Symantec Direct Sales Team Training Aims To Establish Clear Rules Of Engagement

Symantec is inviting key partners to participate in a series of regional training programs for its direct sales force as part of a plan that executives claim will better establish clear rules of engagement in the field and help its sales executives understand their role and responsibilities throughout the sales process.

The formal training, which kicked off recently in Canada, is meant to help Symantec's sales force identify how to properly engage with partners, said John Eldh, vice president of North America channel sales at the Mountain View, Calif., company. Speaking at the Partner Executive Summit being held at the Symantec Vision 2014 Conference this week in Las Vegas, Eldh said the training establishes a step-by-step process around engagements with potential clients and establishing partner connections.

’This is so the field can understand the process and articulate their role and responsibilities in each of the steps," Eldh told partners at the summit.

[Related: Symantec Redesigns Channel Program To Evaluate Partner Competency ]

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Symantec is incenting its sales force to engage with partners that have established strong practices around a core set of products in its portfolio. Regional sales officers can receive as much as a 10 percent margin uplift to work with certain partners.

CRN reported in January that Symantec was making multimillion-dollar investments in 10 of the largest security solution providers in the country, including Accuvant, FishNet, Novacoast and CDI. Symantec executives told CRN that a key part of the sales strategy in the U.S. is to identify and stimulate growth with about 80 to 100 regional solution providers that have strong security and data management practices.

The company's revamped North American Channel Program, unveiled this week, creates a way to validate partners with expertise in about a dozen Symantec technical competencies. The sales force will be incentivized to work with those partners, said John Emard, senior director of North American channel operations and programs at Symantec. The company is still maintaining named accounts in some regions, Emard said in an interview with CRN. Symantec is required to have established guidelines for incentivizing work with certain partners to keep the process fair, he said.

’We are making sure that every partner has an opportunity to participate and obtain the complete technical and customer experience requirements under the program,’ Emard told CRN. "We’re not trying to cut anyone out of the process."

NEXT: Partners Call Sales Training, Program Execution Crucial

The sales force needs to be fully aware of how to work with expert partners to support and ultimately facilitate the sales process, said Kurt Klein, CEO of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Computer Media Technologies. Klein called the channel program overhaul a significant improvement, but said the program’s success hinges on how well it is executed and how effective executives are in getting the sales force to work with partners.

’I think it is critical," Klein said in a panel discussion held at the summit. "If we don't have that part solved in the closed-loop equation we are going to meander like we have in the past."

Klein and other partners said the sales force training is a good first step, but are also calling on the company to bolster its marketing and communication to partners and customers around its key products.

"Partners need to have closer proximity to the business units," Klein said. "[Symantec] is starting to listen, but we've just got to get out there with facts."

Symantec is having the partners sell their complex solutions by investing heavily in incentives to drive sales, said Jason Livingston, managing partner at Bloomington, Minn.-based Intuitive Technology Group. Livingston said Intuitive Technology Group will seek to get validated on three or four expert competencies to Symantec's new technical evaluation review board. Under Symantec's interim sales strategy, the vendor provided up to 10 points on the front end and 8 points on the back end, substantially increasing the margin opportunity and incentivizing them to sell more Symantec products, Livingston said.

’The way Symantec is starting to go to market is they're starting to not rely so much on their internal sales teams and focusing a lot more on the partner networks," Livingston said. "Now we have an opportunity to make up to 35 points on the back end through accelerators, MDF and other avenues."

The expert validation process is a systematic way to reward the partners that have invested heavily in selling Symantec products and services, said Sevag Ajemian, president and CEO of Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based data migration and data archiving specialist Globanet. Speaking on a partner panel, Ajemian called the back-end rebates stellar.

’All investment that has been made is going to finally pay off," Ajemian said. "For a Platinum partner, it is almost double what [we were] able to make in terms of back-end rebates."