Vendor partner programs have become almost religious in their importance. The Channel explains the opportunities and resources available within them.
With every vendor extolling the virtues of their partner program how do you ensure you get the most out of your investment in training and certification?
Partnering with a vendor is a two way street but at heart a good program is about increasing the revenue, profit and customer base for both parties.
On the down side non-specialist businesses can often be forced to become a member of every available vendor program and end up being deluged by information or end up lost in the crowd.
Michael Early, GFI regional manager, says his company sees partners as an extended sales force. “We’re eager to work with partners and GFI is poised for success with the increased growth in the SME space with products, pricing and programs in place to win new business,” he says.
Early insists GFI’s products are more than just a commodity sale and wants resellers to be educated on the entire portfolio to better open doors to other opportunities.
He says the majority of customers own one or two products out of GFIs portfolio of nine and the training will teach its partners how to sell full solutions to solve a greater number of IT issues for the SME market.
GFI has three levels of partner; bronze, silver and gold and each is dependent on sales and technical competency.
For example, says Early, silver partners will have one certified technical and one sales resource per branch, while gold partners have at least two of each.
All partners are eligible for solution sales training, product certification, free product evaluation, free in-house GFI software licences and electronic sales collateral while gold and silver receive channel account management and qualified leads.
In order to make certification easier GFI offers all its training online.
The three sales training modules provide interactive tutorials, real-world selling scenarios and questions designed to uncover business processes and IT pain points.
The technical training modules cover all aspects of the GFi products including in-depth product mechanics, deployment recommendations and configuration options.
Early says this helps partners be better prepared to answer all the questions their customers ask on a regular basis.
GFI is also implementing a phased rollout of its partner portal to selected gold and silver VARS.
Early says these partners now have a central location for product and sales training and a range of tools including lead management and deal registration, a maintenance renewal database and a certification tracking tool.
To register visit www.gfi.com
Joanna Burgess, national sales and marketing manager, solution partners’ organisation, says having good geographic coverage is just as important to HP as revenue.
“HP is very predictable – unlike some other vendors that come in and out of the channel – and its program has been running a long time. Our partners know we’ll have promotions out in the market to drive demand.
And, says Burgess, the results from promotional and lead generation activities are channelled back to resellers.
HP’s over-arching umbrella partner program, PartnerOne, is boosted by quarterly campaigns from each business unit that target different parts of the market.
PartnerOne is split into two different streams; premier business partners – such as Gen-i, Datacom and Eagle Technology – who deal directly with HP and those who buy through its distributors; Exeed, Ingram Micro, ITW and Datastor. Partners who buy through wholesalers are further categorised into premier business partners, business partners and registered resellers. “HP has one of the biggest portfolios of products which equates to a one stop shop and means partners only have to deal with one vendor. “
When it comes to rebates Burgess says HP doesn’t differ greatly from other players but does suggest partners get their targeting right.
“If the targets are right partners will earn more rebate dollars, there’s no point in setting low targets and over achieving - that’s something we are happy to work with partners on.”
Burgess strongly recommends all partners take advantage of the free tools on HPs partner portal.
“It’s full of product information, promotional tools for demand generation - in fact there’s tons of free training online.”
Additionally partners will have online access from December - through the portal - to monitor how their HP business is going, something Burgess says will save them a lot of time and is what they’ve been asking for.
“We do regular research on partner experiences with HP and customer research on their dealings with partners – which we report back. To my knowledge no other vendor does that.”
To register visit www.hp.co.nz
After talking to its local partners IBM realised it needed to make some changes to its partner program to reward them on total spend rather than certain products, says Michael Friedberg IBM’s channel marketing manager.
“Now IBM is rewarding partners for loyalty, we’ve simplified the payment process and will even pay an extra half percent if they pass on end-user information,” he says.
With that sort of detailed information Friedberg says IBM can build campaigns around what products are being sold in New Zealand.
Jody Walters, IBM distribution business manager xSeries, says there is also a strong focus on partner learning within the program.
“The Know Your IBM program is now into its third year and gives partners the opportunity to sell and win as well as upskill through learning modules,” she says.
Register for at www.ibm.com/nz/
Global storage giant Quantum offers a number of truly unique features in its partner program.
Craig Tamlin, country manager A/NZ, believes the fact that his company only sells through the channel has helped keep its focus crisp.
“We live and die by the channel, and while other vendors seem to struggle with their channel programs, changing them frequently, Quantum’s has remained stable,” he says.
One of the major benefits in Quantum’s program is its reseller rewards incentive – in the form of a Quantum branded Visa debit card - which Tamlin says can be used at any outlet accepting Visa – for purchasing anything from petrol to meals to travel.
“We have to compete with the major vendors with something that is really going to grab attention and this has been very well received.”
Tamlin also highlights Quantum’s opportunity registration programme which he says is designed to prevent drive-by deals occurring.
“Some of the systems deals have lengthy sales cycles and we want to protect the investment partners make in the sales process. We offer a 10% discount for these registrations.”
Another advantage of partnering with Quantum, says Tamlin, is that the company doesn’t force resellers to participate in intensive training in order to sell product.
“Instead”, he says, “we work collaboratively with partners during the sales process and people tend to pick up the knowledge they need on the job. I’d also like partners to understand that Quantum is here to help them craft their proposals – whether it’s proof reading or writing the raw content – they just have to ask.”
“Lastly, our marketing development program is a collaborative initiative which always strikes a chord with our partners,” says Tamlin. “We get the best result utilising a reseller’s own customer or prospect list to run direct mail or other prospecting opportunities. Working as a team, the best outcome is assured.”
* Trend Micro
Building on the SME partner program it launched earlier this year Trend Micro has boosted its technical training for partners. For partners targeting the 100-500 seat sector they launched a Solutions Academy providing training that focuses on new security threats, their impact and best practices for managing them. Dave Patnaik, Trend Micro’s SMB director, says new threats – including adware, greyware and spam – are pushing the boundaries of what customers traditionally regard as secure content management.Patnaik says this training initiative equips partners to effectively manage a wide range of threats and develop a consultative relationship with their customers. Additionally free quarterly courses – available in Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland – will train partners in the skills required to implement, configure and manage the company’s products.
To register visit www.trendmicro.co.nz/pwt