IBM emphasised its channel-first mid-market strategy and encouraged partners to skill up to sell smarter solutions during its Australian Business Partner Summit.
Australian partner director Andrew Baker says the vendor expanded its range of partner certifications from traditional sales and technical training into financial and management tracks. It is also offering a high-level certification on dynamic infrastructure, which stems from its Smarter Planet strategy. This promotes the use of smarter and interconnected IT systems to improve economic growth, sustainable development and cultural advancement.
“This year, our focus shifts more on solutions, partnering into the mid-market and dynamic infrastructure,” Baker says.
Building skills in business methodologies, sales and marketing are all essential in making a more valuable solutions sale, he says.
The multi-pronged strategy was communicated to partners at the vendor’s Business Partner Summits in Sydney and Melbourne last week. More than 500 channel representatives attended the two events. Alongside the programmatic outline, new awards were handed out to recognise partners promoting dynamic, smarter and more efficient infrastructure solutions.
IBM’s solutions ties into its long-term partner enablement program, which launched as Channel University in 2007 and is now branded Channel Academy.
Baker said 3000 individuals trained through the Academy in 2009, double that in 2008.
He says most partners across its systems, technology and storage portfolios went beyond minimum certification requirements last year in a bid to lift their expertise.
“It’s a skills and solutions market, and partners know that,” Baker says. “That’s why our Smarter Planet [initiative] resonates with them – it’s an opportunity to present into their client environments.”
Partners who convert customers from rival vendor suites to IBM’s product set are also being rewarded with 10 per cent margin rebates for registered opportunities, available over 24 months.
Other initiatives include co-marketing funds for lead generation, which opened up tens of millions of dollars in pipeline this year, Baker says.
“We’re focusing on helping partners sell solutions and find higher-end opportunities to move out of the low-margin, high-volume commodity business,” he says.
To ensure all mid-market sales go through the channel, IBM has migrated its direct mid-market sales teams into its channel organisations in the US, Western Europe, the UK and Canada. Although the changes have yet to come to Asia-Pacific, Baker expected they would be rolled out at a later date.