Symantec: Partners Need To Step Outside Their Comfort Zones

"I want you to step outside your comfort zone and look for new and creative ways of doing business," Randy Cochran, Symantec vice president of channel sales for the Americas, said Thursday at the close of Symantec's Partner Engage 2011 conference in Phoenix, Ariz.

For example, instead of only talking to customers about security, Symantec partners should expand the discussion to encryption, dual factor authentication, education services and backup and recovery, Cochran said. VARs that ignore the need to diversify sales conversations in this way aren't doing themselves any favors, he suggested.

"If you don’t start having these with customers, someone else will," said Cochran. "If you are just selling native security, you are leaving the customer unprotected and leaving money on the table."

Customers are looking for partners with both sales and services expertise, and while Symantec doesn't expect partners to be experts in its entire portfolio, Cochran said they should at least view these as baseline skills.

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"Every time you have a new backup sale, you have to have consulting services with it. Do not send out an order without services," he said. "Then, what does your consultant see while they’re there? They're getting closer to that customer than anyone else."

Cochran also stressed the importance of leveraging expertise from other partners, although he acknowledged that some VARs might be uneasy about doing so. Cochran called out CMT and SHI as partners that have been effective in working with other partners on deals.

Cochran likened the situation to a primary doctor referring a patient to a specialist for a more informed diagnosis for a particular malady. "Ask your best customers about what other partners they're working with, and see if there are things you can do together," he said. "If you don't feel comfortable, that's OK, but you at least need to be in the conversation."

At Partner Engage, Symantec unveiled a new Managed Security Services specialization that includes free training for partners that are looking to get up to speed on selling and positioning services. Previously, partners could only steer managed services customers to Symantec and receive referral fees for their efforts.

Symantec is also moving to clarify the multitudinous interpretations of cloud computing that have sprouted across the IT industry landscape. Later this month Symantec will unveil CloudSmart, a program that will set the tone for how Symantec views partners' role in the cloud and then, over time, provide more detailed direction on Symantec's cloud strategy.

"There are so many definitions about what cloud is, I think it's time to take it from partly cloudy to clear," Cochran said in an interview prior to the event.

Meanwhile, Symantec Endpoint and Backup are now available to partners in the U.S. and Canada through distribution. Symantec is also trying to create buzz around appliances, and sales of its Backup Exec 3600 appliance, which was launched in August, have exceeded expectations, according to Cochran.

If there's a central message in Symantec's channel today, it's this: The cloud is important, but sales strategy needs to be driven by customer needs as opposed to market hype. Symantec is definitely on board with the cloud, but the need for partners to get creative on selling adjacent technologies, with the help of other partners when necessary, is the primary near term goal.

"Continue to partner with one another -- it's what going to make this work," Cochran told attendees.