QUESTION: What’s the best way to combine two large and separate partner programs from previously distinct vendors into one?
Answer: Very carefully. That’s especially true if the programs in question belong to iconic names in the conferencing market like Plantronics and Polycom. When the former of those companies acquired the latter a little under two years ago, it was but a matter of time before their channels converged as well. Nick Tidd (pictured), vice president of global channel sales at the vendor now known as Poly, was determined to take the process slowly, however.
“”I could have just simply slammed two programs together,”” he says. “”That would have been extremely disruptive to the channel.””
Instead, Tidd first surveyed partners, studied market trends, and took a long, hard look at Poly’s product roadmap. The result of that effort, introduced this April, is an all-new program with the usual registered, silver, gold, and platinum tiers but a significantly less usual requirements structure that awards points in three broad areas: capability, commitment, and contribution.
The Three C’s
Capability is about enablement. The more training a partner completes, at both the company and individual employee level, the more points it earns. Most of that training, Tidd emphasizes, has less to do with technical matters than with customer needs, like switching from Microsoft’s outgoing Skype for Business solution to Teams or managing a multiplatform conferencing environment.
“”We’re not training partners on speeds and feeds,”” he notes.
Commitment measures engagement in categories like customer proposals issued, demos performed, and demo gear purchased. Deal registration figures prominently in commitment calculations as well, but not just in terms of raw totals. “”I’m looking at the growth and the breadth of that, because we want to build pipeline together,”” Tidd says.
Contribution, finally, is about sales. Here, too, the program looks beyond numbers alone to reward members for strategic priorities like building subscription-based services into their deals. Poly expects businesses worried about cash flow during the coronavirus recession to be eager consumers of conferencing options they can pay for out of the operating budget.
“”We believe professional services, managed services, and care and maintenance of existing products are going to be key deliverables over the course of the next 12 to 24 months,”” Tidd says.
In return for collecting points and ascending through the program, partners get increased access to sales leads, market development funds, and more. Platinum partners get dedicated account management too.
Former Plantronics and Polycom partners entered the new program at the highest level they had achieved in either of the old ones. “”If you were a Plantronics partner at platinum and a Polycom partner at bronze, you came in a platinum,”” Tidd explains. Members have a year to requalify at their initial level or climb to the next tier up. They can map out a plan for that ascent via a new scorecard tool that shows exactly how many points they’ll earn for each potential activity they invest in.
“”We believe professional services, managed services, and care and maintenance of existing products are going to be key deliverables over the course of the next 12 to 24 months.””—Nick Tidd, Vice President, Global Channel Sales, Poly
That resource is available through a new partner portal stocked with co-branded marketing assets. Much of that material is designed to help program members capitalize on the rapid growth of a conferencing market that was already hot before coronavirus-related distancing guidelines spurred exploding demand for webcams, phones, headsets, and other online meeting tools.
“”It’s really brought forward and accelerated the adoption of work from anywhere, work at any time, regardless of location,”” observes Tidd of COVID-19.
Poly and its partners, he continues, are ideally situated to grab a hunk of that adoption due to the SIP-platform-agnostic architecture of Poly’s products. “”We will connect to a BroadSoft platform, a Metaswitch platform, a GENBAND platform, anything that essentially is open SIP,”” Tidd says. “”That gives our partners breadth of opportunity to sell devices.””
Expanding that opportunity even further later on will be no problem, too. “”That’s one of the benefits of having a points-based system,”” Tidd says. As demand trends shift, so can Poly’s partner program.