?” recently, and recognized only too well the issues outlined from my experience as both vendor AND channel partner. But it’s not straightforward. So how can vendors make it easier for channel partners to succeed?

Marriage guidance

I appreciate this is the start of a proverbial ‘journey’ but the following areas are where I’m focusing my time to ensure we are making it easier for our channel:

  • Listen at every opportunity so that we truly appreciate what our channel partners need from us. Do we *really* understand the market conditions they operate within and the end users they are selling to? What are their key threats, and how can we help defend them against these threats?
  • Drive combined initiatives that are in the interests of, and work for, both parties. Shiny new vendor marketing programs may tick boxes for us, but will they really help drive business for the channel partner?
  • Ensuring we understand your point of view and your requirements: work on an agreed outcome and actions that benefit both parties
  • Margin. Now I understand this is critical for you.  My question is, are you competitive in the current climate and are you in regular dialogue with us about how we can help you grow profitably?

Creating a marriage of equals

Like any good relationship, you have to work at it and the list above is just my “starter for ten”. The first step is to open dialogue and listen; that way we can work to fix issues and improve tasks to ensure that, mutually, we have a great future together.

The dialogue starts now

Writing this post for the Xerox Channel Partner Connection is my way of opening up the dialogue in a public forum. I really want to hear from supplies channel partners about what is, and what isn’t, working for them. Don’t hold back. Use the comments section below to share your immediate thoughts.

The type of aristocrats portrayed in Downton Abbey eventually died out and disappeared. Perhaps if they had listened more and looked for solutions that benefited both parties they may have had a better fate. But then I’m sure my Sunday night viewing would have been a lot less interesting!

[Editor’s note: Whilst this article is aimed at supplies focused channel partners, the message is just as relevant to others. In order for any relationship to work it takes dialogue and a mutually beneficial long term view – and maybe a backdrop of an old fashioned English stately home.]

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Top image: Source: © Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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  1. Jill Jones November 17, 2014 -

    This blog is quite relative and should become our mantra at Xerox as a whole and in every organization. True leaders listen to understand while managers simply hear to react/respond. The sooner we recognize this, the sooner we will produce both revenue and personal growth. The exciting future of CPO is right around the corner as we close out a record breaking 2014 and head into a positive 2015. People and relationships are still the most important assets a company must foster to have long term success and are built on trust, mutual respect and recognition of each other’s roles and responsibilities.

    • Julian Patel November 17, 2014 -

      Hey Jill,

      Great to hear from you and also pleased that you agree !
      I think as you say these are changing times and only by listening and listening hard will we really understand how we can help our partners grow in they way they want.

      Its exciting times in the industry for both vendors, resellers and solution partners – I think only those who want a real partnership for the long term while truly understanding what makes each other tick will survive ..


  2. Jon Dummer November 20, 2014 -

    I agree as a Sales Manager at an Print Reseller it is key for us to have a vendor/manufacturer relationship where the manufacturer listens to us with regards to our market strategy and works with us to help us reach mutually beneficial goals

    • Julian Patel November 21, 2014 -

      Thanks Jon,
      Good to know ! After all, if you have a change in direction / focus / strategy – how are we supposed to know and support you in that without listening and without that vital two-way relationship !

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