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Microsoft To Shut Out P-Seller Partners from Corporate Network

Microsoft's exclusive P-Seller partner community in the United States on Monday received 28 days' notice that they would be shut out of the Microsoft corporate network and moved to a new area of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) portal, leading some partners to fear that many of the resources they regularly use to sell Microsoft solutions and escalate customer issues will be unavailable.

Partner Sellers, or P-Sellers, are among Microsoft's closest partners, and they help Microsoft drive significant revenue through co-selling engagements. In the United States, the invitation-only program includes 1,139 individuals from 289 managed partner organizations. Those individuals carry the P-SSP (Partner Solution Sales Professional) or P-TSP (Partner Technology Solutions Professional) designations.

In a PowerPoint deck sent to P-Sellers on Feb. 20 and obtained by RCP, Microsoft emphasized that the partners would be invited to a new P-Seller Resource Portal on the MPN in order to make it simpler for partners to find resources and make the program more scalable for Microsoft globally. Microsoft was detailing the changes to P-Sellers in Q&A sessions Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

"We will no longer provide P-Sellers with access to Microsoft's corporate network. Our goal is to provide assets to our P-Sellers [in] a timely manner, in conjunction with our methods for deploying assets to our Microsoft Sales Teams," read a slide in the partner deck. "The MPN P-Seller Resource Portal will act as the 'one-stop shop' for Microsoft P-Sellers, and will drive simplicity and convenience for P-Sellers to help them quickly locate assets, training, learning paths via Partner University, enablement, sales & marketing, entitlements, support, level branding and competency attainment and other benefits. All information is through a single source and will have content specifically geared for P-Sellers. We've built a designated readiness portal that will be exclusive to P-Sellers and populated with Microsoft field facing content."

Ending P-Seller access to Microsoft's corporate network, eliminating their e-mail addresses, removing the access chips from their purple badges and the short notice of the change were the steps that seemed most concerning to partners, according to a Microsoft partner on one of the calls.

Issues associated with being shut out of the corporate network for these partners means losing access to the Microsoft Global Address List, which helped partners properly escalate customer and technical issues; the Microsoft Calendar; distribution lists internal to Microsoft; NDA content such as battle cards, decks and positioning statements; the internal Azure Calculator; Microsoft's dogfood site for accessing pre-release software; the Microsoft Glossary; and the ability to schedule sessions at Microsoft Technology Centers.

Another partner on the call said Microsoft's desire to lock down its own information was understandable but called the changes "super problematic" for partners. "Having the ability to go in and pull everyone's calendar to set up meetings, to go find content out in their network that may help move a deal along or get you connected to what's actually happening is a big deal for all partners. It was literally a game-changer," the partner said. Of the new curated site, the partner added, "The moving stuff over, it always takes longer when there's another step. Some of the selling tools that are for Microsoft employees, they would open up access for P-Sellers. Now there will have to be a decision."

Microsoft did note in a slide that P-Sellers will be able to request to have assets added to the new P-Seller Resource Portal.

Through a spokesperson, Microsoft declined several requests for telephone and e-mail interviews, providing only a short e-mailed statement. "We're making changes and investments to optimize the Microsoft P-Seller Program, including a new one-stop resource portal, to help ensure these partners have everything needed to realize stronger mutual customer relationships and sales goals," the spokesperson said.

In the slide deck, Microsoft emphasized other positives in the changes, including reduction of password resets, a streamlined operations process and a new Partner Seller Microsoft logo for participants. Also, an onboarding freeze in the United States has been lifted as of Feb. 20.

Many other key benefits of the P-Seller program will remain, including deep engagement with Microsoft teams and access -- now through the MPN -- to some resources that are normally available only to Microsoft employees. P-Sellers will also continue to have access to the Microsoft Social Selling Program, which includes use of the premium LinkedIn Sales Navigator service, along with coaching and marketing content for use in social selling. However, it emerged on the call that details on how P-Sellers will access the social selling tools without their Microsoft credentials have yet to be worked out.

While Microsoft's deck doesn't disclose how many P-Sellers there are worldwide (the U.S.-only numbers cited above did come from the slides), other text in the deck suggests Microsoft is clamping down on the network access in anticipation of P-Seller program growth.

"In order to scale this program globally, we must shift to digital experience that is curated specifically for P-Sellers on MPN. Building on top of MPN as our partner enablement resource we are driving parity across P-Seller roles and subs to have the same experience," the deck said.

It's understandable for security, administrative and program management reasons that Microsoft would want to limit the number of outsiders galloping freely through its network, especially if P-Seller numbers are, in fact, about to increase. However, P-Sellers who had that special access were made to feel like valued partners and insiders, and they used that access creatively to improve both their and Microsoft's business. Getting bounced out of the network and into a walled garden has to sting.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 22, 2017