Palo Alto Networks: A Next Generation Channel

It's ironic, given the fact that it is often not the best technology that wins out, but the best sales and marketing strategy. In the case of Palo Alto Networks, the pioneer of the highly disruptive next-generation firewalls that are reshaping the network security market, the company has put as much thought into its channel sales model as its technology.

Palo Alto Networks, in fact, was built from the ground up as a 100 percent channel sales company. And its top-notch channel sales team has made sure that its sales model is just as disruptive as its next-generation firewall.

[Related: Palo Alto Networks CEO: 12 Reasons We're Set To Soar In 2014 ]

Early on, Palo Alto Networks made a conscious decision to go long and deep with a select group of Navy-Seal-like security experts that are deeply embedded into every nook and cranny of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company. The Palo Alto Networks' channel partners, in fact, are treated like they are part of the company. That means they go to market in a very disruptive fashion with the company using its own innovative software tools.

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The company's Pulse partner tool provides business planning in a box, measuring partner bookings, profitability, enablement activities, marketing activities, pipeline conversion, and, most importantly, sales goals. And its Tracker tool, aimed at getting partners to reach the highest levels of the partner program, provides a single-pane-of-glass view of exactly where the partner stands relative to other partners in every critical area including performance.

Those home-grown tools are just one of the reasons that of the top 150 partners attending the company's recent partner conference, 141 doubled their sales in the last year. Think of it: An amazing 94 percent of partner conference attendees doubled their sales. That doubling of sales each year is only the start. The true genius of the sales model is that once a customer has bought the box, they keep adding new subscription security services at a rapid clip, including the new WildFire subscription service. For Palo Alto Networks security partners, the box has become the ultimate recurring revenue game-changer, with the average customer purchasing 5.4 times more software services over a multiyear period.

What's exciting about the Palo Alto Networks model is the company is upping its game adding new channel talent like 15-year channel veteran Ron Myers; security sales guru Vince Massey; and highly regarded sales leader John Spiliotis. That channel talent adds to an already strong team of Tracy Pallas, vice president of channels and distribution, and Donna St. John, head of worldwide channel marketing and partner programs.

The Palo Alto Networks channel team is not just checking off the boxes building a me-too program. It is determined to disrupt the market with a next-generation channel. That's paying off in record-breaking sales for the company and its partners.

BackTalk: Steve Burke writes a monthly opinion column on You can reach him via email at [email protected].