SAP Canada looks to double channel feet on the street

Mary Peterson SAP

Mary Peterson, vice president of indirect sales, SAP Canada

Mary Peterson has big goals for 2011.

Peterson, vice president of indirect sales at SAP Canada, is taking advantage of the company’s channel renaissance, setting a high bar for growing the company’s channel partner community in Canada. As SAP itself seeks to send all of its SMB business through the channel, and an increasing amount of it enterprise business as well, Peterson sees an opportunity to make the community she works with a lot bigger.

“I want to double our feet on the street,” she said.

It’s important to note that SAP is not – and probably never will be – a “big tent” channel program in terms of the ranks of partners who work with a Cisco, an HP or a Microsoft.

So how does Peterson plan to meet her goal?

Simple. “The priority is to grow with our existing partners by giving them the opportunity to grow their business by expanding the market,” she said.

SAP’s doing that by opening up more business to the channel. Except for a select few named accounts, partners will take the lead in enterprise customers now. In Canada, that means the company has opened up a number of opportunities, including financial services and public sector; both business analytics and ERP, to its partner base.

As a result, she reports a number of partners who themselves plan to double their business every year for the next few years. That’s going a long way to meeting Peterson’s goal of doubling the feet on the street, and will be a big part of how SAP reaches its stated goal of one billion users worldwide over the next few years.

But that’s not saying the company’s channel program is closed to new partners. Peterson said SAP Canada would continue to “recruit strategically” among new partners, particularly around industries, geographies and technology areas. For example, the company needs to add channel base in Western Canada, in financial services, and is looking to build up its base for its new (to Canada) Business By Design hosted product line. SAP Canada is also looking to aggressively recruit partners with experience selling the company’s ERP competitors. One major win in that regard: signing up Ideaca, a fixture at Microsoft’s annual Impact Awards for partners.

“They’re going to be a key player for us,” she said.

So far, with nearly half of 2011 in the books, it’s looking likely that Peterson’s channel sales force recruiting goal will be met. She said the SAP channel is “falling in line” with her prediction. “I’d say that at least half of my partners have added feet on the street already this year,” she said.

It’s coming about largely because of the overall channel resurgence at the enterprise software company. Quips Peterson, “SAP couldn’t spell channel five years ago, and now our CEOs say this going to be one of our key growth areas.”

As a result of that deeper focus, she’s able to have deeper conversations with partners. “We’re in this together now guys, where do you want to go, and how can we help you?” That said, she knows the company’s going to have to continue walking the walk for some time to gain total trust amongst its partners. Longtime partners have seen interest in the channel come and go from SAP over the years. And newer partners have watched from afar those same fluctuations, or heard the tribulations from their peers.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity for partners to grow – the business analytics space. It’s a field that most all serious enterprise software vendors, from IBM to HP to Oracle to SAS, are high on. It’s about 50 per cent of SAP’s business, but “it’s still getting there” in terms of channel support. Peterson said SAP is “spending a lot of time enabling our partners to truly understand” business analytics, how to effectively introduce them to customers, and perhaps most importantly, how partners can use them to “grow the footprint of the deal.”

To maximize that opportunity, Peterson said SAP is frequently playing matchmaker in partner-to-partner relationships – bringing together core ERP partners with analytics partners in a bid to increase coverage. It’s something that SAP largely does opportunistically, and that’s manageable because of the relatively small SAP partner base in Canada, where most of the partners know each other.

“Our channel play is about less partners but more productive partners,” she said.