Microsoft Director of Business & Sales Operations - Eric Ligman

Eric Ligman, Microsoft Director of Business & Sales Operations Blog

What are the benefits of the Microsoft Partner Network Small Business Competency?

As you know, I have been sharing several pieces of information here on my blog about the upcoming Microsoft Partner Network Small Business Competency which launches in June. What has been fantastic is the amount of feedback all of you have been sharing with me through the blog, though email, in online forums, in phone calls, via Twitter and LinkedIn, through the Microsoft Partner Info mobile app’s feedback section, just to name a few, about your thoughts, questions, feedback, excitement, etc. around the Small Business competency, and several of these interactions have helped us know what information you are looking for as well (as in several of the questions from the Q&A list I just posted recently). In case you have missed the previous items I have shared, here are several of those posts that you may want to check out:

With the requirements of the Microsoft Partner Network Small Business Competency being announced the other day, the next logical question is, “What are the benefits we receive when we earn the Silver Small Business competency or the Gold Small Business competency?” In addition, a question I have received from several current Microsoft Small Business Specialists (SBSCs) is, “With SBSC evolving into a competency, what are the differences between the benefits that current SBSC partners get and what they will get if they earn the silver or gold Small Business competency?” Great questions, and here are the answers to those questions.

First, to give you a really quick side-by-side view showing the additional benefits that the Small Business competency will bring above and beyond what the current SBSC designation offers, in addition to the difference in requirements, here is a direct comparison:

image To view the image full-size, just click on it.

– See my note below the lower chart on unlimited technical pre-sales assistance, which is not in the chart to the left. 

* = As noted earlier, the current Microsoft Small Business Specialist “blue badge” will be retired 12 months after the launch of the Small Business competency

** = Gold competency only

For a more comprehensive view of how the Small Business competency fits into the broader array of offerings from Microsoft, including: the Mid Market Competency, Cloud Accelerate, and Cloud Essentials, here is a broader side-by-side comparison:

image To view the image full-size, just click on it.

– See my note below on unlimited technical pre-sales assistance, which is not in the chart to the left.

* = As noted earlier, the current Microsoft Small Business Specialist “blue badge” will be retired 12 months after the launch of the Small Business competency

** = Gold competency only

Technical Presales Assistance

One benefit that I noticed is not on these charts that all silver and gold Small Business competency partners will receive (and I’ve already sharing that feedback with the appropriate teams about it missing on the chart) is the availability of unlimited technical presales assistance for qualifying deals over $3,000 USD. Just to be clear, no, that is not a typo, I did intentionally type “unlimited” presales advisory assistance for qualifying deals over $3,000 USD. This is one fantastic benefit that the Small Business Competency will bring to our partners that SBSC does not today. If you are not familiar with the Technical Presales Support offering, it is designed to get you the right information at the right time to help you close deals, with presales support, including competitive assistance, feature-overview and comparison advice, and proof-of-concept guidance. Here is a brief description of the different types of presales technical assistance you can get through this benefit:

  • Competitive Assistance – Win more deals, more effectively, with technical and business knowledge based on best practices and feature comparisons.
  • Feature Overview and Comparison Guidance – Get help overcoming customer objections and positively positioning Microsoft technologies against the competition. Consultants offer assistance with configurations, cost of doing business, and competitive sales.
  • Business Value Guidance – Consultants can help you compare proof points, along with total cost of ownership, return on investment, performance, and licensing information. You can also receive product demonstrations and information about scalability, interoperability, and migration.
  • Proof of Concept Guidance – Find the right Microsoft solution for your customer, and be able to prove it in advance. Consultants help you understand your customers’ current environment and business requirements, while covering technical and functional topics relevant to your customers’ business needs.
  • Solution Architecture Guidance – Bring your customers’ requirements to a team of experts, and get technical recommendations to help you build Microsoft solutions that solve your customers’ challenges.
  • Technical Licensing Guidance – Get answers to product licensing questions that revolve around your solutions and client access license (CAL) requirements, including licensing benefits of different product versions, the number of CALs required, and general cost comparisons.
  • Test Environment Support – Find assistance with troubleshooting proof-of-concept and test-bed environments. All troubleshooting is done on a best-effort basis to show and demonstrate new product features; Microsoft is not responsible for any data on the test bed.

As mentioned above, for any qualifying deal you have that is worth just $3,000 USD or more, you can qualify to get unlimited presales technical support from those offerings listed above! Oh, and if you’re not sure which of the offerings above is the right one for you to utilize, no problem. we have Microsoft partner consultants that can guide you to the best selection. Now what if your deal is below $3,000 USD? No problem. As a partner with a silver or gold competency, you can use your Partner Advisory Hours (see the inclusion of those listed in the charts above) to still get presales technical advisory support. The cost (in terms of number of Partner Advisory Hours) will be determined by the type of support required. Want to learn more about the Presales Technical Advisory Support? We have all of the information here on the Microsoft Partner Network portal.

Partner Advisory Hours

Speaking of Partner Advisory Hours, this is another benefit that partners earning the Small Business competency will receive that is not included in SBSC today (and that I have received several questions around, “What are these, Eric?”). As you can see in the chart above, partners earning the Silver Small Business competency will receive 20 Partner Advisory Hours and those earning the Gold Small Business competency will earn 50 Partner Advisory Hours. This of Partner Advisory Hours as currency used to access certain key services offered to members of the Microsoft Partner Network. You can use your Partner Advisory Hours to access benefits such as:

To learn more about Partner Advisory Hours, we have the information located here on the Microsoft Partner Network portal.

Other Benefits

I believe partners are familiar with what the other benefits listed in the chart above are, but just in case you are not, or if you want more information on what they are, I am including the links below to more information:

You might also want to download and look at the “Value of Earning a Microsoft Competency” guide we have as well for more information about what competencies offer to Microsoft partners. In addition, we have a Partner Services and Support Catalog that you can download and learn much more about the services and support offerings from Microsoft for our partners.

As you can see, there are a bunch of additional benefits to be included in the Small Business competency for our partners that are designed to enable, support, and grow their businesses, whether they be on-premise (such as with SBS, Office , Windows, etc.), in the cloud (such as with Office 365), or a hybrid model inclusive of both. Again, this is one of the very exciting things about the evolution of Small Business from a designation to a full competency, the full competency suite of offerings and benefits it will provide to our partners to help them be successful not only today, but into the future as well.

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:

Get the Microsoft Partner Info Mobile App and get access to the latest from all of those plus: product teams, MPN teams, Microsoft News and hundreds more resources here at Microsoft right on your phone:


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Eric LigmanFollow me on TWITTER, LinkedIn, and RSS and see “What I’m thinking
Director, Worldwide Partner Experience
Microsoft Corporation
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