by Steve Murphy

Vartopia recently surveyed IT resellers regarding their views on partner program features including deal registration, spiffs and lead distribution and management.

Respondents included:

  • VAR/Solution Provided Owner/Executives
  • Marketing Sales Reps – this group represented 60% of respondents, with most working for large North American resellers
  • Admins & Others

The findings were instructive for vendors who are seeking ways to improve deal registration and willing to explore how to increase awareness and improve ease of use in their programs.

5 Key Findings

1. Resellers are working with a growing number of vendors.

Results amplified earlier studies by CompTIA and others that resellers are working with an expanding number of vendors. Nearly half of the survey respondents reported their reseller company is registering deals with more than 20 vendors. With this many relationships, cutting through the low utilization of most partner portals and ensuring ease of use is more than just table stakes.

2. Resellers register deals for protection and/or additional margins or discounts.

Resellers surveyed were clear about why they register deals: 94% ranked deal protection either first or second and 84% ranked additional margin or discounts first or second. None of the other reasons (in rank order) were rated first or second by more than 9%: (3) rebates, (4) technical or sales support to help close deal, (5) reward spiffs for sales rep and/or SE, (6) access to development funds such as MDF or (7) Business intelligence.

Yet despite this clarity of purpose, less than half of the respondents reported that they were ‘always’ aware of the deal registration benefits when they were engaging with a customer. In other words, they often understood least when it should matter the most.

3. Resellers are unsure of when their deals warrant registration.

When asked about their rationale for not registering a deal, 63% reported, “I often don’t know if the deal qualifies…”

4. Resellers find vendor portals and tools challenging to work with.

Beyond the awareness issue, there’s work remaining for vendors to make it easier to do business, as 55.6% reported the “vendor-provided portals and tools … are too difficult to work with” and 40.7% claim “It’s too big of a hassle ..” Finally, If vendors want to improve their early visibility into partners’ opportunities, there may be a trust issue to overcome as 40.7% reported that “I don’t want to inform the vendor too early …. did not want them to know yet.”

Frankly, there wasn’t too much we found surprising in these responses although it’s disappointing to see such a high percentage continuing to complain about the difficulty using vendor portals and tools.

5. Resellers rank very few vendors high in the deal registration department.

When asked to rate their level of satisfaction with each of their primary vendors, “thinking about their overall deal registration in terms of business process and systems technology on a scale of 1 to 5…” — of the 48 vendors rated in the survey, only nine had satisfaction ratings of 3.5 or above; only one vendor rated above 4.0. Nearly half had ratings below 3.0 (Satisfactory). While many individual vendors had too few ratings to be considered statistically accurate, the overall trend was clear.

While we didn’t split the satisfaction question between satisfaction with the business process and satisfaction with the systems/technology (tools), it’s clear that the process has become quite burdensome for many resellers based on sheer number of partner programs and independent portals they need to manage. Meanwhile, the finding that 55.6% of resellers found the vendor portals and tools too difficult to work is disconcerting but fixable. Fixing portals and tools to make it easier for partners and their employees to submit a request, however, is only the beginning.

Ensuring the vendor’s process is effective and efficient so that reseller submissions are acted upon quickly with the rules enforced consistently is critical. Doing so should help address trust considerations. But solving the awareness challenge in an era with fewer and fewer actively managed reseller accounts requires that each reseller must have the tools to manage the registration process from their end. They need to have visibility to all their registrations so they can track them easily to help identify and quickly resolve any bottlenecks.

The best way to accomplish this is through aggregated views using multi-vendor registration tools.

Beyond the tools, sales reps and SEs need to be engaged so that when it comes to vendors’ solutions they know the technical requirements and the business benefits. Just as training and certification helps with the technical considerations, there needs to be improved communications and training to improve awareness on the part of partner frontline employees – sales reps and SEs – on the benefits of registering deals, preferably as early as possible in the sales cycle. To bolster the impact of their communications and training efforts and drive higher utilization rates, more and more companies are also finding there’s a role for spiffs for motivating sales reps and SEs to drive the requisite behavior change.

We’ll take a look at reseller attitudes about spiffs in our next post.

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