Palo Alto Networks Names Americas Channel Chief, Refreshes Program


Palo Alto Networks named a sales veteran to spearhead its Americas channels activities and unveiled some changes to its NextWave Partner Program to encourage partners to source and deliver deals themselves.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network security appliance maker named Todd Palmer as its vice president of Americas channels. Palmer, who spent five years overseeing NetApp’s Americas channel program, also served as a sales executive at CA Technologies.

“I have never seen a partner value proposition so compelling until I saw what Palo Alto Networks had to offer,” Palmer told CRN.

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Palmer said he spent most of his career as a direct sales leader but moved into a channel role in his last two years at CA, helping build a channel around its volume-based backup and recovery products. At NetApp, Palmer said he oversaw changes that nearly doubled the company's Americas channel revenue, with NetApp moving from about 50 percent of its business being channel-driven sales to nearly 90 percent.

Palmer has been at Palo Alto Networks for five weeks and already has met with a number of partners. He said he plans to help partners recognize the potential of the company’s expanding product portfolio. Palo Alto Networks will do additional targeted partner recruitment and is investing in its major account teams.

“Partners have been telling me how continuously innovative the product is, and we want that to translate into opportunity,” Palmer said.

Palmer will oversee a program that appears to be firing on all cylinders, say solution providers. The partner program has been good to committed partners, said Justin Flynn, a consultant and network security specialist with Chicago-based solution provider Burwood Group. The company has been innovative and has a strong product road map that could extend its momentum beyond the attention given to its next-generation firewalls, Flynn said. 

“Palo Alto Networks has been extremely loyal to their deal registration, which we appreciate,” Flynn said.

Palo Alto Networks is pledging a 48-hour response time for deal registration and extending the status of registered deals to distributors. The company recently expanded its relationship with Westcon Group and executives say they are continuing to build out a formal distribution program while adding back-end rebates

The 48-hour turnaround is part of a group of updates to the NextWave Partner Program and is designed to encourage partners to bring in deals on their own, according to the company. Partners that source deals and see them through to the deployment will be rewarded with the biggest rebates, executives told CRN. Rebates, incentives and discounts also will be available to distributors that help solution providers during different phases of a deal. 

Palo Alto does 100 percent of its business through the channel, and the program changes are designed to foster 100 percent pure fulfillment and unaided sales, said John Spiliotis, vice president of Americas sales at Palo Alto Networks.

“We’re bringing the program to the maturity level to where there’s a right balance for the marketplace and partner expectations,” Spiliotis told CRN. “We’re moving it to a place where there’s a higher value for partner and end customer in our partner delivery and services.”

The company also rolled out a new presales technical accreditation for sales professionals, giving them experience with delivering demonstrations and providing network visibility reports about a company’s risk posture and converting them into sales wins. Its certified network security engineer accreditation also is available to partners and consists of a weeklong instructor-led training and six months of hands-on training with products prior to taking the exam.

Channel executives reviewed the performance of all partners through its biannual compliance review in August. The top 20 percent of the company’s partners do 80 percent of the deals, they said. Channel executives also are mulling a rebate program to spur investment for its Wildfire advanced threat detection service and other subscriptions.

Mobile deal registration also is available, according to Palo Alto Networks. A new marketing platform is being tested as well, aimed at simplifying the process of creating multitouch marketing campaigns, said Donna St. John, director of worldwide channel marketing and programs. The company is testing a new application to automate the process of managing custom campaigns with sales marketing managers, she said. 

PUBLISHED AUG. 26, 2014