Wouldn’t it make more sense to deal directly with IBM?

This is a topic of much discussion around the TxMQ office these days, as it is at other solutions providers. Prospective customers often ask us: If my company’s able to go direct with my manufacturer/vendor (be it IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, or whomever), why shouldn’t we?

It’s a fair question. Companies, especially large ones, oftentimes have multilayered supply-chain relationships for acquiring software, hardware, and talent.

On the one hand, long-standing, embedded relationships often dictate the way a company acquires technical solutions. A friendship nurtured through years of trusted business dealings – sometimes called a “trusted advisor” relationship – may be the perfectly legitimate and ideal way of solving technical challenges. Yet sometimes things change. What happens when your salesperson – the same salesperson who’s covered your company for years – resigns?

Back to the broader topic of direct or business partner: As software and hardware companies like IBM and the other majors evolve over time, their business models push more sales through channel partners. Business partners are inevitably smaller companies, and are typically far better equipped to build and maintain longstanding, deep customer relationships. Sales teams at the major vendors change, oftentimes annually, leading to spotty coverage of accounts, and occasionally even leaving some companies with no direct coverage at all.

Business partners typically offer more consistency and stability of coverage. In addition, as IBM and the majors continue to add layers of complexity to their brands, and shift products in their portfolios, it’s very difficult for companies (and even their field salespeople), to keep products straight.

Surprisingly, this is a knowledge area in which partners tend to excel. Most of the leadership at business partners were themselves former employees of the majors. They left the majors to explore greater freedom to engage with customers, and to build deeper, better relationships over longer periods of time without the bureaucracy that comes with working in a large shop, or the threat of annual account “realignment.”

Also, as solutions offered to customers become more complex and cross over traditional brand borders, business partners are better able to navigate these tricky waters.

Recently IBM, along with other majors, went through internal realignments that left salespeople covering products new to them, and others were shifted to entirely new lines of business. Not so with business partners, who are free to engage as they always have.

What about software and hardware sales? Logic says it must be cheaper to buy direct. No indeed. IBM, as one example, has dramatically shifted internal teams, and reduced field and inside sales coverage to better align their resources with today’s market. What does this mean? It means it’s usually cheaper to order software and hardware from a partner. IBM knows it’s very expensive to have a large, geographically dispersed sales team, and far more cost-effective to let IBM business partners sell more and more software, services and hardware for them.

Partners therefore have full access to special bid requests, discounting, plus any and all sales tools a direct seller has in the arsenal. In addition, it goes without saying that a business partner’s services rates are nearly always below IBM direct rates.

Conclusion
In the end, each company must decide what’s best for itself, but don’t presume that the way you engaged with IBM and others in the past is the best way to engage in the future. A business partner can be your best ally to stay current with technology, and enable the nimble, robust infrastructure your company needs to compete and win in today’s marketplace.

Let’s take this conversation a bit further – email me at chuck@txmq.com.

(Image by Flazingo Photos)

 

 

Chuck Fried is the president and CEO of TxMQ – an enterprise solutions provider supporting customers in the US and Canada since 1979.

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