Changes in the way customers buy technology are stressing existing vendor channel and partner organizations, processes, and capabilities. As a result, companies need to rethink the ways they allocate their channel marketing resources and how they use marketing infrastructure to scale their channel operations, particularly as they target the SMB market.

The Rise of Solutions

Once upon a time, we lived in a product-driven world. Sales involved promoting the newest product and the latest bells and whistles.

Today, customers want solutions to business problems. As VARs and other channel partners evolve into providers of end-to-end solutions, vendors are also forced to adapt how they do business.

Best-in-class VARs and other channel partners start with a deep understanding of their specific target market. They identify the customer's business issues and develop an approach to addressing those issues. The next step is to assemble the necessary "piece parts" from vendors and package them into a solution that includes the VAR's or channel partner's services.

This is opposed to a typical vendor approach that sees the universe in terms of the vendor's own technology stack. From this perspective, the goal is to get customers to buy into the vendor's technology vision.

Instead of "pushing" programs from the top down through the channel, companies need to build programs from the ground up cooperatively with VARs and other channel partners. Many companies have been doing this for a long time with large enterprise partners. Now these changes are percolating throughout the partner landscape and into the SMB space to include VARs, distributors, and other channel partners.

At every stage, vendors work must work actively with resellers to assemble solutions and articulate customer value in terms of the latest industry and channel business models.

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Allan Adler and Dylan Charles are Partners at Crimson Consulting ( Allan is former CEO and founder of MSI Consulting; he can be reached at Dylan is a former Partner at the McKenna Group and at KPMG/Metrius; he can be reached at