Creative compensationBy Channel Insider Staff | Print
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No matter how many support programs vendors put in place for their partners, solution providers always want more.
With model changes comes the need to adjust partner compensation. In an increasingly competitive market, where customers are looking to maximize tight budgets, revenue-boosting programs such as rebates and deal registration top the list of favorites for many solution providers.
"The middleware sale is not a simple commodity sell, but rather a solution sell, as cliché as that might sound," Nelson said. "Customers want to understand the total cost of implementation, including services, before they buy the software. This program helps us quickly engage them, bundle up the total solution and receive extra compensation for it." Solution provider TekLinks works with Cisco to make sure the solutions it sells qualify for additional margin through Cisco's SIP (Solution Incentive Program). "If I partner with a manufacturer of a product that has built a specific solution, they can go to Cisco and get it certified and get special pricing," said TekLinks President Stuart Rayburn.
Increasingly, large or complex projects may demand the efforts of multiple partners working together. Traditional partner programs reward only the partner that signs on the dotted line even if other solution providers played a role at some point in influencing the sale. This, of course, leaves some providers in the lurch.
"A solution provider may have a relationship with a large customer and, although they might not be the sole provider, may have a lot of influence in what they buy," Crimson's Charles said. "Vendors have to think more about influence as a factor." IBM's SVI program rewards partners for influence. The program requires comprehensive documentation, but the return is good, Workgroup Connections' Schreiber said. "In our first quarter using the program, we got a six-figure check for our efforts," Schreiber said. "The money makes it worth it." Another deal registration program that gets high marks from channel partners is Cisco's OIP (Opportunity Incentive Program). By registering its deal, the solution provider is guaranteed the lowest-possible product pricing.
"This is a well designed and implemented deal registration program," TekLinks' Rayburn said. "Without it, I could spend a lot of time trying to sell advanced technology, only to have someone order it close to our cost or below from a large mail-order shop."
As the recognition of influence indicates, often multiple partners participate in a single sale or customer project. Partnering has become a way of life for some solution providers, and many keep an eye out for other providers with complementary offerings. It's another area, solution providers say, in which vendors can play a pivotal role.
Symantec, for one, has accepted the role by setting up a partner locator for providers. "Resellers we see are looking at new ways to partner to get new customers, since it is getting more difficult to figure out how to invest in their own business," Parish said.
Crimson's Charles said that, as a whole, vendors' matchmaking abilities leave much to be desired, often relying on portals with stale information. "A lot of these portal efforts are underwhelming," Charles said. "What is lacking in these portals is more engagement on the part of vendors in helping partners utilize the information there." The best efforts are based on Web 2.0, Charles added, citing Cisco's Partner Space, where solution providers can meet and mingle in a virtual conference environment.
"We are using 2.0 technology because it's more relationship-based," said Wendy Bahr, vice president of U.S. and Canada channels for Cisco.
Through Cisco's portal, partners can set up a virtual booth to demonstrate their capabilities and interests and then mingle with other partners. "It makes it easier for them to connect with other partners with a shared interest," Bahr said.