Zendesk emphasizes flexibility in revamp of partner program

The new program provides a way of rewarding partners that reflects the complexity of channel models today, and restructures and improves the training process.

Ricardo Moreno, Zendesk’s Vice President, Worldwide Partners

Customer support and engagement solution provider Zendesk has announced a major redo of their partner program. The idea is to both give partners more flexibility to be rewards, through a system that recognizes the evolving complexity of partner business models today. Zendesk also now has a more differentiated system of certifying and rewarding partners, designed to incent them to have higher skilled techs and sales people.

“We have customers across all segments, including the new economy type of company but also very established decades-old companies,” said Ricardo Moreno, Zendesk’s Vice President, Worldwide Partners. “Today, we have a complete portfolio of products that enables multi-channel interaction – and solutions for salesforce automation.”

Zendesk has always sold though channels as part of their Go-to-Market strategy, but they recently decided to beef it up significantly.

“Starting in 2018, we made much more significant investments in this space, and Jeff Porter joined as Director of Partner Programs this January,” Moreno said. “It’s critical for us to have a strong ecosystem. We are now seeing a strong growth in our channel business.”

Zendesk’s channel is fairly diverse.

“We have hundreds of partners who actually sell with us,” Moreno said. “Our ecosystem is well integrated. We have GSIs, solution providers, small boutique partners, business process outsourcing companies – and a large number who only do referrals.”

Moreno also emphasized that Zendesk has a fairly sophisticated portfolio which requires integration.

“The program framework that existed before was regional, and was very flat,” he said. “It wasn’t promoting partner behavior that is in line with what we want to see. The changes we are making are about really making significant moves to put partner front and center in our business. The new program is value-based. It is clear what we want, and what we reward for. And the more capabilities they have the more rewards they get.”

Zendesk came to the conclusion that segmenting partners into classifications has been made obsolete by the state of the channel today.

“Partners evolve at such a rapid rate today,” Porter said. “Partners which had a  traditional reseller strategy now also hire developers and do integrations. The new program recognizes this.”

“Before, we were boxing partners in,” Moreno added. “Partners have the right to choose their path, so instead of boxing partners in, we show them a path and let them choose.”

Accordingly, Zendesk’s new flexible framework now allows partners to refer, resell, implement, develop, integrate, or any combination of these services, in order to get rewards.

The new program has three levels. Above the Entry level is a Select level, with different ways to get to it. The Master path is the top level.

“The way we reward partners is a combination of level and what they do in the specific transactions,” Moreno said. “Hunter partners get higher rewards, as do those who play a critical role in selling.”

Individuals are assessed at three levels of proficiency – Qualified, Verified and Certified.

Jeff Porter, Director of Partner Programs, Zendesk

“We think it’s key to have an enablement program that’s role based,” Porter said. “Individuals are certified, and the partner has accreditation based on the number of certifications on staff.”

Training has also been improved as part of the revamp.

“We have a very powerful portal.” Moreno said. “Our training offers are much better than they have been.”

The program leverages what Moreno called Zendesk’s extremely strong portal.

“We have deployed a new LMS and modernized everything along the way,” Porter added. “As we deliver the best experience for customers, we want to deliver the best partner experience as well.”

“When it comes to enablement, our philosophy is to give partners access to internal information,” Moreno said. “They are invited to participate in the same sales boot camp as our internal sales.”

Finally, Porter said that Zendesk has also added a powerful tool for Web trials, which ensures that the partner won’t get lost when the customer interacts with Zendesk for the trial.

“We solved the problem of customers going to our web site for a trial, and the partner loses attribution for that,” he said. “We have provided a way to make them an integrated part of that sales process.”

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