Although storage management vendor Adaptec has had a long history of selling through the channel, it only launched a formal partner program in April.
"We've always sold through resellers," according to John Noellert, vice president of channel sales at Adaptec in Milpitas, Calif., who oversees the new Adaptec PartnerConnect Program in North America. "This new channel program is more about developing a new class of resellers that are solutions oriented."
Adaptec's simplified approach to partner programs
The program takes a cover-the-basics approach, with specific features designed to provide partners with dedicated presales support, secure deal registration, lead sharing, free training and customized marketing tools.
"This is a great program," according to Janet Waxman, vice president, hardware channels research at IDC in Framingham, Mass. "It's simple and easy to understand, and doesn't have a lot of extraneous stuff. You don't have to hire five interns to figure out what the program does."
Although selling through the channel is not new to Adaptec, having a program to support the channel is.
"Traditionally, we've focused on high-volume, entry-level market customers," Noellert said. "As our product line has evolved, it has become important for us to find solutions-oriented channel partners who understand topology and presite assessments and understand how to manage widely diverse geographic rollouts."
The new program, which serves value-added resellers (VARs), solutions providers and direct marketers, consists of two levels, including registered and authorized partners. Registered partners require no commitment, while authorized partners commit to having a trained and certified staff member and to meeting an annual sales volume of $500,000.
The new program is designed to help a partner's business grow by expanding skills, not just existing contracts, Noellert said. "You need to make money. [But the program] also has to add to their business in a way that doesn't just grow revenue but also grows the type of opportunity they can address," he said.
"We didn't want to make it an oppressively difficult challenge for our partners to be a part of the program," said Noellert. "We are engaging with our partners with a high level of system engineering and support, and we can only do that with a certain kind of revenue. It's a dollar and cents thing for us."
Since the program began, nearly 15 solution providers have received authorized status. The company anticipates bringing that to 35 to 45 partners in the near future. "We are looking for quality, not quantity," said Noellert.
Secure online partner portal helps partners' bottom lines
As part of the program, Adaptec has also launched a secure partner portal that houses a variety of materials and aids for its partners. "We have created lot of sales materials, handy references, white papers, success stories, case studies, solutions briefs and information about what's cooking on the products," said Noellert.
The partner relationship manager module, which is currently in beta, allows partners to register sales opportunities and receive qualified leads. "The other day, when Adaptec came to visit, they gave us 30 leads to follow up on before they left," said Walsh. "Obviously, we are always looking for leads so that was fantastic."
The deal registration program allows authorized Adaptec partners to register potential sales in order to receive a discount on products, which range from 5% to 25% depending on the product, at the time of purchase.
"The partner buys the product at the distributor, but we provide cost relief to the distributor as a tie in with the purchase," said Noellert. Adaptec uses Ingram Micro and Tech Data as authorized distributors. "Getting the discount up front means a lot to the VAR. We have run a variety of deals through this program and the average deal seems to work out from 14% to 17% in terms of cost relief."
Deal registration has proven to be the most popular part of the new program, resellers said. "Deal registration, and the protection of the margins, is definitely important," said Charlie Walsh, chief executive officer at ISSI Data, an Adaptec authorized partner in Bothell, Wash. "Having deal registration, and a healthy margin on the deal, is important. An extra five points isn't going to save the deal, but 10 to 20 points gives you the protection you need to make sure the deal is safe."
Adaptec storage product training
In addition to the most recent additions to its channel program, Adaptec has been steadily increasing its training and education offerings to keep up with the increasing complexity of its products.
"We have a certification program for systems engineers and we are making having trained systems engineers a requirement," said Noellert. "We don't want someone out there selling at this level that doesn't have at least one person on staff that really understands the Snap operating system and the value-added software."
Adaptec has dedicated two full time people on the road to provide training and education to partners. The company has created both product and sales training, and offers its authorized partners free on-site classes. "We know that to take a billable systems engineer out for training is a really big expense, so we don't charge for training and we don't make them fly anywhere," said Noellert. "We just expect them to take the time to learn."
"We've already had two on-site trainings, which have been helpful for our sales team to get up to speed," said Walsh. "We are a small company of 25 people with a specific focus on data storage so we wanted as many folks as we could to jam into the conference room and learn about the product." The trainings, lasted from two to four hours each, were attended by the company's seven inside sales reps and two sales engineers, he added.
"In addition, we are hosting a weekly webinar where we can have multiple sales reps on the phone and provide bite-sized chunks of orientation."
Further support for Adaptec authorized partners
To further support its authorized partners, Adaptec has allocated inside sales engineers and field sales representatives to assist with quotations, configurations, joint sales calls and other activities. And it's built a track record of keeping VARs up to date as products or requirements change.
"One thing that Adaptec does better than many vendors I've seen is that every month or so they will post new and updated SKUs and discontinued SKUs on the Web site," said Walsh. "It's a basic thing but others are surprisingly poor about letting us know when the description, SKU number or product functionality has changed."
That simplicity, Walsh said, makes both the vendor and the VAR more successful.
About the author: Hailey Lynne McKeefry is a regular contributor to SearchITChannel.com.
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