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Juniper's Vitagliano and other Juniper executives are certain that the work the company has put into Partner Advantage and the new enablement and rewards programs announced at the show will help partners ease their transition toward SDN-type sales.
Vitagliano, for example, cited the new Juniper Teaming Standard, an approach through which Juniper solution providers will have a more formal process for escalating issues to Juniper and also be more tightly aligned with Juniper's sales force to do account mapping and demand generation activities. In essence, Juniper is training its sales representatives to be more attuned to partner needs.
"The reason that's a big deal is because any hybrid model has direct-touch sales guys, and whether it's all filtered through the channel or not, you're always going to get sale alignment issues. In my experience, if you don't address that quickly, those issues get worse really quick," Vitagliano said. "A lot of guys just don't understand how to work with the channel, so this is an opportunity to re-educate our people. We have a major focus on that."
Vitagliano said one of Juniper's strengths is pushing more high-touch resources to partners that they don't get at other vendors of Juniper's size. Juniper now has more than 40 systems engineers dedicated solely to channel partners -- up from the two it had as recently as three years ago.
"What a lot of companies do is they have SEs in the field, and those SEs support both the direct selling approach and the channel piece," Vitagliano explained. "The problem, when you do that, is that the direct selling approach always takes priority -- there's always a deal right in front of you. So [it's] really important to have this dedicated to the partners."
Juniper partners don't doubt the vendor's strength in programs.
"Partner Advantage was fantastic this year," said ACR's Dominic Grillo. "It's a good program that rewards you for things you should be doing, and I think that's been well-received."
"A lot of manufacturers do a really lousy job of helping their people understand what we do and where we can be brought in," added Pat Grillo, ACR's president and CEO. "So to have them help their guys be more aware that we have these capabilities, that's going to be beneficial to us."
Lauren Flaherty, Juniper's chief marketing officer, said Juniper will also help partners with these transitions using the vendor's growing marketing engine. This year, for example, Juniper will allocate more money for partner MDF than in any previous year.
Partners should also expect an ongoing expansion of Marketing Concierge, the set marketing resources Juniper launched in 2012. Juniper presented a statistic to partners at GPC that showed how partners that used Marketing Concierge in the past year grew their Juniper business by 26 percent versus partners who didn't grow by an average of 2 percent.
On the SDN front, Flaherty said, Juniper has a great opportunity to bring a nuanced approach to the discussion.
"There's a lot of hype and a lot more work to be done," she said. "So, for us, it's can we establish a message that says, they've been comprehensive in their thinking, they get what's important and they're credible in that they have deep software expertise and deep networking expertise. We're hoping the take-away will be, who do you think is thinking about SDN the right way among influencers? We want that answer to be Juniper. This is not mass advertising around SDN; this is a classic cadence to systematically execute and influence the influencers."
"Everyone is going to try to figure out where they play in this space," said Jay Miley, vice president and general manager, Advanced Technology Division at Ingram Micro. "Kind of like cloud was several years ago, SDN is going to be different than the traditional motion so the partners are still trying to understand what it means to them. There will be a lot of risk and opportunity in the strategy."