Do You Have What It Takes To Sell Surface?: 7 Capabilities Microsoft Is Seeking From The Channel

Microsoft Mulling Expansion Of Surface Sales Program

Microsoft is looking for partners with hardware sales and support chops to join its Authorized Devices Reseller program to help it sell Surface tablets. In a confidential questionnaire sent to select partners last week, which was viewed by CRN, Microsoft paints a picture of the capabilities it's looking for as it considers expanding the number of partners authorized to sell the Surface tablet.

Microsoft's list of skills and experience is long and detailed, and it also includes a few head-scratchers.

Microsoft is seemingly setting a high bar here for its next wave of Surface distribution. But judging from the questionnaire, which covers a wide range of partner sizes, Microsoft also is casting a wide net. Partners who received the questionnaire told us they found it all a little confusing.

Following are some examples of what Microsoft is looking for from partners interested in selling Surface tablets.

1. Do You Have The Sales Muscle?

Microsoft wants partners to put a number on how many Surface tablets they think they could sell in a "one-year commitment." Options on the questionnaire range from one to 5,000 units all the way up to 100,000-plus units.

Microsoft also wants to know how many people, from one to five, a partner would be able to "dedicate to joint account planning" to work with Microsoft to find and manage commercial customers for Surface tablets. Other questionnaire sections cover partners' call centers, customer financing, services and post-sales support capabilities.

2. Can You Offer Visibility Into The Sales Process?

Microsoft wants to know if partners would be able to "provide pipeline visibility, weekly forecast view and deal closure metrics" to the company. Partners are asked to estimate how many hardware-based sales engagements they're doing each month, with options ranging from one to 50.

Microsoft also asks if partners would have "technical sales specialist resources" available to help out on Surface sales opportunities, and whether they deliver services -- including Microsoft Services.

3. Can You Get Vertical?

Microsoft is pitching Surface as a product that people can use to get work done, with the implication that the iPad is a shiny toy that has no place in any serious company.

Microsoft partners that focus on vertical markets are going to be on the front lines so Microsoft asks partners if they currently serve, or have access to, the following segments:

- Financial Services
- Manufacturing
- Telecommunications & Media
- Information Technology
- Government
- Education
- Consumer Goods
- Transportation & Logistics
- Health Care
- Retail
- Professional Services
- Energy & Utilities
- Travel & Hospitality

4. Can You Sell Surface Into The Enterprise?

As part of the Surface-is-for-getting-work-done mantra, Microsoft is also looking for partners that sell into enterprises and have the high-end skills that are typically required in this market segment.

For example: Microsoft wants to know if partners have an in-house Windows 8/8.1 application development practice, or if they can tap into these skills through strategic partnerships.

Partners are also asked if they have "enterprise-level support capabilities" for hardware, and whether they have specific capabilities like asset tagging, image customization, extended warranty management and maintenance, and device recycling.

5. Are Your Operations And Order Fulfillment Capabilities On Target?

Microsoft is asking partners to confirm that they have an operations system in place to allow them to sell Surface tablets. Partners are asked if they can "manage robust inventory systems with processes to quarantine and stop-ship non-compliant product," and if they're able to adhere to weekly ordering and shipment schedules and cut-offs, for example.

Microsoft also wants to know if partners have "strong credit/financial standing" and if they're willing to "adhere to payment terms and Microsoft deduction policies," according to the questionnaire.

6. Do You Promise Not To Liquidate?

The last thing Microsoft wants is for unsold Surface inventory to make its way into the gray market. Like most vendors, it's asking partners that want to sell Surface to comply with Microsoft's advertised pricing and the company's "No Liquidation of Surface products" policy.

7. Will You Destroy Unsold Surface Accessories? (Not Really)

One part of the questionnaire called for "all Surface accessories to be destroyed" by partners that did not manage to sell them. Microsoft also asked if partners would be willing to provide a "certificate of destruction, as requested by Microsoft" to make sure the accessories were, indeed, taken care of.

Microsoft told CRN this language was borrowed from an older questionnaire about software and will probably be excised at some point. Still, this particular requirement conjured up images of giant bonfires of unsold Touch Covers and Type Covers, which range in price from $79.99 to $129.99 and are supposed to be one of the key selling points for Surface tablets.