McAfee Channel Chief Prioritizes Sales Intelligence

Gavin Struthers, senior vice president of worldwide channels, has broadened the company's education strategy from just knowing the product to also understanding how to sell it. "It's not just the product, it's the whole story," he said during an interview Wednesday at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.

The complete picture includes instruction on how to position McAfee products against the software of rivals, such as Microsoft and Blue Coat. In addition, Intel-owned McAfee is providing education on the security problems common to specific industries, such as law firms and manufacturers, and how to position products as solutions.

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Struthers has packaged all the information in more than 30 "sales plays" available through a revamped partner portal launched this month. Partners who take the online instruction can earn credit toward certification, which means less time spent in classrooms with a McAfee instructor.

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Less face-to-face time does not mean Santa Clara, Calif.-based McAfee is de-emphasizing hands-on instruction, Struthers said. Rather, it is recognition that partners need more flexibility, since more time in the classroom means less time selling product.

"It gives them the flexibility while enriching the experience and broadening their expertise," Struthers said.

Struthers, formerly president of channel operations in the Asia-Pacific region, has been in his new job for less than two months. He replaced Alex Thurber, who left in January to become vice president of sales at Portland, Ore.-based Tripwire, a business security software maker.

Struthers' changes follow channel partner complaints that McAfee's recertification program was too inflexible by requiring resellers to do course work in the same product category every year.

The changes to McAfee's education programs follow a revamp last year of the company's process for new deal registration. Along with margins as high as 25 percent, the company has accelerated approval times. McAfee is promising four-hour response times on new deals involving SMBs and less than two days on larger sales.

Beyond registration of new deals, McAfee has launched an online automated process for partners seeking approval for special pricing requests, Struthers said. "We're going to be doing more (this year), because we just want to be easier to do business with."