How to Qualify for Vendor Partnerships

BOSTON (05/23/2000) - So, you want to be a vendor partner? Vendors don't enter into close partnerships with just any company. Being a loyal and large-scale user of their products is a start but not a guarantee you'll be chosen. Here's a rundown of other attributes you might need:

Exposure: Media visibility helps a lot. Vendors see when a company is doing interesting things with technology. If they see an oft-quoted CIO or vice president of technology in the trade press, they're more likely to approach that company. And vendors want big-name corporations that will be instantly identifiable to the world at large, says Al Hershey, a partner at Ernst & Young.

Critical mass: Vendors look for companies that have a lot of users they can enlist as guinea pigs.

Good testing facilities: "You have to have a lab," says Widener University's Gary Habermann. "We have an almost $1.8 million lab modeled after our production environment, where we certify how new software and equipment will behave."

The right attitude: You must be willing to devote time to the vendor and to test technology early in the product cycle. Essentially, you have to demonstrate "a willingness to accept risk," says Black & Veatch's John Voeller.

Good feedback: Vendors look for people like Habermann, who is articulate and blunt. "Habermann doesn't sugarcoat anything," says John Ungvarsky, an account manager at 3Com Corp.

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