Microsoft Hot Line Aims To Give Partners Competitive Edge

The Competitive Sales Assistance service aims to help solution providers overcome competitive technology bids to win deals, said Allison Watson, vice president of worldwide partner sales and marketing.

If a solution provider pitching Small Business Server and Microsoft CRM thinks the account will move to SAP Business One instead, he or she can call to get expert advice on how to compare and contrast the Microsoft solution to win the deal.

In North America, the service is reachable by calling 800-426-9400 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific Time, Microsoft said.

Available services include pre-sales technical support, access to a Microsoft specialist to help with technical and competitive sales questions. Marketing materials, white papers, case studies, and online training are also available.

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Pat Langowski, strategic account lead at Tectura, a Microsoft Business Solutions partner based in Belmont, Calif., is bullish on the idea, although he hasn't tried the system yet.

"On the MBS side, we're constantly up against other competitors, SAP, or Sage or Best or JDE or PeopleSoft/Oracle in small to large companies," he noted. That is bound to happen even more as SAP moves more into the midmarket. Tools like this could help partners do better in such situations, he said.

In July, Microsoft executives said the service, already used internally, would be opened up to partners. At that time, Kevin Johnson, Microsoft's group vice president of worldwide sales, marketing and services, said the system helped field teams in tough situations get support and assistance from headquarters.

"The way you access it is through this presales technical support. If you call into that presales technical support line, your teams are out in the field, fighting and working to deliver the best value to a customer, you're in a competitive situation, use the presales technical support," Johnson said at the company's annual partner conference in Toronto. "You've got some tough issues, whether it's Linux or open-source alternatives, or whatever it may be, we're going to use CompHot to help bring additional resources to back you, our partners, up in the selling process."

Watson said the service will be organized to help partners respond fast. "It's for any competition, if you're up against SAP, up against IBM Workplace, up against Sage, or Siebel for CRM, in the past we might give you some stuff but you'd have to find it ... now we're putting escalation in place for partners," Watson told CRN.

If recent Craig's List postings are to be believed, Microsoft is ramping up hiring for CompHot.

In related news, the Redmond, Wash.-based company launched its Channel Builder effort in mid-January, which is designed to match solution providers to partner on projects.

"We missed the original date, and we're taking some existing catalogs in Asia, Europe and the U.S. and loading partners and solutions into it," Watson said. The idea is to provide an online resource to help partners with different areas of expertise find and collaborate with each other on joint projects.

This story was updated Thursday evening with additional details on Comphot.