During the 12th annual Intel Solution Summit in Las Vegas earlier in the year, Intel outlined broad changes to its reseller program. The most visible is the change in designation for partners, from Intel Channel Partner to Intel Technology Provider. Intel executives promise more substantive changes as well, and pledge to improve the program regularly with training and online customer marketing.
“We’re redoing the membership,” says Steve Dallman, vice president, sales and marketing group, and general manager of the worldwide reseller channel organization. “We’ve been trying to do that since 2009, but we didn’t have the tools and funding. We have both now, and we have one membership program with different tiers.”
The new program tracks and credits partner sales whether they buy from distribution or direct, and whether they buy components and build systems or buy completed systems with Intel chips. The previous organization made it difficult to track and tally purchases across multiple outlets and product types.
Intel resellers will be grandfathered into the new program at their current level. Partners at the highest tier, Premier, will be moved to the new Platinum level, where they receive enhanced benefits if they meet product purchasing criteria and demonstrate “superior business and technical skills as well as leadership in the development of innovative customer solutions based on Intel technologies,” according to an Intel statement. Those in the Associate member tier will move to Gold, where they have access to enhanced support, channel events, sales tools, and more advanced training. The Registered membership level offers access to newsletters, online training, and other members-only content at no charge.
“Registered partners just need to tell us who they are to get into the program, even if they’re consultants that don’t sell directly,” says Christopher J. (CJ) Bruno, vice president, sales and marketing group, and president of Intel Americas Inc. There is no limit to how many Registered and Gold partners may be in the program. The Platinum level is limited to between 1,100 to 1,500 partners worldwide.
“Customers can see these partners’ profiles and get an idea of their specialization, and how they can help them,” says Dallman. Platinum members are judged on size, the number of sales and marketing people they employ, industry certifications of employees, and the amount of training they’ve received. Gold members will focus more on training and product volume, with a clear view of what’s necessary to move up to Platinum if they wish to do so.
This year will be the transition phase, as resellers are slotted into the new program based on their ranking in 2010. To remain at Gold or Platinum come next year, partners will have to meet the qualifications for the new categories. There are already 17 training modules available that resellers can take to gain points for next year’s tier evaluation, with attendance at the Solution Summit qualifying as training credit. More training modules are promised during the year.
Customer-facing changes from Intel’s marketing groups will help the new Technology Providers, says Dallman. “As they move from Registered to Gold we get more information, see what they ship, and see what businesses they’re really in. Then we turn our new Web presence into a massive lead engine for them. We provided over 22,000 leads to our Premier customer base last year.”
Dallman promises increased “financial and human” investment to go along with the channel program updates, and continuous improvement. One example? An app that end users can download to find channel partners in their area.
Pat Taylor, past president of Intel’s Board of Advisers, says he is thrilled to see the new program, which he and the other advisers had advocated for several years. He is particularly happy with the new name. “When you introduce yourself to a customer, they don’t know or care what Intel Channel Partner means. But when you identify yourself as an Intel Technology Provider, Platinum level, the customer knows immediately what you do and that you’re certified to do it well.”