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Expanding the SMB’s Footprint into Its Multinational Partner’s Value Proposition

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 4/24/2013

This week, we are building out a series of posts on alliances between large companies and smaller entities like SMBs and start-ups using excerpts of the interviews we conducted for our cover story on this topic slated for the Q2 2013 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine. One element that is covered in the forthcoming print story is that the onus is on the smaller company to conduct research to find the niche in the larger company’s ecosystem that will advance the latter’s value proposition.

However, what we didn’t reveal in the magazine piece is that the smaller company has an opportunity to expand that niche and help its larger counterpart connect dots within its own organization to drive additional results. Darrin Carroll, CPA, director of corporate business development at specialty tax technology solution provider Vertex Inc., spoke to us about his company’s relationship with IBM, which began when Big Blue closed on its acquisition of Vertex Inc.’s longtime partner Cognos in 2008. Vertex Inc. has dedicated a lot of effort the past few years to establishing relationships at IBM. Initially, the company leveraged its Cognos contacts to make inroads in the Global 500 partner’s software division.

More recently, Vertex Inc. has identified ways its tax calculation software could bolster Big Blue’s services business offerings and is now trying to convince its software-side allies that it is worth their time and effort to advocate on the smaller partner’s behalf. To do this, it is incumbent upon the Vertex Inc. team to arm the IBM software group with the ammunition to make the case. This entails more than just providing the raw data—case studies, testimonials, anecdotes, revenue figures, etc.—but doing so in the language of IBM’s corporate culture; Vertex Inc. has delivered case studies in the form of IBM “blueprints”—business cases and white papers used by Big Blue to pitch its prospects.

“As we’re going further into the relationship and giving proof points along the way to them, we’re now showing a better business case as to why they’re more apt to get [us] to those folks [in IBM Global Services],” said Carroll.

Most important, of course, is to provide the “what’s-in-it-for-me” to the software people.

“It will help them sell more units on the software side through services,” said Carroll.

In essence, according to Carroll, you simply have to help your contact help you by illustrating how this act will, in turn, boomerang and boost the efforts of his or her division. And all of this information—PowerPoint decks, elevator pitches, and anything else illustrating the high-level benefits to that division and its customers—needs to be prepared in such a way that the partner contact can understand it clearly.

“If you can do that homework ahead of time and give [your primary partner contact] some ammunition to help you, they’re more apt to help you,” said Carroll.

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