Resellers with a focus on the small business market can now join Microsoft NZ’s small business specialist initiative.
So far 15 partners have signed up to the programme that aims to close the gap between resellers and small business customers.
Jan Ferguson, Microsoft small business manager, says her company is often asked to recommend qualified resellers.
“This programme makes it easy. Anyone that goes through the qualifications can become a specialist and Microsoft will educate them on understanding small business pain points,” she says.
Although tier-one partners are welcome to join, Ferguson says they have to demonstrate the same commitment to small business as anyone else.
“We have some really good partners out there but many of them have a medium to enterprise focus. There’s a question over how well they understand the needs of small business.”
Ferguson says potential partners are required to invest time in training, which aims to change perceptions of customers.
“Resellers complain that customers don’t want to pay for consultation. That’s not true. Customers don’t mind as long as they aren’t being practiced on and the information is articulated well.”
Microsoft in turn provides an online reseller locater, will pass on leads and encourage resellers to partner with it at events.
Ferguson says her company wants a good spread of partners nationally and is working with distributors to identify key rural resellers.
Although it’s early days Ferguson says Microsoft will release small business products, such as CRM for small business.
One of the first New Zealand resellers to achieve small business specialist status is Albany-based Softsource.
Sales manager John Harrop says that while Microsoft has run other programmes, resellers servicing the small business market have been largely ignored.
“I think it’s good to see it supporting the resellers that look after the lifeblood of this country, especially as Microsoft is such a massive multinational,” he says.
Softsource put six staff through the qualification process — five sat the sales exam and one engineer went through the technical exam.
“From what I understand that was a very hard exam which goes to show not everyone is going to qualify. That makes sense because Microsoft’s small business server is quite a complex product so you need a high level of expertise.”