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The applications also offer a snapshot of the current state of vendor partner programs -- not just those of individual companies, but of the industry as a whole. And comparing this year's data to information from last year's applications provides some eye-opening insight into channel trends.
The good news is that vendors have generally stepped up to the plate and boosted the services, support and resources they provide to the channel.
Take the issue of training. Vendors, recognizing that better trained resellers can close more sales, have increased the amount of training opportunities they offer partners. The percentage of vendors providing Web-based training increased to 95.1 percent from 90.8 percent in 2009, for example, while those offering self-certification and testing programs surged to 69.2 percent from 60.3 percent last year.Those offering instructor-led training, however, fell to 75.8 percent from 82.4 percent—reflecting, perhaps, solution providers' reduced travel budgets.
The percentage of vendors that provide training free-of-charge also has increased, to 64.8 percent today from 59.2 percent last year. The number of vendors that charge partners a portion of training costs and those that base the decision on tiers both declined.
And if there's any doubt whether training is important, take a look at the statistics John Dragoon, Novell's chief marketing officer and channel chief, disclosed to channel partners at BrainShare earlier this month. Dragoon said solution providers that underwent some kind of Novell training in every quarter during the last 12-month period reported sales gains 110 percent greater than those who took little or no training.
Vendors, generally speaking, are increasing the amount of goodies they offer through their partner programs to motivate and support resellers. More vendors are providing spifs (75.8 percent vs. 68.7 percent last year), deal registration (78.6 percent vs. 70.2 percent), loaner and demo units (80.2 percent vs. 73.3 percent), discount promotions (78.6 percent vs. 74.0 percent) and awards for sales (57.1 percent vs. 49.6 percent).
"A lot of them have been retooling their programs and focusing them more to meet the needs of their partners," said Daniel Lieber, president of Innovative Ideas Unlimited, a Wakefield, Mass.-based solution provider that works with IBM, McAfee and Symantec. While the emphasis used to be on recruiting as many partners as possible, Lieber has detected a shift by vendors toward working with fewer, higher-quality partners.
Lieber is on to something. Vendors were asked in the PPG questionnaire how fast their partners have grown in the past year. Nearly 13 percent of 5-Star vendors and more than 10 percent of all vendors overall said their partners, on average, grew faster than 50 percent -- a stunning statistic given the faltering economy.
Lieber specifically cited IBM's efforts to go beyond traditional compensation plans and reward channel partners for deals in which they play an influential role, even if they don't handle product fulfillment. "They've changed how the margins are managed," he said.