Driving REAL “Value” for Start-up Vendors: The Exclusive Networks Blueprint for Channel Success

At Exclusive Networks we’re all about redefining the role of the value-added distributor (VAD), and it’s working, having accelerated our business from £40m in revenue five years ago to £250m today. Central to this success is our focus on people, culture and relationships. We always take the time to stay close to and harmonise with our employees, our partners and our vendors — at all levels. Over the years we’ve honed a highly effective blueprint for success.

So, as we embark on our next major phase of growth, let’s take a few moments to re-examine exactly how Exclusive Networks selects, supports and grows its vendors — starting with the start-ups.

The right vendor

Much of our expertise is in the cybersecurity space. There was a time when this market was pretty well defined: comprising distinct vendors selling firewalls, AV, IPS solutions, and so on. But the threat landscape has evolved, and so in turn has the market. Today there are countless niche technologies claiming to protect end customers from everything from connected car threats to advanced datacentre breaches. But true value to a partner and end customer comes from integrating these niche point technologies into a solution stack with complementary offerings.

So part of our due diligence as the UK’s leading VAD is to not only to find innovative, best-in-class technologies that solve key customer pain points, but to ensure that technology will slot neatly into our partner offerings to ensure it sells at scale.

The right partners

In fact, much of the value we add for our partners is in this initial phase: they know that if we’ve signed a vendor they can be assured that the firm represents stability and great market opportunities. But here’s the thing: despite our broad partner base we don’t offer that new vendor to all of them. Why? Because every partner is different. Some serve specific verticals or customer types; some focus on distinct business drivers like compliance; and some simply have a greater risk appetite when it comes to working with new start-ups.

Here’s where Exclusive Networks adds value again: in understanding our partners inside out and then choosing just five early adopters to focus on a new vendor initially. That way we can ensure that all sides of the triangle — vendor, distributor and partner — are as strong as each other. This is the Exclusive Networks difference: having the agility and focus of the boutique players with the partner base and support of a global organisation.

Managing expectations

That brings us on to our final ingredient for start-up vendor success. At some point even start-ups need to scale and evolve. Wouldn’t you rather do that with a distributor that has taken the time to work with and nurture you from the beginning, rather than having to start again from scratch? Exclusive Networks has the global reach to offer exactly this.

But the truth is it’s a two-way street. Some vendors think they can sign-up 10 partners in the UK straight off the bat to start generating £5m revenue in no time — but it just doesn’t work that way. Some are even too early-on in their journey for distribution and end up wasting money by buying services from our competitors to make them seem more established than they are. Our approach is different. Exclusive Networks doesn’t expect our start-up vendors to have a full end-to-end partner program from day one, but they do need a plan. The plan has to clearly define the roles of the vendor and distributor as well as expectations and rewards for the channel. We need to be assured they are investing in marketing and hiring local talent to grow, and that they have a longer-term strategy to build out accreditations and certifications.

If expectations aren’t managed early on then too often they are set too high on both sides. That’s why we’re clear about our goals for the vendor, both in terms of revenue and business objectives. We advise on how many partners and which sort of partners they should be signing, with realistic deal sizes and time frames. That’s the kind of honesty you can expect with Exclusive Networks: an approach that has served us, our vendors and our partners pretty well so far.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in this series, focusing on mid-tier firms.