Program changes help VMware partners move beyond server virtualization

VMware has enhanced its partner program by cutting its deal registration threshold in half and offering more incentives and training.

VMware this week announced channel partner program enhancements aimed at helping partners capitalize on its server virtualization market share lead.

Changes to the VMware VIP Partner Program include a reduced deal registration threshold (from $20,000 to $10,000), new up-front discounts for sales representatives, more training and even bonuses for certain deals that a partner works on but does not close.

Recruiting VMware partners was the company's goal last year, and improving partner performance is the focus this year, according to Julie Eades, director of worldwide channel marketing.

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Most customers know VMware as the server virtualization market share leader. With these enhancements to the channel program, VMware partners can better use the company's position to sell desktop virtualization, disaster recovery, business continuity and other products and services to existing customers, Eades said.

The program could also help VMware stave off virtualization incursions from Microsoft, which is slated to release its own hypervisor -- both as part of Windows Server 2008 and as a standalone offering -- later this year.

"A lot of partners understand how to sell VMware specifically from a server virtualization perspective," she said. "We give them the opportunity to build upon the investment they've already made. We're hoping to proliferate our products and our solutions."

Marvin MacKay, sales and client relationships director for William Ives Consulting, a VMware partner in Charlotte, N.C., said the vendor's reputation as server virtualization market share leader definitely helps when working an account.

"It makes us look a lot more professional to our clients when they see we're involved," he said.

Of all the changes to the VMware partner program, the reduced deal registration threshold will have the biggest business effect, MacKay added. He estimated that William Ives Consulting will be able to register 30% to 40% more deals.

"There are very few above the 20K range," he said. "We get a lot in the 12 to 15 range."

At Nexus Information Systems, a VMware partner in Plymouth, Minn., most deals also did not exceed $20,000, according to storage and virtualization director Keith Norbie. But sales competition from VMware's direct staff was not really the problem, he said.

"It was more OEM partners or other people trying to sell to [customers] for lower margins," he said.

VMware has also reduced the deal registration threshold for new accounts to $2,995 -- the price of the VMware Infrastructure 3 Foundation Acceleration Kit.

"We want to encourage partners to sell into a new account, getting VMware into a new account," Eades said.

For compensation, VMware partners had been receiving back-end rebates, which primarily rewarded partner business owners. Now the vendor is splitting compensation between those back-end rebates and new up-front discounts to reward sales representatives, Eades said.

That new structure will help VMware partners attract better sales representatives, Norbie said. MacKay agreed, adding that it will also be a motivator for reps.

"That's key to keeping people talking about VMware in the field," he said.

For training, VMware launched Partnerpath, which it calls a "complete virtualization training roadmap." It includes a new technical sales course, to complement a sales professional course begun last year, as well as specific training curricula for new partners and existing partners and both online and hands-on courses. VMware adjusted its training offerings and made the other program changes in response to partner feedback, Eades said.

"It's really important to keep learning and educating yourself about VMware products," she said.

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