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When I’m helping IT Solution Providers and Managed Service Providers (MSPs), I often ask them the question, “What is your relationship like with your vendor partners?”

They often look at me blankly or reply, “What relationship?”

If you want to take your MSP business to the next level, then you will need the help of your vendor partners. Without it, your business may not achieve its full potential.

Why do you need strong vendor relationships?

In my experience, strong vendor partnerships are vital to growing your MSP business. A strong relationship with your vendor partner can contribute through:

  • Better service to your clients
  • Marketing development funds (MDF) from vendors that can help grow your business
  • PR opportunities to raise the profile of your business

In fact, without strong vendor partnerships, I often see the growth of many MSP businesses stall. They don’t have the momentum or resources to move to the next level. Building great relationships with your vendor partners is a critical element of your growth. So how can you stand out from the crowd and become your vendor’s favourite MSP?

Speak to your account manager

When I ran my own MSP business, I decided to place vendor relationships at the front and centre of our growth strategy. I wanted vendors to think of us as partners, not just somebody who bought software or services from them. The first step to becoming a better partner to your vendors, is building a relationship with your account manager!

Most MSPs dodge telephone calls or emails from their vendor account manager. They treat sales calls from them as an irritation. We took the opposite approach. We didn’t wait for our account manager to call us, we called them and asked: “How can we become your favourite partner?”

This forward approach often surprised our account managers. They are so used to MSPs asking them for discounts, Not-For-Resale (NFR) licenses, and other favours, that they’ve never had an MSP ask them what they want. We found that most account managers performance is measured not only on sales volume but also on:

  • The number of engineers within an MSP who become qualified with vendor accreditations
  • Visibility of sales pipelines from an MSP
  • The number of new MSP partners they bring on board

We committed to put all our engineers through vendors training programmes and to pass their vendor examinations. We also opened the lines of communication with account managers and gave them visibility of our sales opportunities. In turn, this allowed the account managers to report accurate sales pipelines to management.

As a business, we also talked to our peers about the work we were doing with our vendor partners. We told them how much we enjoyed working with our vendors, and the opportunities we had uncovered thanks to our relationship. We made direct introductions between other MSPs and our account managers.

All these activities are remarkable for an MSP to take. Hardly any other MSPs are doing this, and so, regardless of our size, we quickly became our vendor partners favourite MSP.

The results of a reliable vendor partnership

Thanks to our attitude of “What can we do to help you?” our vendor partnerships flourished.

Our Service Desk reported a strong relationship with the vendor technical support teams. We built trust, and this trust resulted in our clients getting their technical issues resolved faster.

Vendors started approaching us to create case studies of our work with clients. These case studies (which the vendors created and paid for) became good, credible marketing materials that we then used to target prospective new clients.

We also found that, as our relationship grew, some vendors asked us to join their advisory councils. In exchange for our feedback, vendors then granted us direct access to their developers and senior management teams. We had a direct influence on the development of the tools and services we used within our business.

There was no downside to us building strong relationships with our vendors. It turned these relationships from a supplier/customer relationship into a true partnership, where vendor and MSP were committed to mutual success.

Strong vendor relationships are needed for MSP growth

If you want your MSP business to grow beyond a certain size, then you will need strong vendor relationships to achieve this. Without strong vendor relationships, many MSP’s growth hits a ceiling which they struggle to pass.

Building a strong vendor relationship starts with redefining the supplier/client relationship as a partnership where both sides want to help the other. By asking your vendor account manager “How can we help you?” you will stand out from the sea of other MSPs who are asking “What can you do for us?”

Photo: photofriday / Shutterstock

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Richard Tubb

Posted by Richard Tubb

Richard Tubb is a blogger, speaker, and author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the Northeast of England. He provides expert advice to help MSPs grow their IT business, and he has helped the owners of hundreds of MSPs to free up their time, concentrate on doing what is important, and make more money.

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