IBM PartnerWorld Centers On SMB, But Can It Deliver For VARs?
(Las Vegas) — PartnerWorld, IBM’s primary worldwide channel event, continues to attract a lot of the company’s largest partners. This year, the show was awash in the SMB theme, with multiple products targeting resellers looking to penetrate that market or to get a foothold in an enterprise customer’s business using these offerings. This broad market definition created a bit of a conflict with several VARs I talked with, since each segment requires different sales and product approaches.
While feedback on IBM’s wide-ranging marketing approach to SMB was mixed, its new offerings for that market were well received. “Big Blue” expanded its SMB offerings and launched a new company-wide Express Seller program, providing specific hardware, software, services, and financing. While many VARs lauded IBM for trying to reach smaller customers, others expressed concern with how the marketing plans will translate to increased sales for their own businesses. Selling to 100- to 1,000-employee companies is a lot different from selling to a division of a Fortune 500 organization, and it isn’t clear from IBM’s discussions that the company understands this.
There are now more than 100 Express Storage solutions in the IBM portfolio, including customized solutions created by collaboration with VARs, ISVs (independent software vendors), and other vendors. These include storage, server, e-mail, networking, and vertical market solutions such as the IBM Express Storage Platform for Medical Imaging Centers. Expect to see more products and services offered under the Express label this year, with several managed services and market-specific solutions in the approval stages.
While SMB was a hot topic, the SVI (software value initiative) program, which rewards VARs based on their role in the sales cycle, seemed to offer the greatest positive impact on partners’ revenue. Resellers will receive incremental margin for each stage of the sales process, including opportunity identification, closing the sale, and fulfillment of the software to end users. VARs can earn up to 40% margin based on their level of involvement, up significantly from the previous plan, where the range of 5% to 20% was more common.