's Revamped Partner Program: New Tier Calculations, Training, Annual Fee is revamping its channel program by changing the criteria by which consulting partners qualify for advanced tiers and adding new training levels for specific technologies. The CRM leader is also for the first time implementing an annual program fee it will charge its partners.

Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, senior vice president of partner programs at, told CRN the changes are intended to make the company's channel more flexible, more specialized, and to better recognize the contributions of partners with focused areas of expertise who, under the new guidelines, will find it much easier to advance into new tiers.

"It's much more holistic, so a lot of partners who were held back before will likely advance as we recalculate the score," Taychakhoonavudh told CRN.

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Sponsored post operates a traditional-style program with Silver, Gold and Platinum tiers. The new modifications are consistent with a larger industry trend in which vendors are recognizing, and embracing, the unique attributes of different types of solution providers.

To determine a partner's station, the San Francisco-based cloud vendor takes into account three attributes: bookings, expertise (measured in certifications), and customer success (measured by satisfaction surveys).

Partners used to have to meet baseline standards in all three of those categories to qualify for advanced tiers. But will now make a comprehensive evaluation, where high scores in one category can compensate for lower scores in another.

"Now you can make up for one area with an excess of points in another area. Partners have been excited about that. They all want to know where they stand," Taychakhoonavudh told CRN. has been preparing to implement the program for the past year, Taychakhoonavudh told CRN, and the revamped program will go into effect gradually over the next couple of months.

Over the next few weeks, Salesforce will run its fourth-quarter numbers to calculate in which tiers partners fall. Scoring will be re-evaluated every quarter, she told CRN.

"The tiering matters a lot. We want to be responsive to make sure we have the latest data so if a partner can advance, they do so quickly," Taychakhoonavudh said.

Another change to the consulting partner program is the addition of several new training levels, mostly for products that don't yet have formal certifications.

Take, for example, Salesforce's new analytics cloud offering, called Wave. The company hasn't yet formalized a curriculum around that product, but partners will be able to have their employees earn the ranks of White Belt, Green Belt or Brown Belt for that specific practice area.

"We're focusing on hot new products and how to get partners up and running fast. So we've added a lot more enablement and training," Taychakhoonavudh told CRN.

The content and testing involved with those levels are enhancements are what actually uses to train its internal teams, she said.

As for the new annual program fee, entry-level partners will be charged $1,000 per year. The cost jumps to $5,000 for Silver partners, $15,000 for Gold and $20,000 for Platinum. In emerging markets, will reduce those fees by 25 percent, and the fees will be waived entirely for partners who service nonprofits.

NEXT: Partners React

Greg Kaplan, chief revenue officer at New York-based Bluewolf, a global partner, told CRN the program changes represent the kind of innovation brings to the market.

"This new partner approach exemplifies increased alignment to dedicated partners so we can best serve our shared clients. We see this as a win-win and it will only strengthen the value of our collaboration," Kaplan told CRN.

Kai Hsiung, chief revenue officer at partner Silverline, New York, told CRN the program changes will significantly improve enablement, marketing, technical support and operational infrastructure for consulting partners.

"The program offers a robust set of resources, training and tools, empowering both new and existing partners to develop expertise around specific business functions, product areas and industries so that they can expertly serve customers," Hsiung told CRN.

Gary DiOrio, president of the business unit at Atlanta-based solution provider Cloud Sherpas, said over the years the company has seen the partner program evolve and is thrilled with the latest iteration.

"Salesforce has raised the bar for their top partners and in doing so has created a program that enables global strategic partners, like Cloud Sherpas, to more easily collaborate with Salesforce and provide an elite experience for our joint customers. We already have evidence of this alignment at work, as a first-mover with the Wave launch and a leading partner in the new Community Cloud initiative," he said.

Taychakhoonavudh told CRN that businesses are transforming themselves rapidly in the digital age, which is why so many software vendors are now re-jiggering their channel programs. That creates opportunities for solution providers, she said.

"Traditional channel models are beginning to blend and converge. The programs need to be flexible enough so partners can try new things. If there's a trend, it's to more accurately define what a partner is good at, then to evaluate that partner holistically in as many categories as possible," she told CRN. is a very democratic company, she said, with customers ranging from the Fortune 500 to 10-person shops. The new program recognizes that variety.

"Just like democratization of software, it's also democratization of a partner base," Taychakhoonavudh told CRN.