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Whether you’re making screen printers or producing solder paste, whether you’re part of a multinational conglomerate or you’ve spotted a niche and you’ve launched a startup company, one day you’ll need someone to find you new business, sell your stuff and keep your customers happy.
At some point, all sizes of SMT equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and consumable materials makers will rely on a network of “channel partners” to engage with, sell to and service their customers. These partnerships take many forms, ranging from a one-man (or woman) band to countrywide distributers, or even super-distributers, working across continents.
The way the partnerships work varies with the demands, responsibilities and consequent legal obligations of those involved. It’s a fastevolving business: as manufacturing technologies converge to satisfy the customer’s need for greater flexibility, faster operation and smaller product, there’s a growing imperative for channel partners to understand the applications and technology of the machinery and materials they support.
Add continual shifts in economic, legal, cultural and environmental factors to the mix and these partnerships can be tested—which is challenging because they’re vital for delivering consistent sales, great communication and the quality of service that customers expect—and you want to deliver. Everyone in the partnership should have the same goals: to maximise sales and build a reputation for providing the best value, with the best available technology, and exceptional customer service.
The rewards for a good partnership are increased margins and improved sales turnover, built through repeat orders and referrals. (A good reputation is a prize all too often underestimated when it comes to the bottom line.) However, finding the right balance of qualities when matching OEMs to channel partners can be a challenge. Get the partnership wrong and the result could not only be low sales performance, but the more drastic implications of poorly serviced global key accounts (GKAs), or interminable and expensive legal wrangling to solve disputes, or worse.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of SMT Magazine.