Channel Edge

IT vendors and distributors with a channel programme have their own sales strategies, but they all have one goal - growing market share.

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Channel Edge
By  Clayton Vallabhan Published  May 20, 2012

Hibbert pointed out that partners look for clear value in the programme to see the tools available to them. “We offer a number of incentives based on margins and joint MDF activities and extra special incentives around new business sales. The levels of these vary between the three tiers we deploy.”

Khwaja Saifuddin, senior director, sales MEA at WD agreed and said partner training forms an important part of any channel management initiative. Saifuddin said that WD also uses tiered programmes for its channel partners. “Helping customers make the right choice is what ensures customer loyalty. At WD we believe that though product sets vary, it is the same underlying concept of customer service to the end user that is utmost crucial,” he said.

Saifuddin pointed out that WD’s rebate schemes encourage its partners to develop strong sales relationships with the company as they benefit from having special rebates and preferential prices that allow partners to grow their business. “In essence, these schemes offer a two-way support system: partners strengthen our business and we in turn help them increase profits,” he said.

While many vendors have a single-tier approach to their channel management programmes, Dell, for example, operates a two-tier channel model and the company has invested heavily in its channel development team in the Middle East.

John Coulston, Channel Programs and Operations director, Dell emerging markets, said that the company offers a Preferred Partner programme to its channel partners. This, said Coulston, comprises of a quarterly rebate programme which is also complemented with in-quarter incentives. He said resellers also have access to Dell’s competitive pricing and MDF to enhance their businesses. “We constantly engage with our partners to understand their requirements and combine this with a clear understanding from Dell’s heritage with direct engagement with customers to build a programme that appeals to partners and helps them appeal to end customers. It is all about helping differentiate a Dell partner from a competitive partner in the eyes of the customer.”

Just having a channel partner programme in place does not help a vendor or reseller to benefit from it. A good and beneficial programme must evolve constantly and be as dynamic as the market changes.

Chris Moore, GM, MEA, Trend Micro understands this and said he makes sure the team team knows why channel programmes need to change. “Our channel partner programme’s value proposition is simplify, profit, reward, enable and evolve (SPREE). I believe this is a great approach to a partner programme because partners want to know that they will get out when they invest and that should be the objective of the programme.

He said most vendors know that the market is always changing with new technologies and opportunities and a good channel management programme must evolve with business needs. “This is one of the main reasons we have moved across to a new programme and changed our tiers from Affinity, AffinityOne and AffinityPlus to Bronze, Silver and Gold with a new tier of Platinum being introduced as well,” he said.

Moore added that the company has introduced rebates, deal registration protection and other discounts. “We have also given partners better access to growth accelerators for their business and more lead generation opportunities. We offer specialised training and are enabling them to develop their expertise and empowering them to grow their business. The programme rewards commitment to Trend Micro by recognising partner investment. It is designed for both vendor and partner to work smarter together,” he remarked.

Most companies that work with channel partners point to their certification programmes as evidence of strategies that allow partners to develop their own specialisation and local reputions, and claim an appropriate standing among their peers in the channel eco-system.

Hesham El Komy, senior manager, Partners and Alliances at Red Hat said: “As much as the resellers need to keep in touch and build a strong relationship with vendors it also has to happen the other way around. We see that over a period of time, the initial enthusiasm wanes. Partners need to prevent this from happening by constantly being in dialogue with vendors and giving vendors feedback on whether the programme is working for them or not so that vendors can fine-tune the programme to make sure the benefits are felt.”

El Komy explained that Red Hat has channel account managers that have to undergo yearly training and certification to ensure they have a good understanding of new products, changes to the partner programme and have the ability to support the resellers in competitive scenarios. Similar to what we offer our internal team, we also offer to resellers. They have to re-take and pass exams in order to re-sign each year. El Komy said the company’s strategy is to refocus on a few key partners that have already developed business practices and skills, both technical and sales, in the open source arena. Additionally, he explained that Red Hat will continue to recruit and educate those additional channel organisations that are willing to embrace our solutions.”

For Shahnawaz Sheikh, regional director META at Sonicwall, the company has continued to enhance its channel programmes and infuse local benefits where it deems fit so as to make the initiatives compatible to the regional market dynamics. Sheikh explained that with its Partner Medallion Programme Sonicwall’s partners need to utilise the benefits of the programme in all areas of business including sales, marketing, technical, certification, renewals, deal registration, case-studies and white papers. “We continually enhance our channel programmes and focus on enabling partners to use the best available business tools,” he said.

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