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Xerox Wants Solution Providers To Lead Its SMB Print Offensive With Latest Channel Program Changes

The changes include the creation of an entry-level program member tier that carries no minimum revenue requirements and grants partners access to the Xerox marketing toolkits and financial incentives.

Xerox has unveiled a handful of significant updates to its global partner program in hopes of enticing more IT providers to sell its print solutions and services to existing SMB clients.

Executives at the print giant said these latest changes include the creation of an entry-level member tier meant to streamline the process by which prospective channel partners can join the program. The new classification carries no minimum revenue requirements and grants partners immediate access to Xerox marketing toolkits and financial kickbacks that other partners enjoy.

Amy Belcher, vice president of global channel enablement at Xerox, said partners need only sign a "terms and conditions" agreement to become entry-level members of the Norwalk, Conn.-based company's program, and they can maintain that status indefinitely. Xerox is also in the process of building a "print 101" online training program for solution providers looking to learn the space, which Belcher said will launch shortly.

[Related: Security A Key Opportunity For Xerox Partners Amid Push Toward Managed Print Services]

"It gives them access to the partner portal, so they can use the tools and enjoy some of the financial benefits without a lot of the requirements," Belcher told CRN.

Xerox sees solution providers as a critical route to untapped segments of the SMB print market in light of last year's expansive ConnectKey product launch, which enables partners to develop their own apps through an open API software platform. Pete Peterson, senior vice president of global channel strategy, said ConnectKey makes partners with networking, managed services, software and cloud, and skills appealing additions to the Xerox ecosystem.

"At the end of the day, they reach a piece of the market we don't touch," Peterson told CRN. "We do not have the capability and the resources ever to be able to sell into the true SMB space. They are our partner of choice to reach into the SMB space."

Xerox has existing relationships with a large number of dealers and agents, some of which have spent decades selling print solutions and developing expertise in the space. At least a portion of those print partners do sell to SMB clients; others collaborate with managed IT companies, which in some cases refer them to existing clients with print needs.

As such, Xerox's latest channel push could put IT solution providers in competition with a segment of its existing print partners, according to partners who spoke with CRN on the condition of anonymity, although the percentage of existing partners that might affect is unclear.

Peterson said that many Xerox print dealers rely much more on A3 and light production business coming from midmarket and enterprise companies than they focus on SMBs, which primarily consume A4 devices. Some Xerox partners also voiced that sentiment.

"There's always going to be a potential conflict, but we think we're addressing and focused on two different markets here," Peterson said.

Dan Dominguez, president at Sausalito, Calif.-based print dealer Sentinelinc, noted the degree of difficulty involved in learning the print space and, more specifically, developing a recurring revenue-driven managed services practice. Many solution providers already have expertise in providing and selling managed services, which is one reason Peterson said they make attractive Xerox partners.

"It's a lot more sophisticated than I thought. Copiers were a lot harder than we thought. (Managed print services), that was fun to figure that out," Dominguez said.

Other changes made to the Xerox channel program include the unveiling of an improved sales rebate structure designed to get checks into partners' hands more quickly. The vendor has also devised a simplified partner tier structure that now relies upon a single yearly revenue number, as opposed to the previous model, which used multiple revenue calculations.

Whenever partners do hit their revenue targets for a new tier – be it Silver, Gold or Platinum – Belcher said they would be able to enjoy the attached benefits as soon as the following quarter thanks to an expedited auditing process. The revenue minimum to reach Silver status was raised, while the requirement to reach the Platinum tier was reduced by half, she said.

Dominguez said Xerox's updated rebate structure has allowed his company to work sales incentives directly into client deal pricing, which in turn has enabled him to price more aggressively. The system better lends itself to companies that have meaningfully invested into their managed print practices, he added, because checks are sent out on a rolling basis rather than quarterly.

"The program needed to be streamlined so there would be more of an incentive," Dominguez said. "I'm pleased they made it easier to understand. Now I can incorporate more when putting a deal together."

Ellen Allen, president at Acton, Mass.-based Printer Support Corporation, echoed Dominguez's praise of the sales rebate streamlining. She added that the communication partners are receiving from Xerox's channel team is more "crisp, clean and to the point" than it has been in the past.

"It makes it much easier to get the information and not have to dig for it," she said.

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