**Editor’s Note: Click here for a list of recent channel-program changes you should know.**
The Germany-based company has been redefining itself as less of a hardware provider and more of a software and services firm, relying on its OpenScape unified communications platforms, among others, to underpin that aim. But to make headway, and to fuel its immediate goal of bringing in 45-50 percent of business through partners, Unify had to overhaul its indirect, and direct, sales initiatives.
To that end, channel chief Jon Pritchard told Channel Partners in June that Unify would “pretty much…stop selling direct.”
“The DNA of the business has been direct and that needed to change,” he said in an Oct. 3 interview.
To be clear, Unify did run a partner program. It won lots of awards, Pritchard said, but “wasn’t actually driving the right behavior.”
“The program didn’t really deliver a definable profitability matrix,” Pritchard said. “It was pretty unclear when [the partner] would get a return on what he put in.”
That confusion is gone as Unify, with the support of new CEO Dean Douglas, rolls out a partner-centric model. First up, “We’ve invested in people and put in some experienced channel folks to run our regions,” Pritchard said, pointing to new regional channel vice presidents hired from Avaya and Microsoft. Pritchard himself joined Unify earlier this year.
Next, expect new rules of engagement and, along those lines, different direct sales compensation. The idea was to create a product-driven partner program, “as opposed to a one-size-fits-all program that we had previously,” Pritchard said. As a result, only channel partners may sell OpenScape Business. The ideal customer size equals 1,250 lines or fewer, Pritchard said. Larger partners also may sell the enterprise-level OpenScape Voice, but they may encounter competition.
That’s because direct sales reps are able to sell OpenScape Voice, too. But partners should expect to work in tandem with these folks because Unify now pays inside reps the same amount for deals clinched through partners as done direct. Pritchard said this approach is working well in markets where it’s been introduced.
“We’ve tried this around the world and already have direct sales guys doing nothing but business through the channel.” Pritchard said, adding, they “understand the value of partnering with partners.”
In terms of partner program specifics, Unify has created different levels – Authorized, Professional and Master – based around investment, skills and accreditation.
“The more up the food chain you become, the better the rewards will be for you,” said Pritchard.
Unify did that in part to “get partners to understand there’s longevity in the program, in the relationship,” he explained. The company also made sure to future-proof the channel initiative so it can accommodate different types of partners – think financial traders, for instance – throughout the coming years.
When it comes to benefits, partners will get access to MDFs, technical resources and deal registration, depending on their accreditation level and specialization.
“We want to reward partners who make that commitment,” said Pritchard.
The accreditation comes from the Unify Academy, which delivers in-person or online training to partners, employees and end users.
“I see the Academy as key to being sure we have reseller readiness, as some of our products are very complex,” Pritchard said. “We’re making sure specializations are managed in a way that we won’t have disappointed end customers because of a poor implementation.”
Quality management is critical, because outside of four countries, Unify is now sells 100 percent indirect. Meantime, in North America, the sales model is hybrid. Unify hopes to make inroads in places where it doesn’t hold market share, including California overall, plus Chicago and Denver.
And while Unify is pleased to see an influx of new partners, Pritchard calls its existing ones “hugely important.” So, Unify is instituting a nine-month grandfathering period. If current partners want to move from one level to another, they will have time to make new investments and ensure staff are training, for instance.
“They get all the benefits of the new program while they ramp up to that,” Pritchard said.
On the whole, he added, these channel program changes are expected to result in more wins all around.
“What partners should see from us is more formalized approach to helping them grow their business with us,” said Pritchard.
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