Partners Say SugarCRM Is Listening And Channel Efforts Are Back On Track

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SugarCRM channel partners feel reassured the CRM application vendor is committed to the channel after the company agreed to a number of partner requests, including the introduction of a channel-neutral compensation plan for SugarCRM sales representatives and clearer engagement rules between the company and its partners.

The reassurance comes after what partners described as a turbulent, months-long period for fast-growing SugarCRM in which partners questioned the company's commitment to the channel and their role in its go-to-market strategy. Those questions were heightened in February when SugarCRM dismissed its entire channel management team, as well as other sales and marketing executives.

"It's been a tough time for the partners," said Geoffrey Mobisson, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Levementum, a Chandler, Ariz.-based solution provider that's one of SugarCRM's biggest partners with about $3 million in annual SugarCRM-related sales. Noting that Levementum has a lot invested in SugarCRM, he said his company "was terribly concerned about our exposure" should the vendor turn away from the channel.


[Related: SugarCRM Previews Upcoming Sugar 7 Release, Offers Private Cloud Option]

"I would say that for the last six months there have been question marks for us," said Jim Ward, president of BrainSell Technologies, also a SugarCRM partner, referring to recent difficulties between the company and its partners.

SugarCRM partners contacted for this story declined to offer many details about the problems between the vendor and its partners. Mobisson, Ward and others will only say that through the latter part of 2012 and early this year the vendor's direction left partners questioning their future with the company.

Ward said the company made "internal changes" that hinted at diminished channel commitment and "a lack of coordinated messaging going into the market." He noted that SugarCRM has "a multipronged distribution model" that includes the channel, direct sales, inside sales and Web sales. The company also offers a free, open-source "community" edition.

Mobisson attributed many of the difficulties to SugarCRM's growing pains. Founded in 2004, Cupertino, Calif.-based SugarCRM has been growing at a rapid pace and in recent years has become a significant player in the highly competitive, but fragmented CRM application market. The privately held company doesn't disclose sales figures.

"What you have here is a company that's growing up, that's passed the adolescent stage," Mobisson said. While SugarCRM once focused heavily on sales through the channel to SMB customers, there's been more emphasis on sales to larger customers recently and the company brought in new managers to help meet those goals, he said, choosing his words carefully.

NEXT: SugarCRM's Dismissal Of Its Channel Managers In February

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