A Manitoba VAR says a Microsoft Canada-designed customer evaluation program is helping him sell one of the company’s infrastructureapplications

“I wish I’d had this a year ago,” Les Connor, president of CFive Ltd., of the technical assessment tool, which was introduced this month.

Aimed

at customers interested in Microsoft’s Small BusinessServer (SBS), the tool is a 10-page questionnaire Microsoft resellers can useto assess customer needs and make recommendations.

VARs have to offer the assessment free. As an incentive,Microsoft is offering a $50 cash bonus for every assessment done by a partner to a maximum of five. For validation assessments have to be submitted to Microsoft.

“The success of my business depends primarily on providing my clients with solutions that will work well in their environment,” said Connor, who runs a one-person consultancy from Brandon, Man. aimed at customers with up to 50 employees.

“So I need to know how their business processes are supported and therefore what solutions would be valuable.”

“I could go to a small business owner and talk about features of Small Business Server for three or four hours and now know which one he has a need for.

“The better thing to do is go through this questionnaire and find out what most concerns the business.”

To further help partners, Microsoft has set up a Web site for customers interested in SBS where they can find nearby resellers.

The idea of program — which is unique to Canada — came out of a series of focus groups the company held with businessowners and decision makers over the summer, said Pamela Lauz, SBS product manager at Microsoft Canada.

”They asked us to put together a program to drive technology partners to them to do assessments,” she said.

The questionnaire was written by a “well-known” SBS consultant and partner who has writes books on the server, whom she wouldn’t identify.

She figured it would take no more than two hours to go through the form with a customer.

Over 60 partners have already signed up to use the tool, she said.

Connor said he’s assessed seven businesses, four of which were existing customers and were used to test out the tool. However, when he used it with three other customers he made a sale.

“It’s a checklist that gets me all the information that Ineed — or at least a strong foundation — to make an accurate recommendation,” he said.

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