Just like individual people do, channel partner organizations come in a variety of different sizes. These range from small mom-n-pop shops to large integrators, with a full complement of variations in between. And if we paint the world with a very broad brush, we might be tempted to make certain assumptions about size and scale as we move towards selecting the right partnership for our company. There might even be some level of truth to those assumptions, but just as often, they can boomerang on us. Take these for example. You’ll notice that the advantages run in both directions, sometimes at the same time.
Point: Larger partners more likely to be focused on a wider range of technologies. Smaller partners more likely to specialize in key verticals, or function as small business specialists at a more generalized level.
Counterpoint: Sometimes even the smaller ones can boast a pretty complete portfolio.
Point: Larger partners, by definition, have more resources to get the job done.
Counterpoint: Smaller partners may be able to provide more personalized service.
Point: Large partners more likely to provide support remotely, as opposed to rolling a truck to your location. This may be less personal, but can sometimes lead to faster delivery of help.
Counterpoint: Smaller partners can often do this, too.
Point: Smaller partners are often less expensive.
Counterpoint: But sometimes small partners who are highly specialized can be quite pricey.
Point: Large partners have a reputation.
Counterpoint: Smaller ones do, too.
Point: Larger partners are generally better at providing support to multiple locations.
Semi-counterpoint: It’s true that this is a distinct advantage if you have offices in multiple cites. Otherwise it probably doesn’t matter.
Through the years, I’ve talked to IT customers who swear by a preference based on the size of the company. Some insist that bigger is better. Others are convinced that they will always get lost in the shuffle unless they can work with a smaller partner with whom they can build a strong one-on-one professional relationship.
Both are right. Both are wrong. And the reason is that both perspectives have overlooked the hugely important intermediate step.
It’s not really about size of the partner. It’s about how the respective channel partners deliver service and how well they relate to smaller businesses. Therefore, you can find winners on either side of the equation, or in the middle.
Check out their price structure and check out the technologies that they support. Get a sense of how long it will take them to get around to helping you when things go wrong. Toss in the term, “service level agreement” during this part of the discussion. Ask for references, and get a sense for whether or not those references are generally similar to your own company. Perhaps the most important clues fall under the general category of “gut check.” Are they returning your calls promptly? Does there seem to be a genuine desire to answer your questions accurately? Do they already treat you like you’re a valued customer? Because, in most cases, you’re going to get the highest amount of attention in that period before you sign on the dotted line. So the size of the partner is not really the key. It’s the degree to which the term, “partner” factors into their equation when dealing with your company.