Building Strong Relationships on Trust

It seems as if every big software vendor is trying to make inroads into the SMB market by building a channel business. Is there a competition for partners?

Definitely, since everybody is going after the same partners. However, in reality there is less competition. Due to the consolidation going on in the market and the resulting confusion among customers and partners, I believe we have a unique chance to win key new partners for expanding our SMB business on a global level. At the moment, SAP is considered a very attractive relation by many business partners.

Why? Could you explain this?

Currently, many potential partners are in a difficult situation, because IT spending still does not meet expectations. So they are very concerned about their investments. And as partnering with a new vendor is an investment, they are looking for investment security and a reliable business model they can build on, in addition to an attractive future-oriented technology platform and extraordinary vendor staying power. SAP can offer great value in all these areas.

Apart from that: What is specific about SAP?

First of all, I think that our brand offers a lot of value to our partners. We are a household name in enterprise solutions. However, even though more than 50 percent of our customers are actually in the small- and midsize business segment, it takes time to build the same market reputation within that segment. But we are improving every day, also backed by new campaigns targeted directly at the SMB companies and sharing the successful references we already have here. An example is our advertising slogan, “SAP is for the Fortune 500,000” – for every size of business and every budget. Also, I think partners can feel comfortable dealing with SAP. We are regarded as a trustworthy vendor, since we share our experience, our skills, our industry knowledge, and our marketing power with our partners in order to make them more successful.

Could you give an example?

Take our approach to training. We not only train our partners about our solutions. We help them strengthen their sales force and build solutions that meet the needs of their customers in specific industries. All this helps our partners go to market faster, reduce their investment risk, and open up rewarding opportunities.

Why should a partner join the mySAP All-in-One partner program?

It’s about success and strategic direction. Today, everybody agrees that verticalization, proven solutions, and solid partnerships are key to success in the SMB market. SAP has the world’s largest portfolio of vertical enterprise solutions, and we are the leader in the ERP market. In the last 30 years we have accumulated a wealth of experience no competitor can match. This is of particular importance when it comes to vertical solutions. Since SAP has been active in most industries for many years we again are ahead of the competition in terms of the ability to verticalize SMB solutions. No other player can offer industry-specific platforms for the development of micro-vertical solutions.

But how does this help your partners?

The important thing is that we are willing to bring our experience and knowledge into the relationship with our partners. In fact, in the mySAP All-in-One program we transfer knowledge and say: Come and join us. Let us combine what we both know about a special industry and come up together with the best solutions. And not only that: We also help our partners in marketing their SAP-based solutions by taking a very localized approach. We sit together and decide what the focus and the messages should be, and how we communicate in a local market.

Talking about vertical solutions: SAP provides so called Best Practices to make it easier for partners to develop their own qualified mySAP All-in-One solutions. Right?

Yes, but we do not ship the Best Practices and say, “Just go and use them.” Again, we want to develop them together with partners in a cooperative approach. In fact, some Best Practices have been the result of the cooperation between SAP and our partners.

It is also said that you would like to facilitate cooperation among your partners. What does that mean?

Right now we have about 270 qualified mySAP All-in-One solutions. And we would like to increase this figure further and fast. To achieve this goal, we need partners to cooperate not only with SAP but also among each other. For example, if we have a ceramics solutions in Italy we can transfer it or the knowledge around it to Spain or China, since the processes in the ceramics industry are similar in all countries. So not every partner has to reinvent the wheel. Cooperation among partners speeds up the process of solution development. Our role there is to make life easier for our partners by facilitating contacts and exchange.

But why is it rewarding for a partner to share his knowledge with another partner?

Most SMB markets are local, and most partners are only local players. So in many cases there is no conflict of interest. Therefore, it was not surprising to me to see a lot of openness among our partners for cooperation. And we have set up a program called the Solution Network. Our goal is to make it easier for partners to get in contact, to know which partner in which country is working on a specific industry solution. By doing that we can add a lot of value to the process.

Assuming I would be a partner interested in working with SAP, what is in it for me financially?

First of all, you could increase sales by selling software licences on your mySAP All-in-One solutions. However, this would only be the beginning. For example, you would be able to add consulting and implementation services. But the most important thing is that in partnering with SAP you would lay the foundation for recurring business. It is in our interest for you to establish long-term relationships with your customers, that you grow with your customers. So being a SAP Business Partner is more than just selling software, implementing it and leaving. It is the ongoing business that makes it a healthy and less risky business model. A partnership with a strong partner like SAP will be a rewarding relationship that grows in profitability over time.

If I become an SAP Business Partner, am I still allowed to keep existing relationships with SAP’s competitors?

Of course. We know that exclusivity is not possible. Many partners we would like to add to our partner program have relationships with competitors. However, we are confident that in the medium and long term many partners will work only with SAP because we offer them the most rewarding relationship – financially, but also in terms of a true partnership of openness and trust.