Plantronics beefs up partner support for UC push

Revised partner program from Plantronics includes formalized channel education and a new rewards program.

Erna Arnesen, vice president of channel and field marketing, Plantronics

Erna Arnesen, vice president of channel and field marketing, Plantronics

Santa Cruz CA-based audio communications vendor Plantronics is best known for its headsets – something it has been making for over half a century. But the company is growing its presence in the unified communications market. To do that effectively, it is deepening the investments it makes in partners.

“We are 100% channel based,” said Erna Arnesen, who took over as Plantronics’ VP of Channel and Field Marketing last year. “Three quarters of that is enterprise and B2B, and the rest is consumer. We sell to 100% of the Fortune 100. We also have a very broad contact center business.”

Over the last year, the company has been trying to make their channel model more efficient.

“While we have had a partner-centric sales model, and a collaborative go-to-market model which has been all channel-based globally, we have been driving a more globally consistent model,” Arnesen said.

Plantronics began to implement this path a year ago when it announced several changes to its partner program, including new deal registration, education and rewards incentives programs.

“Some of this was launched immediately in the U.S.  and some was launched outside the U.S. but we have now implemented a consistent rules and structure globally,” Arnesen said. “We needed to integrate policies and programs from a channel perspective.”

Connect University, which offers partner certifications, sales specializations, and training in twelve languages, rolled out in the latter part of 2013, and filled what had been a major void.

“We never had a formal university before that,” Arnesen said. “We would train on calls but we never had a formal program before as a scalable sustainable management platform.”

The new rewards program, Connect Rewards, integrated what had been two separate rewards platforms. It is a point-based system in which the points accumulated can be redeemed for a variety of gift products.

“We use gifts and points because we give points to incent partners to do things we want them to do, like  signing up for deal reg, doing training or attending events,” Arnesen said. “We give points for more things, as opposed to just spiffs that get them to sell a certain product. It’s not to save us money, but because it’s better to engage partners and get them trained.”

The Plantronics Connect Deal Registration program is a major thinking of what the company had been doing before.

“We used to have an opportunity registration before, but we changed how it works with this, a revised concept,” Arnesen said.  “We didn’t find the old program was very impactful, and didn’t have much pickup or business relevance. The old program was just UC, and we have now added a broader suite of products, and set it up to administer things better.”

A key challenge Plantronics faces in managed its channel efficiently is the growing overlap between consumer and enterprise channels on cutting edge consumer goods.

“We work very heavily through distributors, and are seeing more products sold through consumer channels,” Arnesen said.  “There is so much interdependence between consumer and enterprise on Bluetooth products. All are products are open except for two consumer products, BackBeat FIT ireless stereo headphones and Voyager Edge Bluetooth headsets. There is an authorization program for them, and it is consumer focused, but there has been a lot of pickup by the B2B partners, especially on Voyager Edge.”

Might some registration to sell certain products be coming on the B2B side in the Connect Partner program? Arnesen said it’s something they are looking at.

“We do have some registration on the consumer side, and it’s something we are continuing to look at on the enterprise side,” she said. “Right now it’s all open except for those two consumer products, but we do have a premier set of products, and we are investing in partners, and it is hard to have a completely open ended system when you are trying to invest in partners.”

This article originally appeared on eChannelLine.