FireEye Execs Look To Recommit To Partners And Make Them A Priority In 2017

FireEye had a few troubled years with partners, but company executives said they are looking to recommit to the channel in 2017.

Bill Robbins, who joined FireEye from Symantec as head of worldwide sales in November, said FireEye has "unequivocally made our commitment and confirmed our partnership" with the channel, calling it the "year of the channel" at FireEye.

"I'm confident that we have everything we need in 2017 to be a high-performance sales organization and have a culture of success. A big part of that is having a strong, collaborative, win-win relationship with our channel partners," Robbins said on stage at FireEye's Momentum 2017 Sales Kick Off event in New Orleans. "We are stronger together."

[Related: Q&A: FireEye CEO On Layoffs, Realignment And What It All Means For Partners]

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CEO Kevin Mandia also listed the sales and channel enablement and productivity as one of his commitments for 2017, alongside innovating great products, simplified go to market and processes, protecting and expanding the customer base and adding new logos.

FireEye has received criticism in recent years for its treatment of the channel, with problems in many cases stemming from ambiguity around FireEye's $1 billion acquisition of Mandiant in 2014, where Mandia was previously CEO. Partners have also cited problems around slow sales cycles and the vendor taking deals direct.

Robbins said FireEye is committed to engaging with a partner on every single deal, with few exceptions. In an interview with CRN, Robbins said he plans to have more than 95 percent of deals run though partners, whether it be through deal registration, fulfillment, or somewhere in between. There will be strict rules of engagement to enforce that, he said. Robbins said FireEye is working to make all new products "partner-ready," meaning they are designed, priced, packaged and positioned to be best sold through partners.

"I'm walking out of here tomorrow … feeling like we have taken the first step of the journey [to embrace the channel]," Robbins said. "It's absolutely a journey, but you have to start somewhere. We made a good-faith effort and shown real meat versus hyperbole and words with what we will do to improve our relationship with [partners] and build an ecosystem where they will be successful selling our technology."

Randle Moore, president and CEO of Set Solutions, a Houston, Texas-based FireEye partner, said he has already noticed a shift recently in the way FireEye interacts with its partners. He said FireEye has "opened the kimono" when it comes to their newest technology and invited partners in for training engagements. He said his company's business with FireEye rose between 25 and 30 percent last year.

"I feel very pleased with the progress they’ve made with their channel strategy. I think they get the value we bring to them, and they understand as they increase the breadth of their solution they need partners to sell that," Moore said. "That’s very heart-warming to see. It helps us build our business and helps us add more value along with our FireEye product set."

Rick Grimaldi, chief strategy officer at Brookline, Mass.-based KLogix Security, said improvements the company presented to simplify its sales motion, improve its technology, decrease time-to-value, engage partners, and move to a more strategic, platform-based approach would help his business better sell the value of FireEye to its customers.

"It's refreshing to hear the focus on the channel. Obviously, that's great for us," Rick Grimaldi, chief strategy officer at Brookline, Mass.-based KLogix Security, said.

However, Grimaldi said it is now key for FireEye to follow through on those commitments if it wants to succeed with partners in 2017.

"I'm here [at this event] because they are core to our business. We just need to see that message get down to the street level and see it result in good momentum," Grimaldi said.

Chris Carter, FireEye's vice president of North American channels, said FireEye is working to shift incentives and sales playbooks to align with the channel, including sending out a message to its sales team and partner communities about the company's commitment to the channel. He said FireEye will be training its teams on new policies for a partner-first sales approach, as well as educating them on the value a partner brings to the sales process. He said there would be a penalty for FireEye sales people not working through partners.

"We are making progress. We will be policing it very heavily to make sure we maintain best practices," Carter said. "It’s a very positive change … Are we there yet? No. But, I think we are making progress. In six months' time, I think issues will be very rare."

Cartner said FireEye is also making changes to its rebate structure, so partners no longer need to get special pricing for deals, as well as packaging and pricing its solutions to be more competitive.

Carter said new FireEye products, especially its Helix platform and upcoming HX endpoint security solution, present new opportunities to partners. There will be incentives for platinum partners to sell some of these new solutions, he said.

Robbins said FireEye would work to continue its momentum with the channel, saying it won't just be slamming on the gas pedal but maintaining a steady pace for the months and years to come. He said FireEye would work to maintain consistency with the channel and operationalize it within the way it regularly does business.

"We will do what we said we want to do. There's no more magic to it than that," Robbins said. "I think this is a real inflection point for us and if we get it right, I am confident in our product roadmap and what we have to offer. I think were unique position as a security company, but there is no doubt in my mind that to have the success we want to have and grow it the way we want to grow it we it, how we change our trajectory with the partner community and sustain it … will fundamentally impact the success of our company."