EMC is expanding its channel program with a series of training programs and certifications aimed at partners' pre-sales, sales, and post-sales activities.
The changes, which are being rolled out this week, are aimed at helping EMC push partners to put the "solution" in solution provider, said Pete Koliopoulos, vice president of global channel marketing for the storage giant.
"Before, we talked products," Koliopoulos said. "Last year, we talked services. Now we are going to the next step: solutions."
The changes, which are for now aimed at partners in North America, include new training and accreditation to help partner engineers better handle the pre-sales engagement, help their sales staff present in-depth information to better close their sales, and their services staff better deploy EMC solutions in the post-sales mode, Koliopoulos said.
The move shows just how far EMC's channel program has evolved over the last five or so years, said Bob Murphy, Northeast divisional president at Presidio, a Greenbelt, Md. solution provider and EMC partner.
The first stage in a vendor's channel development is a focus on finding someone to help sell its products, Murphy said.
"With its pre-sales focus, it's the first sign that EMC has finally let go on a sector, in this case, commercial sales," he said. "Anyone can throw sales out to the channel."
The third phase is opening up the delivery of services, Murphy said. "It's EMC recognizing that to continue to grow and offer partner opportunities, it needs to create more finite specializations," he said. "EMC is providing certifications to show the partner has been blessed by EMC to deliver the solution."
That is a very important step for EMC, which traditionally relied on its own services organization, Murphy said. "It lets partners know EMC is committed to them," he said.
Keith Norbie, director of the storage division of Nexus Information Systems, a Plymouth, Minn.-based solution provider and EMC partner, said he is looking forward to the new certification opportunity because the vendor has typically offered some of the best training available.
Some partners will say they don't need the new certifications, but the majority will embrace them, Norbie said. "EMC has some of the best training modules I've ever seen," he said. "Sometimes it's death by PowerPoint. But they're excellent resources. When we get a new sales rep, we make them go through EMC training."
EMC on Tuesday unveiled the Velocity 2 Pre-sales Readiness Program to help partners technicians better talk with customers about hardware, software, and integration, Koliopoulos said.
The goal is to train the technicians about how to talk to customers about core EMC technology, technically position EMC solutions and capabilities, and gain technical credibility in such solutions as storage platforms, network access, backup and recovery, archiving, data replication, virtualization, and storage resource management, he said.
"Once they get through the program, they will be assigned an EMC SE (systems engineer) to work with them on their messaging and skills similar to a one-to-one mentoring program," he said. "Mentoring helps them apply their knowledge to real-world situations."
To get solution providers' technicians certified, EMC is incenting its partners with an extra one percent co-op funds and rebates on sales, Koliopoulos said.
For solution provider reps involved in the actual sales process, EMC is offering them advanced accreditations based on them learning the skills needed to sell EMC solutions, Koliopoulos said.
For instance, they will learning multiple approaches to customers, how to explain their value to the customer's business, and how to close sales, he said. They will also learn how to use role playing to practice CFO meetings before they start, as well as other basic sales skills, he said.
For EMC Authorized Services Network (ASN) partners, EMC also unveiled three specialties to help them deliver services to customers, with more specialties expected to come, Koliopoulos said.
"This is about depth in particular areas," he said. "It's for a select group of partners, those who have the ability to handle the post-sales processes."
Those specialties include backup and recovery solutions and services, archival and assessment services for businesses interested in reducing costs of storing inactive data, and consolidation solutions for mid-size enterprises to manage and improve infrastructure availability, he said.
"It's about delivering complete, end-to-end solutions in hardware, software, and services," Koliopoulos said. "Once accredited, partners get access to EMC's Champions Program, which was previously only open to EMC personnel."
The Champions Program gives partners access to exclusive Webcasts, product roadmaps, best practices sharing, access to EMC's beta program, and access and communication with EMC's product engineering teams, he said.
The new program was based heavily on partner feedback, Koliopoulos said. "Most of the things we're doing in the program have been vetted by our partner advisory board of 13 partners," he said. "We don't do this in an ivory tower."
Norbie said he is happy to see that suggestions from the partner council and from such events as EMC World are becoming reality. "It's nice to see us getting this feedback," he said.