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D-Link Systems Inc. this week unveiled two programs to entice qualifying competitors’ VARs, while warming the hearts of its own rank and file as well.

During the first week of November, any new D-Link reseller partner that’s currently enrolled as a Platinum, Gold, or Silver level partner in any competing vendor VAR program will get six months of D-Link’s Diamond Level benefits and pricing, field support, lifetime technical support, and a 24-port managed 10/100 or Gigabit switch for a three-month free demo period.

D-Link will roll out by the end of the year another phase of its Diamond level that will include priority 24-by-7 tech support, 24-hour product replacement service, and competitive bid desk services. D-Link’s Diamond Level Partners are required to sell $240,000 annually to retain their status.

D-Link’s second reseller incentive is “spendable cash.” This comes in the form of $20 to $100 deposits on a debit MasterCard earned for each D-Link switch a VAR sells.

Resellers must register at D-Link’s awards site to be eligible. Each time they sell a qualifying D-Link networking product—qualifying products range from D-Link’s 8-Port 10/100/1000 Gigabit Switch to an xStack 48-Port 10/100/1000 L3 Managed Switch—they enter the information at the site, print the confirmation form, and mail it with proof of the sale or purchase order to D-Link. Afterwards, D-Link deposits a credit Sales Promotion Incentive Fund directly into the Partner’s rewards debit card. Rewards balances are available online or via a toll-free number.

D-Link’s channel offer comes after 3Com Corp. dramatically jacked up its partners’ minimum annual sales requirements on September 1. 3Com Silver minimums jumped from $100,000 to $250,000, while Gold minimums skyrocketed from $250,000 to $1 million. There is no minimum requirement for Bronze status.

The change demoted about 100 3Com Partners, who were predominantly Gold, to Silver or Bronze, according to Nick Tidd, 3Com vice president of Americas Channel Sales. Tidd denied allegations that the Gold ranks were cut in half, but said he doesn’t have the number of Gold partners before the adjustment to the minimum requirements. 3Com spokesperson Joe Vucson declined to give the current number of Gold partners.

Will there be a mass defection of disgruntled 3Com VARs? D-Link certainly hopes so.

Robert Robinson, D-Link’s director of business channel sales, said, “I hope to open some eyes in the channel, in the products that D-Link has in place today in the midrange and enterprise networking space. In the long term, I’m hoping we provide a bridge for some of those partners who are thinking about transitioning some of their business—or about business rifts they might have with some of their current partners—over to our VAR program.

Still, while some of 3Com’s VARs are dissatisfied with the recent shakeup, Tidd said that some of its partners welcome it, and see it as good for all. “There is a segmentation of partners, and only the first step is around revenue. The next steps will be around geography, technical orientation—a customized program.”

Tidd argued that too many Gold Partners in a market dilute the value of the title. He added that 3Com just finished a set of partner focus groups, and partners are less interested in money in their pockets now than in money spent on advertising to drive local customers to them.

Asked whether demoted partners were likely to remove gold logos from their Web sites, Tidd said that was something VARs would deal with individually. One partner in Springfield, Mo. that had lost its stripes,Total Technologies, convinced 3Com it had the right numbers, the right market, and enough of an installed base to get its Gold status back.

Still for those 3Com VARs that aren’t happy with the recent changes, D-Link is offering an alternative network equipment provider.

“I’m especially interested in providing a painless method for them to do that. I think we’ve got a step in that direction with this particular program,” Robinson said. “There’s an alternate partner for them … if they’re not getting that feeling from their existing relationships.”

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