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Pax8 Hiring 'Vendor Wingman' Account Managers To Drive Partner Marketing Alignment, Support Deeper Lineup Of Cloud Products

The goal is to proactively address issues that could affect how solution providers do business and ultimately enable a more unified go-to-market effort, Ryan Walsh, Pax8's chief channel officer, tells CRN.

Cloud-focused distributor Pax8 is aiming to strengthen its line card relationships by establishing a team of designated vendor account managers.

The "Vendor Wingman" program will feature account reps whose primary focus is keeping Pax8 aligned with the sales and marketing arms of supported cloud platform and software providers, said Ryan Walsh, now chief channel officer at the Greenwood Village, Colo.-based distributor. The goal is to proactively address issues that could affect how solution providers do business and ultimately enable a more unified go-to-market effort.

"This is us trying to take advantage of what we heard from our vendors, who might be frustrated with traditional distribution that might get lost in the mix, or they might be paying money they don't get a return on," Walsh told CRN. "We didn't want to be that type of distributor. We want to be someone where our vendors really embrace what we're doing and enjoy doing business with us."

[Related: Pax8 Adds 1,000 MSP Partners In Nine Months, Enhances ConnectWise Integration]

Pax8 supports a "selective" group of about 24 cloud vendors that offer 70 to 80 product lines, according to Walsh. The line card includes technology giants such as Microsoft, IBM and Symantec, many of which frequently refine their sales strategies and channel leadership structure as they fight to keep up with the IT industry's rapid evolution.

Each of those vendors will have a wingman associated with the account, said Walsh. He believes the competitive environment requires Pax8 to set expectations for the relationship at the outset, dedicate the proper attention to those changes and remain in lockstep with vendors as they launch new programs and marketing campaigns.

"If you don't stay on top of that, a solid relationship may go quiet or dark because you had a key person move out, and you didn't know who else was going to be in the role," he said.

The vendor accounts team and partner sales reps will both report to Walsh, a Pax8 co-founder who had served as vice president of partner solutions until his recent promotion. The company has also promoted Jennifer Bodell to vice president of channel and Don Jeter to vice president of marketing, both of whom will continue reporting to Nick Heddy, sales and marketing senior vice president.

David Vu, marketing director at Knoxville, Tenn.-based solution provider Gravity Networks, thinks the Vendor Wingman program will allow Pax8 partners to better stay up to date on a vendor's sales and marketing priorities – a key benefit in the busy life of coordinating with multiple technology partners.

With a vendor rep, partners can adapt to program changes more quickly and provide better feedback both from the customer and solution provider perspectives, he said.

"That’s a really good change," Vu told CRN. "There's a lot of information upload on both ends. You're not getting the right information or just getting overloaded. That's me communicating day to day with customers and my vendors. I get a little stressed out, trying to get information diluted down."


Walsh said the Vendor Wingman program was partially a response to the growing number of cloud providers reaching out to Pax8. The growing distributor has been particular about which vendors it adds to the line card, opting to support a few companies that covered a handful of different product categories.

With more support in place, Walsh feels comfortable with the idea of Pax8 expanding the number of products it supports for each vendor, contingent upon the product category and whether enough differentiation exists to avoid "diluting" sales attention.

"I'm not going to have eight options for a product. But I might have three, and maybe a fourth if there's a difference in the product feature set," Walsh said. "There's so much evolving now in terms of new products coming to market that I can see I'd have said in the early days, 'I won't have more than three.' I'd loosen that definition up now just because I see some really cool products coming to market – some new categories that we never had before."

Vu, who said he's always looking for best-of-breed solutions, thinks a deeper line card will bring some level of benefit to most Pax8 partners.

"It's good they're constantly looking for more solutions – even expanding to other vendors, that would be a good distribution fit for every partner," he said.

A broader lineup of products also affords vendors deeper marketing and collaboration opportunities around the Pax8 partner ecosystem, Walsh said. He specifically mentioned the distributor's partner-oriented Wingman Workshop events, where a handful of vendors were able to put product managers in front of solution provider leaders.

"[That] is kind of rare to do," Walsh said. "Usually the product marketers or marketing department represent what's happening with the product. You usually don't get product management access. We were able to do that at these events. That provides another level of insight, and that benefit accrues to a vendor, because they sometimes don't let those product managers out. When they do, they come up with a tremendous series of ideas."

One of Jeter's primary roles in his new position will be to proactively target similar marketing opportunities, Walsh said, given the often-low bandwidth of vendor marketing teams focused on multiple campaigns at once.

"You really need to have representation to be considered when these campaigns roll out," he said. "This role will really help us take advantage of that."

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