Some partnerships fail incredibly fast. Some in as few as 30 days.
So, be careful with what you do in the early days of a partnership – as it can set the tone for the rest of the relationship. At the start of the partnership, it’s important to be careful and leave first impressions that can help create partners who are:
The attention you pay to partners during this critical timeframe can result in either:
Today, we welcome a special guest to help improve your partner retention rates.
He’s a channel partner with a horror story that shows you what not to do and shares tips for vendors on how they can retain their channel partners. Listen to this episode to:
Guest Bio - Adam Alfi:
Today’s guest is a multi-preneur with over 25 years experience in the IT space, and a career spanning various roles, including: project management, consulting, and even a stint on Wall Street.
Today, he runs an MSP business – EV Software and Business Solutions – which serves startups and enterprise clients alike.
(1:46) Guest intro: Adam Alfi
(3:52) Why are the first 30 days so critical when starting a new partnership with a vendor?
(4:41) Textbook example of how to lose a partner in 30 days
(10:21) Some vendors look great on paper, but that’s where it ends. As an MSP owner, what made this partner you mentioned seem like a good partner at the time? What motivated you to sign a partner agreement with them?
(12:06) How can vendors and partners get on the same page from the beginning? What would build confidence in the partnership?
(15:29) Vendors sometimes have different definitions of success than partners. How can partners on both sides align on a shared vision of success?
(17:13) In terms of sales enablement, what helps you understand a vendor solution so you can sell it to your best-fit customers?
(20:15) Do a lot of software vendors lack discovery as part of their onboarding or enablement process?
(22:02) What about training? What's better, one-on-one, or self-guided? How does training play a role in the onboarding process?
(25:41) Opinion on online training or self-guided training (as opposed to one-on-one) - is it useful?
(28:56) Partner enablement resources: Content types that really help you sell a product?
(32:50) Vendors engaging with partners via social media
(33:36) Importance of timeliness of vendor responsiveness and bad experiences
(34:06) Importance of trust with vendors and registering opportunities on a vendor's partner portal
(36:37) Preventing channel conflict: What a vendor should do when they see two partners attempting to register the same opportunity in the partner portal
(38:52) Do partner incentives motivate you to eng
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Paul Bird 06:30 - 06:41
Today's guest is a multipreneur with over 25 years of experience in the IT space, with a career spanning various roles, including project management, consulting, and even a stint on Wall Street.
Today, he runs a managed service provider, EV Software and Business Solutions, which serves startups and enterprise clients alike.
He's with us today to talk about how not to lose a channel partner in 30 days, specifically partner retention tips.
Please welcome Adam to the show. Adam, it's great to have you here.
Adam Alfi 07:01 - 07:13
Thanks for having me here participating in this whole thing. I’ve followed you for a little while, I've been listening to the past episodes, so it's nice to be here.
Paul Bird 07:14 - 07:15
So tell us, what are some of the highlights in your career as a managed service provider so far?
Adam Alfi 07:20 - 07:33
It's really the angle of knowing that you're dealing with people. At the end of the day, your clients-clients, most likely are going to be the end-user of the product that you're giving, and the service that you're getting.
So being able to see it from the other side and really try to make it better and know that you can make it better, is the reason why I'm here now.
Just taking that approach where we are talking about human beings, not the technology itself.
Paul Bird 07:52 - 07:54
So, tell us a little bit about EV Software and Business Solutions.
Adam Alfi 07:56 - 08:02
It started, started as a web development shop for a while. We were a very small number.
And then we actually started looking into the whole channel sales and partnerships, which really took our business to the next level.
And some of the stories we'll probably talk about today.
But from there, we expanded into the managed services business, to manage the outsourcing business where it's not just getting individuals outsourced.
It's really creating a team, an offshore team, for that client where they are technically their employees.
With the exception of the name, kinda thing.
It's being able to provide an offshore service to anybody, anywhere in the world, at any time.
Paul Bird 08:48 - 08:49
Oh, fantastic. So, let's get into today's discussion.
Why do you think the first 30 days are so critical when starting a new partnership with a vendor?
Adam Alfi 08:57 - 09:00
It's like any relationship if you really think about it. It's building that trust piece. Because it doesn't matter which end of the channel you're on. You have to understand a couple of things.
Both sides are going to make money, they're going to have to. And if they don't, then then it's never going to work.
Don't get greedy on either side. Because as soon as you start giving the sense that you want more than you're willing to give, it's going to start breaking down. All that stuff you can smell in the first 30 days.
As a matter of fact, I can tell you that you could probably sniff it the first couple of days.
Paul Bird 09:39 - 09:39
When we first met, you mentioned that you had a partner experience that was a textbook example of how to lose a partner in 30 days.
Can you take us through that experience?
Adam Alfi 09:50 - 09:51
Man. Yeah, and since the last time we spoke, actually, it's now two. Not just one example.
One of them was going to start where we were going to resell licenses through them. They were going to be our distributor and this was my first experience with that mistake where very quickly as we were negotiating the contract with them even before the relationship starts.
And we were talking about 30 days, right? They tapped the customer to see if they can get the licenses themselves.
Paul Bird 10:25 - 10:26
Adam Alfi 10:26 - 10:34
Before we even sign the paperwork, I'm already starting to see where this relationship is going to go.
And automatically, there was no trust. We ended up going with another distributor who just happens to be the biggest software distributor on the face of the planet.
And we haven't been happier ever since. We've just been expanding with them tremendously.
This is also another thing, on the aspect of the first 30 days – when we went to their competitor and we explain to them the situation with what happened with us… the complete opposite customer service of the onboarding process happened.
Everything that really has a touch point in the relationship with us was done so right that we've been using them for the past 5, 6 years, and we've never looked back.
Paul Bird 11:19 - 11:19
Oh. That's great.
Now, you said you had a second example, so something has come up in the last few weeks since we've been talking.
Adam Alfi 11:27 - 11:36
So it has. And that relationship has also ended. It was also with a major software provider – a SaaS product that's kind of exploding right now.
And, again, we were very happy with them at the beginning. And when I say, in the beginning, I mean the first couple of weeks, until we started working on the first deal.
And then they started independently, contacting the customer and negotiating on licenses.
Paul Bird 11:52 - 11:53
Oh, no. They're jumping at a turn, almost.
Do you think these are just overzealous, salespeople that don't respect the channel, or do you think it’s something else?
Adam Alfi 12:06 - 12:07
I think it's a couple of things.
I think there's, there's a bit of a culture change from the SaaS situation in general.
At first, you rely on partners, but now you're big enough where you don't need them, and there's a little bit of lack of hunger from that perspective.
Because if you think about the partnerships and the channels, as you and I would know it, it was 110% mutual respect that you have this, and I have this. There are clear lines of delineation on, when do I wear your hat and when do I wear mine?
And that's what helped us all grow. And now those lines are starting to blur for a number of reasons.
Let's take one of our partners that we’re actually very successful in. The reason why we're successful is that it's a really good model of how it worked.
We are a Microsoft Gold Partner.
We have, say, close to 200-ish Microsoft clients.
A number of licenses left and right; we cover four continents at the moment.
The idea of that relationship is that Microsoft understood it's big enough that there’s no way they it will be able to reach the small-to-medium business side of things. And that was a huge market that was untapped by the enterprise side.
Never have you thought, when you and I are growing up and getting our first jobs if you worked for a company that had Microsoft Office on their computer –Watch out! That company has money!
Paul Bird 13:59 - 13:59
Adam Alfi 13:59 - 13:59
Now, if you're a five-person startup, for less than 100 bucks a month, you can have a complete Office Suite that rivals enterprise with cloud and everything.
But even with that aspect, it happened, because of the partners.
Those are your local resellers that are in touch with that small-to-medium business market that is so hungry for amazing technology that everybody worked with in corporate America. Now you can have it at your fingertips.
And that was the driver of why Microsoft ended up eating a large part of the market share.
On the other hand, if you start contracting into that and you start getting a little bit aggressive and saying, “I know the market”. You really don't, because you're too big and there’s nothing wrong with that.
And you start getting greedy and thinking, why do we have channel partners? And why do we have resellers?
Then you start losing sight of what got you there. And eventually, you start being labeled out of the market. And that’s happening a lot these days.
Paul Bird 15:05 - 15:07
And you don't have the relationships, right?
You can be the biggest company in the world, but if you can't have relationships that are at a regional and local level, that's not a scalable model.
Adam Alfi 15:18 - 15:23
A hundred percent. You know, even if you look at it from a personal level, I just purchased a car and I was looking at car insurance.
We had to change something – it was a corporate insurance thing. The biggest hassle in the entire thing was, “God, I have to call the insurance company.”
I don't have a dedicated rep. I'm going to have to go into the queue and they don't know what the situation is. You lose sight of that personal relationship. It’s more beneficial than the product will ever give you because it’s with a trusted consultant that you take out of the whole equation. And it breaks down.
Paul Bird 15:58 - 15:58
So, here's a question for you.
Some vendors look great on paper, but really that's where it all ends. And from your perspective, as a managed service provider, what are some of the things you look at that make it look like they're a good partner? And then what motivates you to actually get involved and sign the agreement with them and start promoting them?
Because it does take a little bit of kind of critical thought when it comes to looking at the company, and the industry they serve, but then you're the one that has to take the step and invest in the business.
So what are some of the things that you look for? What's your process of vetting?
Adam Alfi 16:39 - 16:43
Where are they now and how did they get there? Meaning, if you're a startup and you're trying, and you're really pushing, I'm more inclined to help you because I know you're going to go out of your way to try to keep me as a client. I'm not too big for you.
I'm never going to be too big for you, so you're always going to care about my business. I look into that.
And the biggest other piece is just like any consumer or any customer, I don't want to be sold to, I want to buy.
I want you to tell me what you have, so I could be interested enough to say, I want to buy this from you.
I don't want to be sold an extra package. I don't want to be sold anything, as a matter of fact.
And to be fair, if you give me your spiel and I don't like it and we move on, you gotta understand that I've moved on.
If you want to build a relationship, build a relationship. Don't keep on trying to sell me.
And that's critical for me in picking a vendor. I need to be able to relate to you, And it goes back to that, to that local field. I need to be able to relate to you.
Paul Bird 17:57 - 18:04
Let's think about it from a vendor's perspective. What are some of the things you think people can do when they start a relationship? Things that the vendor and the partner can do to get on the same page from the beginning and start building confidence?
You know, do you have any suggestions for vendors that want to make sure that they're getting it right from the start?
Adam Alfi 18:19 - 18:23
Be transparent on whatever the process is going to be from both sides.
If I'm coming to you and you have a service or a product that I'm going to try to resell to my customer, I believe that we've vetted it and you have the best product.
I need to be transparent with you from the beginning, so you understand what deal I'm bringing to the table and you need to be transparent with me on the other end in terms of delivery.
Anything that you tell me, I'm going to trust you until I can't anymore.
And that's going to break down the relationship quicker than anything. A lot of people say that and it's true.
Only errors are magnified, those are the only ones that you hear about but when things are going you don't hear a peep. It's darn true and all you need is that one amplified mistake to ruin a relationship.
It's hard to gain that back.
So being transparent from the beginning avoids all complications. At some point, if I understand it's a mistake and we say we're sorry, at least I understand it was a mistake.
So trust is 100%. Trust has to be there and it has to be unequivocal from both sides.
Paul Bird 19:34 - 19:36
So you've got to start with the trust and the transparency. I agree with that 100%.
As I read through Forrester reports and things like that a lot of what they talk about is onboarding. They say, if you don't have a partner that's engaged and selling your product within the first 30 days, they're never going to flourish.
This is what the analysts are telling the vendors.
I understand that onboarding is really more of an ongoing process.
Do you think it's realistic, that there is some kind of result you'll achieve within 30 days?
Adam Alfi 20:09 - 20:23
Yeah, of course. Actually, you probably will achieve about 75% of relationship building, in the first 30 days. That's the base that you're setting the baseline of the entire relationship.
And the moment you fall from that, that's when you start getting looked at. So yeah, absolutely - it's all about user experience.
Do I have the proper training in whatever process you're gonna start involving me in?
If I run into any issues, who am I reaching to? Not, where can I call? Who am I reaching to?
All that stuff is trust-building, and it's a change.
You're going through change. Or putting people through change. Change shakes things up. Everybody, at that point, regardless of the situation, is going to look for safety.
As soon as you can blanket them with everything they need to feel safe in the first 30 days, you have that relationship on solid ground.
On the other side of the spectrum, you mess that up and you're done.
If an endpoint on the client side does not like you, for any reason in the first 30 days, there is nothing that you could possibly do, that will change that relationship at all.
So you better believe that you need to be on your best behavior, and give that best service because that's the baseline.
Paul Bird 21:38 - 21:39
That will make it or break it.
Now, in some cases, the definition of success is different from a partner's perspective as opposed to the vendor's.
Any thoughts or best practices or recommendations you could share on making sure that both sides are aligned on a shared vision of success?
Adam Alfi 22:00 - 22:16
It's a very good question man.
In my business, I've been wrestling with that. It really boils down to what's more important to you – is doing the work important? Or is the relationship with the client important?
You can't have both. If you're going to enter into a partnership, there is going to be one side of the partnership that owns that relationship and there's going to be the other side that's providing the service that's lacking. That's why you are hired, to fill that gap.
And you just have to accept which side you're gonna be on.
Because that is the line that cannot be crossed. As soon as it's crossed, it's over. And by the way, it's over for all relationships.
It's not like, if I cross the line, you think you're still good to keep the relationship with the client. We've both lost that client.
Because now that the client trusts, neither you nor I. That's a really key aspect there.
Knowing where you stand in that relationship is key.
Paul Bird 23:08 - 23:14
Yeah, and losing it for both is a lose-lose situation, nobody's coming out on top there.
Adam Alfi 23:14 - 23:15
And it goes back to something we mentioned earlier, which is, greed. Don't get greedy and the relationship.
This pie is big enough for all of us, folks. Everybody's going to have a piece. As soon as you start looking at mine, we both start looking bad.
Paul Bird 23:29 - 23:30
As you're going through that onboarding process, enablement and understanding the vendor solution is critical. What's the best way for somebody to educate you and your team to make sure that the solution you're offering is really the best fit for your customers?
That relationship is critical.
Adam Alfi 23:56 - 24:05
If you really want to make boil it into a basic example, it really comes down to the discovery.
Really study your client because speaking to the decision maker is one thing and they'll give you one story. But actually doing discovery and talking to the end-users of the service or the product, will enlighten you on many things.
As an example, accessibility, whether it's a service or a product. Sometimes management is not going to understand all the accessibility issues or requirements or needs the team or the end-user has.
But doing the proper discovery is going to enlighten you on a lot of these aspects that you have to take into consideration for your solution.
Understanding the business vision is very impactful because that's going to end up giving you a solution that's going to mirror their process.
You can't necessarily recommend a solution to a client without understanding what the end goal is. Otherwise, you're not building on the foundation that they're growing on.
The client has to be transparent with you there.
Why are you bringing the system, is a very good question, but what is your end goal as a business? What are you trying to achieve?
That question is the difference between picking two ERP systems.
One of them may be heavy on manufacturing because that's your heavy processing, not the end-point of the supply chain. Or, this could be an e-comm process, and that solution is completely different; we have to architect it completely differently.
Obviously, I'm exacerbating a point to make a point by saying manufacturing or retail.
But if you want to look at it from a corporate America perspective, let's boil it down to a PMO.
A PMO’s job is to manage the projects in the portfolio in the program, making sure that things are adhering to a certain process.
As soon as you over-involve yourself as a PMO, you are going against the purpose of said PMO.
When I’m brought in to look at a PMO process, my main goal here is going to ask, are you doing this because you're getting audited and there are issues?
Or, are you doing this because there seems to be a lot of slip in your delivery? Now we need to really take a look at the scope.
How are you actually scoping these projects from the beginning versus what the end result is?
Even from that smaller level, where we're looking at departmental processes within a company, it’s discovery, discovery, discovery.
Paul Bird 26:50 - 26:59
Do you think that a lot of software, hardware, and service vendors lack discovery as part of their onboarding process or enablement process?
Adam Alfi 27:00 - 27:07
There are a lot of people that think they do it right. I'm not gonna claim to be an expert either, because it's an ongoing learning process.
But, yeah, people will claim that they do onboarding, but they really don't.
At the end of the day, your helpdesk will suffer.
And you have to understand, from a transition perspective, that's your indicator: how is your helpdesk looking?
People neglect to understand what really good discovery is.
Because again, it’s ongoing.
And discovery is one of these things where it requires a lot of documentation, so nobody wants to do it.
No client ever wants to pay for it because they really don't understand the value of it. That is until they launch a process or a program without doing discovery.
Then they understand how valuable discovery was.
I think there's a little bit of underestimation. There's a little bit of a delusion of grandeur where they think that they've onboarded, but really you've left the end-user in the dark.
How to make that successful?
I'm pretty sure there is some sort of metrics that everybody's trying to track, but at the end of the day, it's really just trying to do the best you can.
We have people that we onboard for our clients as part of the MSP Service. I could promise you that it's a continuous improvement process.
As soon as you think you got it right, you've missed a step.
I can guarantee you that every single onboarding process three years ago was a lot different than it was a year and a half ago, and is also a lot different than it is today.
And we're just talking about in a three or three-and-a-half-year-year span.
You always have to keep your yourself on your toes.
Paul Bird 28:41 - 28:42
And it's been a wild three years. It’s been different.
What about training as part of this? Are you a fan of one-to-one training or self-guided training? Where do you think training plays in with the whole onboarding process? Not only from a vendor's perspective but a customer’s as well?
Adam Alfi 29:00 - 29:05
There has to be a commitment on the client side, on whatever the plan is.
Let me just backtrack half a second by saying training is not just part of the onboarding process. Training is the onboarding process. At the end of the training, they should know everything that they need to know before they go out in the wild, as they say.
And that's from an end-user perspective, but that's also from a customer perspective.
If I am at the midpoint of selling you Microsoft Office 365 licenses for your company, it is my responsibility to make sure that you know how to use that tool. Not Microsoft's.
As part of my onboarding process for you and your organization to the tool, there has to be some sort of training.
From there, you start looking at different training strategies.
There is the very famous Train the Trainer.
Where you gather the top minds in your company that you're going to train. And then these people will start coming into your company, and training the masses.
Then there is the one-to-one training.
And then there is regular training, which is your lunch and learns, or you're going to come to a classroom setting, or we're going to come to a conference room setting and sit down and we're actually going to train you.
They all have their benefits. I think that it depends on your size. Logistics definitely end up playing some sort of a role. If you're a company of 10 people, we could probably get it done in a day or two, in which I could just send somebody and get it done.
If you are in the 50-100 size kind of realm. The Train the Trainer works.
Anything above that, you really have to come up with more of a university strategy, where it's going to have to be classes at a certain time. You're going to have to give them remote and on-site training.
There's a bigger strategy behind that because obviously, it's a bigger deployment.
I think that in my experience, there is nothing better than the one-on-ones or the one-on-fives.
Mainly because it's probably your best opportunity to actually get some hands-on experience as you are being trained by the trainer itself. Then you have a lot of opportunity to actually bring up some actual use-case scenarios of your day-to-day job and how this would be beneficial rather than just trying to blanket all these features on the system.
That's a big aspect and training that a lot of trainers don't necessarily realize they're doing. Or curriculums aren't really surrounded around that.
I'm probably going to end up going to training where they're explaining a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with the job that you're doing at all.
And you're really wasting the time in the company of yourself, and the resources of the company itself.
Understanding departmental training is something that is a little bit more useful to what these people are doing day to day. That actually gets you more use out of whatever service and whatever tool you're reselling for the simple fact of this actually helps them directly. That's a huge barrier as you get larger, at least from the training perspective, you end up missing that little piece.
That's an unfortunate side-effect of size and logistics in that nature.
Paul Bird 32:50 - 32:52
So again, you're back to relationships, right?
If you have the one-on-one training, the one-in-five training, there's dialog.
You're able to build relationships.
When I did my VMware sales and technical sales certification, I did it all online.
What's your opinion from an online training perspective, or self-guided training?
Do you think it's useful?
Adam Alfi 33:12 - 33:13
I think it's very useful.
But I also like that having the ability or accessibility to another human on the other side, that you can tap into for clarification, I'm a big fan of that.
In the last three years, I think it's been proven that not only can it be done, but the scale of how it can be done, is just enormous.
Take, for example, university enrollments. Online classes, and online degrees, even from known, reputable universities, have been made available and accessible, globally.
Just look at the enrollment rates. Just look at the amount of money, if you want to look at it from a business perspective. These universities made money from students that have never stepped foot on their campus.
It's enormous, and the opportunity becomes enormous because, going back to the access point, you could train me on your product right now, and I could start selling for you right now.
We've never met face-to-face. If we choose never to meet face-to-face, great. But we still choose to have a relationship, great. I'm still selling for you, and I'm still studying from your training, etc.
I'm a huge proponent of online training.
The self-guided training, specifically, is really what separates the men from the boys if you bring it that way.
The reason why I say this is because it really brings out the biggest part of what's going to make you a successful business or how this relationship is going to succeed if we're talking from a partner perspective, which is discipline.
You are on your own.
Yes, this is a partnership, but it's a mutual partnership for you to be expecting an outcome.
You have to put in some effort much like myself. That's where it gets harder.
I will completely say this and go on record. And if anybody gives me, flack for it. So be it.
Anybody that tells me that an online degree, a real online degree is easier to get, I challenge you! I 100% challenge you.
It's easy for me, to stop a class dead in its tracks, ask a question that's burning in my head and get an answer for it and move on. Rather than read it, try to interpret it, try to research it, try to reach for somebody…
That's a lot of work.
And, by the way, that's a great characteristic to have to be able to navigate and research and be scrappy and get the answer you're looking for from trying to work for it.
That also translates to success. You're on your own.
And if you add a relationship to it, and the other side of the relationship also puts in that much effort, it enhances the situation for both of us.
Paul Bird 36:27 - 36:27
There we go. That's more of a win-win that we're looking at.
Thinking about it from a vendor's perspective, a lot of them provide sales and marketing content, things that are there to enable you the as the partner.
What type of resources do you really want them to provide you? I'm sure that you have no interest in 150-page white papers.
What type of content should they really be giving you to help enable you to sell their product?
Adam Alfi 37:00 - 37:08
I would say that for the most part, what the big boys are doing from the content production standpoint.
We work with Microsoft, but we also work with SoftwareONE as a vendor for software.
Documentation is nice, not a white paper, but I'm talking about brochures.
The small-to-medium-sized businesses actually started to get very creative in that aspect. And they’re really using social media to their advantage hardcore, which is fantastic to see.
That's a little bit of a shift in the paradigm from a support perspective.
No longer is the support going to be, how do I get the product marketed? Now it's going to be, how do I continue to stay engaged with the product?
I would say that if you're looking from the strategy of, how do I really keep that person engaged?
What support do I need to give beyond that? It's going to have to be run by somebody that can relate.
The support from a vendor perspective is all about fixing the problem that I have now.
I don't want to go into a queue. I don't want to get a ticket and have a number. I need instant gratification. You want to speak to somebody.
How many times have you dialed a 1-800 number to get support and the first thing you do is just dial a couple of zeros to see if you get a human?
Paul Bird 38:36 - 38:37
Every single time.
Adam Alfi 38:37 - 38:46
Exactly. That's the level of support that we really need to start shifting toward because on a vendor level, I'm looking for the same thing.
You have to understand that if I'm reaching out to you and you are the owner of the service or the product, I'm reaching out because I have a problem right now.
Not because I have a customer who has a ticket.
Let's say you're a POS service, and this is actually a great example. Actually, if my wife hears this, she's going to be like, wow, you up brought the story.
Last week, we were in Florida, and we ended up going to a restaurant in Miami. We're having breakfast.
The service was really slow because their system was down. We ended up getting our food and eating. We asked for the check.
And we waited and waited and waited. Of course, their system is down.
And now people are starting to get annoyed because they want to leave. And I can't pay in cash. Who carries cash anymore?
I'm ready. I'm taking out my phone, I'm ready to pay with Apple Pay. Where's that credit card machine?
If you're a POS system company, or a POS provider, whoever was providing that, that third-party service to process the credit cards. If I'm calling you right now, or if you are the reseller, and I'm calling you saying, Hey, Paul, I need help.
Paul, you better have an insider on the other side of that channel, to be able to pick up the phone and say, hey – Adam is screaming.
He has 100 people that want to leave the restaurant and he has 50 people that are waiting outside, trying to get into seats, but they can't, because the people can't leave the restaurant.
I cannot wait.
So, we've gotten into instant gratification. It's going to have to trickle down to service.
I need a response immediately. Chatbots have been great in that until you figure them out. Auto-attendants have been great until you figure them out.
Social media happens to be great. The interaction you get with brands on social media has been spectacular.
I know that there are a couple of competitors of mine that use social media to their advantage where they create private channels on social media that give them direct access to their own customers from a channel perspective.
And they can instantly chat with them, report feedback, and leave reviews that get promoted on social media, etc.
That's the level of service that's happening right now.
The next piece, whoever figures out where the trend is going, after this whole social media bubble bursts, is going to be the winner.
Paul Bird 41:38 - 41:39
Absolutely. It is so true.
I've got a problem, I've got a problem now. Not a four hour SLA response time. My problem is right now.
And if I don't get it fixed right now, I might start looking for another vendor.
Adam Alfi 41:56 - 41:57
As I said, all it takes is one bad experience. 80% of consumers will leave a brand that they are loyal to, from one bad experience.
That's a staggering number.
Paul Bird 42:14 - 42:15
Here's another part of a conversation that you and I had a couple of weeks ago, talking about things registering opportunities with vendors.
It kinda ties into, being frustrated with one company, I wanna go to another company.
A lot of partners use partner portals, they use different relationship management tools and things like that. Where's your take on sharing your prospects, or your client's contact information, through a deal registration process? Where do you sit on this?
Adam Alfi 42:53 - 42:55
Again, it goes back to what we spoke about earlier on the podcast, which is the trust aspect.
I have to trust that you're not going to mess this up for the both of us.
As a small-to-medium-sized business, every single client counts. Every single one of them.
You are never too small for me ever. My job is to facilitate the proper environment to allow you to grow to get bigger.
You cannot look at any number as small. You have to continuously maintain to be hungry. The trust aspect, if I give you that information, what are you doing with it?
Are you really just registering the deal? There are distributors that we do that with.
We have built trust. I have to make you understand that I take very good care of my distributors. I consider them legit friends.
I've flown on international vacations with them. I've built solid relationships with them because there has to be that trust aspect.
As I said, it's uneasy when I give my client's information to somebody.
But sometimes, it's necessary to do business.
And if the channel that you are dealing with, or the product that you're dealing with is represented by people that have honor – a really old class word – but they have some sort of sales acumen.
They understand what the relationship is. They understand that information is gold that I just gave them.
The only reason why we should ever be talking about that information again is if you got this deal from somebody else that's trying to register it. And you just want to call me to tell me, how did you get it, just to get a little bit more information on who gets the deal first.
Beyond that, I am giving you my livelihood, because that's what our customer is. It's my livelihood.
I'm uneasy about giving it to you, but I'm giving it to you because I trust you.
Paul Bird 45:11 - 45:24
The way that I will always hint at the past, is that if I had one of my partners register or share, an opportunity with me, and all of a sudden, that came in through another channel, and now it's being registered or attempted to be registered twice.
I'm going to call the first partner and let them know that somebody else is fishing in their pond.
At the same time, though, if I'm getting an end-user contact directly. The first thing I asked them is, who do you work with for hardware software services?
And when they say, I work with this company, I pick up the phone to return one of the sheep to the flock.
That's the approach that I've always taken. But, I'm not sure that happens all the time today.
Adam Alfi 45:55 - 46:09
I think that situation is incredibly rare. I wish that a lot of people end up hearing this and understand the agony of the reverse of what you just said.
Because it always happens with the bigger fish.
Why are you trying to fish in my pond, man? Like, let's work together. This is how we build relationships.
This goes back to the first kind of story that I told you: how to how to lose a partner in 30 days.
Even before we were negotiating something. Technically, he's not my client, but I'm talking to you about it.
You don't go and pick up the phone and think that that client is fair game. That's overstepping a line.
I wish there were many people that thought like you, Paul.
I really did, where they had that idea of saying, who locally in that area that I know, may actually enhance this relationship?
And I may end up getting more business on the back end of it from Paul, because Paul has that relationship with that end client.
Even if the deal wasn't Paul’s. By the way, Paul probably deals with a couple of distributors. I'm not the only channel that he's working with.
If I'm throwing Paul a bone every now and then, guess where Paul is going to want to go when they need a product or service, or they need some channel services and help. They're gonna go that a person that keeps throwing Paul's bones.
That’s how it works.
Paul Bird 47:36 - 47:41
And we're coming back to the foundation of where this started, which is trust and transparency.
If you have it, nothing else matters. If you don't have it, nothing else matters.
Adam Alfi 47:48 - 47:48
Paul Bird 47:50 - 47:58
In the vendors that I've talked to, one of the things that I've seen a lot is them trying to incentivize people to share client information.
They offer gift cards, they offer SPIFFs, they offer whatever they can.
Do you think that is that's a rational way or a good way for them to be able to spark some of their business?
Adam Alfi 48:13 - 48:14
Yeah. It goes back to the question of, what's more important to you?
Is it the deal? The job? Or is it the client?
And you have to understand where you are in that relationship.
Are you going to own the client, or are you going to own the deal?
Incentives will help, as they say. Everything has a price.
There's a whole multi-billion dollar market out there for buying information.
Telling me that incentives don't work would be very naive. But it's also a dirty way of doing it.
Because you're basically, kind of putting a price on a relationship that I either know will be worth more, or not worth more.
I don't know what the potential of it is.
Or, you're declaring basically that that relationship is worth whatever incentive you give me.
Loose lips sink ships. As soon as you give that client information to somebody else, you're basically giving them permission to contact them.
People are gonna say, Adam, what are you talking about?
If you're going to, for example, buy software, from SoftwareONE to resell it to a customer, SoftwareONE is going to end up knowing who the customer is.
I set the boundaries early. The boundaries are that this is my client, and you are the pass-through.
I am not giving it to you willy-nilly. There has to be that trust thing.
And I'll be very honest with you.
Paul, the moment that SoftwareONE turns around and calls my customer without telling me, is probably the last time I'm going to do business with them. At that point, my trust is lost.
So how much of that relationship, am I worth, to SoftwareONE? So far, it seems to be working fine.
Paul Bird 50:27 - 50:27
And all of these elements, when it comes to onboarding the building, the trust, the relationships, you know, going through the enablement, the training – these are all usually elements of a partner program that a vendor will put together.
What are some of the things that appeal to you when you start looking at different programs like Microsoft’s Partner Program? And what are some of the things that just turn you off, you're not going to entertain at all?
Adam Alfi 50:56 - 51:07
The ability to train staff is largely where most operational decisions get made.
Because business continuity is what I live and die for. It's what I make my living off of. It’s making sure that business continuity for clients continues at all times.
Vendors being able to give me the support I need through change.
Microsoft changes as policy changes software, every six months. It’s always changes, changes, changes.
But Microsoft is very good at giving you support in terms of communicating the changes.
Sometimes late. Sometimes not in situations where they know they messed up in terms of timelines and stuff dealt extend the timeline to make sure that it's comfortable for people.
That’s on a large license SaaS level.
On a support level, if things happen in the organization that ends up changing, ie. how the support is going to be supplied to an endpoint, these changes need to be communicated.
Some people are afraid to communicate change because they don't want to rock the boat.
But trust me, the boat rocking based on bad decisions is a lot worse than the boat rocking to try to fix this problem.
Early communication is key in terms of change.
I look for a vendor that is willing to always tell me what's behind the curtain. What’s coming up, so I'm not surprised, and so then my client is not surprised.
That's a big thing. If your client is surprised by a change that you have not communicated, both of you have lost the client because that client is no longer going to trust me to give them any service or advice, or product.
If it's Microsoft and they've had a bad experience with Microsoft through me as the channel, they're going to be like, I just want Google, my experience with Microsoft has been horrible.
And it was because of a channel partner that really didn't do their job, that wasn't communicative enough. They weren’t kept abreast of change to be able to educate themselves on these changes.
Because you're gonna get questions on these changes from your end-user.
A vendor that has some sort of a robust training program and vast communications – I have partners that actually put out PR – press releases – on some changes they have to their services.
It's stupid, but guess what?
I have a Google scraper that basically goes and checks if any of the companies put out any press releases. And then I go talk to whoever the department that affects. That's communication.
They didn't call me directly.
I had to do a little bit of extra legwork, but they communicated that there are changes, so I am not surprised.
Therefore, whatever is on the backside of the decision that's going to affect my end-user, I'm already prepared with whatever the message is, and whatever training's needed, that I need to provide, because of that change. There's a cascading effect to everything.
Paul Bird 54:11 - 54:14
So you've shared with us some just great sage advice.
Getting back to the topic today: How to lose a channel partner in 30 days – that's not a lot of time.
From what you've said time is of the essence in the partnership.
I think I already know the answer, but I want to ask the question anyway.
What do you think is the most important thing that a vendor has got to focus on, to make sure you get set success critical success in the first 30 days?
What do you think the number-one thing they need to focus on is?
Adam Alfi 54:48 - 55:01
They need to focus on making the customer feel and understand and believe that they are the only customer that you have.
If you could support your vendors in giving that warm and fuzzy feeling to the client, that relationship between you and that vendor is going to grow.
And that client is always going to be with that vendor.
If you've made him look like a million bucks, they're following you forever.
Be there for your client. Treat them like humans. Understand their pains.
Really, that's the key to success in any relationship. Be there for them.
Paul Bird 55:32 - 55:38
So if vendors follow the advice that you've shared today, what kind of results do you think they can expect?
Adam Alfi 55:44 - 55:45
I know it's a very pessimistic thing to think, but I'm going to flip it around. And I'm going to make a very positive.
Expect nothing because you always have to be ready that you're going to have to do it yourself.
That's number one, in one way or another.
And then, that sets you up to be pleasantly surprised.
When the vendor actually does the job that they do, and you are 100% satisfied, it'll be nice when you're pleasantly surprised and you tell the vendor that they did a really good job and you're thankful for it.
And if a vendor does really help you make you look like a million bucks, trust me, there's a lot of work behind that. That wasn't easy, it wasn't free, and it wasn't effortless for them.
There's probably a team of at least two or three people or more that are busting their butts. Trying to make you look like a million bucks in that first 30 days.
If you both share that real vision, any words of appreciation, we'll go so far.
My wife does this on a consistent basis. She buys $50 Starbucks gift cards. She works in sales. Every now and then, if somebody does something for her, or a favor on her behalf, she'll just drop that $50 gift card, And that's built more relationships for her than anything else.
It’s something very small, but it just makes the other person understand that you know they put in the effort. They really did.
Paul Bird 57:28 - 57:30
And that they're appreciated for.
So, Adam, I want to thank you for being a guest on our show today.
If somebody wants to reach out and learn more about EV Business Solutions, what's the best way to find you and get you to get in contact with you?
Adam Alfi 57:45 - 57:50
The best way to contact me directly for the masses would be LinkedIn.
Adam Alfi, EV Business,Software and Business Solutions. Our website is www.effvision.com
We're going through a little bit of a rebrand, so we're going to have a lot of really interesting stuff coming up over the next three to four months on that site.
New relationships. New partnerships that we've really really matured over the last two-three years are finally coming to fruition.
And some really cool announcements there. Keep your eye on a lot of IT stuff that's gonna happen on the East Coast of the United States this year. We're going to be involved in a lot of conferences.
Paul Bird 58:29 - 58:30
Well, again, thank you so much, Adam.
It has been a pleasure talking with you today.
Adam Alfi 58:34 - 58:35
Thank you so much, Paul.