for a list of recent channel-program changes you should know.**
ShoreTel Inc. announced Wednesday that it is revamping its Champion Partner Program to remove channel conflict and make it simpler for partners to price and market ShoreTel’s premises-based UC solutions beginning next year.
Key changes to the program include a simplified discount structure, a new opportunity registration program, an updated MDF program and modified support pricing. Most of the changes and additions to the program will go into effect worldwide on Jan. 1, 2014.
The enhancements follow changes ShoreTel made to its channel-exclusive go-to-market strategy this summer, said Jeff Mattan, senior director of worldwide channel marketing programs and strategy for ShoreTel, in an interview with Channel Partners.
“In the past, anyone who was a quota-carrying person for ShoreTel had client responsibility as well as partner. We didn’t have a [channel account management] role,” he said. Specifically, he said the company has added a partner-focused role, which it calls a Partner Business Manager, in addition to the client-focused sales support role provided by clients sales executives (CSEs). ShoreTel’s solutions architects also were split into partner- and client-focused roles.
The changes in the programmatic elements were based on feedback from ShoreTel’s partners in the past two years and designed in consultation with third-party channel experts and pricing analysts, Mattan said.
The company briefed its 900 partners on the program changes in a series of Webinars and, for very large partners, one-on-one meetings.
Chief among the changes is a simplified discounting structure. ShoreTel still has four tiers authorized, silver, gold an d platinum but has added clear discounts for each tier. Previously, the discount was determined by a combination of skills incentives, exclusivity and various revenue bands, Mattan said, noting the new structure is less confusing and also levels the playing field. It is uniform throughout the world and across all partner types value added resellers, direct market resellers and service providers (carriers), he explained.
That said the requirements for the types VARs, DMRs and SPs are different, Mattan said. As an example, he cited an increased certification requirements for SPs since they are national while DMRs don’t do demos so they are exempted from the demo gear requirements.
While uniform discounting addresses some inequities in the channel, by itself it does not prevent “swooping,” wherein partners with greater discounts snatch accounts that lower-tier partners are set to close. To fix that problem, ShoreTel is improving its opportunity registration program to include a set of defined and auditable submission and approval processes as well as an additional discount.
“Even the smallest, authorized [partner] will have a discount advantage over platinum partners,” Mattan said, noting that if additional discretionary discount is needed to win the account, the partner who registered the deal is the only partner that can get it. Essentially, the new program adds rewards for opportunity registration by making it exclusive and making the discounting automatic where the old program did not, he said.
To get an approved opportunity, you have to submit documentation, such as a TCO analysis or network diagram. Once approved, you have 180 days to close the deal. Once closed, you have 180 days to sell additional solutions to that customer at the discounted rate.
ShoreTel also is modifying its existing MDF program.
“MDF today is confusing in that there are revenue thresholds to hit before you start accruing. A lot of small partners never hit that, so they never get money,” Mattan said, noting that they could earn greater percentages at different thresholds.
The new MDF program eliminates the minimum sales revenue requirement; partners start earning at dollar one. In addition, they established a discretionary fund to award to smaller partners based on an application process.
“The second big change in MDF is as you move up in tiers, your accrual and reimbursement rates grow,” Mattan said. Finally, there is a new pre-approval process to ensure eligibility for reimbursement and also to help guide partners to best practice lead-gen activities.
ShoreTel also has simplified its support pricing, moving from a buy price” to a discount structure in alignment with all other ShoreTel pricing.
Finally, the company is launching a new accreditation program. While not part of the Champion Partner Program, this complementary program allows partners to increase their value to customers by deepening their knowledge of ShoreTels solutions.