Fulfilling promises to invest more in its channel partners, Sage North America will detail an expanded range of partner training, marketing assistance and hiring aid programs next week at the software vendor’s Insights partner conference in Denver.
“We want to be proactive in helping partners drive the activities that spur growth,” said Tom Miller, vice president of channel management, in a preshow interview.
This Insights is the last partner-specific conference for Sage, which will run a combined partner and customer event starting next year. Miller said Insights is being combined with the annual Summit customer conference at the request of partners who complained about the burden of attending two conferences.
About 1,000 partners have registered for this year’s conference, Miller said, approximately the same number as last year.
Sage and its partner program came under scrutiny last July when MIS Group, one of the company’s largest North American VARs, suddenly closed its doors, leaving hundreds of Sage customers without an IT solution provider. While MIS Group’s collapse has never been completely explained, it’s generally believed the company was overextended financially after making a number of acquisitions.
Miller said that of all Sage’s channel partners, the company has had to develop payment plans for only about a dozen that fell behind in their payments to Sage. And all but one of those are still in business, Miller said.
At Insights Sage will reveal that it’s developing free workshops for partners in time management and business strategy development, a move Miller said will help solution providers be more effective business managers. The workshops, which will include tips on business plan development and resource prioritization, will be held in multiple cities starting in Portland, Ore., in July.
The workshops are patterned after similar workshops Sage already offers partners for developing sales and consulting skills. While Sage also runs weeklong “Sales Academy” and “Consulting Academy” courses, Miller said attendance was lackluster -- likely because of the expense and time commitment. The traveling workshops have proven to be more popular, he said.
“It’s really given me the tools to run my business more effectively,” said Mark Dresser, president of Dresser and Associates, a Sage partner who resells Sage’s Abra human resource management software. Dresser has sent his four consultants to the consulting workshops and he’s taken advantage of the vendor’s marketing assistance programs.
Sage is also developing a two-and-a-half-day “Leadership Academy” course, tentatively scheduled for February 2011, that will include classes and workshops to help solution provider executives hone their personal leadership skills.
Sage also will reveal it is making its “Fast Track for Growth” initiative, a program to help channel partners develop marketing campaigns to attract new customers, available to a larger number of solution providers.
Until now Sage has had to maintain a cap on participation of about 50 partners a year because the company used its own marketing staff for the program, Miller said. By contracting with outside marketing experts to help run the program, Sage can open it to about 100 partners over the next year.
“This is one of those programs [where] the partners can really see the results,” Miller said, noting that Sage has calculated the net benefits of the initiative at $4,000 per partner.
Sage has also run a “Hire Assist” program that has helped channel partners hire nearly 300 salespeople, Miller said. Dresser recently tapped into that program, which included the cost of a professional recruiter, to hire a new sales representative.
In addition, Sage will tell Insights attendees that it is expanding the program to help partners find marketing and consulting talent, in addition to sales personnel.
This will be Miller’s first Insights, given that he was named to the channel chief post shortly after last year’s conference. The appointment of Miller, who spent much of his career at Great Plains Software and Microsoft, was widely seen as indicative of Sage’s commitment to the channel.