A Strong Partner Program is the key to Business Success
Channel Partners always play a pivotal role in the success story of a vendor. They are very crucial for a company when it comes to the go to market strategy. Partners form the backbone of the company as they represent a vendor to the customers and through them a company expands its reach in the market. Partners are the face of the company and they are the influencer to convert a potential customer into a permanent one. The whole responsibility of taking a company through the path of success lies on their shoulder.
But to achieve success a happy partner is of outmost importance and for that a vendor needs to understand its channel partner’s requirements which are the key to reach the pinnacle and fight competition. Understanding the requirements is a necessesity to design a good and successful Partner Program. Good rebates, deal registration, lead generation, account management and front-end discounts are few aspects of a good partner program. Apart from these there are few other pieces that need consideration such as partner training, skill development, service support, simplification of onboarding process, providing the right sales and marketing material, priming sales lead pipeline to measure and report progress.
A partner’s compatibility with the vendor and competency of a partner are also important to make any partner program a success. So to indentify the important factors that lead to a successful Partner Program we have garnered some insights from the industry which we have put together for our readers.
Director – Channels & Alliances, Array Networks
“Partners are the extension of our companies and the only Go to market route for us. In view of that, the partner program has to be well structured, highly rewarding and continues to invest in the skilling of the channel. The program needs to be dynamic as well to respond to changing market needs and channel aspirations.
We look at each specific country, its business climate, potential to grow and the adaptability of our products into the existing or upcoming ecosystem. Our intent is clearly to grow business from the partners and ensure they are profitable to sustain in the long run. The profitability of partners is important for them to reinvest in employee development, skills upgradation that would help them in putting up a strong case with their prospects.
We look at the areas of operation by the partner’s region wise and product wise and industry wise. It helps to have partners who operate in a specific vertical or business need today to have a concerted Go to Market Strategy.”
Pritesh Prabhakar Patil
"Partner is the center key of our operations, and the purpose we hold strongly to a partner profitable program is Ease of doing business for the partner. Our billing, credit, and marketing has created such an ease for any partner that it sets an example for the channel industry.
Everything we do along with our partners, we have wonderful partner program wherein partners have consistent growth opportunity. Our partner program is so receptive that a huge number of channel partners have joined us till date. Some of the Partner programs which are running successfully include the Milaap program, the Vistaar Program, including many another partner specific programs that help in creating the right channel partners who have the market knowledge, sales expertise and who are able to develop strong relationships with their vendors to successfully sell Marg ERP products and services. The partner should gain credibility in his business and capitalize on Marg ERP as a brand. The partner should be able to strengthen and extend his market reach. The partner program should make the partner feel that he has collaborated with a company that will work closely with him to gain more customers with much ease."
Director – Partner,
“In an evolving technology landscape where digitization is a front runner across organizations, IT vendors stand at a vantage point to work closely with their channel network and cover a wider spectrum of untapped markets with a potential to grow. Having said that, vendors must put together a well-designed partner program ensuring mutual growth and an upward growth trajectory for their partners.
In addition, once the partner program has been set in place, it is also vital to evaluate the success of the program at periodic intervals to guarantee continued progress and value delivery. To take stock of the functioning of the current program, we at Citrix conduct quarterly reviews to assess whether the program continues to benefit both partner and vendor and how it can be taken to the next level to achieve the benchmarks set in place.
In my opinion, the success of a partner program depends on three factors – the clarity of its offerings and the market to be addressed, the most active channel in that segment of the market and thirdly, the value that the channel brings to the table that also complements the vendor. The achievement of these factors is crucial for the satisfaction of the customer.”
Gavin Milton-White, Vice President, Enterprise, Asia Pacific, CommScope
“CommScope believes that a strong partner program forms a mutually beneficial relationship for both companies and our customers.
Our partners provide a voice for the customer that leads into our ever-growing innovation pipeline. That is why CommScope’s PartnerPRO Network is designed to help the channel find new opportunities in today's competitive and challenging market.
CommScope believes that strong collaboration between Partner, CommScope and customer sharing the goal of solving a problem, is the best way to bring CommScope solutions to market. With that in mind, CommScope offers its partners training and certification through its market leading CommScope Infrastructure Academy, among other benefits.
CommScope helps our partners to be successful through giving them the best tools and support to serve their customers. For instance, we believe education should never stop and that is why we developed the CommScope Infrastructure Academy app for members of the PartnerPRO Network.”
Sanjeev Kumar, National Head - Channel, Alliances & Govt Business, ESDS Software Solution
“The channel ecosystem in India is a very fragmented one with more than 31 thousand IT partners. Without a defined partner program there is no way that we can address the market. It is critical for the growth of channel as it enables the partner to create visibility to his various lines of business which in turn delivers the right kind of results for him. AT ESDS today, we are creating a Partner Programme in such a way that we can act as an extended arm of the partner and be a add value to Partner’s Bottom line.
The most important factor to make a partner profitable is to move him up the value chain. So while designing a program, we need to ensure there are 3 factors - Training, portfolio management and market addressability. Training program is designed in a way that our Partners get empowered to create value addition for their customer. They can help to find out a solution for customer’s pain point. Every enterprise will be leveraging a portfolio of public and private clouds – whether by strategy or circumstance.
The key factor to a successful Partner program is Training followed by ability of partners to address front-end discounts by having a better portfolio management. Deal registration is very important considering the fragmented market today.”
Country Director – India & SAARC, Forcepoint
“Forcepoint is a 100% partner-driven organization and our success is defined by our engagement with partners. Forcepoint’s partner ecosystem in India is evolving in size, partner types and the roles they can play to best deliver customer business outcomes.
The Partner program helps us support the growth of the channel partners and expand their capabilities to address new emerging market opportunities. The partner program is in pace with all the positive developments and has become an integral part of our ecosystem.
We believe in empowering our partners to move up the value chain and become a solutions provider in their own right. We ensure the partner not only makes a profit but is also able to retain the team in consistent and predictable manner to keep up with the business, revenue and the growth.”
Jitendra Ghughal Director Channels, India & SAARC, Fortinet
“We are a 100% channel driven company and Fortinet has always been focused on driving business with our partners. We have a mature partner program and it delivers value to our partners and their business beyond just what we sell. Fortinet is constantly working to increase the value of our partners so we can become more important to their business and enable them to expand with the Fortinet Security Fabric.
Fortinet will also look to help partners improve their profit margins, while the Security Fabric will help partners provide new services that build on Fortinet products. We are also looking at ways to help more partners move from a one-time sale relationship with their customers to one that creates long-term relationships. The breadth and value of the Security Fabric solutions makes it a very simple proposition for new partners transitioning to security services. From small channel partners to large managed security services providers, Fortinet partners can easily build offerings and train their staff around a foundational security architecture, while also having the capabilities and support needed to layer on additional value-added services and third-party security solutions."
Ashish P. Dhakan
MD & CEO, Prama Hikvision India
“The effective Partner Program spurs growth of the channel so it remains the most important part of channel expansion strategy. A meticulous planning and execution of Partner Program certainly help to create the conditions for success. It presents partner an opportunity to grow the business and expand profitability. At Hikvision, we value the Partner Program immensely as it provides the best strategy for growth. It further helps in maintaining opportunities in legacy products while opening new revenue streams in emerging technologies.
There are some key factors to keep in mind before designing a top performing partner program - Understand the needs of rapidly changing partner eco-structure, Build a data driven channel organization, Create a better partner experience, Develop a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) infrastructure, Choose a good channel account management team.
First and foremost, it’s important to identify the ideal partner type as per requirement. The partner profile should complement the business model and goals. If the partner profile is vetted by well-defined parameters then it is easy to know the perfect match."
“At HPE Aruba partners have a huge value to add; we work closely with our partners and have a consistent partner investment program. Our partner programs can be subdivided into Capability Enhancement Programs and Business Development Programs.
Capability Enhancement Programs: These programs are targeted to build technical and techno commercial skills within the partner workforce.
Business Development Programs: BD programs are rewards and recognitions which are packaged in an effective way to deliver better results for OEM and partner business through sales motivation.
Following are key points that we check while selecting a partner - Partner’s expertise in handling similar line of business, Partner’s financial stability & current turnover, Market credibility standing with the distributor, Presence in number of cities, Interest to invest in new business, Work force Strength and continuity, Current certifications and accreditations, Market connect with customers and specific industry verticals.
Unless greater than 70 percent score is achieved on the above, OEM’s will not be comfortable to enroll the partner."
Vice President Sales, APAC, Juniper Networks
“The Partner Program focuses on developing the specializations that we feel are crucial for the growth of our partner’s business. Based on the specializations they develop and the business they generate, we have built very attractive rewards and rebates for our partners in the program.
Rebates, deal registration, lead generation, account management and front-end discounts are all important ingredients of a partner program. We also add some incentives for new businesses which our partners find very rewarding.
Partner profitability is directly linked to the partner’s abilities to deliver high value services along with Juniper’s products. Our Juniper Partner Advantage program is designed to help our partners address current and upcoming industry trends, including specializations on Data Center, Security and Cloud, while developing their capabilities in doing the same.
We focus on partners that build long term relationships with their customers and deliver a very good user experience. For this, they need to invest in skills and resources so that they have a sustainable and profitable business. Juniper works to develop a strong partnership with such entities.”
Head of Channels, Kaspersky Lab (South Asia)
“Channel Partners have been Kaspersky Lab’s strength from the very beginning. We believe in the growth of the company and the growth of the channel partners in our ecosystem. We focus a lot on our partner programs as that is what helps our partners and helps us in the long run. Our recent partner programmes include the Sales and Support Army campaign.
We are what we are because of our partners and consumers, hence our main focus in designing our partner programmes is to draw as many benefits as we can for our partners. Our recent Sales and Support Army campaign is a perfect example of how we want our partner growth programmes to be rewarding as well as result oriented.
Kaspersky Lab follows a philosophy of putting the customer first and we have uncompromising service standards, the same values must be shared by a partner to fit into our business model. Rebates, deal registration, lead generation, account management and front-end discounts are very important for us and our considered in our process of decision making in terms of partner programs. We plan our programs that satisfy these points in order to achieve a win-win situation for all.”
“At Lenovo, we enable our partners with various initiatives, products, services and financing to help them succeed. It is imperative to set the right objectives for each partner program and define prioritization of rebates, deal registration, lead generation, account management and front-end discounts for the partners.
Our uniquely curated Partner programs are categorized as per customer segments (distribution, retail, corporate). The program aims to provide our partners with the right mix of opportunities in product, average selling price, premium category and volumes that will help them achieve maximum growth in their segments. We evaluate the success of our programs periodically through mid-quarter, quarter and post quarter reviews. This helps us strengthen our programs and make the necessary changes.”
VP - Pathways, Alliances and Strategy, Asia Pacific, NetApp
“Channel Partners are a critical piece of our go to market strategy. We want to make sure that our channel partners are enabled from skillset and capabilities perspective, they are well trained to represent us in the market place and to be very confident in positioning and having a conversation with the customers to sell the solutions. So from go to market strategy perspective we focus on three key areas – Flash Storage, HCI (Hyper Converged Infrastructure) and Cloud Data Services.
The second important piece is we want to deliberately leverage our channel partners to grow in the commercial segment. There is a space where we see a continuous opportunity for us to jointly grow. The intention is very clear, we want to leverage our partner skillset and capabilities, their relationship with the customers, their coverage to help us to address and acquire new customers, to have presence in the market or cities where we may not have presence today and to leverage the solutions, new technologies, IT imperative to help the customers to address their business requirements.”
Head – Channels & Alliances, NVIDIA South Asia
“A well-structured partner program which is transparent in word and spirit goes a long way to establish the trust of channel partners. NVIDIA Partner Network (NPN), our framework to engage with partners, is aimed at giving them the freedom to choose the membership and competencies that is best for their business. The program presents opportunities to our partners to grow regardless of the level of commitment of their company, thereby giving them unique benefits and requirements to help drive sales.
The most important parameter of a partner program should be its simplicity and transparency. Incentives are an important factor that make a program attractive and enables partners to sell their solutions in a simplified manner. We are working with our customers and partners to tackle the most challenging problems—from cancer research to quantum physics to robotics. Considering this, partners who have technology and innovation as a key differentiator and are willing to dive early into next-generation technologies to solve problems are the best fit for us.
The NVIDIA Partner Network is a framework which has multiple programs suited for different partner profiles.”
Area VP, Partner, Sales, Channels & Alliances, APAC , Salesforce
“Salesforce's world-class Partner ecosystem is crucial to the success of our business. The ecosystem includes global and regional consulting partners, digital agencies, ISVs, system integrators and resellers focused on accelerating customer success. By amplifying and extending our platform and industry capabilities, and tailoring approaches that meet customers' unique needs partners accelerate the time to value and return on investment. Through a combination of business, technology and marketing benefits and leveraging the world’s leading enterprise cloud marketplace – the Salesforce AppExchange– the Salesforce Partner Program enables partners of all sizes and industries to build successful businesses.
Salesforce is maniacally focused on customer success so it’s important to identify the ideal partner type who is going to service our customers' specific business needs. Salesforce tiers our partners based on competency so our customers can see who has invested in building a practice, creating complimentary assets and has broader cross-cloud skills aligned to their requirements. As the platform expands and there is an increase in offerings, an increasing number of our partners have specialised based on industry's such as healthcare, financial services, retail, banking, manufacturing and FMCG."
Country Director , India & SAARC, SonicWall
“SonicWall prides itself as a channel-driven organization, and would be unable to scale as quickly and effectively without our dedicated partners. With over 25,000 registrants, the SecureFirst Partner Program is vital in ensuring that we not only recruit the best partners but, provide them with a positive end-to-end experience. SonicWall delivers world-class enablement, highly competitive margins and deal registration protection along with marketing support through the company’s overdrive marketing engine.
Partner profitability is of utmost importance, making SonicWall is very cognizant of the fact that they are also investing their time and resources in upskilling their business. The SecureFirst Partner Program provides attractive upfront discounting based on a tiered structure, as well as additional back-end rebates and promotions to incentivize and reward partners on achievement of growth numbers.
We welcome all partners to join our Sonicwall Secure First partner program, and based on their commitment to grow their business with Sonicwall, we will work jointly with them on long-term planning. SonicWall also recently launched the MSSP Program that offers training, enablement, support and financial benefits designed to help SecureFirst Partners grow their managed security business."
Managing Director Sales, Sophos India & SAARC
“Being a ‘channel first’ and ‘channel only’ organization our efforts are focused on empowering the channel by providing the best in class pre and post-sales support, training and certification programs, access to our world class marketing communications via our partner portal and of course competitive margins. Our 100% channel-focused sales model means that our partners come first and are key to our success.
This year we are introducing a three-pronged approach to enable our channel to perform better - Simplification, a core Sophos value and mission that we are extending to support our partner initiatives by making it easier for our partners to understand what our channel program incorporates and how they can join the program, what are the benefits, how they can leverage the tools and the systems and the programs that we have across Asia Pacific and India.
Empowering partners with knowledge and resources with regards to their strengths whether it’s endpoint, next-gen firewall, encryption, synchronized security or any other solution will improve their chances of meeting the customer requirements effectively."
“We believe that apart from a regular partner program, we should have a specific and thought of program which will not only benefit organization and partners but also build a great customer relationship. At SUSE, we have a tier based partner program and our partners can choose among them according to their skill sets and technical know-how. We are 100 percent channel-driven company and our partners are the key to our success.
We work with an ecosystem of partners and communities to innovate, adapt and secure open source enterprise technologies. Our partner program makes it easier for these preferred channel partners to address the key needs of their customers with training and certification pathways along with incentive structures that recognize and reward partners' engagement with SUSE. These programs support SUSE's software-defined infrastructure and application delivery solutions and focus on specific solution areas for channel partners: enterprise Linux, software-defined storage, OpenStack cloud and systems management.
Our partners recognize our leadership in business and technology and use advanced SUSE technologies to enhance their offerings. This brings our joint customers the highest quality, best engineered, best-supported offerings in the industry.”
General Manager, Partner Ecosystem - Microsoft
“In the beginning of our financial year, in July 2017, we created an organization called One Commercial Partner (OCP). In Microsoft there were a lot of teams that used to work with partners. We had 16-17 different teams in different parts of the organization. It was very tough and complex for a partner to work with Microsoft. So what we did was we brought all these together into one organization called OCP. In that way we have one team now that looks after the interests of our channel partners. Our mission is to work with our partners and make everything easy. So this creation of one organization was a very big step that Microsoft took.
This organization comprises of three very distinct team. The first team is the “Build with” team, which means we partner with these channel partners who are of four types – who build applications on our platform, services projects on Microsoft platform, managed services providers and companies that resell our products. Second is the “Go to Market with” team; once the product and solution is ready, you need to take that to the market. Third is “Selling”, where we partner with the Partner’s sales team and take the solution to market."
Director – Partner, Alliances & Commercial sales - Red Hat, India and South Asia
“Our Partner program basically focuses on partners who can develop and have services offering around our platform. We have recently launched OpenShift Practice Builder program where we have signed up with identified partners who have sales, pre-sales and advanced delivery skills to deliver solutions on top of openshift for their customers in the Enterprise space. So the key focus is, the partners build their services, we bring the technology and jointly they take it to the market as their offering to their customers. We are a partner led business and therefore partner profitability is a critical aspect for us and ensure that they make money and invest back in skills for our technology.
For a vibrant profitable partner program, the things that we look at are how we can help our partners to take advantage of revenue opportunities. We have a Cloud Provider program that focuses on helping companies move workload from on-premise to the cloud, System Integrator Program and OpenShift Practice Builder Program that we have launched recently which is primarily targeted at SIs and it focuses more on helping partners modernise applications or build modern cloud applications."
India Business Head, Tally Solutions
“The importance of a Partner Program for a business like Tally is very high, considering we service SMEs, who are currently around the 10 million mark in numbers (As per the data available in public domain from GST registrations). The 3 important criteria that we keep in mind while attempting to service these many businesses are reach, quality of service and the ability to stay connected with the customer over the usage of the product. For the last 30 years, our connect with customers has been established by our partners who have consistently stayed linked to our customer base.
In order to devise a successful Partner Program we are dependent on 2 critical factors: 1. Those which cannot be compromised, and 2. Those which are led by the context of our business. The former essentially encapsulates our business philosophy which is to serve businesses and make them more efficient by motivating them to adopt automation and digital means of doing business. We also ensure that there is absolutely no compromise on a good customer experience – this means the customer should be satisfied with the usage and still have the ability to run his business the way he would like to. The contextual side of running a vibrant Partner Program no doubt requires selection of the right partner with the correct attitude, temperament and aspiration of growth, good network of business, friends and acquaintances who are willing to digitize.”
Vice President—South East Asia and India, Trend Micro
“Trend Micro is channel-sales driven all sales go through partners. Our offerings address critical and growing business requirements. We provide organizations with everything they need to grow their business and help better protect customers from the ever-evolving IT threat landscape.
We have been growing very fast and the last year has been one of the fastest growing year for us. Most of the growth came from across our product line, whether it was Endpoint security, Cloud security or Network defense security. We wanted to recognize the fact, that this growth would not have been possible without the support from our channel/partner ecosystem. They were there when we wanted to bridge the solution with customer, during deployment & servicing, as well as during post-support instances.
We are selective in terms of choosing our partners and design our partner programs based on certain parameters. Partners with good technical capability to deploy and service their customers are some of the parameters that we consider.
We recently rolled out a very comprehensive channel program, one which will ‘reward partners’ called TrendSetter Channel Rewards Program.”
Sundar Balasubramanian, Sr. Director General Business (Commercial Sales and partners), VMware
“We have a healthy relation with our partners. How we structure it is that we have distributors and solution providers. We have got partners from different geo locations and we annually connect with partners. We have a pretty structured partners program called VMware Partner Program. We have different levels of partnerships depending on the competence of the partners. We have three categories of partners: Official, Enterprise and Premium Partners. We also invested in the partner teams and have almost 20 Partner Managers across the country. The partner programs that we have are focused on keeping the lights on and the business going. We have a disproportionate investment in the geo markets. We have invested in the partners outside the top six networks and the way we run is – there are two parts to partner management, one is the partner rewards that partner gets by referring VMware while the other part is our disproportionate focus is on the business solution lines with the partners. We really enable our partners to go up and build services both pre and post-sale as the post-sale impacts the planning and deploying our products in the market.”
Director, Channel Sales India, Western Digital
“Western Digital markets and sells products under the G-Technology, HGST, SanDisk and WD brands. Each of our brands have earned the trust of communities of customers, ranging from mainstream consumers to CIOs and storage architects at some of the largest data center companies. We sell across e-tail, large format retail and channel distribution models. Our recent acquisitions have brought an improved, wider channel for selling the products. The channel ecosystem also brings together the products, giving the customers a much larger product portfolio to choose from.
We believe that it is crucial to educate our channel partners in the right manner to ensure that the right products are catered to the customers’ requirements. We provide education programs and workshops for our partners spread across various media - in-person, online, and even mobile apps. We also have a strong backend process, through which our sellers find it attractive to take the products to consumers, allowing small retailers to big stores to achieve their targets.
Such an elaborately empowered ecosystem that we maintain for our channel partners has led for the company to be known as a channel-friendly organization.”
Managing Director, India and SAARC, Veeam
“Veeam’s vision is to be the most trusted provider of Intelligent Data Management solutions that deliver demands for Hyper-Availability of data. To achieve this, our partners play a pivotal role in delivering an Always-On business for our customers. We are committed to design programmes for our partners that drive higher market share and profitability through strategic initiatives. Additionally, we support our partners by providing access to the tools and resources necessary to differentiate their business for continued growth.”
Balaji Rajagopalan, Executive Director- Technology, Channels & International Business, Xerox India
“Xerox is known for its premium quality, innovations, technology and the value it creates for its partners as well as customers. A completely channel driven company, we boost of a strong 210+ channel network and are convinced that this is what differentiates us in the market. We believe in collective growth, where in we lay a lot of importance on partner success and advancement. We initiate programmes and trainings to ensure their prosperity. Our channel partners help us not only understand the market well, but also provide us with feedback, which enables us to continuously improve our offerings. We have seen a 16% growth in channel partner numbers in FY18 and we attribute this success to the new initiatives undertaken towards channel development and improvement of our partners’ profitability in the past few years. Xerox channel partners now also have a single bundle of core Managed Print Services (MPS) software solutions to offer that will drive recurring revenue for themselves and better productivity for their small- and medium-size business (SMB) customers.
Providing channel partners, including multi-brand dealers, with the right combination of technology, software and services to grow their businesses is among Xerox’s biggest priorities. Additionally, we have begun to see good traction on Xerox Partner Print Services (XPPS) and are confident that it will add a layer to our bottom-line this year. We believe that in 2018-19 we will also see a huge growth in our partner connectivity as we aim to add more channel partners.”