Depending on where you, as a vendor, are on the totem pole of significance, should determine how you evaluate the importance of solution provider relationships.
Top tier vendors are in a much different position than those that sit in the second and third tier of the market, and there are even variances within those tiers.
Microsoft, for some of what it sells, has no real competition and can evaluate and deal with its partners in a more demanding manner than most vendors.
Top tier vendors in more competitive positions must think differently and are far better off building programs that incent with a carrot rather than punish with a stick. The three top PC manufacturers are good examples here; They use incentives constructively and doing otherwise can cause partners to switch customers to a competing brand. Partners and their customers have lots of options in a category where it’s hard to differentiate.
So what if you are down the totem pole a bit? Clearly the job gets harder, but solution provider partners worth doing business with will commit if you have a meaningful discussion around building a plan where both of you have skin in the game. This is where, in my opinion, real planning by the channel field sales team is critical.
At the same time this is happening, vendors at all levels should be evaluating the return on investment and consider the lifetime value of a good partner. It’s rare that any partner is going to ramp to a point where it’s a positive return in less than 12 months. It just takes time for partners to get their teams up to speed on any vendor.
But after 18 to 24 months, its entirely fair to question the value of the partners you're working with and potentially purge a percentage of those that are not performing. Winning in the channel isn’t about having bushels of partners that don’t transact often. It’s really about having a channel community that is invested in you and you in it.