Sources: IGS Readies E-Business Agent Program

Under way since Jan. 1, IGS's E-Business Hosting Services Sales Agent Program aims to recruit IBM's hardware partners to sell IGS's full array of hosting services to small- and midsize businesses, say sources familiar with the program. Slated to be announced later this month at IBM PartnerWorld, the program represents only one aspect of IGS's push to the SMB market that will involve partners, sources said.

IGS delivers a broad variety hosted services that include co-location services, infrastructure hosting and hosting applications from software partners such as SAP and Siebel Systems. Now IBM's SMB partners will be able to sell, and be compensated for, selling the full range of IBM's On Demand offerings. Agents will be chosen by geographical region and by expertise, according to people close to the effort.

Tom Heger, senior account manager of Saturn Business Systems, New York, is one such agent. An IBM premier business partner for IBM's pSeries, xSeries and blade server hardware, Saturn also signed on for IGS's E-Business Hosting Services and its disaster recovery services. "I went from selling hardware to this, and this is my focal for this year," Heger said.

In fact, Heger had been selling IGS's hosted services for more than a year -- although not as agent. It was Heger's ability to find three hosting customers on his own that got him invited to the party. "Today, the effort is more formal, with three levels," he said.

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According to Heger, the first level rewards a one-time finder's fee to any partner that forwards on a lead to IGS that turns into a sale. The second, or closed-contract level, pays one-time fees and recurring revenue to partners that register an opportunity and then work it themselves. The highest, agent level is similar to the middle tier, but comes with higher percentages as well as territory management responsibilities, including sales forecasts.

Heger works in the New York metropolitan region territory for emerging markets, media and associations. As the designated agent for that territory, he's the one person IBM's internal sales reps introduce to SMB customers. "If I meet a company through someone else in another territory, though, I can still work it," he said. "That's important. In these deals, I'm getting access all the way to the customer, since these decisions to outsource are not made lightly. Since I can continue to sell servers -- and I know everything these companies are doing -- I can go back to these top decision-makers in ways that are beneficial to Saturn. Working with IGS allows me to get into different parts of the business than I could before."

Heger paid for his own training and certification, part of the requirements of the E-Business Hosting Services Sales Agent Program.