X-IO Commits To 100 Percent Channel Model, Simplifies Channel Program

Mark Zeller, vice president of sales, X-IO

Storage vendor X-IO Technologies on Wednesday said it has committed to a 100 percent indirect channel sales model as a way to leverage its partners' relationships to grow the business of its ISE and Iglu solutions.

X-IO also unveiled a new channel program aimed at simplifying its interactions with channel partners, said Mark Zeller, vice president of sales for the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based storage vendor.

The move to fully embrace the channel comes about nine months after Zeller joined X-IO, and about four months after X-IO named as its new CEO Bill Miller, who fully supports the move, Zeller told CRN.

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Zeller said he worked with Miller and with Diamond Lauffin, X-IO chief of channel strategy, to redesign the company's channel efforts as a way to increase business.

"When I joined, our channel was all over the place," he said. "We had a lot of direct customers. We had a lot of partners in three tiers. It was hard to ascertain who was a platinum partner, a gold partner or a silver partner. It was all over the map."

A succession of executive changes over the past few years was partly to blame, Zeller said. It resulted in issues like a poor lead generation program and a mismatch of resources.

"When I joined, our sales reps were called 'account executives,' " he said. "That mean they owned the account. I changed them to 'territory sales managers.' I wanted them to work with the channel, train partners, work with them in the field."

The past seven months have seen X-IO bring in about seven new territory sales managers and seven new systems engineers, of whom all but one territory sales manager worked previously in the channel, Zeller said. The company also replaced about 70 percent of the sales force.

The moves have worked, said Chris Dye, chief technology officer at Paragon Solutions Group, a Minneapolis-based MSP that both resells X-IO storage technology and uses it as the base of the storage component of its managed services.

"It's an exciting time to be an X-IO partner," Dye told CRN.

Gavin McLaughlin, vice president of strategy and communications, X-IO

Paragon has worked with X-IO for about six years, and has seen other moves by the company to implement a 100 percent channel model, Dye said.

"This time around, we're seeing X-IO prove its commitment," he said. "We're seeing huge engagements with our sales team. On deals before that X-IO might have taken direct, the sales reps are telling customers to work with the channel."

Dye cited the example of one customer, one of the largest livestock ranches in the country, that recently faced the need to renew its maintenance contract for its legacy Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) solution.

"Instead of just renewing the maintenance contract, the X-IO sales rep contacted us, told us this was an X-IO qualified contact looking for maintenance renewal, and that the customer could be a good contact to update to the latest ISE," he said. "X-IO provided us the information and the right discounts to close the deal with an upgrade to the new ISE."

Gavin McLaughlin, vice president of strategy and communications, said the increased emphasis on the channel provides X-IO with the growth potential it needs for selling new solutions, particularly its newer all-flash version of its ISE and its Iglu SAN solution.

"We want to take advantage of more pull from the channel," McLaughlin told CRN. "Also, nobody buys storage. They buy solutions. Resellers build storage into solutions. Customers are buying virtual desktop, SQL Server and other solutions. So it's important for us to work with partners who can use our technology as part of their solution stack."

The new X-IO eXcellence Partner Program is aimed at simplifying how channel partners work with the vendor, McLaughlin said.

For instance, under the new deal registration part of the program, partners can now register a potential account instead of a specific deal, he said. "So if a partner goes fishing at General Motors, he can register the company and take the time to find the deals," he said.

X-IO has also simplified its rewards program by providing what McLaughlin called "real-world pricing" and margin protection based on street pricing.