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Licensing Experts for Hire

Despite Microsoft's recent efforts aimed at streamlining processes, software licensing is still a minefield to many resellers. Some VARs turn to companies like Software ONE Inc. of New Berlin, Wisc., whose VARassist program can help them get clients safely to the other side. Peter Ells, Software ONE's Microsoft business development manager and VARassist director, talked with RCPmag.com Editor Michael Domingo about how his company can help Microsoft partners land more lucrative software deals that lead to increased services business.

Give us the thumbnail on Software ONE, for readers who don't know much about the company.
Software ONE was incorporated back in 1985, so we're celebrating our 20th anniversary as a company. As a reseller, we've always had a focus on the PC industry and, in particular, on software. As the market changed into a volume-licensing market in the mid-'90s, we changed with it and our sales reps became very focused on volume licensing and how to properly position it and sell it appropriately to customers.

We work with end users, particularly corporate accounts; 100 to 1,500 or 2,000 PCs is our niche. About 2002 or 2003, we approached Microsoft wanting to develop a better relationship with them, and at the time, Microsoft was looking to find ways to address the needs of the [small and midsize business] market. So, we engaged in a pilot program to go after that SMB market, [selling] enterprise agreements. It proved to be very, very successful for Microsoft and, as a result, last year in July, we were elevated to the status of a large account reseller [LAR]. But we're not a typical LAR. We're still focused on the SMB space.

In the SMB market, the licensing can't be that complicated, can it?
Yes, it can be. If you've got 250 PCs, then you qualify to buy an Enterprise agreement from Microsoft, which is the same agreement as a 10,000-seat company can [buy]. So you follow the same licensing rules and regulations, but it needs to be explained to that customer.

What is VARassist? How do partners work with you and what kind of financial agreements do you put together?
We've got a formalized program set up under VARassist. We've got a contract in place with mutual nondisclosure agreements [NDAs], a set-fee schedule, and really, it's a revenue- or profit-sharing type of program. We strictly focus on selling volume licensing. We don't compete by selling hardware, infrastructure or services that would traditionally compete with the VAR channel.

Peter Ells

Software ONE Inc.'s Peter Ells says his company can help yours "up-sell" more software—generating services business in the process.

Is there a particular advantage going with your program over your competitors'?
Our approach offers two different things. One, it's consultative selling. We don't embrace the 'drive-by' licensing approach as some licensing resellers do. We're concerned that proper information is provided to customers so they can make an intelligent decision on what agreement is best for their organization.

We do an excellent job in what I call the cross-sell/up-sell, to make sure that all the products the customer is interested in are incorporated into a volume license agreement. We also do back-end reporting; we're able to report back to our VAR partners all the products that sold through our program, report those financials back to them, so they can share that information with their publishers, specifically Microsoft, under the influence model.

We've got some data where we show that, when we connect with a partner, we're able to up-sell the services for that VAR partner and uncover new opportunities it has never even considered before within its customer base.

What other programs are you involved in, aside from Microsoft's?
We're very strong in Citrix, very strong in Symantec, McAfee, Adobe, Macromedia, etc. So, really [we work with] all the major and most of the minor software publishers out there, and we bring this approach to other partners. If those partners decide they don't want to do licensing as a core competency and they want to outsource it, they can do that with us.

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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