VentureTech Members Reel In Deals With IBM Global Services

"The program is working," said Frank Vitagliano, vice president of worldwide global distribution channels at IBM

Ingram Micro first announced that IBM Global Services would look to partner with VentureTech members on deals about 18 months ago. It took more than a year to close the first deal, but now they could become a more routine part of doing business for several VentureTech solution providers, said Justin Crotty, senior director of customer marketing and program development at Ingram Micro.

"We've known from the beginning that you can't go into a big organization and immediately determine what to hit. We always knew it would come down to the deal level with the SMB-focused IGS folks," Crotty said.

It took time to close the first deal because Ingram Micro and IGS first had to learn how to partner, Crotty said. Rules of engagement had to be defined and the right relationships at the local level needed to be developed. The process was often frustrating, but it was necessary and worthwhile to put together a good program, he said.

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Once the two sides knew what the other could do, the program found traction, Crotty said.

"The early frustrations we felt were both sides wanted the other to bring the opportunities. Once we announced the relationship, our partners were like 'Where's the business?' But IBM is not going to throw deals blindly to us until we have a relationship," Crotty said.

Several solution providers were feverishly trying to build relationships with IGS, including InterTech Computer Products, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based solution provider.

InterTech found IGS to be a willing partner once it found a champion at the local level, said Mike Novotny, president and CEO of InterTech.

"Persistency, persistency, persistency," Novotny said was the key to winning his first deal.

"We weren't penetrating the right individuals. We had to get to the decision makers. Once they became aware of what we could do, we met and laid our cards on the table. These are the accounts we're working on. They showed us what they were working on. There were 15 accounts we had a simultaneous presence in and we decided to jointly work those opportunities," he said.

Novotny recognized the risks of sharing his customer data with a potential competitor, but he felt the potential rewards were greater.

"We're very good at the SMB marketplace. IGS is very good at the enterprise. We have the confidence to sustain our relationships at the SMB level," Novotny said.

Ironically, IGS came to InterTech with their first joint opportunity. IGS used the solution provider to do a wireless site survey on a million-square-foot warehouse for one of its customers in West Texas. InterTech was able to charge 100 billable services hours to perform the survey for IGS and later was asked to help deploy the equipment, Novotny said.

"IGS took our deliverable and secured an order for $300,000 for Cisco wireless gear," he said. "$300,000 to a midsize account, we wouldn't have been price competitive. From our service perspective, 100 hours is a nice piece of business. From IGS resources point of view, if they're right at the enterprise level, that's not the most productive use of their resources. They're focused on two- or three-year engagements," Novotny said.

InterTech returned the favor by bringing IGS into a deal with an international company with 110 locations.

The solution provider upgraded 150 IBM systems and the end user's headquarters, but is using IGS to help with an international VPN solution, Novotny said.

"They were not aware of that activity going on. We were able to reciprocate back," he said. "We almost view them as another VTN member now."

Thus far, Ingram Micro has found more traction with West Coast IGS opportunities. Crotty is hoping to use Novotny's wins as successful case studies to show IGS principles in other regions.

"We needed a couple of wins to show what we can do," Crotty said.

Novotny's main contact at IGS has started to evangelize VentureTech to local principles in other cities, Novotny said.

Ingram Micro does not expect every VentureTech member to engage immediately with IGS now that deals are starting to close. Instead, the distributor is taking a "surgical" approach, Crotty said. "If we had all the partners hitting these guys, they'd shut us down. Let's pick the highest-propensity partner with highly-advanced service models to do joint account planning. We're not excluding partners, but we have to have controlled success. If deals go bad here, we wouldn't get a second shot."

"The potential is huge," Novotny said. "We've expressed our frustration as this is going on two years. But we've done it and the potential is huge for the long term."