Exploring a business relationship shouldn’t be this hard!

We recently decided to explore a reseller relationship with a specialty software company. As an OEM partner to SAP, we have some experience with this type arrangement. The sought after relationship in this case would have us purchasing a software product in some volume from the prospective ‘partner.’ Having narrowed the field to a couple of likely software companies, I set out to gather information to support a decision. Sounds easy enough, right?

I placed a phone call to the first software company on my list and was promptly greeted by a call routing feature that didn’t provide an option to address my need. In these instances I always choose sales (hoping for a motivated member of the company).

The friendly sales person said that she could not help me, that I would need to fill out a form, and that I would have to provide other documentation (tax certificates, advertising materials, etc.) via FAX to their channel management department. This was before any conversation about the potential business fit between our two companies, and apparently based on the fact that I was asking about a relationship versus how to directly purchase their product. I grudgingly complied (well, I bent the rules and sent scanned docs via email).

Two days later I received a phone call from a fellow in Channel Management. After my detailed description of our need (and our mutual opportunity) he told me that I would need to establish a relationship with one of their distributors. He was kind enough to provide contact information.

I sent the distributor an introductory email explaining our need, along with a link to our website for context, and asked him to call me when convenient. What I got back was an email telling me that he could not help me directly, but that a sales representative from their company would be able to talk with me after I submitted the following:
• A completed Customer Application
• Bank reference information
• Credit references
• Sales and Use Tax Certificates
• Our “latest two (2) fiscal yearend financial statements”

His email was specific about not being able to talk about pricing until this information was provided. Again, this is before any conversation about the potential relationship fit.

My next step – write this post to let off a little steam. I want to explore an opportunity, and I’m running into administrative obstacles very early in the process. It’s this type of resistance that causes me to move on to the next software company in hope of a better experience – a potential loss for the once first-place candidate.

Now I’m asking those around me what we do to make it difficult for potential customers and partners to connect with our organization. I want to believe that the answer to that is ‘nothing,’ and I bet that’s what leadership in these two organizations would say if asked. I hate to miss opportunities at my front door, especially given the investment made to develop sales leads.

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