Sage Partners Gather To Discuss Change

A group of approximately 100 Sage partners (panelists pictured above left to right- Moira Goggin (Chismet Consulting – event co-organizer), Mary Abdian (Macabe Associates) , Doug Deane (DSD Business Systems) , John Hoyt (Hutchinson and Bloodgood), Bill Kizer (xKzero))  gathered today in Lake Forest California. The group was split about 50/50 with some consultants attending in person and others remotely (web ex) for an in-depth discussion of changes that have been rolled out to the Sage eco-system (margins, certifications, subscription pricing, partner compensation).

Top of mind in the conversation were discussions about Sage selling directly to existing customers and specific terms of changes that accompany the recently unveiled Sage subscription pricing model.

When asked about Sage’s new rules of engagement which seem to green light selling direct to existing customers, Sage’s VP of Channel Management, Tom Miller, remarked  ”we have a bunch of under-served customers” and that not all partners are equally as dedicated as those in the room and in some instances Sage have needed to step in and make the sales because an existing partner lacked the capabilities.

One unanswered question centered around a new Sage policy that discontinues margin on the recently announced subscription type plans (effective 4/1/2012) for a customer who changes partners. The margin no longer is paid to the originating partner (which is how it presently works) and is also not paid the to acquiring partner ( a change from Sage’s current policy which continues paying margin to the acquiring partner).

This seems to be a change designed to stop Sage partners from transferring or selling customers to other partners who because of their sales tier may generate a higher margin on those renewals. Sage’s Tom Miller did seem to indicate the policy wouldn’t preclude consultants from selling their customers upon retirement –  though the exact nature of the policy still seemed a bit hazy and difficult for Sage to substantiate. At one point while describing the change as due to “fair reimbursement for value delivered” Miller chided a panelist for laughing at his reasoning.

Amongst changes Sage’s Tom Miller hinted at was an upcoming new partner program to offer more to partners who sell more service than product.

Event hosts included Altec’s,Kevin Dudevoir, Kerry Gardner, April Blankenship, Allison Alonzo and of course Brandt Morrell. Paul Cannon & Nicole Laurier of Fisher Technology provided a Kindle Fire. Kim Hogan from Fujitsu offered a mobile scanner.

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  1. It was an interesting and honest conversation. Tom Miller of Sage was brave to step into that hornets nest and I think he did an admirable job.

    I think that Sage has a lot of challenges because they have so many resellers and, most likely, a good chunk of them are not holding up their end of the relationship.

    But the most telling comment was Doug Deane of DSD who essentially said that the policies are indiscriminate – effecting the good partners as well as the under-performers. I feel that way as well.

    I wonder if there is any way possible to create more effective policies with such a diverse group as Sage has? I would think so but I’ve never been faced with that challenge personally.

  2. I was unable to attend the Linked In session because of a prior commitment but I believe Sage could make a couple of changes in their current model of business divisions and a huge increase in existing customer base sales would take place.

    First – Partners, no matter the size should have a single Sage representative that is focused on sales and understands sales. One person would handle the sales of a 10 user Sage 100 System, a 30 User Sage 500 System, 20 Added Sage CRM licenses or an existing customer sale of 5 added users even if it was past the 120 days. (which is the current policy).

    A relationship is developed and it is a tough job as a partner to develop so many at Sage. In addition, the existing customer team is a more focused on quoting and order taking instead of strategically working with the partner to add existing sales based on product knowledge. Product knowledge is MORE important when working with a customer that already uses the software.

    Real Example:
    I had a customer that wanted to move to Sage MAS 200 SQL from Sage MAS 90. This was the time about a week before they launched, pay the difference. I had attended a marketing web ex from Sage so I knew that was on the horizon. I called the existing sales department and was told they couldn’t do that yet and they would have to wait to purchase that. The reason from Sage (all the way up to management) – we didn’t have a line item to put it to in the system. My new sales rep at the time would never have let that happen. The sale was $8500. In addition, they didn’t renew their maintenance and are now implementing Microsoft GP. A new controller had come in and insisted on SQL. I couldn’t believe it. I was told to wait till the new system was in place so they could do that. The difference in the money was big for the customer. What a shame.

    Second – Internal sales needs to develop product knowledge of Sage modules and CRM. How is the customer going to know what they need to purchase?

    Real Example:
    I have a customer that wants to track tools, work tickets for service and vehicles. For you Sage 100 guys you know that UDFs can be added for just about anything so this can easily happen. Add Sage CRM and the sky is the limit. This customer was on the Sage site (a link from our users group) and the “chat” window popped up. They asked if Sage had a vehicle tracking, tool tracking or work ticket module. The answer was no. It wasn’t, ask your partner or let me check and get back to you or notify the partner (they knew they were a existing customer). About a month later, the customer attended one of our on line classes where we mentioned using Sales Order for work tickets. The customer then called me I met with them and we will be adding Bill of Materials, RMA and will be installing their CRM to try. That would never have happened in a direct internal sales model.

    Now imagine if a single point of sale worked with the partner to develop a marketing plan for those modules for other service type customers (even orphans). That is strategic selling that grows a satisfied customer! The partner has the knowledge, customer satisfaction is dependent on that out of the box thinking.

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