by John M. Covaleski

Atlanta - Best Software is dramatically restructuring how it sells its small business software solutions.

Best’s Small Business division has consolidated the consulting organizations of all its software products - which include the Peachtree line, DacEasy accounting and Timeslips time and billing - into one umbrella organization - Best Software Small Business Division Certified Consultants or SBCC.

The program, scheduled to be formally launched in October, offers additional support for its individual consultant members, while it sets the first-ever sales quotas for those small business products.

The consolidation impacts some 850 consultant/resellers, many of whom are accountants or are affiliated with accounting firms. It does not change Peachtree’s AccountCare program, comprised of accountants who advise clients on that product line, but it eliminates the Peachtree Resource Center program, comprised of firms specially skilled to offer training and detailed consulting on Peachtree products.

AccountCare accountants would continue serving clients as they have in the last, but will probably have a greater opportunity to network with SBCC members. The 80 Peachtree Resource Centers lose that designation, but most should qualify for the highest of three designations within SBCC.

The consolidation represents the boldest channel change made by Best since it became a force in the United States business software market. The company began seriously materializing in the late 1990s when Best’s United Kingdom-based parent, Sage plc, expanded into the North American market through a series of acquisitions that included the original developer of Peachtree products, the former State of the Art, now called Best Middle Market division, and the original Best Software Co., now known as Best’s Specialty Products division. More recently, Best created a customer relationship management division upon acquiring Interact Commerce Corp., developer of the ACT CRM software line.

The small business consolidation emphasis is apparently on increasing sales. By setting sales quotas to qualify for different reseller margins, the program is expected to encourage consultants of only one Best product, to cross sell additional Best products to their existing customers.

The program sets different volume sales requirements and offers different margins and levels of support for its three tiers of consultants - bronze, gold and platinum. For full details, visit the Web site: certified_consultant_program_details_program_commitment.cfm

"We are trying to motivate our consultants to expand their businesses by maximizing their existing customer base with cross sales," said SBCC senior director Kevin Thornton. He recently joined Best from Corell Software, where he was a sales vice president.

Thornton is particularly interested in encouraging consultants with Peachtree accounting customers to cross-sell Peachtree Contact, a contact management solution designed for that product line, and Peachtree Forms, which include materials such as invoice and purchase order forms.

At the same time SBCC opens the door for resellers of other Best products targeted at larger business end users, to also handle small business products by waiving the SBCC initiation fees for some of those resellers. The fees are $600 for the lowest level bronze designation and $4,500 for the Gold.

However, a reseller of accounting products from Best’s Middle Market division, noted, "Waiving the initiation fees would not be a strong enough business case for us. Most small businesses don’t want to pay the higher consulting rates that larger middle-market product resellers require." Another added, "I don’t think I could make a profit with the small business products."

Thornton said he is particularly hopeful that ACT resellers may be inclined to join SBCC in order to deliver that CRM solution to users of Peachtree accounting products.

Moreover, Thornton stressed that the SBCC launch is designed to assist small business product consultants in running their businesses more efficiently and to help them expand to selling other Best products. "We expect to be able to provide them what they need to grow and help them migrate up the Best family," he said.

The vendor is offering different degrees of support based on the SBCC level each consultant reaches. It benefits include:

  • Not-for-resale copies of the latest product releases;
  • Direct purchasing relationships with the Small Business Division;
  • Marketing support and sales collateral materials;
  • Product certification and technical support plans;
  • Access to the exclusive reseller section on the Best’s Small Business Division Web site for some consultants;
  • A dedicated account management team from Best.

However, some Best Small Business product channel members are upset by the massive change."The whole emphasis of this is on selling and that means customer support will have to suffer," said James Humphres, president of Humphres & Associates, a Peachtree Resource Center in Nashville, Tenn. "I wholeheartedly believe in Peachtree’s technology and will continue to be involved with the products. But I have to think that customer support, which is so important, is going to be hurt."

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