ShoreTel this week made significant changes to its Champion Partner Program aimed at making the program simpler for partners to navigate and less vulnerable to channel conflict.
Among the changes, the bulk of which go into effect Jan. 1, are new partner discounts and MDF structures, a new opportunity registration program, and a new pricing model for ShoreTel's support services.
According to David Petts, senior vice president, worldwide sales at ShoreTel, the revamped Champion Partner Program, which today houses roughly 900 partners worldwide and 550 in North America, was designed entirely based on the feedback of solution providers. Petts said ShoreTel conducted at least 50 partner interviews when shaping the new program.
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"We really spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to achieve a number of objectives that are, ultimately, to the benefit of our partners," Petts told CRN.
At the forefront of the changes is a streamlined discount structure that condenses multiple billing thresholds within each ShoreTel partner level -- Authorized, Silver, Gold and Platinum -- to create a single partner billing requirement and associated discount, within each of those four levels. Previously, for instance, there were eight different billing thresholds within the Gold level, with eight unique discounts associated with each.
Starting in January, however, there will be one entry-level billing threshold and one corresponding discount, for each of the four partner levels. Petts declined to specify the discounts for each level.
"We certainly got great results with our prior program but also some very solid feedback from the partners that there were some aspects of confusion due to the multiple tiers," Petts said. "So this dramatic simplification is not only good for us, but clearly good for the partners, in terms understanding where they sit and how they work with us."
The second major change to the program is the introduction of an opportunity registration program. The program, which essentially serves as ShoreTel's first formal deal registration process, rewards partners that find ShoreTel sales opportunities on their own and then register those leads with ShoreTel.
After those deals are registered, partners must submit what Petts called "proof points," such as a network diagram including a ShoreTel solution, showing that the opportunity or deal is valid. Once the opportunity is verified, partners receive an additional discount on top of their usual partner discount, and they have 180 days to close the deal.
"It provides them a security blanket through to the close of that business, knowing that somebody can't come in and just out discount them and get that deal late in the game," Petts said.
Don Gulling, president of Verteks Consulting, an Ocala, Florida-based solution provider and ShoreTel partner, said the new opportunity registration program is the "biggest and best" change being made to the Champion Partner Program.
"We have almost never run into a problem with [channel conflict]. But with this new opportunity registration process, there are much more clear lines, much more clear steps and it's one and done," Gulling said. "It verifies you are in a place to win it."
NEXT: ShoreTel Changes MDF, Support Pricing Models
The revamped Champion Partner Program also ushers in an enhanced MDF program, set to go live April 1, which eliminates the need for partners to hit a specific revenue requirement to qualify for MDF. This, according to ShoreTel, is meant to help smaller partners tap into MDF opportunities.
In addition, ShoreTel is condensing multiple revenue or booking thresholds within each partner level, which historically have corresponded to a unique MDF accrual or reimbursement rate. Starting April 1, there will be one accrual rate and one reimbursement rate per partner level, with those rates increasing as the levels increase.
ShoreTel is also now requiring partners to get pre-approval before they move forward with MDF spending to eliminate MDF claims being rejected down the line and to ensure partners receive reimbursement.
The last major change to the new Champion Partner Program is that ShoreTel is moving its support, or services, pricing from "buy price" to a discount structure, to align with all other ShoreTel product pricing. "It was just two different ways of reaching a buy price, and now we have a consistent way," ShoreTel's Petts said.
ShoreTel is also rolling out a new partner certification, called the solution architect certification, which is focused on pre-sales.
Verteks' Gulling, a ShoreTel partner for seven years, said he has been with the company through a number of partner program changes. This round of changes, he said, has been the smoothest yet.
"This time, with David Petts at the helm, they gave us much more advanced notice and much more communication," Gulling said. "From a channel perspective, if you are going to manage a change, I think they did it as best as you possibly can."
PUBLISHED DEC. 5, 2013