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Some partners worried that might create confusion among customers. "It makes sense for Sage to focus their efforts on certain areas. However, the use of the term[s] core and non-core was very unfortunate," said Sean Mohan, president of Strategic Sales Systems Inc., a partner in Maryland Heights, Mo., which offers CRM solutions from Sage, SugarCRM and Salesforce.com.
"The term 'non-core' almost insinuates a negative attitude with Sage regarding specific products," Mohan said. "If truly it just means 'stand-alone,' Sage should have designated it as such. Our competitors will surely use this terminology against us. It will make it tougher to convince new prospects to commit to non-core products even though these are very good offerings. It is a very competitive environment, [and] something as simple as terminology can become a very big issue in a sales cycle."
Partners attending Sage Summit could affix small tags to the bottom of their badges to show what Sage products they work with. As a protest, one reseller of the Sage Act! application made up his own tag that said "Non-Core" and wore it on his badge.
Some Sage partners, such as Blytheco and Arxis, have in the last year begun working with other vendors such as Intacct, NetSuite, SAP and SugarCRM. They say those moves are designed to broaden their product portfolios with software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and do not represent an effort to move away from Sage.
But, others seemed reluctant to work with competing vendors because of the latest changes at Sage. "It's a huge investment," said Harris at MicroAccounting Solutions, a "Sage Select" partner that works exclusively with the vendor. While he said working with other vendors is an option, he hasn't found anything so compelling that he would move away from Sage. "Sage has been a very good partner," he said.
Some partners see big opportunities in the Sage ecosystem. Net@Work is launching a partner alliance program through which it will work with other Sage partners. Net@Work, for example, can work with a Sage CRM reseller when a contract also calls for ERP applications or provide IT hardware and software from other vendors in partnership with solution providers that work exclusively with Sage applications.
Net@Work's Solomon said that by next year as much as 30 percent of the company's sales could be generated through such alliances.
Azamba Consulting Group likewise sees opportunities to provide its Sage CRM expertise to other Sage channel partners, said President Peter Wolf. And, he expects some of those partner-to-partner matches to be driven by Sage itself. "The Sage cross-sell program is very effective," he said.
"I think our biggest opportunity is to cross-sell to our existing base," agreed Harris, specifically on selling Sage CRM applications to MicroAccounting Solutions' ERP customers.