Express Data is offering its resellers semi-technical sessions in Exchange, Sharepoint and MS CRM, in conjunction with Ace Training and Microsoft. Reseller staff were asked to pay only a modest fee to attend their November Explosion Training sessions in Auckland, which are designed to give them a technical introduction to the latest versions of the products.
Paul Plester, Express Data’s general manager of sales and marketing, says Express Data has previously used Cisco or Microsoft staff to provide ‘101’ sessions as a preliminary to full certification, but this is the first time it has engaged a third party training organisation for this purpose.
The sessions are led by Microsoft-qualified trainers from Ace and are designed to provide installation and support tips. ED hopes the sessions will also enable resellers to more accurately advise customers on product benefits, return on investment and upgrade costs and help them to sell better. The sessions lead on to the more formal training offered by Ace, says Plester, “So IT resellers get maximum benefit from Microsoft Level 200 technical training.”
For $49.95 resellers are offered Microsoft Windows Server 2008 training and free training in Microsoft Exchange 2007. Also for $49.95, they can buy Microsoft Sharepoint 2007 training and get free Microsoft CRM 4 training. As an alternative to the free sessions, resellers can take someone with them to the paid-for session for free.
Microsoft partner manager Nick Fletcher says the modular training offerings are as much about raising product awareness as they are about improving technical knowledge. The Explosion initiative is a new way of making training available to resellers, he says. “This is the first time in my experience that we’ve worked with an ICT distributor and a training organisation in this way.”
Because Ace Training is an existing Microsoft certification and training partner it was keen to win the business, says Plester, but the low cost of the sessions represents more of a token payment than a revenue-making opportunity. “We made it a small fee so it can be claimed as a legitimate expense, and still have a value to the resellers without being high cost.”
Plester says increased product complexity is one of the motivations for the training offering, with the goal being to foster reseller confidence. “Before resellers go off and pay for full certification, we’ll give them a technical overview in these Microsoft products so they can get a feel for the skill sets required.”
Ace MD Tony Skelton was cagey about the economics and declined to be drawn on what’s in it for Ace, with the training sessions so competitively priced. “My only comment is it’s just another Ace initiative,” says Skelton. “We don’t do anything for nothing and I’m not going to spell out why but we’re very happy to be in a position to do it. There’s some very sound commercial tactics in here and that’s all I’m prepared to say.”