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Citrix Retiring 'High Touch' Account Restrictions That Were Panned By Partners

The virtualization vendor, now revamping its channel structure, will again let partners profit from co-selling into its largest accounts.

Citrix Systems has quietly discontinued a long-standing approach to handling its largest enterprise customers that prevented partners from profiting from those lucrative accounts, and therefore was highly unpopular with its channel.

The "High Touch" designation for massive customers -- typically those with more than 10,000 employees and 5,000 virtualized desktops -- will no longer limit the opportunities Citrix partners typically enjoy to joint sell through two popular rewards programs, the company told CRN.

Under the now-abandoned model, partners couldn't collect Citrix Advisor Rewards (CAR) fees for referring High Touch accounts unless they received a special invitation to participate in the program. And renewal fees for partners through the Subscription Advantage Rewards (SAR) program weren't available for High Touch customers.

[Related: Citrix Makeover: 9 Sweeping Changes Being Demanded By Elliott Management]

Four years ago, the restrictions for both CAR and SAR programs went into effect for 1,100 inaugural High Touch accounts. At the time, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based software vendor said the majority of enterprise customers wanted Citrix to directly manage their accounts and provide direct access to internal sales teams.

Some 500 customers currently maintain the High Touch designation, Citrix told CRN.

Kimberly Martin, Citrix's new channel chief, told partners attending the company's partner summit last week in Las Vegas that Citrix was opening to them those enterprise accounts.

"When I came in, I heard a lot about this," Martin told CRN of the High Touch designation. "That our partners didn't like it."

As Citrix revamps its business under the influence of an activist investor, with a pillar of that process being an emphasis on bringing order to its channel, the High Touch restrictions sent the wrong message, she said.

"We're making it simpler and clearer that [partners are] welcome into those accounts," Martin told CRN.

Carl Gersh, a director of sales and marketing for Forthright Technology Partners, a Miramar, Fla.-based Citrix partner, said of the program change: "From a channel perspective, it's big news."

"It's good news for Citrix partners because it rolls back a program that wasn't well-received, to put it mildly," Gersh told CRN. "For partners concerned that Citrix is going to do more stuff direct, it's actually the opposite. They're doing more with the partner community and opening up the accounts."

While partners were never outright prohibited from selling to customers like FedEx or Coca-Cola, Gersh said, that was the de facto consequence of withdrawing the two most-significant incentives for engaging such accounts -- referrals through CAR and renewals through SAR.

And even though High Touch restrictions never affected more than a limited subset of partners, ending the approach has a broader significance for the channel by telegraphing a shift in thinking for the virtualization vendor, Gersh said.

Citrix's Martin told CRN that by making High Touch customers fair game, without restriction, for the channel, Citrix is telling partners it wants to be joint selling into those accounts just like it does for the midmarket.

But the midmarket is where Citrix sees the greatest opportunities for growth for its partner community, she said.

Gersh agreed that "everyone should be thinking about how to sell Citrix to midmarket."

And "the CAR program is phenomenal," Gersh said, adding that he wishes other vendors would adopt a similar incentive model.

Through CAR, Citrix will pay 8 percent to 12 percent to partners who register a referral for an account, even if the customer ultimately buys from another partner or direct from Citrix.


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