APC Beefs Up Partner Support, Adds New Incentives

Longtime power protection giant APC by Schneider Electric is revving up its channel game with new investments in partner support and profitability.

APC is highlighting some of the changes this week under a partner program revamp that includes nearly tripling the pre- and post-sales partner enablement team from eight to 23 employees.

APC said the regional dedicated partner support teams, which began rolling out in mid-2014, are aimed at developing tighter bonds between the company and partners. One of the most common requests from partners is a dedicated partner support team with specific APC employees assigned to that partner, according to APC.

[Related: APC To Unveil New Channel Org That Gives Hardware R&D To Global Chief]

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"These guys basically do whatever the partner needs to help them drive their business," said Leslie Vitrano, director of channel marketing and communications at APC.

The increased partner support teams have opened the door for APC to bring pre- and post-sales support to more partners, expanding from just elite-level partners last year to now include partners at the select level, said Gordon Lord, director of APC's North American channel strategy and IT distribution.

The team responds to any partner-support requirement, Lord said. "It might just be a onesie, twosie opportunity," he said. "[The team takes] that just as seriously and with as much passion as they do somebody who is working on a data center retrofit."

APC also significantly improved its deal registration process based on partner feedback, Vitrano said. Starting last month, deals for business network products by select-level or higher partners will now be registered in 12 business hours vs. the previous three business days, she said. That accounts for between 30 percent and 40 percent of all APC's deal registrations, she said.

The revamped partner program includes new training content related to new enhancements to software, cooling and other parts of the data center, Vitrano said. "Those are all very much missing from our previous program," she said. "[This] was the No. 1 priority."

Within the four partner tier levels, there are different training tracks partners can leverage based on their business models, expertise and how they want to grow their APC business.

APC, in fact, did not alter its four partner levels -- registered, select, premier and elite -- even as it has added new incentives. There are no major changes in revenue requirements across all four levels, Vitrano said.

The company is, however, expanding its Rewards Growth Incentive Program in July to reward premier specialized-level partners who grow their APC business. When a channel partner's business grows during the quarter, APC provides a rewards-points multiplier to individual sales reps in the partner organization who actively placed a purchase order with APC in that period, Vitrano said.

APC's incentive program has already been providing returns to partners' sales reps. "We have pictures of partners on vacations. We know of a partner who purchased a Harley with their rewards points. And also partners that have purchased their favorite golf clubs," she said.

Incentives and loyalty perks like the new offerings from APC provide a chance not only to reward a solution provider's sales reps, but also its engineering talent, said Dan Beeler, director of the data center division at CompuNet, a Meridian, Idaho-based solution provider and APC partner, predicting that many of his sales reps will share the APC rewards with their sales engineer colleagues.

"If it's a single spif, reps often give it to the [sales engineers]. Engineering is core for us. We want to make sure engineers get credit for their design and support," Beeler said.

Also new from APC is an attached incentive program that gives partners five points of deal registration bonus if they already have a deal registration with Cisco, HP, EMC or NetApp, APC's Vitrano said. The program is available through distribution, she said.

It is a stackable bonus. Gordon Lord, director of APC's North American channel strategy and IT distribution, said a deal registered for business networks that qualifies for a 5 percent discount would also bring in an additional 5 percent if that deal was attached to a Cisco or other qualified vendor deal.

Such bonuses and stackable incentives will help boost profitability, Beeler said.

"We're always trying to manage margins, so it's great for that reason," Beeler said. We'll be interested to see how it works with our partners like EMC, Cisco and NetApp. We register everything to maximize margins."