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Bitdefender Snags Fortinet's Bellano To Lead North American Channels: Exclusive

Bitdefender has tasked Bill Bellano with launching a partner advisory council and overseeing a new partner portal that is expected to drive more lead generation, deal registration, quoting, and marketing automation.

Bitdefender has hired longtime Fortinet channel leader Bill Bellano to tighten the endpoint security provider's bond with its top solution providers in North America.

The Bucharest, Romania-based cybersecurity vendor has tasked Bellano with launching a partner advisory council and overseeing a new partner portal that is expected to facilitate more lead generation, deal registration, quoting, and marketing automation. Bellano started at Bitdefender in June after six years at platform security giant Fortinet, where he most recently led channel sales in the Northeast U.S.

The newly-created North American channel chief role will provide the region with a more dedicated partner presence given that global channel chief Joe Sykora is also responsible for sales and solution providers worldwide. Sykora and Bellano worked together at Fortinet for 4.5 years, and Sykora said Bellano's knowledge of the network security market will be helpful as Bitdefender moves into the space.

[Related: Bitdefender Rolls Out Network Monitoring Tool To Find Attacker Activity]

"He [Bellano] knows the market and he knows the partners," Sykora told CRN exclusively. "I can only be in so many places at one time."

Bellano compared the opportunity at Bitdefender today to the one when he started at Fortinet six years ago, where he'll be able to develop a channel program at a fast-growing company from the ground up.

The two companies had a similar number of employees when Bellano joined, and enjoy a substantial amount of partner overlap in the security space, though Bitdefender works closer with vendors like Nutanix and Citrix.

Sykora said Bitdefender has rolled out a partner advisory council in Europe, and expects Bellano will help the company do the same in North America by the end of the year. In addition, Sykora said Bitdefender's channel should benefit from a new partner portal rolling out in the next two quarter that puts leads in the hands of partners more quickly and allows solution providers to register deals by email or text.

From a lead generation standpoint, Sykora said the new partner portal will make it so that contacts for the thousands of end customers who download material on Bitdefender's website are passed along to partners rapidly rather than needing manual intervention. Quoting will also be integrated into the portal so that information provided to an end user can be directly converted into an order with a distributor.

Bitdefender has grown its national partner team by 30 percent and regional partner teams by 25 percent, and Sykora expects the company will do additional hiring for both teams before the end of the year. Specifically, Sykora said Bitdefender expects to add roles in business development to help with alliance relationships as well as more territory coverage in Canada and the United States.

The new hires will allow Bitdefender to maintain a ratio of between 10 and 20 accounts for each partner success manger, which Sykora said is far below the ratio of between 50 and 100 accounts per manager offered by the competitors.

Since Sykora started at Bitdefender in December 2017, the company has grown its North American partner base from 7,000 to 10,000 and has gone from having virtually all of its solution provider relationships managed by distribution to having nearly 150 focus partners that are managed directly.

The direct touch has paid dividends, Sykora said, with focus partners achieving year-over-year growth rates of between 100 percent and 200 percent while the number of deals registered by focus partners has spiked by 300 percent.

Sykora would like to see Bitdefender's channel business go from being roughly 50 percent partner-sourced today to between 65 percent and 70 percent partner-sourced going forward. Bitdefender's enhanced deal registration capabilities as part of the company's new partner portal should incent partners to find more of their own opportunities, he said.

"We're executing on the same path and strategy we laid out two years ago," Sykora said.

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