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Both Sides

Want Help from Microsoft? Better Know a Microsoft Segment

What's one of the most common missteps a partner can make when approaching a Microsoft employee? According to our former Microsoft insider, it's not knowing what he or she is responsible for.

Welcome to the first installment of "Both Sides," a column about how to partner with Microsoft from the perspective of a former Microsoft field rep.

I left Microsoft about a year ago to head back to the partner community. I enjoyed my time at Microsoft, but I enjoy being a partner even more. Sometimes I feel like I'm dancing with an 800-pound gorilla and just trying not to get my feet stepped on. Most of the time my company and I love partnering with Microsoft, and I think we've done an above-average job at it.

Each issue, I'll try to share my thoughts on how to partner with Microsoft from both an insider's and a partner's perspective. In this first column, I want to explain how important it is to understand segmentation if you want people at Microsoft to help you.

What was amazing to me when I wore the blue badge was how misguided some partners were when approaching Microsoft. The first thing you should do when you meet a Microsoft employee is figure out what he's responsible for.

When I worked there, here's how I thought about segmentation:

  • Customer segment: There are a number of segments within Microsoft. You need to be working in mine for me to care about your business. Here are some major ones:

    • The Enterprise Product Group (EPG) covers the largest companies that Microsoft handles; you can probably name them in your town. Bigger companies have dedicated teams and smaller ones probably share a rep with six to eight firms.

    • Public Sector covers government, education and health care. There are multiple teams based on the size of the entity and their type.

    • Corporate Account Managed (CAM) consists of dedicated account managers who have about 30 accounts.

    • Corporate Territory Managed (CTM) consists of an inside and outside sales team with about 300 accounts.

    • SMB typically covers an entire Microsoft area/district with one resource and may have another resource that just covers the cloud.

If I'm in the CTM area and you're talking about an account in the CAM space, that's great for you -- but I couldn't care less. Talk to me about the clients or space that I manage. Don't know? Ask me. If you're doing business in my space, I'll give you a copy of my account list. If I'm the wrong guy, ask for the right one. Understand if I can't put my finger on it quickly, it's probably a pain for me to look it up.

  • Geographic territories: These have cutesy names for each area of the country. If I'm covering Virginia, I can't care about a deal in North Carolina. In fact, that guy is closer to his quota than I am and he's hurting my chances for an all-expenses-paid Gold Club vacation, so I'd rather you not sell there.

  • Specialists: Microsoft has huge teams of specialists that get paid on certain products such as Office 365, Lync and SharePoint. Engage with these folks when you have a real specialty and are driving revenue. Are you awesome at driving SharePoint deployments? Great! Translate that into revenue and you'll get my attention -- as long as it's in the territory and customer segment that I care about. Specialists don't get paid on deployment, they get paid on license revenue.

  • Partner managers: These people are a great place to start when you're working with customers who are buying Enterprise or Select agreements (250-plus users). They're charged with building the channel and looking out for new partner talent. If you're respectful of their time and clearly explain your value, it could pay off big. If you're focused on the SMB sector or still building your business, then consider leveraging the massive investments that Microsoft has made in distribution partners. Don't care about licensing? That's cool, but understand that it will be tough for Microsoft to care about the revenue drivers in your business. You don't have to transact the deal, just care about the transaction and help track it through the system.

Some of these attitudes may sound mercenary or like a failure to act like a team player. Top performers at Microsoft focus on the revenue they're tracked on. I cared about the company and I showed it by driving my number and taking home my bonus. Want help from Microsoft? Find the person inside Microsoft whose segment depends on your success.

About the Author

M.S. Partner is a pseudonym for a former Microsoft U.S. field rep who returned to the channel and writes this column to help other partners succeed with Microsoft. Let M.S. Partner know your thoughts and questions about how Microsoft works at mspartner@rcpmag.com.

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