Microsoft Pushes Partners Hard to Drive New Product Sales

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-10-17

Microsoft Pushes Partners Hard to Drive New Product Sales

Microsoft is upping the partner ante as it prepares to release Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007 over the next few months.

To help get partner applications built to run on, and take advantage of, these three products, the Redmond, Wash., software maker is rolling out two new partner initiatives: the International ISV Assistance Program and the ISV Telesales Service.

The International ISV Assistance resource gives ISVs the market intelligence they need to identify new markets and provides the guidance they need to expand their businesses beyond their borders, Allison Watson, corporate vice president of Microsofts Worldwide Partner Group, told eWEEK Oct. 17.

The ISV Telesales Service is designed to give medium-size Microsoft Gold Certified partners access to a solution-based telesales organization that should help increase partner sales opportunities, she said.

Given that Microsoft hasnt released a new version of Windows since XP in October 2001, its partners are "betting their business on Vista because 250 million units are expected to ship on new PCs in the next 24 months. There has never been that kind of momentum behind Windows," she said.

Vista has entered the home stretch with the release of RC2. Click here to read more.

There are some 300 ISV applications that already work with Vista and Office, with another 2,700 slated to be ready when Vista is released to consumers in January 2007 and 4,000 more expected within 12 months, Watson said.

Brad Goldberg, general manager for the Windows client business group, recently told eWEEK that he expects 10 times more seats of Windows Vista to be deployed at launch, with deployment within the first year being twice as quick as that for any other version, and business customers deploying it faster than for any other Windows operating system release.

Watson noted that medium-size ISVs typically do not have their own sales forces and can "thus really [can] benefit from our Telesales Service offering. Of Microsofts 5,000 Gold Partners, some 4,000 are in the sweet spot for this service. Essentially, what we give them is trained solution sellers that do phone-based calling, and the partner trains them," she said.

One partner who has benefited from the service is Approva, a provider of continuous controls monitoring and audit software, which joined Microsofts partner program just over a year ago and became a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner earlier this year.

Its flagship product, Approva BizRights, is built on .Net and leverages Microsoft Office, SharePoint Server, Windows 2003 Server and SQL Server, while customers interact with Approva BizRights through Web-based access or Microsoft Office, Rick Cobb, Approvas chief operating officer, told eWEEK.

The Telesales Service was directly responsible for initiating opportunities that created software license revenue for Approva. "In one recent month last quarter, we won 13 sales appointments and $400,000 this way," he said.

To read more about how Microsoft works hard to win over new partners, click here.

Approva is also at the Advanced Level in IBM PartnerWorld and an associate member of Suns Partner Advantage Program. While these programs are also helpful in providing resources to properly optimize the companys solutions that are based on their technologies, "from a sales and marketing perspective, the Microsoft Telesales Service was a compelling offering that we have been able to leverage successfully," Cobb said.

Another partner, Genticity, which is headquartered in Canada and has a call center CRM solution, has been part of the core pilot group for this new service and was able to add $5 million to its pipeline in a 90-day period as a result of these outbound telesales calls to its prospect list, Watson said.

Because Genticity did not have its own sales force, this was essentially an add-on sales force, she said, adding that Genticity is able to get appointments that it could not get before.

The telesales staff is employed by multiple third-party vendors that Microsoft contracts with on a worldwide basis, The software maker also picks up the cost of the service.

"This is also a scalable resource, which we can scale as demand grows," Watson said. "We also found that for deep solution selling, we scale better within the country, so the telesales resource is based in that country."

Next Page: International assistance.

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The International ISV Assistance Program was established as a result of customer requests for such a service and applies to all of Microsofts ISV partners, including those already global in nature.

"All companies tend to set up their sales force by geographies or by accounts," Watson said. "Crossing the geographic boundaries for customers who are not one of the biggest accounts often poses a real challenge. So we have leveraged the assets of our partner and sales network to get the right ISVs with vertical or horizontal applications into another geography. We will put a Microsoft employee who knows everything about the specific offerings for increasing sales opportunities and closure in that geography, and they will service those receiving ISVs."

There is a process for an ISV to be nominated and designated as a "receiving ISV," she said, adding that so far there are 100 ISVs enrolled in the program—which only launched in October—who are "truly volume cross-border companies. The more deeply vertical the customer is, the more this program matters."

Read more here about how Microsoft believes opportunities abound for partners.

The program is also open to Microsoft Gold Certified Partners, who have to apply to get into it, and the cost is also borne by Microsoft.

"We are looking for people who are going to build channels downstream," Watson said, adding that the benefit to Microsoft of these new services and programs is greater sales of its products.

"There is an unprecedented market opportunity with the upcoming release of Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007, and ISVs are betting on Microsoft like never before," she said. "These new assets that we have been in pilot with and are now launching and making broadly available is proving that there is a real profitable business opportunity to being a Microsoft partner."

"They get twice as fast customer growth, a faster sales cycle and twice as fast implementation with us versus our competitors," she added.

Vendors such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle tend to take either a vertical or deep horizontal approach with their partners, steering them from application builds through the sales and marketing process, for periods of time, she said.

"Ill give my competitors credit, and maybe Im taking a page out of their book and then putting Microsoft scale behind it, because we will go across verticals, across horizontals, across all, and then put scalable resources into the model. And thats the difference, and competitors like IBM dont pull it all together," Watson said.

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