Ask the experts: The value of vendor relationships
At TD SYNNEX, we have a vision for a vibrant and connected world. That vision isn’t possible without the technology, services and solutions that come from our elite line card of the best vendors in the world. These manufacturers partner closely with us to offer expansive global distribution and integration capabilities, especially in next-gen, high-growth areas.
To get a better understanding of what our world-class vendors mean to the channel, we sat down with three individuals who are closest with these valuable relationships to learn a little more about what goes into the decision to invest (or not invest) in vendors based on their level of influence and innovation:
- Francisco Criado, vice president of NextGen Solutions
- Cheryl Neal, vice president of new vendor acquisition
- Alex Ryals, vice president of global Security Solutions
This article is a transcript of an interview conversation. The content has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Thought-starter: What is an influencer vendor?
Cheryl: When I think of a vendor influencer, I’m looking at creative problem solvers. Sometimes, there is a problem that hasn’t even been identified in the market, but they’re staying ahead of the changes that are happening, proactively looking for what’s next and solving for problems that are happening in the future. We’re looking at vendors that are making a difference in the marketplace not only with the solutions that they’re providing but through the differentiation they’re creating in the programs offered through our channel partners.
Francisco: There are a couple of things that come to mind:
- Analyst firms — There was an old saying back in the day that “nobody ever got fired for procuring IBM” because it was such a sound solution. The same goes today for vendors that are backed by these industry analysts.
- Endorsements — Large vendors that endorse smaller vendors give these small vendors credibility and relevance to help them activate sales and obtain funding or investment.
- Programs — In my area of responsibility, cloud vendors are building programs that help partners build a storefront, create content and recommend solutions where they can earn money.
Overall, it doesn’t matter if it’s B2B or B2C, people trust influencers over big corporations, so they play a critical role in the IT decision-making process.
Alex: An influencer vendor is someone whose products or services can change a culture or the behavior of our ecosystem in some sort of material way. Adding automation, AI capabilities, 3D printing technologies, whatever the innovation is, really changes the way that people interact with each other. It could also be someone who gains credibility through creative social media techniques who may try to promote a topic or a concept through targeted social media channels. It could also be a vendor who creates an ecosystem where other manufacturers can build technology for their own companies. For example, Microsoft, AWS and Google have empowered thousands of companies to come to market from the foundational platforms that these cloud vendors have provided.
Leading by example: Today’s models
Francisco: There are many examples of [influencer vendors] across horizontal and vertical solutions. I look at the Global Unicorn Club, an exclusive group of nine hundred companies that have over a $1B market cap. In this group, you have a lot of disruptors, with huge representation within fintech and security. Where I see a lot of companies paving the path forward for innovation in data management, analytics and AI. We work closely with the data maturity journey, where we can help partners go from traditional databases or even Excel spreadsheets to having a full data strategy, where our vendors can introduce things like data management automation, data modeling, machine learning and hyperautomation.
Alex: When I think of companies that are changing the norm or approaching the market differently, I think of the vendors that are building platform technologies with the realization that they’re not going to be the only manufacturer in a certain space. We’re living in a world, especially in cybersecurity, where the average enterprise customer has 50–60 security vendors. Even SMB partners may have 12–15 unique security vendors. So, when I see companies that are building platforms that allow for interactivity between multiple competitive vendor technologies, those are the companies that are going to scale in the market. These vendors know they are not the only solution but are 100% channel-focused on being an important piece that can integrate with a full solution. Communication is key, and vendors building technology to facilitate that will be winners.
This or that: First-to-market or best-in-class?
Alex: I think it’s easy to say you’d want to be first to market, but if the customer ecosystem is not ready, it’s more important to have the best product when the timing is right. An example of that is Friendster back in 2002; it was two years before Facebook was introduced and the market just wasn’t ready to share everyone’s social information yet. CrunchPad is another great company that launched an early computer tablet right before Apple launched theirs. The ecosystem wasn’t quite ready until Apple came along with a bigger brand and won the game. At the end of the day, I would rather have the right technology at the right time.
Francisco: I immediately think about Betamax and VHS and to Alex’s point, just because you have the right solution, it might not be the right timing. Maybe it’s because I’m competitive by nature, but I’m a big fan of being the first-to-market, as long as you have a minimum viable product (MVP) and a marketing plan. For new vendors, you may have the best product out there, but if nobody knows about it, you can’t have a solid go-to-market; nobody’s going to buy it. For market movers, it’s critical to pilot new products with customers to perfect the solution — it’s a sustainable profit advantage to find buyers who stick with an initial brand and build brand equity. There are also advantages to being second: you can learn from mistakes, you can start to reverse-engineer and improve the product, and it’s a lot easier to attract investment in a proven market.
Cheryl: As we look at small innovators through mature vendors, we’re looking at the different opportunities that they have at having that right solution at the right time. This is where TD SYNNEX does a lot to help support those emerging technology vendors and ensure their solutions are channel-ready and channel-consumable. By combining them with some of the opportunities we have, we can help with accelerating that necessary awareness and demand in the channel.
Blast from the past: Evolution of new vendor acquisition
Cheryl: Five years ago, we were looking for vendors that were already well-established that we could immediately add to our line card because our partners were asking for them. Today, we are looking for those disruptors that are going to be complementary to vendors that are already on our line card. We’re looking for vendors of all sizes and at all levels of the maturity journey because we want to help our channel partners differentiate. We’re also looking at high-growth areas like hybrid cloud, cybersecurity, analytics, IoT, hyperconverged, 5G and modern edge and how all of those things are starting to work together. New vendors that specialize in these areas bring new approaches and expand solutions opportunities with some of these established, mature vendors.
Final thoughts: Priorities for the coming year
Alex: For me, our priorities are not about adding a vendor in a single region; I want to make sure that we’re expanding globally. A lot of my focus is on vendors that have an established presence in North America and expanding those conversations to Europe and APJ so that we can support equal coverage around the globe. My second priority for the year within the security business is around end user zero-trust architecture through identity and access management. If a [threat actor] gets access to your identity system and can pretend to be an employee or a customer, that’s a bad thing. Another high-growth area is around cloud security, such as providing safer gateways and zero-trust network access technologies. Vendors in this space are influencing the buying decisions of customers right now who are looking to protect themselves from ransomware or malware attacks.
Cheryl: As I’m looking with my team on how we better target emerging technologies and who we’re going to work with, it’s all about aligning to the business. I want to help target and recruit those vendors that are going to help our partners with that growth through outcome-based solutions for them and their end users while simplifying the complexity of going to market. It’s all about accelerating channel success; emerging vendors have great technology. We are establishing how it can work with the ecosystem that we have and how we can help bring it all together to deliver success in the channel.