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Brett Rowe, TFM Networks

by Stuart Wilson, Friday 16 January 2009

The ancient Chinese proverb that says ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ may well be applied to the channel, for while we should certainly keep a wary eye on any threats out there, not all fellow VARs need to be viewed with suspicion.

In these uncertain economic times, the channel players who are going to succeed will need to look at long-term growth and the business opportunities that will enable them to grow and take market share.

Not rocket science, admittedly, but making the all-important first steps into new markets are notoriously difficult, and can be the major hurdle in realising your business strategy.

However, joint ventures with non-competing channel partners give you the potential to break into new markets, realise new sales opportunities and generate extra margin and ongoing management revenues with existing customers.

So exactly what opportunities for growth does a channel partnership present, and how should you go about it?

Reciprocal selling

Reciprocal cross-selling represents one of the most exciting opportunities in any channel partnership, and should open up a number of immediate ‘warm’ and pre-qualified leads to help you grow your business and secure valuable incremental revenue.

Leveraging the existing business relationship between channel partner and their customer base can give you significant market advantage, helping you to identify the need for your technology or service and crucially giving you an introduction to the customer through your partner. Let’s face it, the sales process is not an easy one, so effective introductions can help to position you strongly for any deal.

As in all effective partnerships, the benefits need to be mutual and work both ways.

Just as you hope to get introductions and business opportunities from your partner’s network of customers, so too must you be willing to identify opportunities for your partner with your own client base, returning the favour and helping them in turn to grow their business.

Getting a foot in the door

Effective channel partnerships also help you to break into new markets. Getting into new markets is not easy, as we all know. Securing your first customer in a new sector is always the hardest step – after all, you have no direct market credentials to back up your claims on technical expertise, demonstrable success, service excellence, and no all-important customer references.

Your network service or software application may be ideally suited for the retail sector, but with no proven experience in the field, it can be hard to get the attention of the decision maker.

This is where a channel partner can help, leveraging the business relationship and trust that they have built up with their customers to be able to put forward the business case for your technology or service offering. This will give you an invaluable foot in the door, in establishing yourself in a new market sector.

Swimming with the big fish

Joint ventures will also enable you to offer customers a more complete and ultimately more powerful business proposition in both new and existing markets.

By working with the right partners, you will be able to look at bigger opportunities. Getting the attention of a major company may be a difficult prospect on your own, but by offering an end-to-end solution, which combines the technical expertise of multiple specialists, you have an altogether more compelling proposition.

Bigger projects not only mean bigger revenues, they also play an important role in positioning you as a leading player in your field, providing the springboard for further large-scale projects and continued growth.

Keeping out the competition

Being able to offer your customers an end-to-end solution in conjunction with your partners will also help to keep out the competition. By delivering a solution capable of meeting current and future business requirements, you’re effectively making life easier for your customer, which not only puts you in their good books, but removes not only the need for them to look elsewhere for additional software or services, but also the threat this can present.

Being different and better is the key not only to reducing the threat from your competitors and defending your market share, but also to successfully taking business from your rivals and growing above the market.

Making life easier for the customer

Being able to deliver the whole package, from wholesale line rental to software and business applications makes life easier for the customer, and therefore makes yours a compelling business proposition.

By providing a complete solution, you’re giving customers the additional benefit of having a single point of contact, rather than multiple contacts, contracts and service level agreements from separate vendors.

Let’s face it, the customer is king. Having one number to call, one contract to enforce and one butt to kick if things go wrong makes things easier to manage for the IT or comms manager, and can give you the competitive advantage.

Strong joint ventures will help you to break into new markets, strengthen existing ones, and to compete more effectively with the bigger players. Isn’t it time you signed up?

TFM Networks is a virtual network operator that specialises in making its customers’ network profitable. The company focuses on making the IP network economical, through continuous cost reduction and new services.

As sales and marketing director Brett Rowe has full responsibility for developing and implementing new business strategies at TFM Networks. Rowe has over 15 years experience within the IT distribution sector and has worked with Telia, the first company to sell MPLS lines in the UK, as well as IBM and Tiscali.

www.tfmnetworks.com

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