From time to time I get into a discussion with a tech who is starting up a computer store and is searching for banners, posters and other promotional items from product manufactures to add some prestige or credibility to his or her store. My advice is simple. Visit the manufacturers’ web sites and join their partner programs.
I am a big proponent of utilizing partner and reseller programs. Although they are commonly considered a source for product discounts and sales spiffs for resellers who join, partner programs can have great returns in other ways as well. Sales tools, training programs and free collateral are all great incentives to buy their products from channel distributors instead of a web or after market retailer. Just because it doesn’t translate into immediate profit on the sale doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. The value of some of the perks offered in these programs are worth a lot more than just saving a buck or two on shipping.
For instance, it is no secret that large IT companies may qualify for co-ops, actual cash from vendors to finance or subsidize a co-branded marketing campaign for their products. Small operations may not qualify for this perk because they don’t do enough business to get ad money from the vendors. But wait, how much would it cost you to print slick four color brochures and line cards to distribute to your customers with your company name on them? There is no way some of us could afford to produce our own marketing collateral.
Yet, most vendors will send this stuff to you for FREE. All you need to do is send a request and they will ship posters, banners, flyers, cards, pens, rat mats and even T-shirts for you to mail or pass out to your customers – much of it you can slap your company information on with a stamp or sticker or – depending on the item and your resources – run it through your own printer.
Most vendors also allow you access to logos, sales kits and collateral you can use and post on your web sites. All FREE. This is all every bit as valuable as actual Co-op money and in some cases even better – if you know how to use it.
You also have better support on the back end when it comes to supporting the products. This can be a huge selling point to customers because your support to them is backed up by back-end support from the vendor as opposed to the guy who sold a router and can’t help the customer when it breaks or has a hardware problem.
But that’s not all. There is often FREE training and vendor certification available as well.
When you think training and certification, the first things that probably come to mind as a tech are technical training and technical certification. While this is important to consider, there is another aspect of training that most of us completely overlook and may be even more important to us, especially if we are selling these products.
You can be a great tech and you can be somewhat business savvy, but it is common knowledge that great techs are seldom also great salespeople. Some of the best techs I’ve known are terrible sales reps. While I wouldn’t call myself a great tech, I do know was a lot more comfortable doing bench work than closing sales.
One of the best perks of partner and reseller programs isn’t necessarily the discounts, co-op money or marketing collateral. It’s the training. The free sales training.
Your vendor partners want you to sell their products, the more the better. Many partner and reseller programs provide FREE sales training and certification programs to help you learn how to sell their products like a pro. If you are in business for yourself and rely on the sale of IT products for even a fraction of your income, sales training should be a prerequisite to starting up your business. Free sales training is even better. You can’t beat free.
This is what really sets you apart from the other techs who sell stuff out of their truck. You aren’t just selling a computer, router or hard drive, you’re an authorized reseller for those companies. You are an official source for that product and you are perceived as the authoratative expert on that product as well as the direct line to the manufacturer. I will tell you from personal experience that, from a marketing and sales perspective, the term authorized <insert manufacturer name here> reseller raises your personal and business profile and professional credibility up a few notches with the average customer which, in turn, helps increase sales.
Here is a real world example: When I joined the Linksys Partner Program they sent me a huge box full of hats, posters, pens, line cards and even about a half dozen very nice 25 ft measuring tapes with the Linksys logo on them for distribution to employees and clients. They impressed customers and made my operation seem more prestigious as a Linksys Partner. It gave customers the perception I was a trusted expert on the products and had an exclusive relationship with the vendor as opposed to the other guy who just carried a couple of routers in his van.
To recap, here is a brief overview of what some of these programs offer. You can usually sign up for them at no cost.
1. Collateral (posters, banners, promotional items)
2. Sales rebates and spiffs
3. New product demos (often discounted, sometimes free)
4. Sales and Marketing Training and Tools (Free sales training!)
5. Co-branding Opportunities
6. Marketing Co-Op funds (usually top-tier sellers, but sometimes smaller companies qualify as well)
There is a list of vendor partner programs in the Resource Directory at theforcefield.net as well as other articles and blogs with tips on using vendor and partner programs. Some of them are not in the public areas, however, for obvious reasons. Do a search under Resources and you will find them.
If you haven’t heard it, check out The Force Field Episode 35 – Partner With Your Vendors. I interviewed Frank Raimondi, former Executive Director of NASBA and we discussed how the little guys can use distributors and vendor partner programs to sell and market themselves like the big guys, without paying a dime.