In addition to providing increased benefits for those partners who elect to sell only Panasonic rugged notebooks, Panasonic has also increased its investment in a channel account team to provide more reps to work with partners.
Rugged notebook vendor Panasonic announced a major revamp of their channel program last December. Since then, they have enhanced the program further with improvements directed specifically at their Prime partners, that subset of their channel that exclusively sells Panasonic notebooks, and not competitor products.
“We originally announced a new Authorized Reseller Program last December because at that point in time, our channel program hadn’t been updated for many years,” said Dominick Passanante, Senior Director Channel Sales in Panasonic Corporation of North America’s Mobility Business Unit. “The dynamics in the market had changed a lot since then, and we needed to be more competitive. We sell entirely through channel partners and it was important for us to stay in tune with their needs.”
Those changes a year ago were directed at the entire Panasonic channel – approximately 218 resellers.
“One big improvement was including a formal MDF program,” Passanante said. “Previously, resellers would submit a proposal and we would either accept or reject it based on its merits and our budget. We formalized the process allowing them to be able to set up predictable programs. Another big improvement was significantly discounting the cost for demo units, thus making it much easier for partners to put them in the hands of customers.”
Passanante said that while the changes last year were for the whole channel, the new program enhancements are for the Prime partners. These are the approximately 34 partners who are exclusive to Panasonic in the rugged notebook space. The four tiers in Panasonic’s program are determined by revenues, and the Prime partners are not a tier per se, but an elective category.
“Most Prime partners tend to fall into the top tier – but not all,” Passanante said. “Electing to be a Prime partner is actually a way for a lower-tier reseller to get more benefits, by choosing to be Prime and exclusive to Panasonic.”
The changes also came on the recommendation of the Prime Partners. Panasonic holds two partner events each year. While one is for all the partners, one is for the Prime partners alone, and that latter event generated these suggested changes.
Panasonic has improved the Prime partner benefits in several ways.
“We have changed their incentive program so they get a price advantage over other resellers,” Passanante indicated. “We have also streamlined the process to make it easier for them to understand their discount. We also increased the amount of MDF they get. And we are also in the process of listing our Prime partners on the company website.”
In addition to the programmatic improvements, Panasonic has also made a significant internal investment in a channel account team, with the top two tiers in their four-tier program getting an individual channel account manager.
“These are in sales, but as we are 100 per cent focused on the reseller community, they don’t have a sales quota but are compensated by business that goes through the reseller community,” Passanante said. “We have seen reseller partners with these channel account managers deliver a higher growth rate.”