IBM Business Partners: Top Five Best Practices for Maximizing Your Success Selling IBM Software

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1 IBM Business Partners: Top Five Best Practices for Maximizing Your Success Selling IBM Software Judith Hurwitz President and CEO Marcia Kaufman COO and Principal Analyst Sponsored by IBM

2 Introduction IBM has a strong commitment to its Business Partners and provides many opportunities for you to grow your business. As an IBM Software Business Partner you have access to a vast array of marketing resources, technical enablement, and sales collaboration to help you bring in leads and close deals. In addition, IBM has a wide range of software incentives that ensure that you are rewarded when you deliver true client value and support IBM s most important go to market efforts. For example, IBM s Software Value Incentive (SVI) is designed so that you will profit by identifying opportunities and adding value at different stages of the sales cycle. This paper provides insights into some of the best practices that make IBM Software Business Partners successful in their relationship with IBM. Hurwitz & Associates conducted in depth interviews with seven IBM Software Business Partners and one services firm to understand how they got started as an IBM Business Partner, what they did to strengthen their partnership with IBM, and what they would recommend to new Business Partners. IBM Software Business Partners that invest in building the relationship with IBM have been able to significantly expand their businesses through participation in important programs such as enablement, skill development and sales incentives. IBM s Approach to Working with Business Partners IBM relies on a network of Business Partners to increase its reach to customers across the globe. Any successful relationship requires a high level of commitment between both parties. Business Partners that invest in building the relationship with IBM have been able to significantly expand their businesses through participation in important program offerings such as enablement, skill development and sales incentives. In particular, IBM Software Business Partners have benefitted from these offerings by expanding into new markets in a way that increases their profitability while leveraging their skills. The Business Partners we interviewed recognize that excellent outcomes demand investment from both the Business Partner and IBM. To be successful in competitive markets, Business Partners must be able to provide higher-value software and solutions than the competition. Business Partners that are able to create unique intellectual property based on IBM business and technology solution capabilities have proven to be most successful. In fact, the most effective IBM Software Business Partners are able to leverage a number of IBM s software capabilities in big data and analytics, security, social business, cloud, and mobile in the solutions they offer to customers. Successful Business Partners take advantage of IBM Business Partner program offerings that provide software sales incentives and financial support for training, and marketing. In addition, these Business Partners find great value in creating a strategic and well-planned partnership with their Value Added Distributor. Page 2

3 Best Practices for Building your IBM Software Business Partner Relationship What makes a Business Partner successful in building a relationship with IBM Software? There isn t one approach that is the answer for every Business Partner. Rather, there are a series of strategies that Business Partners have found to be effective. For example, some Business Partners discover that they do best when they concentrate on a specific software technology or set of capabilities. Other Business Partners invest heavily in creating their own solutions that leverage key IBM Software portfolio capabilities. All the Business Partners we spoke with placed a high priority on ensuring that that their technical teams have deep knowledge and the right certifications. To be successful in competitive markets, IBM Business Partners must be able to provide higher-value software and solutions than the competition. The IBM Business Partners interviewed for this paper focus on reselling IBM Software products and solutions. They are based in various regions across the world and range in size from 40 employees to more than 6000 consultants. Some Business Partners specialize in technology areas such as business intelligence or service management solutions, while others sell across the entire IBM Software and Systems portfolio. Their recommendations for success are grouped into five best practices: 1. Be proactive in building your IBM relationship. 2. Understand and use IBM Software Business Partner program offerings. 3. Develop outstanding technical and selling skills across your team. 4. Build expertise in a broad portfolio of capabilities with focus on solution selling. 5. Leverage IBM s go-to-market resources to build a solid marketing strategy and plan. Each of these is described below. In addition, we have spotlighted Business Partner thought leaders who provide insight into how they have applied these best practices in their own business. Page 3

4 Best Practice 1: Be Proactive in Building Your IBM Relationship IBM Business Partners recognize that great relationships require lots of attention and effort on both sides. The rewards can be substantial if you take the time to understand IBM s requirements and create a well-crafted sales, marketing and skills management process in collaboration with IBM. The IBM Software Business Partners we interviewed recommend the following steps to ensure that you take a proactive approach to building an effective and profitable relationship with IBM: Assign someone at your organization to manage the details of the IBM relationship. You need someone focused on how you can utilize available resources and program offerings to help increase revenue. Create a great relationship with your Value Added Distributor (VAD). Your VAD can help with account strategy, technical support, and advice on how to get value from the IBM incentive programs. VADs also have sophisticated processes that will help you grow and deepen your ability to sell and market IBM Software product and solution offerings. Find at least one IBM Software coach at IBM. Successful Business Partners build relationships with IBM professionals who can provide guidance and direction. Demonstrate your value to IBM. Identify what makes you unique and show IBM how you are able to translate your deep expertise into positive outcomes for customers. Join IBM Business Partner roundtables and advisory groups. Business Partners who are able to provide feedback by participating in roundtables, advisory boards, and beta programs are able to build a strong relationship with IBM in a variety of software markets. LPA Systems: Be a Proactive Partner LPA Systems, based in Rochester, New York, became an IBM Business Partner when IBM acquired Cognos in According to John Antonucci, manager of the IBM relationship, LPA leveraged resources available to IBM Business Partners to transform the small company from being a Cognos reseller to a large full services organization offering a large number of industry solutions focused on business intelligence and analytics. LPA offers its customers solutions based on both Cognos and SPSS. Antonucci credits their success with the time he invested in learning all the programs, understanding how they could be leveraged, and then plotting a course to build the relationship with IBM. By structuring marketing events according to IBM guidelines we see lots of payback in terms of comarketing financial support from IBM. IBM Business Partners should consider participating in the Beacon Award program. We found this process helped us to demonstrate our value as a partner and the recognition helped boost our business. By reaching out to IBM Business Partner executives we have received great insight and help aligning our strategy with IBM. Our proactive approach has been an essential component of our success. John Antonucci, Senior Business Development Manager, LPA Systems Page 4

5 Best Practice 2: Understand and Use IBM Software Business Partner Program Offerings According to the Business Partners we interviewed, it is important to understand which program offerings and incentives are right for you as they can provide a fast return. You can leverage these offerings to help expand into new market segments, speed up sales cycles, and increase revenue. Business Partners recommend that you keep your certifications complete and up-to-date so you will be ready to apply for incentives on deals. The following offerings have provided the greatest value to Business Partners interviewed: IBM Software Value Plus (SVP). SVP is a global authorized distribution program for software resellers and influencers.the initiative includes over 6,000 high value IBM Business Partners who have met advanced skills and solutions program criteria for SVP Authorization. IBM Software Value Incentive (SVI). SVI will provide you with incentive payments that recognize the role you play in different stages of the sales cycle, including opportunity identification and selling IBM middleware and software solutions to customers. IBM Software Value Advantage Plus. This incentive will provide you with rebates on IBM Software as long as you sell solutions that meet certain requirements for including IBM Software in the applications and services you sell to customers. Certification, Authorization, and Accreditation Program Offerings. You can use these offerings to strengthen your team s technical and industry competence and build confidence among customers and prospects. IBM makes resources available to help educate sellers. However, it is our responsibility to create solutions based on these products. We use the IBM Software Practice Accelerator Accreditation process to demonstrate to IBM management, sellers, and customers that our organization has deep knowledge in key areas of technology. Laerte Sabino, Business Director, Icaro Technologies Icaro Technologies: Show competency and build business with IBM Accreditation programs Icaro Technologies, a Brazil-based software and integration company, became an IBM Business Partner in 2006 when IBM completed its acquisition of Micromuse. Since that time the company has quadrupled its size, receiving multiple certifications including the SVP Telecommunications Industry Authorization. Icaro was the first IBM Business Partner to obtain SVP Industry Authorization in Latin America. As a manager of the IBM business relationship, Laerte Sabino, Business Director at Icaro says that partnership with IBM is a two way street. His organization counts on IBM for help in acquiring the knowledge needed to be competent in supporting customers with IBM s software product portfolio. The investment that Icaro has made in certifications has helped the company to build its business. Sabino comments that, Five years ago we were typically included in projects led by an IBM team. Now that we understand the road map the customers need to follow we have been successful in becoming the prime contractor for bigger projects. Page 5

6 Best Practice 3: Develop Outstanding Technical and Selling Skills Across your Team Increasingly, customers want their Business Partners to be able to provide them with a full solution to solving their business challenges. They want to work with vendors that understand all of the components of the solution and the knowledge needed to implement a full solution. In addition to building your skills across multiple areas of the IBM Software portfolio you need to find ways to quickly expand your areas of expertise as needed to support your customers. You need to keep your teams focused on acquiring skills, building deep knowledge in IBM s software products and solutions, keeping skills up to date, and understanding how to use these skills to help solve customer challenges. Business Partners made the following suggestions on the best ways to build skills across your team: Take advantage of tuition reimbursement with You Pass, We Pay from IBM to keep your training and certifications up to date. IBM recognizes that customers need Business Partners who are trained on the most up to date releases of the software they are deploying. Take advantage of easy access to IBM Software for development and testing. You can use IBM Software on premise or in your own hosted cloud environment to help build offerings for your customers, with the purchase of the IBM Software Value Package or the IBM Software Access Option. Volunteer for beta test opportunities. You will gain valuable expertise and continue to build your relationship with IBM. Use the IBM Software Practice Accelerator. You can work directly with IBM experts to build technical skills and speed up the process of delivering integrated IBM solutions to customers. Align your selling efforts with incentive programs to improve margin opportunities. Train your sellers to craft a sales strategy that aligns with IBM s incentive programs. The company built a strong team in Singapore by focusing on the right combination of business and technical skills. Getting the SVP Business Analytics Capabilities Solution Authorization brought us to another level and this helped with momentum. The VAD understands IBM very well and understands the programs such as SVP and other programs. They taught us how to take advantage of programs that have expanded our business. The VAD has had a strategic impact on the company s success. Rana Banerji, Sales Director, PMSquare PMSquare: Use Certifications to Drive Business Growth in New Markets PMSquare, a business consulting company focused on data warehousing, business intelligence, and enterprise planning, has been very successful in partnering with IBM in the analytics market. While the company is headquartered in Australia, it opened a sales office in Singapore to increase its opportunities. Rana Banerji, Sales Director at PMSquare indicated that it took almost 18 months to build trust among the local IBM sellers in Singapore. However, by investing in building the relationship with IBM through extensive marketing lead generation events and campaigns and by leveraging the IBM Professional Certifications program, PMSquare was able to expand its business significantly. Page 6

7 Best Practice 4: Build Expertise in a Broad Portfolio of Offerings with Focus on Solution Selling In today s market environment, you will have the opportunity to compete for larger deals if you can offer customers a comprehensive solution supported by deep industry and technical knowledge. These solutions can often be effective when they integrate a number of IBM Software and IBM Systems products. Use your expertise from selling software into a particular industry to productize and build an industry solution. This needs to be coordinated with IBM s most important initiatives. Within IBM Software s business the focus is concentrated on supporting customers in its core technologies areas including cloud, mobile, big data and analytics, and social. Selling software solutions into a specific industry based on these core technologies requires a very different type of selling than selling one specific tool or product. The seller needs to have a deep understanding of the prospect s business challenges and desired outcomes as well as all the products that make up the solution. Business Partners that understand IBM s go to market strategy and develop proficiency in areas that align with IBM focus areas have been able to grow their businesses very quickly. CDW: Focus your efforts on solution selling CDW, a Fortune 500 company with more than $10 Billion in 2012 net sales, has been an IBM Business Partner since The organization provides technology solutions to customers in the US and Canada. Nina Lane, IBM Software Solutions Manager for CDW, credits the company s focus on solution selling as a key factor in their success. We have used IBM Software One resources on IBM PartnerWorld extensively to help build collateral, references, and use cases on solution areas like cloud and big data. The focus on industry solutions helped the organization grow and become more profitable as it transitioned from a transactional to a strategic approach to selling IBM Software. Nina Lane, IBM Software Solutions Manager, CDW In 2010, CDW began leveraging resources from IBM and their VAD, Arrow, to build skills and certifications in cloud, big data and analytics, collaboration, security, and storage. CDW will be adding a mobility solution focus in By taking advantage of SVP and SVI programs and certification programs on core solutions, CDW built an expert team that combines inside sales with field sales to focus on solutions for business, government, education and healthcare in the US and Canada. Their core solutions expertise includes virtualization, collaboration, security, mobility, data center optimization and cloud computing. In order to deliver real value to customers, CDW has focused on building deep industry knowledge across their key industry verticals. Another winning strategy for CDW has been to collaborate with their VAD, Arrow, on strategic planning, co-marketing support, and special programs like a recent customer initiative around Cognos. This collaboration has enabled CDW to resell across the entire IBM portfolio. Page 7

8 Best Practice 5: Leverage IBM s Go-To-Market Resources to Build a Solid Marketing Strategy and Plan IBM offers many well-designed go-to-market resources to help supplement your own programs. IBM provides extensive marketing resources to Business Partners including packaged campaigns that can be used as is to support your go to market activities. If you successfully execute marketing campaigns and can demonstrate to IBM that you are able to bring in new business based on campaign results, you can receive funds to support your activities. This is a great way to grow your business since the more success you have the more marketing funds you receive. Take advantage of IBM s Software Co-Marketing offering to earn 50% reimbursement on approved marketing activities. Business Partners like to put the co-marketing funds back into their own marketing efforts and continue to expand on go to market activities. Use Ready to Execute marketing campaigns. Make sure IBM knows the success of your campaign. We have made significant use of IBM Co-Marketing funds to help us grow our business. The more successful your marketing programs are in bringing in new business, the greater your reimbursement from IBM. Learn how to take advantage of this program. Lori Gianattasio, National IBM Partner Executive at Perficient Perficient: Use IBM Co-Marketing Funds to Expand Your Reach IBM provides extensive marketing resources to partners including ready to execute campaigns that can be used as is to support your go to market activities. Lori Gianattasio, National IBM Partner Executive at Perficient, says that when her organization was an emerging company, they used a significant number of IBM s marketing support offerings. Now that Perficient has grown significantly it can afford to expand its own marketing team. However, the company finds it is effective to leverage IBM s Co-Marketing funds to expand its marketing reach. To be effective, however, you need to understand the requirements for IBM Software Co- Marketing funds. For example, if you complete your marketing campaigns and keep IBM informed on the success you are having in bringing in new business based on campaign results you can receive funds to support your activities. This is a great way to grow your business since the more success you have the more co-marketing funds you receive. Successful Business Partners often leverage co-marketing funds to increase and deepen their own marketing efforts and continue to expand on go to market activities. Page 8

9 Conclusion There are many years of accumulated experience behind the best practice recommendations detailed in this paper. One of the strongest messages from the IBM Software Business Partners we interviewed is to be proactive in building your relationship with IBM. You need to demonstrate your value to IBM by developing deep expertise in IBM Software and supporting your customers with industry solutions that leverage IBM s core technologies. Use IBM PartnerWorld as a starting point to get connected and engage with IBM. But don t stop there. Meet with your Value Added Distributor to find out how they can help. Reach out to your IBM Software Business Partner Sales Representative, arrange to meet with IBM executives at conferences, follow IBM news on social media, and connect on the IBM Business Partner LinkedIn Group. Use IBM PartnerWorld as a starting point to get connected and engage with IBM. Meet with your Value Added Distributor to find out how they can help. Here is how to find excellent resource material to help you get started on your journey to success as an IBM Software Business Partner: Twitter: Follow IBM on and with hashtag #IBMPartners Blogs: IBM Software Business Partner blog IBM Business Partner Voices blog LinkedIn: IBM Software Business Partners LinkedIn group YouTube: IBM Software Channels Web: IBM PartnerWorld We would like to acknowledge the following partners for sharing their experiences and offering recommendations on best practices for partnering with IBM: CDW, Fritz & Macziol, Icaro Technologies, The Ironside Group, LPA Systems, PMSquare Pty Ltd., and Perficient. In addition, we appreciate the input from Channel-Pros, a provider of consulting services to IBM Business Partners. Page 9

10 About Hurwitz & Associates Hurwitz & Associates is a strategy consulting, market research and analyst firm that focuses on how technology solutions solve real world customer problems. Hurwitz research concentrates on disruptive technologies, such as Big Data and Analytics, Security, Cloud Computing, Service Management, Information Management, Application Development and Deployment, and Collaborative Computing. Their experienced team merges deep technical and business expertise to deliver the actionable, strategic advice clients demand. Additional information on Hurwitz & Associates can be found at Copyright 2014, Hurwitz & Associates All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Hurwitz & Associates is the sole copyright owner of this publication. All trademarks herein are the property of their respective owners. 13A Highland Circle Needham, MA Tel:

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