The education and training available to Sage Software's VARs is akin to enrolling in college and receiving a graduate degree. Perhaps its should be called, an M.V.-Masters of Reselling. Sage's partners can take educational courses offered through Sage Sales Academy and Sage Partner University. Sage Partner Advantage Program offers partners specialized instruction in sales, marketing, and product training to ensure their success.
Like what you see? Click here to sign up for Accounting Today's daily newsletter to get the latest news and behind the scenes commentary you won't find anywhere else.
Much of that effort reflects the needs of a consolidated market, says Taylor Macdonald, executive vice president channel and sales operations.
"It's not like the old days when there was a new reseller everyday," says Macdonald, who was one of the owners of Atlanta-based Macdonald Consulting Group before he joined Sage in 1998. "We've got to help those partners that are building their business. Instead of building one and three-person firms, we need to help small firms grow and help big firms get deeper."
That's why Sage (formerly Best Software) is doing more than just educating resellers, it helped them hire more sales people last year, and is doing so again for its 2006 fiscal year through its 100/100 program.
This year, Sage is again investing $1 million, available for 100 of its existing resellers to help them add 100 field-trained sales executives.
The selected partner organizations will each receive $10,000 to recruit, hire and train the new sales people. The 100/100 program has made a difference to Stan Kania, president of Software Link, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based VAR, that took part in the program last year. Sage announced the program about the time Kania was performing a cost analysis to determine if he could afford to hire a seasoned sales executive. The $10,000 that Sage contributed was a substantial help in his ability to do so.
"We probably could have hired him anyway. But the 100/100 program helped with the training. It allowed him time to build his pipeline. It also helped with the expenses involved in adding the sales person."
The program paid off. According to Kania, in eight months the new salesperson closed $500,000 in sales.
The company also implemented a similar program designed to assist smaller dealers. Called the Fast Track 100 Program, it is designed to give those VARs help in a variety of areas. These include sales and consulting training, lead generation support, partner benchmarking, mentoring relationships, and support for developing a custom sales and marketing plan.
FastTrack, which started this month, costs $5,000 to join. But resellers can earn $1,000 credit for each new customer, up to five, that represents incremental sales over the prior year. Those who qualify get benefits that Sage says are worth an additional $8,000. These include training through the Best Sales Academy and Best Consulting Academy, a lead generation program, and registration at next year's reseller conference. They also get help in developing a marketing plan and are paired with a mentoring VAR, and gain access to product specialists, a Sage Software mentor, and communication with the business unit partner growth manager.
Sage has about 6,000 resellers, and while it is always on the look out for more capable VARs, it is not necessarily trying to add to that total.
A Bigger Pool
Macdonald says that the emphasis on the hiring and training programs stem from a belief that it is more important to enable existing dealers to hire sales people than it is to enlarge the channel.
"The number of people selling our products is as important as the number of partners," says Macdonald.
A veteran organization with a bigger sales staff is more likely to be more productive than a small, newly authorized reseller.
It is also important to create more sales people. "If you are just swapping people between business partners, that doesn't help. You've got to make the pool bigger," Macdonald says.
BSAN to Become SSAN|
With the change in company names, the Best Software Accountants Network is becoming the Sage Software Accountants Network. Sage Software has also expanded the program to included the Accpac Advantage and Timberline product lines and is adding what it calls, Value Partners, including Dell, Nextel, CCH Learning Center, First Research, and iLumen. The last provides an online benchmarking tool, while First Research has an online research application. The company says that its membership of roughly 14,000 has stayed about the same for the past two years, although many members have added new product libraries.
Riccardo A. Davis is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at email@example.com.
Another major effort continues to be the Best Select program. Introduced last year, Best Select rewards resellers who commit to selling only Sage products. Slightly more than 300 VARs have qualified for the program, which has a minimum purchase requirement of Sage products.
Select resellers receive additional margin and co-op dollars, along with free training. "We have revamped some of the programs," says Macdonald, who adds that the company is working to answer questions such as, "How do we create Best Select partners that are deeper and different? How do we spend more time in the field with those?"
Macdonald expects the number of participants to continue to grow. Part of that, he feels, is that the channel has now adjusted to the fact that after four years in the market, Microsoft has not been the overwhelming force many expected it would be.
"The world hasn't come to an end. Best's market share has not decreased; in fact it has increased," says Macdonald. He believes that many VARs are finding it difficult to support products from more than one vendor. Best is arguing that selling multiple lines detracts from the sales effort, reducing the amount of money that a reseller can make. "We are being much more aggressive," says Macdonald.
One thing VARs would like is for the Sage name to stay the same for a while.
The British parent company lost the rights to use the name in the United States in a court case, and adopted the name Best Software, the name of the company that Sage acquired in 2000. This year, Sage and the company that had the U.S. rights to the name, reached an agreement that lets Sage resume use of the name Sage Software. The Best name is being phased out over the next year.
With each re-branding, Kania says it costs his firm as much as $8,000, and even more for larger VARS, to get the new logo printed on shirts, business cards and office supplies to reflect the name change.
But when all is said and done, most of the effort still rests with the resellers. "I can tell you all the things to do, but you then must execute them,'' says Macdonald. "That (execution) is the key to success."
Sage expects its business partners to take the lead in sales generation and not sit back and wait for leads to flow down from the software publisher. According to Kania, a former business partner he knew became frustrated with the lack of leads coming from the software publisher and left Sage after more than a decade.
Even when VARS have availed themselves of all the training and educational opportunities offered by Sage, they are not done. Sage Software CEO Ron Verni says Sage looks for VARS who know the industry, and take advantage of the numerous programs it offers to generate their own leads.
"They (VARS) should generate at least 50 percent of their leads," Verni says.
Sage Software Snapshot
Headquarters: Irvine, Calif.
Phone: (800) 854-3415
Revenues: $516.6 million
Products: Accpac US; Act; Abra; FAS; Carpe Diem; CPASoftware; DacEasy; MAS90/200/500; MIP; Peachtree; Platinum for Windows; SalesLogix; Timberline; Timesheet Professional; Timeslips.