Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales & Partnerships Podcast

19- We asked MSPs: What Are Channel Chiefs Getting Wrong? - Tim Conkle, Jason Dittmann

February 16, 2023 Magentrix PRM Season 1 Episode 19
19- We asked MSPs: What Are Channel Chiefs Getting Wrong? - Tim Conkle, Jason Dittmann
Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales & Partnerships Podcast
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Partner Relationship Management (PRM): The Ultimate Channel Sales & Partnerships Podcast
19- We asked MSPs: What Are Channel Chiefs Getting Wrong? - Tim Conkle, Jason Dittmann
Feb 16, 2023 Season 1 Episode 19
Magentrix PRM

Let us know what you think of the podcast.

Take a listen to the latest episode of the Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast and hear two MSPs share their experiences and perspectives on managing their channel, from the channel partner's point of view. They share their strategies for success, the challenges they've faced, as well as their advice for other MSPs. Tune in to get an inside look at how channel partners manage their channel!

This production is brought to you by Magentrix ✨💜
Magentrix is a pioneer in platforms for partner ecosystem management and partner relationship management 🤝

If you haven't already, please like 👍 & subscribe! ✅ And if you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ See instructions to do so at the end of the episode.

To learn about Magentrix PRM, please visit


Podcast Credits:
Host: Paul Bird
Executive Producer: Fereshta Nouri
Content & Research: Fereshta Nouri
Graphics & Branding: Fereshta Nouri

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Let us know what you think of the podcast.

Take a listen to the latest episode of the Ultimate Channel Sales Podcast and hear two MSPs share their experiences and perspectives on managing their channel, from the channel partner's point of view. They share their strategies for success, the challenges they've faced, as well as their advice for other MSPs. Tune in to get an inside look at how channel partners manage their channel!

This production is brought to you by Magentrix ✨💜
Magentrix is a pioneer in platforms for partner ecosystem management and partner relationship management 🤝

If you haven't already, please like 👍 & subscribe! ✅ And if you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ See instructions to do so at the end of the episode.

To learn about Magentrix PRM, please visit


Podcast Credits:
Host: Paul Bird
Executive Producer: Fereshta Nouri
Content & Research: Fereshta Nouri
Graphics & Branding: Fereshta Nouri

Paul Bird: So, we usually have discussions around how to manage your channel coming from Channel Chiefs, Channel Leaders and their point of view.

They come on the show and contribute to topics such as how things should be handled, ways that things have worked for them In the past.

Trends they are noticing a lot more, but who we don't hear from nearly as often are the ones on the other side, the channel partners themselves.

So, on today's episode, we brought on a couple of managed service providers to tell us their side of the story.

So today, we're going to talk about what they think of the best practices from channel leaders, and how often those channel chiefs actually live up to these ideals.

What are some of their most burning desires around things they wish channel managers would do differently?

How they can improve when it comes to their relationships with different managed service providers?

And then where you can find and recruit the best channel partners.

So where they're hanging out.

What shows they attend, and things like that?

Todays guests include Tim Conkle, CEO of The 20 MSP 

The 20 MSP, a rapidly growing and accomplished organization, delivers the latest technology consulting, services, maintenance, and support as a cost-effective IT solution for small-to-medium size businesses

Jason Dittmann, President of his division of MicroAge: MicroAge is an MSP which specializes in managed IT services and support and has been recognized by Channel Futures as being among the best managed IT service suppliers in the world.

So they're here with us today to talk about what channel chiefs are getting wrong and what they can do differently.

So please welcome Tim and Jason to the show.

Guys, it's great to have you both here.

Tim Conkle: Great to be here.

Paul Bird: So let's get into today's discussion on, you know, the things that channel chiefs could be doing better.

So let's tell us a little bit about how your businesses interact with channel suppliers, technology suppliers, in the market today.

Tim Conkle: Go ahead, Jason.

Jason Dittmann: So, you know, I think as an MSP we really look for efficiencies with our relationships.

We look at our tool sets, we look at our ability because of the way that we need to be able to support our clients and, and evolve our solutions.

We need to be able to have really tight relationships, both from the software and hardware manufacturers, as well as providers of additional services so that we can really have a smooth process from acquisition of each of the products and services, to the end support, and deliveries to our client leads.

So, it's evolved a lot over the last number of years in terms of being able to integrate both distributors, as well as suppliers of software tools into our own service delivery tools, or remote management monitoring, software applications or professional services, automation tools.

So those are some of the opportunities that some of the channel chiefs have been talking about and it's certainly an opportunity to kind of grow and integrate better there.

Paul Bird: Perfect.

And, Tim, you've got a network of managed service providers.

Do you do things very similar, or is your relationship with technology suppliers maybe a little bit different?

Tim Conkle: I think it's pretty much the same.

I mean, if you talk about, there's a big difference between who the channel chief is and the delivery of the actual product and all those things.

I think Team Chiefs are typically the face of the channel.

You know, they'll get involved.

One really good when it just comes to mind is Rob Ray

You know, if something comes up, even if he sees it out on social, he jumps in and gets involved, it's kind of his thing.

I think that sets him apart from most

We’ve had really good luck, but we typically are trying to pick first in class.

It's not bowed down by the chatter, to the left or the right.

Because realistically, if you get on Reddit, there's not a single thing on the face of the Earth and Technology that's worth a damn.

It's all rubish

Vendors are broke, software is broke, everything is broke.

And so I think if you really pull it forward to where the rubber meets the road.

Vendors are pretty good at delivery and stuff.

I don't see that as a problem.

So yeah, I would say, delivery of it and all that is probably very similar.

I mean, we all buy things from Microsoft.

Or we buy things from Ingram Micro or tech data, or Sin X

No, it's pretty straightforward.

I find that if you're bigger, it's a little easier to get attention.

As a bigger company, I'm sure Jason can probably mirror this.

Yeah, size does matter, as to what you get.

Paul Bird: You mentioned that you mentioned something interesting there, which was really more strategic, almost strategic partnering

What do you think the biggest benefits are to your business when you have kind of very strategic vendors you're working with?

Tim Conkle: Well, I'm, I'm a big proponent of, I don't want any vendor that doesn't care if I grow

So, if they're not actively doing something to help me grow, I'm not actively doing anything to help them grow.

And so I think it's a given to take, I think it's a two-way street.

I think there's a strategic edge to it at a higher level.

And then there's tactical.

Tactical is, hey, I need a new PC from Dell, tactically you order it and all that stuff

Strategy is, hey, we've got seven companies coming up in The bluff PCs less, you know, to do the ordering of those typically in a QBR, getting the client to the yes of, hey, let's replace this stuff.

And, so, yeah, I think, I think both pieces have to be dealt with.

Especially as you, as you get bigger.

It's easy when you're a little bitty IT company.

I was a little IT company at one point.

Uh, it's a little tougher.

I mean, you know, you don't get the same time of day that a big guy gets, you don't.

But we made it through it.

I mean, if I look at the IT spaces in general, I think most vendors are very good, I can tell you a couple that are not.

Paul Bird: Maybe we'll dig into that a little, a little more.

So, Jason, how, what's your approach?

Do you pick strategic vendors as part of your portfolio, and you think that there are some benefits, maybe regionally that you see against other other people that are playing in the same space?

Jason Dittmann: Yeah, you know, I think you do have to have some alignment, have some strategic conversations with your partners.

And I think where we've seen some real goods Symbiosis is partners that are what I think.

As Tim said, you know, the ones who kind of invest in our success as well

 Help us know, with some of our live events, some of the video events that we have, webinars for our prospects, as well as existing clients.

You know, we can't all go at it alone.

You know, we're not subject matter experts necessarily on all the different pieces.

But then, we can bring some of those subject matter experts, both to our live events, as well as our live online events, helping you to get the solution word out on all these different opportunities that it certainly helps.
Our marketing budget is finite

So, when we can stretch it out.

The reality is a lot of the partners, they don't have the ability to kinda get to the ground level that we do in terms of really impacting the IT decision makers that are going to make those decisions.

Business owners, CFOs and what have you.

So, we can really educate them, you know, and make them understand the value of the solutions from a business perspective, and having some of those partners to be able to kinda tell their story directly, but, we can offer the business benefit as well.

You know, that's been really impactful for us, and I think it's been impactful for our clients, and prospects that I've turned into clients that have attended our events.

So, that from a strategic partnership, it's one thing to just be able to grab, here's the cheapest backup solution and here's the cheapest AV.

But if you can kind of balance that out with some of those other pieces of the customer life cycle, it really impacts and is quite powerful.

Paul Bird: So, maybe I'll ask this question and Tim just as a follow up, is that, from a general perspective, we won't name any names.

What do you think, some of these channel chiefs just simply don't understand about your business?

Tim Conkle: So I think a lot of times, we get hit up every day from a new vendor that either does security, or backup or something, a lot of them we'd never heard of.

There's something to be said about, we have a conference every year and our vendors come to the conference.

Well, when all of a sudden you have vendors coming out of the woodwork that you've never seen at a conference, and whoever's their channel chief, their strategist for reaching the channel, thinks that it's just a phone call.

Hell, Tim will drop everything and pick it up and talk to me because I've got a solution.

They get the sale before the relationship a lot of times.

So, I think there's no substitute for a relationship with a vendor

 And I hate saying vendor, because a vendor or someone that sells you something, they sold it to you and the transaction is done, until the next transaction comes in.

I'm more geared towards partners that partner with us to bring about best in class:

  • Backup 
  • Endpoint 
  • Security

All of those things, and they're there through the journey and not just to sale.

And there's a lot of companies that really get that.

And there's a lot of them that really don't get that.

You know, it's kinda like Britney Spears, what have you done for me lately?

Paul Bird: And, Jason, do you echo the same?

Do you think that some channel leaders just want the transaction? We'll worry about the relationship later, when you've done something for me, but they just want the dollar.

Jason Dittmann: When we find people preaching that relationship and everything, and then you sign on the dotted line, then they disappear, and it's certainly not the warm fuzzy.

So just understanding, talking to other MSP's, other partners are there to see what their relationship after the fact is like

I like partners that kind of treat us like we like to treat our clients.
with the keep.

You know, the QBR and the on going drumbeat meetings.

You know, we can make the product better the way that we've deployed it.

And, you know, potentially enhancements and things like that as well.

Also,  those certainly are some real important parts of our decision on who we're bringing in and who are keeping long term as well.

Paul Bird: So I want to dive into today's topic, which is really to focus on the things that vendors are doing wrong with the ultimate goal of having them improve it.

So here's a scenario: how often, if ever, do you establish a relationship with a new vendor?

And everything goes well

  • You're onboarded
  • You feel that you're enabled.
  • You get proper training
  • You're ready to tackle the market.

Is that more often or is that less often when it comes to working with a new vendor?

Tim Conkle: I honestly think that's a two-way street.

A vendor can onboard you, but, if you don't take the time to learn the product, and you know it's the mentality and a lot of MSP’s are this way

The mentality is this: 

  • Why should I learn it?
  • The vendor should do everything.

Well, that's not how the world works that we live in anyway.

For a real vendor, there is no on board and then everything

Onboarding is such a small minute part of it

You have to onboard, well you’re not making any money if I don’t push any of your product out
And MSPs have this bad thing about going  on what I call a Scorched Earth.

I think most, and I tell people this all the time, vote with your dollars, because they'll always move the needle.

Your mouth only makes everybody mad.

And so, if a vendor  truly is a horrible vendor,  you don't have traction on the internet, you don’t have to go to reddit, you don't have to do any of these things.

All you have to do is vote with your dollars, pull your dollars away from them, and find you a vendor.

Now if you go through and I know people that have been through 10 vendors at some point you have to call what I like to call the mirror theology.

If 10 vendors, three of them do it the exact same way, again, this doesn't excuse, vendors out there, and the other thing is, I think vendors, you always know when they have, it really works MSP's and wanna partner with you because they have an MSP way of doing business.

Don't ask me for three years worth of service upfront and let me write you a check.

That is not how MSPs work, it's the first tell-tale sign when a new vendor comes into the channel.

They're used to doing enterprise.

They're used to be big big companies writing these huge checks.

And, uh, guess what?

It's shock.

But, you can be patient.

And sometimes, we have an appointment, or right now, that's probably not as well-known in especially around channel circles.

Great product.

They came that way, and then we told him that this is not how it works.

Now, it is more prevalent in the channel, but it took a little bit.

It took a little bit, because you have to remember, these companies are owned, typically by PE firms.

PE firms are all about booked revenue.

So if I booked the revenue upfront, guess what?

My valuation goes up, and so I think there's a lot of pieces to the puzzle.

And I think if you've got a good MSP and a decent vendor, everything typically works out really well.

I don't care which finger it is.

It typically works out pretty well.

Paul Bird: And you can have that mirror to make sure that you're that you can see who’s on the other side of it, but there is fog in it as well.

Tim Conkle: Yeah, I mean it's no different than a marriage.

I mean, let's be honest.

If a vendor ghost’s someone, it's just like, ghosting, your wife.
She's not going to be happy.

If you do it long enough, she's not gonna be there, you know?

And so, I think it's just basic human relationship stuff that happens.

I think everything else works itself out.

Paul Bird: So here's a question, because I agree with you completely, is that it absolutely is a two-way street.

Jason, have you ever had a situation where you feel that the relationship has been set in the right motion, right from the start.

But for whatever reason, it seems that you're not achieving the outcomes that you were both hoping for.

Have you ever had a situation like that come up and any kind of idea on what kind of causes that almost failure to launch, so to speak?

Jason Dittmann: I think, and Echoing Tim’s comments before just about looking in the mirror when we bring on a new product, you have to make sure that you have the proper checklist and project onboarding for yourself.

You know, if it's not done properly by our own team, we're going to have, you know, stuff in and stuff out, so to speak.

If you do have a partner and, and we've had, kind of, you know, missed starts for some products that we're bringing on in, in cases where it's kind of the supplier, the solution being a little deficient.

You know, we take them to task, we get other members of their team to come and help us get things, either reconfigured or re sorted out, restart the project, restart the onboarding.

Make sure that the team is trained the way that they need to do, check the boxes.

You know, if our boxes are checked and the solutions instills doing what we expected  it to do.

Just double check to make sure, bring their team to make sure that all the boxes are checked properly, so that we can kind of move forward.

So, I think reputable organizations that really, you know, they pitch something.

The solution is supposed to do something.

They're gonna go to bat and we've seen time, well, some occasions where things aren't as expected.

They came in, they stepped up, they helped preconfigure, and we're off to the races, so I can't say that we have any experience with any channel partners that we've had.

That just goes after the solution which was to onboard with us.

So, we’ve had very good success.

Paul Bird: So, a question for both of you.

If you look at your core offerings that you have within your portfolio and those companies that you have relationships with, if you look at them, do you feel that you're fully supported with them and by fully supported, I mean technically, but also from an enablement, from a marketing side, from a resource side.

Is that part of what it takes to get into your inner circle, into your core offerings?

Is that full support, but not just technically end to end?

Tim Conkle: I think so, let's be honest, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you buy in life, you're going to work.

And so, if it doesn't work, a vendor should bend over backwards.

Even if it's MSPs fault, I mean, let's be honest, I've been playing with the product. I'm gonna be a great example of this when we first went to ____

Uh, there was some challenges, because all of our members live in one instance of the arm in.

So, there are some challenges.

So, we talked to say, I talked to Fred McCullough, and he goes, dude, don't worry about it.

They sent two people to Dallas, which didn't cost me anything.

They sent people to Dallas for like two weeks, it helped us get all the what, some of it was inexperienced on our part, but they got it, they understood it.

They're like, hey, hey, we get it.

Let's get people in there that are really, really qualified to see if they can help you.

And I know there's a lot of chatter, especially around vendors that got bought by PE firms.

But in my estimation,  thats the best thing that ever happened to a vendor.

They have more money to add

  • More bandwidth 
  • More people.
  • They have more R&D

I can give you a thousand reasons why, but they are in the business of making money.

Drives me nuts when an MSP says, oh, they want a three year contract, well so do you.

Why do you want a three year contract?

Well, because my pay evaluation goes up and i’m worth more money

Oh you use your vendor to not be worth anything

That's not the way it works.

And this goes back to the give and take.

We’ve had few vendors, I've had two vendors, I've been doing this over 30 years.

I've had two vendors where we onboard and we can pull E aborted, because it just did not work.

It was a product problem, and not so much a vendor, or let me flip it, it might be that the product works fine, It's a culture problem.

If your culture is, if it's not bent over backwards for the customer like mine is, you probably have a problem with us.

Paul Bird: Would you say the same, Jason, do you feel fully supported with people in your core offering?

Jason Dittmann: From like our support of the product?


There might be some things on the periphery in terms of, do all of our tool sets offer us MDF to promote their products?

Quite frankly, there's some tool sets we use that I don't think the customer cares about.

No, those aren't the core pieces of the offering.

And I wouldn't really necessarily expect for us to tout that our service makes it better than our competitor, because that's not the core piece.

However, you know, really, when we look at our overall portfolio.

When you look at some of the:

  • Security stack
  • Professional productivity stack 
  • Protection stack

Those are really a little bit more of the strategic partnerships.

And we want to make sure that those relationships are really key in that they, you know, some of our partners are involved in some of our marketing and communications to our customer, because we never positioned ourselves.

Or, you know what, I don't think a lot of MSP's position themselves necessarily as like the subject matter expert on everything.

But we are a really good kind of general contractor of many things, and being able to put the solution together with many partners.

Then the partners can really talk to some of the specifics around what makes their solution hub, and we can speak too.

That's bringing together all the different pieces to make the IT support hub.

Paul Bird: So, have you had a situation like Tim where you've taken someone to task of one of your core offerings and taking them to task as far as, you know, the way that they work, the way that they're running their operations or things like that?

Jason Dittmann: Oh, for sure.

There's, there's hiccups in relationships.

And it comes down to that vendor management side of them making sure that they’re stepping it up there, being accountable and live in the core values that we have, like Tim said, they need to step up and realize that at the end, users are suffering, our relationship is suffering.

That, our partners better step up in imposed taste and be able to get things done rapidly or else it's going to damage relationships.

Paul Bird: I had something similar, kind of a different outcome.

This is now, wow, this is more than 20 years ago so, but I was working for a value added reseller, and we re sold everything.

We were one of the first compact resellers in Canada.

That starts to date this at all, but we had a vendor in our Portfolio, one that we were very strong with.

One that we had a full practice of the business wrapped around, great products, solid, solid product, great install base, but their support was terrible.

It was absolutely atrocious.

So we took the initiative of saying, ‘all right, we will create a support team for this platform, and we will offer the publisher of the company the ability to resell our support to the rest of the channel.’

And they said ‘sure, but you're charging more for support than we charge for the product.’

Nobody on earth is going to pay more for support than they do for the product.

Well, they did.

And they did enough that we actually acquired the company that we were reselling.

So we kinda reverse engineered the process.

But it was interesting because I went from working very direct, being able to resell multiple products.
Now I had to rebuild and manage a channel that was also equally as ticked off with them as we were, we just ended up acquiring them.

So, a really interesting approach to that.

So, what about the people that are kind of, one step out of your core?

And Tim, you got to this a little bit, but can say it sounds like Casillas part of your core offering.

What happens when you come across a project, something that's maybe a little bit more complicated?

You know, and you've either gone to source a new supplier for this, but it ends up being a pretty complex product.

How do you handle situations where maybe you are working with an offering you're not as familiar with, and kind of not part of your core business offering

How do you support or how do you approach taking on something that maybe out of your wheelhouse, a little bit?

Tim Conkle: Lay it on the vendor

I mean, nobody knows the product more than the vendor.

And I find that vendors really want to be treated the same way we want to be treated.

So if you do that, vendors will be over backwards for you, they really will.

Although they're not perfect, I can tell you, you put 10 people in a room and talk about just PSAs and you'll get 10 different ideas of what PSAs do, and all the other stuff that goes with it.

I think the only time we've ever changed PSA's is because we just outgrown it.

So we've come to different solutions because it just didn't scale.

But again, I think Jason was right.

Most of us are very generalist.

In other words, give us the time when we make anything work.

Give us the resources and we can do it faster.

Give us a great vendor and we can make everybody happy.

So it's a give and take.

Think about this, if a vendor does not support a product, we lose the client, they lose it too.

This is the circle of life.

Every bird eats in this bird feeder, right?

So if you've got a bird, kicking it out of the nest, you know, best thing to do is kill it.

No matter which bird it is.

Paul Bird: How about you, Jason?

What do you do with complex?

Do you lean on the vendor?

What's your take on the best way to deal with a situation like that?

Jason Dittmann: There's kind of three different ways.

So, we're part of a kind of a national network all across Canada.

So sometimes we'll Canvas our MicroAge Network to see if anyone has kind of dealt with these types of solutions, and we can use our partner network outside.

Were part of a peer group that's part of MSP's, all across North America.

So we will also kind of look at both smaller peer groups, as well as, some of the larger part of the peer group, to be able to get assistance.

You know, I think having some of those, not necessarily invested partners, but it's kind of a reciprocal relationship where when they have some issues, we'll jump in and help them.

You know.

When we have issues, we'll ask for help, and I think just being able to kind of blend that with, obviously, from the vendor side to get support from them between what the vendor says and sometimes what actually happens on the ground sometimes is a little bit of a different scenario.

So having some practical experience as well as some vendor support, I think kind of balancing some of those out, that certainly helps.

That has helped us in the past being able to kinda get the gremlin out of the system.

Paul Bird: So Tim, I wanna go back to another you gave me a great little nugget there, which is the birds eating from the feeders.

So let's talk about compensation models.

Do you feel that the current compensation models now that we've seen these marketplaces come up where you might not directly be doing the billing.

How do you feel the state of compensation is with vendors today?

Tim Conkle: I love my vendors.

I negotiate every deal, so I would be stabbing myself right now if I told you.

Again, and I'm in a very unique situation, because one of the companies I owned was sold strictly through the channel, it's a product.

And so I kinda know both sides of this thing.

And the reality is, you can't peck at the price to the point where they don’t make any money, because then you become irrelevant.

Because if I can't make any money that's not emotional, that's factual.

So if I'm an MSP that just keeps hammering, and hammering,and hammering, and hammering.

It's a two-way street, they know I have to make money, and they have to make money.

And you meet somewhere in the middle of that.

I've never had a problem with a vendor, in the way it's compensated.

We do no vendor bill directs.

And we do know white labeling.

I've said it for a long time, who in the world, what smart person, would white label another man's liability?

Why would I put my name on it, so one of my customers can look at me and say, Your ****'s broke.

And there's no buffer inbetween right?

It's a very very cool relationship with clients when they know that you use best in class.

And I'm not afraid to tell them who we use.

It's not like they're gonna go around me and go to my endpoint company that doesn't sell to the public, and  it's pretty short minded.

And so, I was always asked 'hey, can I white label?’

And I just tell them, only a fool white labels another man's lability

That's a little bit to the side of your question, but we've had really, really good success with pricing and how we can compete in the market with, especially with our vendors.

Paul Bird: So, Jason, from when we look at compensation with the people that you work with, is there anything that they're missing, is there anything that you wish they knew about their model?

Jason Dittmann: I would say, the vendors that are either trying to get into the MSP or trying to expand MSP really need to understand how we position the products with them.

Most MSP's I talk to, they are billing per users per month.

And when they're asking for one thousand points, you guys need to commit for three years.

That's not going to work.

Because we're running, you know, next month, we might need 1100 the month after we might need 1200, and that might dip down because of a layoff down to 1150.

So those are some of the realities of the MSP building.

I think some vendors really aren't thinking that month-to-month way.

Although the reasons why you want the longer commit, the better commit, I think for some of those vendors is the fact that MSPs aren't going to be changed, their tools are free.

You know, what's sort of locked in and we're happy,  it's going to grow.

And you might fluctuate a little up and down over the years, but it's going to grow.

And that's the model I think some of the PE backed companies need to understand, that once we are locked in, were locked in, we're not gonna change them like our underwear, so we'll be locked into a tool

But our reality is, most of the contracts we sell to our clients is month-to-month.

It won't be like a three year commit, but there will be some variants to what we build them every month based on uses, so they need to be flexible.

And they also need to ensure that they're building model, through either distributors or from themselves is easily ingested into our systems.

I think that is one huge part and huge opportunity for the vendors that are really looking to refine the way that the business is:

  • How do we ingest it?
  • How do we have that flexibility to be able to get it into our systems?

So we don't spend hours and hours and hours trying to simply bill our clients that we just know every month.

We're going to ingest the bill from them, it's going to go to our clients, and off we go.

Tim Conkle: I think Jason brings up a couple of points that are really cool here.

One is billing, so here at the 20, we've automated all  of our billing.

Every vendor we do business with, has either given us API access, we built our own connectors to it, because if you don't, billing becomes a nightmare for each ride.

But I don't have a single vendor that does not rise and fall with me.

So, in other words, I can have a long term contract with Tim and the 20.

But, they know as well as I do, we gain clients, we lose clients, I'm not paying for a product I'm not using, I'm just not doing it.

Its probably one of the fundamental breaks in a vendor that we don't go with.

Because you have to rise and fall, like his example was, needs 1100 and then he needs a thousand.

It's real, if a client leaves us, it's kinda back to bird feeder, right?

We all gotta eat a little less, and so.

Paul Bird: Then once you sign up a new one, then you all eat a little more.

Tim Conkle: That's the rise and fall.

What we hope is, every MSP grows and never contracts 

But we know for a fact, and we'd be lying if we said ‘we're so great, we never lose a client.’

I'd love to lie and tell you that, but I'm afraid everybody would call me out on that.

Now, there are times:

  • They sell
  • They go bankrupt
  • There is personality conflict
  • New CFO comes

There's a thousand reasons why.

And the problem is when a vendor says ‘I want you to buy a minimum of 250 at a time.’

You've got a small MSP that needs 100 in endpoints and all of his vendors are doing this, he's paying 5, 6, 7 times what I am, just for his tools, hes not competing with me.

And so, I agree, that was a really good nugget he just pulled out there, rise and fall is a beautiful model.

PE firms don't like it, because they have booked revenue, and they have to report it

But they can do it, you just got to ask.

Sometimes, yes, you have to ask with kind of an open-ended, ‘I'm not asking me, I'm asking what.’

Jason Dittmann: You hit out another point that I just want to go on as well.

You know, when we look at some new tool sets, there are cases where our whole stack of clients aren't going to jump on it immediately, or take some time for us to kind of sell into the stack.

But I think, when we look at some of the organizations that we partner with, they offer kind of like a ramp up period where we can start off at, you know, we're going to ingest 50 or 100 licenses for the first couple months, and then book to 250, and then 500 over time.

And I think we've had some very successful on ramp of new products, because the reality is, we're not going to take 500 instances when we only have 100 sold.

I think that was a good strategy used by  a couple of partners of ours, and it just gives us some time to kind of wrap up.

We get the pricing for 500 or a 1000 or 1500 upfront, but they allow us a ramp up period to kinda get there.

Paul Bird: So, let's talk about other strategies that they'll use, things like reward, spiffs, spiffs have been around as long as the channel has, and other types of incentives.

Does that have any impact on your motivation?

If there is some spiff, some reward, does that get your attention to put your focus on going through that ramp up program, you picked up, you know, 10, 15,100 new licenses, but scaling to one thousand.

Does the spiff have any effect on how quickly you pore through those?

Tim Conkle: I think spiffs are just gimmicks personally.

And don't get me wrong, I understand why they do it, but think just of the logical side of this.

‘Hey, I'm gonna give you an extra $10 off if you buy an extra 200 of these.’

Whoever says yes, doesn’t know numbers.

Because when the bill comes, the give is not even close.

Now, what incentives do I like?

Well, we buy tons of equipment from them.

So every year, they give us, like some odd count, that I don't know exactly what it is, because I don't do it, but I walked across to procurement, and he had all these laptops and i’m like ‘ Dude, what are all these laptops for’. And he goes ‘ all of those are from our get back with Dell.’

And that's just buying the way we always buy: 

  • We need it
  • We buy it
  • We procure it
  • We sell it.

Think about it like this, ‘Hey!  Let me give you an extra something, if you do this’.

Well, you're only going to grow so much.

And if you haven't grown for 10 years, that spiff is not going to change that dynamic.

And so again, they're gimmicks, they don't sway us one way or the other.

Now if a vendor says ‘Hey, I'm gonna give you some free money.’

There's nothing attached to it outside of  ‘Man, we appreciate that you did great business with us, and they won't share some of that back with me because we helped them grow, our accounts take those checks.

Now we'll take them, but it doesn't, for me, and I'm speaking for myself.

I'm sure Jason will have an opinion on this, too.

It does not sway, one way or the other

I'm not swayed by gold silver level partners, and all that stuff.

We're big enough that, just put me in whatever the best one is, I must be done with it, because, I'm not doing this thing right here to get there.

Price me for that one.

You buy my dream, I'm going to grow, I'm gonna get big, you know you buy into that dream and let me in.

And that's how it works.

I don't want minimums, don't give me this tiered pricing stuff when you do this.

I mean, give me the pricing if you can make money, at the top of that, you can give it to me now.

Otherwise, you wouldn't make money

You touched on a pet peeve of mine.

Spiffs and gimmicks.

But, I'm sure Jason has got probably a better and politically correct answer.

Jason Dittmann: I’m with you.

Spiffs are a gimmick.

I don't know that in a client relationship environment, it serves the customer very well for an outside force saying ‘oh, here's some money to sell my stuff’.

The reason we pick stuff is that we believe in it and we're trying to sell uptime.

We're not going to change our uptime strategy based on a spiff necessarily.

Well, we won’t, not even necessarily, we're not going to.

But, that's all there is to it.

And, you know, we look at spiffs  that we get from our partners, as, you know, when it had spent to the relationship.

It's a thank you for continuing to position products, so, you we’ll say thank you,  as Tim said, the accountant won’t say no.

So, we'll say thank you, and sometimes we’ll position that for things that will help our overall staff per month from a lunch perspective or other things.

So to the vendors out there, in a lot of cases, those Spiffy won’t go to waste and won’t go unseen, because there will be some recognition for a staff lunch and such and such, a vendor supplied lunch for us.

And they may not know that, but that is the reality.

So using those dollars are still appreciated, so we don't want them to go away.

But, they may not have the sole purpose aside from reinforcing that they're a good partner.

Paul Bird: So, and this is something that Tim mentioned, and I've seen this used before quite effectively, but there are the, we'll say less clear incentives.

It is that check showing up, it is the accumulation or you know, basically a point based system where you're going to get a free product at the end of the year.

Do you think like, for example, Tim on that Dell example, you gave us, would you like that to be really clear, or do you not mind the unclear where you get a benefit you weren't expecting or, unless you spell this out very clearly, all of a sudden giving me an incentive that I didn't know is there is just, that's that's not an OK way to do business.

So how about these kinds of un-advertized or not well defined incentive programs they put together.

Tim Conkle: I think humans in general like prizes.

That's why we've got 14 holidays that people expect prizes on Valentine's Day, Christmas, birthdays

People like prizes.

The prizes are not well defined.

I think that's a really cool thing.

So, I think a vendor that gives us something out of the air means more to us than something that we feel like we had to work for them to get there now.

I do want to say there's a big difference between spiffs and rev share.

I'll give you a great example of this.

The VoIP company that we partner with gives us, I can use something even bigger like Microsoft, gives like a 16-17 percent incentive, or payoff, if you sell a Microsoft 365 license.

It's evergreen, it happens as long as they're your client, that's rev share.

So that's not a spiff, that's not a gimmick.

That's, in fact, I think it's a really, really cool way of doing business, because it's consumption based.

The more Microsoft 365 you sell, the more that we're going to give you the spiff, so it's no different than selling  ice cream.

Somebody else might have made it, but now you gave it to me.

I get to mark it up and the only difference is, it's pretty straightforward.

Rev share needs to be crystal clear.

You have to tell me.

I want to know if it's Evergreen. I want to know if there's a way of getting more,if you get to this point, instead of getting 17%, you get 20%.

I want to know what those things are, I want it crystal clear.

But spiffs are ‘ buy this now, even though you don't need it, we're gonna give you this back’

Or you know, the gimmick side of it.

So there's a big difference between the two.

Again, I'm a big fan of rev share, and people come to me and say ‘Microsoft don't give me anything.’

Well, show me IT companies on the whole, most of them, make 16%, because once it's in place, you make 16% to the bottom line forever.

That's an Incredible payoff, VoIP same way, you get somewhere between 17 to 25% on Voip

It is an incredible rev share, that follows us all the way to the bottom.

I want them to be prizes, Rev share.

I want to be crystal clear.

Paul Bird: How about you Jason?

Jason Dittmann: I think it's great.

You know, we have  some partners that have just sent us a box of shirts for the team, little gifts like that.

And those little thank you's are those little appreciation things that the teamloves, I love.

I think, you know, to Tim's point, gifts for fun, especially when they're not expected, I think those are really cool, just sporadic, or what have you.

Yeah, I'm all for it.

Paul Bird: So as we start to wrap today's conversation up, there have been so many amazing nuggets of information, and throughout the conversation, everyone did share where you're collecting information from the Reddit groups to your MSP communities locally and nationally.

Ultimately, what's the one thing you're completely tired of dealing with when it comes to these different IT vendors?

And what can they do differently to get your attention?

We've covered all of it, but I want to pick your number one.

Jason, we'll start with you.

Jason Dittmann: I think I'm gonna go back to a previous point, understanding how we do business, and understanding how we need to do business with our customers.

  • From a billing perspective
  • From a relationship perspective

And really just understanding that month to month relationship, we have the overall commitment of the client, the overall commitment of what we're going to do with them.

But really understanding that at the end of the day, we're going to have fluctuation in our monthly bill.

So, you need to understand that.

That's how we have to do this.

Paul Bird: All right, And, Tim, what's that kind of one thing that you want them to keep doing, and the one thing that just stop it today.

Tim Conkle:
I'll use Reddit again

I cannot stand Reddit.

Somebody sent me a link one time, and I've written some of the stuff in there.

It is all back and forth back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

That means nothing.

In fact, if I was a customer out there, and I was looking for an MSP, and I went on there and read all that junk, I wouldn't hire a single MSP on the face of the Earth.


Because, culture is important.

I think the thing that drives me nuts is, if a vendor, if the culture's not right, right?

If it's not service oriented culture, if it's a culture of just, ‘Hey, let's take all the market share we can and damn the ones we burn along the way.’

But I don't find it very often in the channel.

I think the channel is pretty tightly knit.

So, there's not a whole lot that drives me nuts outside of just the back and forth.

In the end, they don't do it just to a vendor or a vendor straight to a thing.

I've watched them both, drives me nuts.

Let's keep our dirty underwear in our own closet.

And I think that should go both sides.

I think that's MSPs and Vendors, and I hate to say it, but you have vendors out there that throw other vendors under the bus, which I can't take either.

I mean, it is what it is.

But the quickest way to get out of my box is to slam another vendor.

Well, you know, our products are so great than that one over there.

I don't care about your opinion.

You know, you get paid to see that..

And so that kind of stuff, I think that's the only thing outside of that.

We have really good vendors, really good relationships, and over a 30 something year stint in this space.

I've had two, that we kind of went down the road with, and then stabbed them with a rusty knife.

Paul Bird: All right, that's a topic for another show that's for.

Tim Conkle: Sure.

Paul Bird: All right, guys, Thank you so much for being on the show today.

Paul Bird: It's been a pleasure and honor, and I've really enjoyed the conversation today, so thanks so much.

Tim Conkle: Thank you for having me.

Paul Bird: That was great, guys.

Thank you

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When partners struggle to sell a vendor's complex product offerings
What MSPs do when they feel that a vendors compensation model is unfair
The impact that rewards/incentive programs have on MSPs motivation to perform better
What to do when a vendor has unclear incentives for their partner program
What MSPs are tired of dealing with