Epicor VP of Americas pledges significant channel changes coming

Lisa Pope, Epicor’s new VP of Sales for the Americas, wants to recruit some top partners away from their competition, but also knows that for that to happen, more things need to change in how Epicor manages its channel.

Lisa Pope, Epicor’s EVP of Sales for the Americas

NASHVILLE – In the opening keynote at Epicor Insights here, CEO Joe Cowan gave high priority in his statement of the company’s priorities moving forward to increasing the amount of channel business done by the company.

“We need stronger channels to reach into the marketplace,” Cowan told partners. “Our channel programs are starting to kick into higher gear.”

While Epicor has a hybrid go-to-market model, in the U.S., it’s mainly direct. The channel business in the U.S. last year was a shade over 10 per cent – and that was actually up from the year before, when it was 9 per cent. In Canada [and Latin America] it’s close to the reverse, with almost all the business being channel. But the business in Canada also isn’t as developed as Epicor would like.

Lisa Pope, who came over from rival Infor to become Epicor’s new EVP of Sales for the Americas three months ago, has made increasing channel business one of her top priorities at Epicor.

“We had not had the overall growth that we want,” she said. “We want that double-digit growth, and that’s why I was hired.”

Pope pointed to some curious patterns in Epicor’s sales statistics.

“We have a very strong net-new business, and have been winning our fair share of the midmarket and SMB deals,” she said. “Most of our revenue comes from that net-new business, which is highly unusual. It also means though that we need to do a much better job of selling to our base. We need to have much stronger customer engagement that will drive additional add-on and upgrade business, and we need to be more proactively working with customers to get them to upgrade their product.”

Pope also admitted that Epicor has not been doing well with net-new cloud deals, something she finds frustrating because Epicor has made a strong cloud-first commitment, and she believes they already have better product in that space than much of the market.

“It’s just an issue of focus,” she said. “There is a whole cloud-only business that NetSuite and Plex are 100 per cent focused on. I’ll take 25 per cent of that and be super-happy.”

Pope believes Epicor has an innate advantage because they are focused on three basic industries — retail, distribution and manufacturing.

“These industries are converging as well, which is another plus,” she said. “And it helps us that we are not trying to be in 30 industries. We have the ability to go up in the market – not to the $20 billion companies – but to the 500 million ones – and to be an alternative to SAP and Oracle, in organizations which ‘standardized’ on them, but never actually implemented that in all their plants.”

Pope said that in her three months at Epicor she has determined that three major opportunities to capture market share exist, and that they just need one or two to pay off big.

“We need to get into the cloud with more success,” she said. “We have to be going head to head with NetSuite and Plex on every deal, especially given that NetSuite partners have concerns about the acquisition by Oracle. We can beat Microsoft there too. They have so many partners, and they compete so much. Those vendors have a lot of churn in their channel.”

“Sage is in the same boat there as well,” said Sally Craig, senior director channel, Americas for Epicor.” They can have four or five partners competing on a deal.”

The second goal is to increase their sales to their install base significantly.

“We need to dramatically grow our sales to our existing base,” Pope said. “It’s so unusual that most of our revenue comes from new business. We need to cross-sell better as well.”

Last, and not least, Epicor needs to increase the amount of business done through the channel, in the U.S., where it’s low as a percentage, and in Canada and LatAm, where it’s high as a percentage, but not high enough in total sales.

“We are working on fine-tuning things with them, giving them a sense they can have a predictable business in a defined space,” Pope stated. “We want them to feel comfortable and confident.  We don’t want every lead being fought over.”

Pope acknowledged that while they intend to pick off strong disgruntled partners from competitors, they need to get their own house in order first.

“What we need to do first is continue to provide additional structure to our channel, before we do some master curving,” she said. “We will be bringing new resources to getting more out of our existing channel, and then look to recruiting, both partners with a deep industry expertise and those who are very geographic-focused, but who know every customer in the area well.”

Some of these changes have already been put in place. They include training changes to include measures to improve delivery, with more scheduling options available online. They also include an expansion of channel certification of Epicor’s Prophet 21 wholesale distribution solution in Canada and Latin America, to allow it to be sold by partners in those geos.

“In the U.S., the channel still doesn’t sell Prophet 21, and that’s one of the things we will consider,” Pope said. “There’s no reason for it, other than that’s the way we have always done things.”

Pope indicated she had spoken extensively with partners at Insight, and got a strong sense of further changes that they wanted to see.

“They are excited about the conference, and happy to hear more information about the products and our direction,” she said. “They want more road map information so they can position things more effectively with their customers. They want to see improved administration, and some would also like to see more of the business on their own paper. We made a long list. They will have to give a little and we will give as well. I am here to make changes, and not just change for the sake of change.”

Pope went through the possibilities of major changes that are being considered.

“Now there aren’t boundaries, so that everyone is overlapping on the same leads,” she said. “I’ve already realigned our organizations into true verticals to help address this.

“We know as well that the only way we will get to play more in the cloud is if we give a piece of business there for the channel to be successful in,” she added.

“Another problem area is the services side, where we have a lot of channel conflict – like most companies,” she said. “Joe Cowan has mentioned wanting to pay our services guys on software sales. That would solve issues overnight. If the lion’s share of that revenue came from selling software, our services behaviour would change. But we have to establish trust with partners first, and that’s not something that happens overnight.”

Pope said more programmatic changes are coming on training and enabling the channel.

“When I was at QAD, our partners were on our forecast calls,” she said. “They went to our sales kickoff,  had the same training. The best way to enable them is to treat them like my own team. That’s an area we will focus on in the next 30 days. Now, they are at arms’ length, but that’s not on purpose. It’s an area we need work on in terms on onboarding and training.”