You know what you know…

…and you don’t know what you don’t know!

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance” Will Durant (1885-1981)

Five years ago, I was with a European executive of one of the largest global IT Vendors brainstorming what has since become a highly successful (and ongoing) channel ecosystem building program. The guy was extremely astute and aware and this six hour face to face session allowed us to lay down a very solid foundation for the program (it also resulted in me falling asleep in the taxi during the short drive back to Heathrow).

His opening gambit was the “You know…” saying and I regularly find I need to remind Vendors of such a basic concept. Think of it: we deliver our products to our end user customers through several layers of channel partners who are in fact serving their own respective customers. This is particularly true in the SMB and Mid-Market segments. We always tend to forget that end users are purchasing many different brands from “our” partners. All we see is the business the partner generates for us. That is what we know.

What we don’t know -unless we deliberately go and research it- is how big that channel partner actually is, and how important he is for his customer (be that a reseller or an end user). A simple illustration could be that if we own 20% market share in an market that represents 20% of the ICT market, we probably represent no more than 4% of a distributor’s activity and a varying share of his margin and profit. Of course, things are not as simple but we must never forget that our basic channel mind-share is no more than the share we represent in a partner’s total business.

One can increase that mind-share in two ways: increase our share of his business or become a more profitable product line for him through exciting channel programs or by reducing his costs of doing business with us.

We should always ask ourselves whether our Account Managers actually understand that their channel partner is more interested in how he makes money and satisfies his customers with our products than what products he is actually selling…

I suppose one could call that being somewhat modest. If we don’t know what how our Partner perceives us, we are probably going to be seen as arrogant in our relationship.

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