How is your relationship with your key vendors? Do you view the companies who supply you with software and services as partners in a long-term relationship, or are your relationships more transactional?
One area of business that many managed service providers (MSPs) can easily overlook in the evolution of their business growth is their relationships with vendors.
Whether it be a software or hardware vendor, a vendor you’ve just started working with or a vendor whose products and services you’ve used or sold for a long time, building a strong relationship with these partners is a hugely important factor in whether your IT business grows quickly or becomes stagnant.
Benefits of a strong vendor partnership
Building a good relationship with any partner company should be the goal of your MSP business. The old adage that people do business with people they know, like, and trust is still as true today as it has ever been.
With that said, what are they key, tangible benefits you might get from building a strong vendor partnership?
A strong vendor relationship can open doors to public relations opportunities, where your vendor partner will shine a light on how you’ve helped your clients using their products or services. This type of PR helps your business be publicly seen as a trusted partner of what is often a strong vendor brand.
With a strong vendor relationship, you might gain access to private betas or advance feature rollouts. If you request new features, your requests might be bumped closer to the top of the list for development.
Speaking from personal experience, I also found that strong vendor partnerships opened up communication channels to decision makers at vendor partners I, as an MSP owner, may otherwise not have found. When I owned an MSP, I served on some vendor advisory councils and committees that afforded me direct access to highly successful CEOs and marketing directors—all of whom shared advice and guidance that proved to be very valuable.
In short, you can accelerate your business growth by building a relationship where you help each other grow your respective businesses, rather than looking at vendors as simply the providers of products and services.
Getting on a vendor’s radar
So, if strong vendor partnerships are so useful to the growth of an IT business, why are more MSPs not putting the effort into culturing these relationships?
The reason is often a simple assumption. Many MSPs I speak to bemoan the fact that they’re “too small” to appear on vendors’ radars. These MSPs assume they don’t generate enough revenue or don’t have individual deals big enough to be of interest to their vendors of choice. In short, they compare themselves to the biggest players in the industry and wonder, “Why would a vendor be interested in little old me?”
It’s true that while the level of implementation—such as the number of clients an MSP works with or the number of endpoints they manage across all clients—is important to vendors, it’s worth remembering that the vast majority of MSPs have only the most basic of relationships with their vendors—that of buyer and seller. A transactional relationship.
If you can raise your profile with your vendors above this very lowest of bars, then you’re likely to appear on your preferred vendors’ radar where your peers won’t.
So how can you get onto your vendor partners’ radar? One way to do this is to send out a regular win-wires.
What’s a win-wire?
Put simply, a win-wire is an e-mail you send to your vendor partners (usually your account manager or sales manager) documenting and celebrating a new piece of business your MSP has won. Think of it as an informal press release.
While the size of the win in terms of revenue is always of interest, the real story is often how the vendor helped your MSP business get a foot in the door or steal a match over competitors.
For instance, you might send a win-wire email explaining how you moved a client away from an aging server solution to a vendor’s cloud product. The email might explain that the move helped your client reduce costs and migrate away from an unreliable, aging solution to a reliable cloud solution.
This email will definitely be of interest to the vendor whose product or solution you’ve sold or used. Vendors are always looking for case studies of how their products or solutions were involved in delivering benefit and value to you or your clients.
Vendors are also interested in hearing how their product or service has helped you “win” in ways beyond landing new business. Have you significantly lowered the cost of your support offering? Perhaps you’ve helped a client out of a perilous jam? These scenarios can also be considered wins!
Building a relationship with your vendors is a big part of effectively growing your IT business. In fact, you won’t be able to grow an MSP business beyond a certain stage without strong vendor relationships.
Celebrating your sales through win-wires is one way to make sure you’re consistently appearing on the radar of the vendors you work with. Once you start becoming a “somebody” to these vendors, you can expect your relationship to go from strength to strength, creating opportunities that otherwise may have gone to a competitor.