Managed Services

Why Your Vendor Stack Can’t Suck

Two miniature figurine businessmen are handshaking on a stack of United States coins. It conceptually represents a financial business deal. Silhouette on blue background.

MSPs have a tough job. As good as you are, you know your customers are always worried about keeping pace with emerging technologies, staying competitive and whether your solution stack is strong and scales or is weak and sucks. There is pressure to more fully populate your stack 4.0, plan for 5.0 and simultaneously look even further out to the horizon for what could be in a 6.0 stack.

It’s difficult but important to start any thinking about changes to your solution stack with taking a breath, taking time to think about your business model, to let some calls go to voicemail and envision what your company’s future should look like.  Conferences, now that people are more willing to meet in person, are a great way to hear innovative ideas, to get out of your own practiced way of thinking about solutions.  Ideally this will lead to new inventions and ideas, not only refreshing the services you offer but identifying new lines of business.

Doing Your Homework

To get from an idea to adding a solution, and then seeing it result in new sales, takes rigorous analysis. To ensure it has calculable market potential it’s smart to use the resources of analyst firms like Gartner, Forrester or IDC. They help you determine who the major players are in the market category you’re targeting and provide insights into the solution you want to market to fill a specific need.

In parallel, you need to have the required pricing tools to cost out the addition to your stack and have thorough estimates of what you expect in return revenue.

If your idea passes that initial analysis, it’s time to broaden the pipeline and develop a list of vendors who match your market objective.

When you have a list of candidates ask:

  1. Do they have a distribution partner? Smart, mature tech companies will have a partner and be ready to service your 4.0 stack requirements.
  2. How does their technology work?
  3. Does it fulfill a market need for your customers that you can sell?

Starting with a Clear Process

If you’ve selected a vendor to supply the tech for a new solution idea, or if you’re canvassing the landscape for other additions to your stack, you’ll win in the end if you go into a vendor negotiation with a formal process of questions you have and your expectations.  The first action must be to get a copy of the partner agreement and understand exactly which responsibilities the vendor has identified as theirs. When you bring a partner into your customer network you need to protect your brand. If there is an issue down the road it affects how customers perceive your brand and they will hold you responsible. There is no passing the buck.

With the partner agreement as the foundation, you can negotiate terms before formally setting up an account. When issues do arise, the agreement will be a factor in resolving any disputes.

Planning for Sales Wins

Like any successful partnership, you and your vendor must share responsibilities and investment to have a mutually beneficial outcome. Agree on what sales metrics you need to meet in six months, in 12 months, and who are your prime customer targets.

Let the vendor partner know what you offer in connections to future sales as you continue to evolve your solution stack. In return, your vendor needs to contribute MDF funds to help launch their tech solution with your customers. From day one an MSP cannot start with zero investment from the vendor; it must be a shared effort.

Getting smart about the vendor’s technology is critical. Testing the solution in your lab, taking technical training, and getting certification as needed – all are important to ensure your customers have a smooth integration. 

Executing Success

Looking at a 6–12-month initial sales horizon, you need to hold yourself and the vendor accountable to meet the metrics. Doing your homework upfront, carefully planning and agreeing to every important aspect of your partnership, and consistently tracking results, will give you the best chance at a smooth path to more customer wins.

Guest blog courtesy of Ingram Micro and authored by Paul Hager.