The sales force multiplier

Steve LeSueur

The sales channel is not a new concept. Makers of hardware and software products have long used multiple channels -- distributors, resellers and systems integrators -- to sell their products to government. But many of them are shifting even more of their sales to channel partners as a way to drive corporate growth.

"We're striving for 80 percent or better [of our products] to go through the channel," said Brian Lehmann, senior director of government solutions for Symbol Technologies Inc., a maker of supply-chain technology. "When you bring your partners in, you get their sales forces to push your products."

The key for Lehmann and other government vendors is flexibility -- they are prepared to sell directly to the customer if that's what an agency prefers, but they also know that channel partners can multiply a company's sales force.

"We're doing everything we can to get in front of customers," said Mark Weber, vice president of federal business for Network Appliance Inc., a maker of storage solutions, software and servers. "And you can't do that with just direct employees. You've got to have partners."

Washington Technology Staff Writer Doug Beizer took the pulse of the federal channel, talking to executives such as Lehmann and Weber to see how they are working the government market. Knowing when to sell direct and when to use channel partners is important, but the successful vendors are those that know how to get the channel working for them.

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