Partners told CRN they are seeing positive changes to Sophos' sales approach under the guidance of channel veterans Michael Valentine and Kendra Krause, previously from Fortinet, and John Keenan, previously from Dell SonicWall.
The company needed to move away from mixing channel and direct sales, said Michael Miller, owner and vice president of operations at Oakley, Calif.-based solution provider Assorted Business Services. Miller, who is attending the conference, said he had grown increasingly frustrated over disputes with the company's direct sales strategy.
"There's really been a turnaround in a big way," Miller said. "I think they brought in people who know how to build out and better utilize the channel for growth."
Sophos made a $4 million incremental investment year over year into enablement and additional personnel to support partners, said Keenan, Sophos' regional vice president of sales for the Americas. Keenan told partners that the channel team has expanded to about 150 employees and Sophos has added support in the field, creating 25 territories with marketing, sales engineers and account executives to support partners.
The company's partner program has been completely revamped and simplified, bringing six tier levels down to four tiers, said Krause, vice president of channel sales for the Americas. The deal registration program also was improved to provide more protection, and Sophos has increased discounts and margins to offer partners a base discount competitive with the marketplace, Krause said.
The company also addressed order processing and operational efficiencies with its distributors, Krause said. Sophos signed a deal with Ingram Micro in February, extended its relationship with Lifeboat and in March, and struck a deal with D&H Distributing to carry its unified threat management appliances.
"We learned that we needed to be frictionless," Krause said. "I want to be the best channel company for you to work with."
Over the next year the company plans to address renewals for the midmarket, increasing discounts to put them in line with SMB discounts, Krause said. An incumbent renewal protection program also is being added and a partner advisory council is being formed to solicit feedback from engaged partners, she said. The company is making adjustments to its new managed services program as well.
Krause said the company has seen a 42 percent year-over-year increase in certifications due to a push to get partners trained on the products. A revamp of the company's certification program provides more opportunities for certifications with authorized training centers in North America, she said.
Other partners attending the event also said that they are seeing benefits from the sales and support changes. Growth with Sophos has been consistent, said Andy Thon, an account executive at Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based solution provider Versatile Systems, who cited Sophos’ growing channel team and the channel veterans on that team as a reason for many of the positive changes.
"They know how to build out the support and incentive structure that works," Thon said. “They've been easy to work with and are always accessible when they’re needed.”
PUBLISHED MAY 8, 2014