So we recently signed our Dell PartnerDirect agreement and thanks to the confidentiality restrictions in the agreement I can’t tell you anything about it. Why did I, such a strong advocate against Dell’s effect on the MSP channel, sign the agreement? Because my customers demand choices. Am I losing money or control over my customers? Heck no, the customer’s trust is still in us to help them make the right choice and right now you just can’t beat the system/warranty prices for their entry level servers. Seriously. A screaming 2900 for under $4K with next business day hardware replacement. Good price for my customer and my liability is limited with Dell’s proven support agreements.
So am I drinking Dell kool-aid and believing they are the all encompassing solution? Not even close. While I may be limiting my relationship to just reselling hardware for them, I’m not limiting my relationship to my customers by acting like a traditional VAR. It really comes down to building and maintaining a relationship with my customer that delivers more in value than what we charge in fees. And trust me, we aren’t the cheapest. I like what what one Dell reseller told CRN in this CRN Australia article:
Dell still can’t comprehend that a customer is willing to pay a little more for products in exchange for the value a solution provider can add.
“It’s like someone talking about the Grand Canyon when they’ve never really been there. It’s hard to bring it to life,” he said.
While vendor relationships should look like partnerships, the challenge is, that amongst all the cheering from the vendor coaches and channel partner managers in the reseller game, keep your eye on the ball. That ball is your customer.
For more on maintaining a “trusted advisor” role check our Harry’s August/September 2008 SMB Partner Community Magazine (online version released today) where on Page 10 Grant Thompson, partner at MG Technology Group notes:
At MG Technology Group we ask a lot of questions and spend most of our time listening. We spend time with prospective clients up front learning what they do. Most important we ask, ”Why?” It’s amazing what the responses are to questions like, “What are you going to do with this report you’re asking for?” Client’s don’t often know what their real problem is to begin with. By helping to uncover them we can truly craft a solution that meets their needs, often better than what they had in mind at the outset.
It’s not hard folks. The most valuable and profitable asset you have in your company is probably not a technology, a vendor relationship, a solution, your customer contracts or even your employees. It is probably you and the reputation you have with your customer. This is a very very small community and being a Go-Giver and a person of integrity goes a long long way in keeping doors open, customers happy and more importantly, getting good night’s sleep. Think about it.