by Seth Fineberg

Kissimmee, Fla. — After amassing some 40 products and 13,600 resellers worldwide through 17 acquisitions, Best Software and its U.K.-based parent Sage Group still face the challenge of integrating their products and partners.

However, if its second Insights partner conference, recently held here, is any indication, the company is moving forward with that strategy.

From executive addresses to various partner and product sessions, the message to resellers was, as Best chief executive officer Ron Verni said in his opening keynote, “We want to be your partner of choice. We are not perfect, but are not about to take any of you for granted. I believe our strength and commitment to our market segment and to you is what makes us your partner of choice.”

Verni and Best’s senior vice president for business partners, Taylor Macdonald, unveiled a series of plans to both motivate and retain partners — most of which were well-received.

For one, in an effort to add 100 field-trained sales executives to its existing business partner channel by Sept. 30, Best agreed to invest $1 million to deliver sales training, hiring assistance, direct financial support and marketing assistance programs to its resellers.

Partners are also being offered an intensive, week-long training camp beginning in September. It will feature three-and-a-half days of sales training and a day-and-a-half of product demonstrations and domain knowledge.

Other enhancements to what Best has called its “Partner Advantage” program include a new unit growth contest for existing Best partners; fees paid for Best product sales referred to other business partners; fees paid directly to customers who recommend a Best Software solution; and free product offerings for in-house use.

Macdonald noted that hiring and retaining the right people, particularly in sales, is one of the most difficult challenges facing the channel and any sales organization. So, as part of its new program, Best is working with a profiling company, Opus Marketing, to help in the hiring of new sales people.

“The reason people are successful in this business is hiring the right person for the job and having the education in place,” he said. “Too many people [in sales] have hired wrong, not trained their team right and not managed them properly. We are saying to partners that we are going to listen to your pitches, watch your demos, stay in touch with you the whole way and not abandon you.”

So many products ...
A big issue resellers raised about Best is how all of its products and their respective code bases can integrate. Verni briefly addressed that concern last year with the announcement of an application integration server.

It has now evolved into what Best calls its Integration Framework, which Verni admitted is still a work in progress.

“This will be a single entry point to all of our products where partners can communicate changes,” Verni said. “They will be able to build once and sell many times, all of which will be supported by Best. It’s going to be a two-year journey, but if you think about [Microsoft’s] Project Green release, we want our products to be positioned to be exactly what our customers want before that comes out.”

Most resellers were satisfied with the incentive to partner rather than feeling pressured to take on more products. Those resellers coming from former competitors, such as Accpac, were also encouraged by the Best message, and were already exploring partnership opportunities.

“I’ve always been an Accpac loyalist and I thought it was nice to see that Best has a clear vision about Accpac in the Best family. Just the keynote alone really delivered what Accpac’s message has always been about — offering end-to-end solutions,” said Joe Santoro, president of Windsor, Ont.-based Synergy Plus Solutions. “There is going to be a lot of partnering between Accpac and Best in specific regions, even us. We are partnering with some firms on the East Coast for SalesLogix and MAS 500 deals.”

Santoro also noted that since the conference he had several registered sales leads “simply because I am now a part of the Best family and can offer more products either through us or a partner referral.”

Even a specialty reseller such as Columbus, Ohio-based Delphia Consulting, which primarily focuses on Best’s line of human resources and payroll solutions, is seeing partnership opportunities within the expanded Best channel.

“It’s hard for some resellers to take on a new product line — you really take a risk, and since we specialize in HR and payroll we may not take on something like MAS 90, MIP or MAS 500,” said Jeff Pike, client success manager at Delphia. “Our company is all about building relations with other resellers, so if we come across an MAS 500 deal, we will help you, and if you come in with an Abra deal, this is what we do best. We are out to make [other Best partners] realize we are not in competition with them.”

Enter BusinessVision
There were, of course, resellers who were interested in taking on some of the recently acquired product lines, particularly BusinessVision, which some resellers have started to see as a “bridge product” between accounting software like Peachtree and MAS or Simply Accounting and Accpac Advantage.

Since last year’s acquisition of BusinessVision parent Softline Software, resellers have been wondering how well it will fit into the Best family. That was exacerbated by the ensuing purchase of Accpac, which often competed directly with BusinessVision in Canada.

Manheim, Pa.-based TCW Computer Systems Inc. typically sold MAS 90/200, Peachtree and FAS. They are now one of a growing number of U.S. resellers interested in BusinessVision, as they see an easier migration path from lower end products like Peachtree.

“Migrating from Peachtree to MAS 90 has its place, but it’s nice to have another option for those coming from a $400 product to a $20,000 product,” said Wendy LaPosata, software services manager at TCW. “With the price point BusinessVision offers, we can take the time, do the estimates and offer a more integrated system for half the price of MAS. It’s more opportunity for my programmers that they haven’t had before.”

LaPosata said that in the few weeks that her company has carried BusinessVision, proposals for that product are outnumbering those for MAS products.

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