Q&A: WatchGuard's New Sales VP Looks To Boost Sales, Lead Gen

WatchGuard Technologies executives are looking to find ways to help channel providers move upstream to larger businesses, according to the firm's new channel chief.

Larger businesses with distributed office locations may be well suited for unified threat management appliances that are easy to deploy and maintain, said Alex Thurber, who was named this week as WatchGuard's vice president of sales for the Americas and EMEA regions. Thurber, a security industry veteran, spent a year establishing global partnerships for Tripwire, a compliance vendor with a direct sales model in the U.S. His roots are in the channel, having built his own company before spending several years at McAfee and nearly a decade at Cisco Systems.

Seattle-based WatchGuard recently introduced an appliance for larger businesses. It competes with Barracuda Networks, Sophos and Dell SonicWall. The company will look to make gains against larger competitors by innovating on its technology, Thurber said. A recent market analysis conducted by Frost and Sullivan found that Fortinet, Check Point and Dell SonicWall hold nearly 49-percent market share.

[Related: 9 Unified Threat Management Security Appliances To Watch In 2013 ]

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In an interview with CRN, Thurber said he would conduct a thorough assessment of the company's territories to find regions where the company needs to attract more partners. WatchGuard will also focus on improving lead generation and support for current providers, he said. Here are excerpts from the interview.

Why did you move from Tripwire to WatchGuard

I've always been interested in WatchGuard certainly as a company with rich history when it comes to security. If you look at my overall career, it's had three major themes. It's been focused on security, on global or international business and on the channel. The opportunity to work with WatchGuard that is so focused on the channel really is one that I couldn't turn down.

WatchGuard is aimed at small and midsize enterprises. Where do you see opportunity for growth

Our target market is that SME [small and medium enterprises] piece. We are well known for selling into the large-small business so to speak. One of the great opportunities here, as the company has been investing in the technology, is to work with larger midsize enterprises. I bring that knowledge of that midsize channel to work with that partner who wants to help sell up. That really was a perfect synergy.

Is there anything you will immediately do at WatchGuard, from lead generation to addressing support issues?

I had my first seven-hour meeting yesterday, and it was all around lead processing and lead generation. It was all focused around how we can use our inside sales resources and our telemarketing resources to get leads to the partners as quickly as possible and to get leads to those focused partners that want to work with us and drive that business together. We are a channel-focused company, and we will grow by working with the channel. That is DNA within this company, and it is really exciting to be able to focus on that. In July, we'll have quarterly business reviews with all the various teams and that will give me a great insight into what's working and where there are some areas we can improve on.

NEXT: WatchGuard To Analyze Partner Territories

In addition to Tripwire you worked at McAfee and Cisco Systems where the focus may have been on larger businesses. Are you going to have to make any major adjustments dealing with sales to smaller businesses?

The security market really covers the gamut of customers. Both at McAfee and at Cisco, we sold across the line. We sold from very small customers up to the larger ones. I think the sweet spot for the channel is that midsize company. Here we have organizations who are under just as much threat as everybody else. But, by definition they don't have many resources in-house in order to protect themselves. It's the perfect spot for the channel because not only do you have great technology such as ours to deliver as a solution, but you have the opportunity to provide all those additional professional services. We all know that that's where the typical channel partner makes his profit is in the professional services space.

Is WatchGuard looking to attract more partners or looking to trim underperforming partners?

I certainly don't want to be talking about trimming partners because that would be antithetical to what we're working on. We're always looking for the right partners that want to work with us and follow our business model. It's got to be a customer-centric business that really understands security and wants to work with a market leading vendor. We're always on the lookout for the right partners to add. I also think it's important to continue to invest in the partners you've got, to continue to work with them and help them expand their business, because we grow together. I'm a big fan of economic analysis of territories and regions and looking to see where we can grow partners. Having that type of analysis is very important as opposed to taking a shotgun approach. We're talking about a big diverse territory between the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and there are lots of different decisions to be made.

Are businesses looking beyond UTM appliances to other technologies for detection and protection?

The best way to solve a security problem is a layered approach. The threats are coming at us fast and furious. That is what I like about the WatchGuard model of a UTM. You have multiple services and multiple levels of protection running on that box. It works well into either the small and midsize enterprise itself or the distributed environment when you get to be working with a larger company. It is relatively simple to install, manage and running on an ongoing basis and provides as much possible protection in that one appliance. I actually think the UTM space is an important growth space for security overall.