McAfee To Add More Partners To Help Grow SMB Business

Like any channel executive, David Roberts has his work cut out for him. The McAfee senior vice president of North American channel sales has spent the past year adding and integrating new channel partners for the security-software vendor as it tries to keep pace with old and new competitors.

So far, so good. McAfee added more than 2,000 partners in 2005 and currently gets 89 percent of its North American sales through the channel. This year, the company plans to enlist its partners to help grow its SMB market share by 30 percent and add about 40 new channel account managers whose focus will be on developing the assets it gained after acquiring security companies IntruShield and Foundstone last year.

Roberts sat down with VARBusiness at this week's RSA Conference in San Jose, Calif., to discuss these developments and how McAfee plans to build around its core antivirus client-software business.

"When I got to McAfee, the channel was narrow, but with 2,000 new partners added in the past year, what will be critical in 2006 will be setting up the right care and feeding strategy for them," he says.

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He says the key to hitting McAfee's SMB goals will be to make it an attractive proposition to partners; the company already has begun to accomplish that by offering rebates, recognizing certifications from other vendors and lowering its deal-registration threshold from $25,000 to $1,000.

"Especially in the SMB market, we need a product and pricing strategy to make sure resellers can get the right margins," Roberts says.

McAfee also is developing a consulting practice around managed services and a managed services "in a box" product for the low end.

"At the end of the day, McAfee is a second-tier vendor, and there's only so much shelf space out there," Roberts says. "But by developing managed services, we're creating a relationship tool that gives resellers a reason to call their customers [with service updates and statistics] without trying to sell them something every time."

He adds that the company will focus more on solutions-oriented selling rather than pushing point products.

"We were too expensive to do business with when I got here, and we've worked really hard on fixing that," he says. "We haven't done as good a job on selling solutions as we have on selling point products."

As for McAfee's recent accounting setbacks that forced the company into a $50 million settlement with the SEC (in a case for which it admitted no wrongdoing), Roberts is unfazed.

"Our stock price was up $4 per share the day after our earnings came out [last week]," he says. "I'll take that any day."