Do you ever feel like you are speaking a different language when you are trying to communicate something? For me that glazed over, deer in the headlights look is a dead give away that what I am saying is not registering with someone. This is so much harder to determine when speaking with someone on the phone or via email. For those of us that live and breathe channel it happens oh so often as we share our program goals and detailed requirements with those on the other side of the phone. As a consultant I see this happen a lot as I assist channel leaders with the various intricacies of their programs and in their search for channel acceleration technology. I have learned to not assume that the other person is speaking the language of the channel. Here are a few things to help you determine if your vendor truly speaks “Channel”.
Clarification is Key
No two channel programs are exactly alike. My clients often use the same word to describe completely different processes, for example: deal, lead, opportunity, and referral. For one company a deal and a lead could mean something completely different. I learned early on that it was critical to clarify what each client was actually describing and their unique program processes. If you are not being asked questions it is likely that they may not fully understand what your processes actually are. A lack of clarification could very well equal a “vendor in the headlights”. Here are a few things to test the waters:
- Try asking for something completely off the wall or for functionality they don’t have listed. This will help you understand if the vendor really understands channel best practices and is willing to push back on you. You want to work with those that can recommend best practices and lead you down the right You do not need a “yes” man, you want a trusted advisor.
- Ask questions…lots of them and ask if they have customers that have implemented what you are asking for. Customization can be your worst nightmare. There are enough solid solutions on the market today that you should not have to be a guinea pig.
You’ve now thoroughly explained your requirements, hopes, and dreams and have a solution demonstration on the calendar. You join the meeting and confusion abounds. You realize the demonstration doesn’t match up to your requirements and process expectations. This is a key sign that the vendor is not speaking your language. Your demo experience will help you understand if you and your vendor are really on the same page. Channel centric vendors will relate their solution in the same terms you use in your program and the functionality shown will align with your requirements. They should recommend best practices and efficiencies that are working and these suggestions might not align to exactly what you had in mind. This is what you are looking for. Red flags to watch out for:
- Key requirements of functionality are not shown during the demonstration.
- You see more slideware than live product demonstration. If you do not see what you are asking for it likely does not exist.
- Key integration components are spoken about but not shown. Integrations are often a major component of a channel acceleration platform, if you don’t see the integration pieces in action you should question why it isn’t being demonstrated.
- The demonstrator goes into functionality not asked for. This is a strategy used to hide weaknesses. If this happens get them back on course quickly.
As you seek out technology solutions to accelerate your channel keep these things in mind. Make sure you get what you are looking for, trust your gut. If things don’t feel right trust your instincts. These simple tips will help you navigate the growing landscape of channel technology vendors in the market today.