Microsoft Director of Business & Sales Operations - Eric Ligman

Eric Ligman, Microsoft Director of Business & Sales Operations Blog

Partnering with Microsoft, a Small Business Specialist (SBSC) success story

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to present on the U.S. West Region Partner call on “Making Money with Open Value and Open Value Subscription.” During the parts of the call where I was not presenting, it was really nice to have several of the partners that I have known and worked with over the years who were attending the call ping me to say, “Hi,” or give an update on what’s new with them, etc. as I always like to hear from partners. One interaction was particularly interesting and one that I thought I would share with you here, since it is a perfect example of how partners of all sizes are driving strong successes for their business through partnering with Microsoft. Plus, it’s one that I think may surprise you since the partner himself was quite pleasantly surprised with the events as they have been transpiring.

Bill Hole is the owner of “The Hole Group,” which is a regional Value Added Reseller (VAR) based in Simi Valley, CA and they are also a member of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC). The Hole Group is a great example of what you think of when you think of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community as they have four full-time people in the company and then bring specialists in who consult on vertical specific, challenging projects as needed. Their primary focus, in the words of Bill Hole himself, “To evangelize technology to the SMB community.” In essence, they are a small business evangelizing to and servicing the business and technology needs of small businesses.

As Bill and I were chatting back and forth, he said, “I thought you should know that I have been really happy and surprised at the great leads we’ve been getting from Microsoft lately. The program is really working!” I asked him to elaborate further and we chatted back and forth more about this. After hearing his story, I asked if he would mind me sharing it with others. He graciously agreed and sent me the following write-up, which I am sharing in its exact form from him, with you here:

One VAR’s fresh look at Microsoft leads

Hole (2)If you fondly remember the days of setting jumpers to make your clock speed appear correctly on your tower, then you’ve got a pretty good idea of how long we’ve been partnering with Microsoft.  One of the partner benefits that we always tried to take advantage of were the leads that we would get occasionally from Microsoft.   And once in a while we would even get to man the phones down at the local Microsoft office.  While the experience was invaluable, the leads weren’t always the freshest opportunities.  It seemed strange that so many potential leads could be “disconnected and no longer in service”.

Over time, our expectations dwindled and our Microsoft leads fell to the bottom of our to-do list. They simply never went anywhere.  It was my belief that the business intelligence behind the program was somehow broken or perhaps we were the weak link in the chain.  I didn’t believe it was us because we had a thriving licensing business based on referrals and our own marketing.

Fast forward to a few months ago. We got the usual call from our account manager that there was this “big opportunity” and did we want to follow up on the “lead”.  Well, I’ve gotten really good at chasing my tail so why not?  So he sent over the lead and I put on my friendly and professional voice and called the contact.  Almost immediately, something didn’t seem right about the call.  The receptionist didn’t tell me that the person had been fired a year earlier, in fact she put me right through.

The contact was “amazed” at how quickly we responded to his request.  OK, what?  You mean you didn’t have a call center person pestering you so they could make their quota?  You really weren’t pretending to be interested just to get the person off the phone?  You mean someone back in Redmond isn’t playing a cruel prank?  I was in shock that this Microsoft lead had all the characteristics of a real opportunity.  My voice trembled and my heart raced as I tried to remember all those questions I had asked a hundred times before.  And although it caught me completely off guard, I maintained enough composure to finish the call with enough details to work up a proposal.  This was an honest to goodness lead from Microsoft.

A few weeks went by and my account manager called again with yet another lead.  Where in the past we would have dismissed it to the bottom of the list, we called right away.  Could lightning strike twice?  Sure enough, we were now two-for-two; another call and another solid lead.  Earlier this month, these two opportunities signed their agreements bringing us fifteen thousand dollars in new licensing revenue.  I’m not sure what magic beans Microsoft traded for that old cow, but it seems that almost overnight there’s a fresh new crop of leads that are valid, current, and real.  If you’ve become accustomed to putting the Microsoft leads in the bottom of the birdcage, I suggest you take a new look at them.  Where we dreaded them before, we now look forward to our next lead from Microsoft.

Bill Hole

4212 East Los Angeles Avenue, #4432
Simi Valley, CA 93063

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Thanks, Bill, for sharing this great story with me and for your willingness to share with all of the partners in the community as well! By the way, if any of you are attending Worldwide Partner Conference this year, you may want to look up Bill in WPC Connect to schedule a meeting with him if you are interested in speaking with him directly about his business and working with Microsoft over the years. You can also connect with him through The Hole Group’s Facebook page.

Three things I hope that many of you take away from this, which are some things I have been conveying for as long as I can remember:

  1. Regardless of the size of your business as a partner, Microsoft and the Microsoft Partner Network are committed to helping you drive success in serving the markets you work with through the resources we provide. (campaigns, sales tools, marketing resources, training, software, etc.)
  2. If  serving the needs of small businesses is something you focus on, you need to check out and enroll in the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community.
  3. We love to hear from our partners! Have a story you want to share with us? Let me know!

Did you find this information helpful? If so, you may want to make sure you are utilizing all of the areas I share information online, such as: my Facebook page, my Twitter account, my LinkedIn account, and my blog.

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Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric LigmanFollow me on TWITTER, LinkedIn, and RSS and see “What I’m thinking
Global Partner Experience Lead
Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights

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