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52 SMT Magazine • March 2016 by Terry morgan VoxVIA 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 custom- ers happy. At some point, all sizes of SMT equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and consumable materi- als 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 su- per-distributers, working across continents. The way the partnerships work varies with the demands, responsibilities and consequent legal obligations of those involved. It's a fast- evolving business: as manufacturing technolo- gies converge to satisfy the customer's need for greater flexibility, faster operation and smaller product, there's a growing imperative for chan- nel 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 partner- ship 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 in- creased margins and improved sales turnover, built through repeat orders and referrals. (A good reputation is a prize all too often under- estimated 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 perfor- mance, but the more drastic implications of poorly serviced global key accounts (GKAs), or interminable and expensive legal wrangling to solve disputes, or worse. For a successful partnership, it's essential to understand who is responsible for each of the fundamental steps in the chain that drives the business. No matter what the product or service Finding the Perfect Partner fEaturE

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