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Expel Aims To Boost Partner-Driven Business With Revamped Channel Program

Kyle Alspach

The MDR provider is seeking to make channel partners the ‘primary driving force’ in its sales strategy, Expel CEO Dave Merkel tells CRN.

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Managed detection and response provider Expel is seeking to drive more of its sales in the direction of partners with the debut of a revamped channel program Wednesday, which introduces enhancements around support and profitability as well as the company’s first-ever partner portal, executives told CRN.

Demand for managed detection and response (MDR) continues to surge, with customers increasingly looking for outside help on managing their security operations, and Expel was named one of three leaders in the category in a recent Forrester Wave ranking. At the same time, the company has recognized that there’s a lot more it could be doing with channel partners, and has begun “leaning in to partner relationships” in a bigger way, Expel Co-Founder and CEO Dave Merkel said in an interview.

Now, Expel is committed to making partners the “primary driving force in our go-to-market,” Merkel said. In February, the company brought on a new channel chief, Alert Logic veteran Dan Webb, to “supercharge” Expel’s partner push, according to Merkel.

[Related: 10 MDR Security Companies Making Moves In 2023 (So Far)]

Webb told CRN his first priority was to redesign Expel’s partner sales organization to bring more of a “partner-first” mindset, and those changes were rolled out in early August.

The next phase is launching the revamped Expel partner program, which is initially focused on value-added resellers but will soon be expanded to include managed and professional services partners, according to Webb.

Key updates in the new program include the introduction of dedicated support in the form of partner sales, partner development and partner marketing managers, the company said.

The partner development managers, for instance, will have a “very small number of partners” they’re working with, Webb said. The focus will be on working with partners around defining the go-to-market strategy and building out a “comprehensive partner success plan” together, he said.

The addition of dedicated support is the “big advantage” of the new Expel program, said Wil Klusovsky, executive security advisor at Stratascale, an SHI-owned solution provider based in Austin.

Having access to trained sales teams and support teams who “understand the partnership” is critical, as is the opportunity for co-branding and co-marketing initiatives, Klusovsky said. “Being able to work together — not just sell each other — that’s incredibly valuable to us.”

Profitability

Other major improvements are coming to profitability for partners in the new program, Expel executives said. The company previously only offered a flat, 20-percent discount for resellers, according to Webb. But as part of the new program, Expel is offering discounts in three tiers — at 20 percent, 25 percent or 30 percent — in return for commitments from the partners around revenue and certifications, he said.

In particular, Expel has “targeted two scenarios where we really want to maximize the profitability for partners,” Webb said. One key scenario is on partner-sourced business — where the partner sources a new customer or expansion opportunity within a customer — which achieves the maximum level of discount, he said.

The other scenario is where the partner is the incumbent and have “already won a piece of business with us — and we’re trying to make sure they have the support needed to retain that customer,” Webb said.

For partners looking to win new customers by working with Expel, the company’s “technology agnostic” approach to MDR should prove to be a strong selling point, Merkel said.

Expel’s MDR platform essentially works “with everything in each product category,” he said. “And so if a partner has got a particular set of relationships and configurations that work well for their customer base, [Expel] can adapt to that. I think that’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Expel’s flexible approach is another reason why the vendor is such a strong match for Stratascale, since the solution provider is also focused on taking a tech-agnostic approach with customers, Klusovsky told CRN.

“We don’t want to come and put a customer into a box,” he said. “It pairs well with us to be able to have a partner that understands that [approach].”

‘Significant Advantage’

Additionally, the updated channel program includes the launch of the Expel Partner eXchange, the company’s first partner portal — which includes a deal registration system that replaces the vendor’s previous form-based process for registering deals, Webb said.

The Expel partner portal also includes access to virtual training resources and marketing assets for the first time, complementing the company’s in-person training and enablement, according to Webb.

All in all, Expel expects to increase the portion of its revenue generated through channel partners going forward, beyond the current 54 percent, executives said.

“We are going to push that north,” Merkel said. “It’s going to be substantive. It’s going to be meaningful.”

Ultimately, when it comes to Expel’s partner-first approach, “we are committed to this strategy,” he said. “We’ve got top-down, full commitment to going this direction. And I think with the other strengths [that Expel has], that gives us a significant advantage in going to market together.”

Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach is a Senior Editor at CRN focused on cybersecurity. His coverage spans news, analysis and deep dives on the cybersecurity industry, with a focus on fast-growing segments such as cloud security, application security and identity security.  He can be reached at kalspach@thechannelcompany.com.

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