Plantronics re-invents partner program, expanding support beyond traditional hardware partners

Plantronics reworks its channel program to give greater emphasis to implementing their SaaS management solution, and to selling their hardware within broader solutions rather than simply as peripherals.

Virginia Anderson, Plantronics’ Director of Global Channel Programs

Today, Plantronics is announcing a major restructuring of their channel program. They are adding new classifications and making structural changes that will change the program from one designed principally for hardware dealers who sell headsets as peripherals, to one that also provides material support to non-traditional partners like integrators, MSPs, and software players who use Plantronics gear in different kinds of solutions.

While Plantronics made a major splash a month ago announcing the acquisition of Polycom, and their intent to become a one-stop shop for unified communications and collaboration [UCC] , there is no direct connection between that deal and the present program change, as the Polycom deal is not even scheduled to close until later in the year. However, the same trend of Plantronics broadening its routes to market within UCC that made the Polycom acquisition a logical step for them is certainly a factor in the changes here.

“The changes to the program reflect what is happening in the marketplace, where we have been evolving and bringing in Software-as-a-Service [SaS] and other services,” said Virginia Anderson, Plantronics’ Director of Global Channel Programs. “In the past, a lot of our partners were hardware-focused. We are now seeing more partners who have a software focus. Customer needs are changing and not all partners can address those needs. This new program is about engaging systems integrators and MSPs and SaaS players, as well as engaging with our traditional hardware resellers.”

Anderson said that Plantronics closely looked at the changes taking place to their ecosystem – and their partners’ business models, preparatory to redesigning the program.

“We are seeing changes like an increasing amount of multi-vendor bundling, with SIs and MSPs tending to be the ones most involved in that,” Anderson stated. “Distribution models are changing as well.”

Anderson also indicated that programmatic structural changes were needed to adjust to the fact that Plantronics’ traditional channel is not necessarily the best to take their non-traditional products to market. This has been an issue with Plantronics Manager Pro, their headset management solution.

“We have found that some resellers have been selling it, but not managing the lifecycle of the offering, so that there was deployment, but not adoption of UCC in the customer’s ecosystem,” she said. “Those partners who sold it and didn’t manage it through the lifecycle didn’t get renewals. We wanted to target this more at partners who have this as part of their DNA.”

A major structural change to the program is the addition of a new track for integrators, giving them a second, alongside resellers. It replaces a two-tier structure of tracks for resellers and distributors.

“There was just the one bucket before,” Anderson said. “While we had integrator partners, the bucket was mainly for hardware resellers. Having a second track for integrators allows us to be more targeted. This new structure is also more scalable, and we can continue to add new tracks to it.

MSPs could be one of those down the line.

“Right now, MSPs would fit into the integrator track,” Anderson said. “There is a line between the integrator track and born in the cloud partners, and we can expand on that of we see more need.”

The new program has three tiers – Platinum, Gold and Registered – the same as before, but there are some major changes in how this will be managed.

“It is a global program with a similar structure, but in the old program, partners didn’t have the same benefits in all regions and now they will,” Anderson indicated. “MDF, deal registration, Plantronics Connect University and the rewards incentive program are our four programs, and all have been in EMEA and in North America, but deal registration and MDF are new for LatAm and APJ.”

The tiering qualifications have also been changed.

“Before, it was volume-based and revenue,” Anderson said. “Now revenue is not the top criteria. It’s about what attributes a partner brings. It’s about pre- and post-sales support, alliance vendor certifications, and certifications with Plantronics, as well as revenues. One of those three  Plantronics certifications – SaaS [Manager Pro] – will now be available only to the integrator track. Unified Communications and Contact Center are the other two certifications.

“In the next six to nine months, we will also roll out more marketing resources and more incents,” Anderson said. “It will be an evolving process rather than rolling it all out on Day One.”

Anderson stressed that the new program heralds big steps forward for Plantronics.

“It is a very exciting time here,” she said. “We have great brand equity. We are re-inventing ourselves. We will have relevancy with the broader channel population outside of the hardware market. Many people don’t even realize that we are a channel-first company, but there are now more reasons than ever to engage as a channel partner with Plantronics.”