Enterasys Prepping New Partner Program

Enterasys used the occasion of its 2004 Americas Partner Conference this week in Miami to preview the forthcoming program updates as well as share details of a new marketing strategy and efforts to reinvigorate its channel partnerships.

Slated to go into effect in the next few weeks, additions to the Enterasys Networks Partner Program will reassign partner designations, prohibit uncertified partners from selling high-end equipment and place restrictions on specialized pricing that previously was available to all partners, Enterasys executives said.

"Our primary goal is to give our partners the greatest value and make it easier to do business with us," said Ellen Berlan, director of North American channels and distribution at Enterasys, Andover, Mass.

Other elements of the program could include additional rebates or financial incentives that reward partners for bringing in new business and selling systems, Berlan said, noting that Enterasys will incorporate feedback gathered from conference attendees as it finalizes details of the program.

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The program will likely extend a deal registration component the company launched last year to protect partners from price wars as they close sales to new customers, said Thomas Barrett, director of global partner marketing at Enterasys.

With the program update, Enterasys is creating four partner categories, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Registered, which will replace its current three-tier program that includes Elite, Certified and Associate partner levels.

The Platinum level most closely maps to the current top-level Elite partner category, while the new Gold designation corresponds to current Certified partners. The Associate designation now includes two types of partners: those that want to grow their Enterasys business and those that just want a loose association with the vendor. The former will fit under the new Silver designation while the new Registered partner designation will best suit the latter, Barrett said.

The new partner designations maintain current volume requirements ($3 million in annual sales for Platinum partners, $1 million for Gold and no volume requirement for Silver or Registered partners) but include increased training requirements aimed at helping partners develop skills to sell solutions, Barrett said.

"Some of our traditional training was more focused on the installation and support of equipment. Now we're helping solution providers develop their ability to position our products, do network design and other services they're good at," Barrett said.

Starting this quarter, Enterasys began offering free sales and technical training to partners and also made training resources available online so partners could limit time spent out of the office and train at their own pace, he said.

The new program will also limit sales of high-end technology, such as the vendor's Matrix N-Series switches, to only those partners that receive training on the product lines. Previously all products were open to all partners, he said.

In addition, specialized pricing, which is available to partners on a deal-by-deal basis, will only be available to Platinum, Gold and Silver partners. Previously all partners were eligible, Barrett said.

Partners attending the conference said they expect Enterasys' bolstered channel efforts to result in increased sales growth.

"If this kicks in the way I think it could and opens the doors I think it could open, we could do $10 million to $12 million [in Enterasys product sales] this year," said Michael Simmons, president of MAS Enterprises, a solution provider in Las Vegas. MAS is currently on track to sell $5 million to $6 million in Enterasys gear, up from $2.7 million last year, Simmons said.

Simmons said his questions about Enterasys' commitment to the channel were answered by attending the event.

"In an organization like this that has had huge changes at the executive level in the last few months, you're not sure where you stand until you shake hands and look people in the eye. I do feel better about it after being here," he said.

Enterasys last year brought in several new executives, including President Mark Aslett, who joined in April, and Cosmo Santullo, executive vice president of worldwide sales and service, who joined in October to oversee direct and indirect sales, services and field marketing.