New Citrix Channel Chief Wants Closer Field Sales-Channel Ties


Aligning field sales with the channel is a perennial challenge for IT vendors. Mike Fouts, Citrix's new senior director of Americas channels and field operations, says this will be one of his first orders of business.

Fouts, a 10-year Citrix veteran who began his new role on Monday, is no channel newcomer. In his previous role of director of sales and services for the Southeastern U.S., he handled field sales for commercial accounts and worked with partners on most deals.

"I had a front row seat to the selling, marketing and partner motion, and I bring the perspective of selling side-by-side with partners," Fouts said in an interview.

Citrix has already taken some important steps down this road, according to Fouts. Citrix recently established a channel team that's responsible for each of the company's partner levels -- Silver, Gold and Platinum.

"They can look a partner in the eye, develop relationships and be the bridge between field sales and the partners," Fouts said.

Citrix partners who've worked previously with Fouts are pleased to see him place such a high priority on getting field sales and partners on the same page.

"Field engagement is what it’s all about," said Ken Phelan, CTO of Gotham Technology Partners, a Citrix Platinum partner based in Montvale, N.J. "I've never had a conflict with a channel person -- in the past the problems have been field conflicts with the Citrix sales team."

"He's very direct and no-nonsense, and he's good at getting results. From a channel perspective, he's exactly who we would want," said Mike Strohl, president of Entisys, a Concord, Calif.-based solution provider.

Added Strohl: "Citrix is changing some things about how they work with the channel overall. They're not looking for partners that can just fill orders, they want partners that are aligned with them."

Fouts will be charged with helping partners win more virtualization and cloud computing business, but Citrix faces challenges in each of these areas. In cloud, it's all about clarifying what Citrix brings to the table, Fouts said.

"There are still a number of definitions of what cloud is, which is why it's important to get partners and sales teams together to ensure that they understand [how Citrix defines it]," he said.

Desktop virtualization continues to see sporadic adoption, due mainly to cost and complexity, which have stalled many projects. Fouts said customers are now moving out of proof-of-concepts into actual purchase, and to keep the ball rolling, Citrix is offering training and incentives to partners aimed at driving bigger deals.

Citrix's acquisition in May of desktop virtualization startup Kaviza, maker of VDI-In-a-Box, marked the start of a concerted push in the SMB market, and Fouts plans to keep driving this. "We didn't previously have a lot of partners selling into that space. Now we have something that partners can sell to SMB customers and make money from," he said.

To get more partners on board, Citrix last month introduced an SMB-focused partner certification at Synergy Barcelona. The SMB certification entry fee is $350, and training is provided at no additional cost. "The investment shouldn't be a barrier at all," Fouts said.