It's too bad Microsoft's term, value-added provider, has not caught on as the umbrella description covering both reselling and non-reselling channel partners, such as consultants.
But the term, VAP, hasn’t gone anywhere outside Microsoft, and I’m not quite sure it fits another growing part of the channel. So I want to drum up support for a new concept which I call channel-assisted sales. Maybe this is just a fancy term to cover recommender and referral programs. But I think it’s necessary to cover a kind of partner that has emerged over the last few years.
This concept was triggered by debates with various reseller friends who insist that Intuit isn’t serious about channel sales, even though it has purchased American Fundware, and OmWare, the owners of Master Builder, which both use resellers. Not only do I think Intuit is serious about the channel, I believe it is already in it in a big way. And so is Peachtree. After all, what are Intuit’s various advisor programs, such as QuickBooks Advisor, Peachtree’s AccountCare, and Accpac’s Simply Accounting consulting programs, but channel programs? Microsoft is trying to develop a similar program for its Microsoft Great Plains Small Business Manager, envisioned as ideal for CPAs who would like to consult, but not sell.
True, mass marketers, such as CompUSA, sell some of these products, like QuickBooks and Peachtree. But a variety of CPA firms and software consultants provide implementation, customization, and training—everything but sales. These programs set the stage for motivated firms to learn the business and become real VARs. Judging by the numbers for firms signing up, they have a substantial value in their own right.
These programs are channel feeder systems. They also represent product training and support work force that the vendors do not need to employ directly. They help support the product feeder system as Best Software tries (often successfully) to migrate Peachtree customers to MAS 90/200 and Intuit will try to migrate QuickBooks customers to QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions.
Whether Microsoft can move down market is debatable. It doesn’t have a low-end product. Its recent agreement to work with Creative Solutions, including integrating SBM with CSI’s CheckBook Solution, looks a step in that direction. But if it does so, it needs to execute its plans to enlist non-reselling channel members, which seems to be its intent.
But the final point is that those questioning Intuit or Peachtree’s ability to develop a channel have missed the point. They are in the channel. They have changed the definition of channel.
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