CRN Interview: Xerox Channel Chief On Leadership Changes, 'Doubling Down' On Partners And Taking Share From Competitors

S teadying The Ship

Pete Peterson, president, Xerox Channels, has been on the job at the iconic American printer vendor since March 2017, leading the channel program through one of the most tumultuous eras in the company's history.

While Carl Icahn, Darwin Deason and ex-CEO Jeff Jacobson duked it out in court and in the press for control of the company, it fell to Peterson to help channel partners navigate the maelstrom and keep them focused on business.

As the dust settles and a new regime begins to shape the company, Peterson talked exclusively to CRN about what the future looks like for the channel program at Xerox, and where the company hopes to take share from competitors.

You just got a new CEO, someone from outside Xerox. Is this new leadership going to change the company's approach to the channel?

I would say the job is always going to be the job. Our new CEO John (Visentin) (pictured) has only been with the company less than two weeks. I had a chance to hear him live in a webcast, to all the employees, live across the globe and I got a chance to know about him and his background. I sit on our North American Operations Senior Leadership Team and we had a call with him as well where we went in to our specific areas of responsibilities and what we do and how we can enhance it. And I have a one-on-one with him early next week. Those two meetings I had, there was a very consistent message, which is that our channel is important. Our channel is critical, and we have to do everything we can to continue to support and grow that segment of our business. So I think I'd be remiss if I said its going to be business as usual. I like to think optimistically, we're going to perhaps double down on our channel business as we move forward.

Do you expect the budget for the channel to grow this year at Xerox?

It's increasing. We're expecting growth. We're increasing our investments is what I would leave you with.

We just locked in our budgets about 90 days ago and we have already made significant investments, and by the way, we listened to our partners, we just launched a partner relationship survey and gotten some preliminary feedback on that. So we're listening in terms of what is important, how can we better support them. A lot of it is doing more targeted channel enablement investments and that certainly what we're aspiring to do at Xerox, day in and day out.

We've made significant investments with feet on the street, with new account managers and new channel marketing resources to help them grow and help enable them.

What sort of feedback did you get from partners in those surveys?

I think it's just reinforcement around making sure we have an adequate and strong coverage model. So the resources we have, calling on them every day, making sure they're knowledgeable, and understand, not only our products and solutions, but that we understand their business, is certainly one that is loud and clear. Certainly around channel investments. So how can we help them be more successful in the local markets, competing with their competitors, and you know just being competitive from a local market perspective? And then I would say continued growth in our products and solutions. So those are probably the three. I think the survey closes the second week of June, so we'll obviously tabulate everything that we heard, and start to adjust if we have to, and reinforce what we already have. That's something that's important to us, is our partner experience. And this is just one of many vehicles for getting that feedback and making adjustments in terms of our offerings and how we support our partners.

Where do you see Xerox taking share from competitors this next year?

Our major focus is in the SMB space. Xerox has a very strong brand. And we've got a strong, high end and enterprise business and some of that is done through our channel business, but then some of that is done through our enterprise direct selling motion. So where we think we're going to be competitive is absolutely in the SMB space and mid-market space. From a profit category perspective we just launched the largest project launch in the history of the company a year ago. We launched 29 new products under our ConnectKey platform. The feedback has been extremely positive. Not only from the partners, but from many of the folks that kind of assess and analyze your product compared to our competition. So we think we have the strongest product portfolio that we've had in the history of Xerox. We've got investments that we've made in the midmarket and SMB channel cover space. Clearly our focus is around expanding and growing the A4 product category. Continuing to lead in the A3 product category, which we are a market leader, and of course, tying it all in with a huge focus around our managed print offerings in SMB space, which here at Xerox is growing pretty nicely.

Given how crowded the printer market is, especially in the SMB space, how do you stand apart?

One of the things that differentiates us in that space is that all of those new products are app-centric meaning they have the capability to build applications on the ConnectKey platform, or leverage applications that either Xerox built or some of our partners built to basically help the SMB business run their business more efficiently and more effectively. That's definitely a huge differentiator for us.

We think our device plays a significant role in the business as enterprise, whether it's a small business or a mid-market to enterprise business. So one thing that we've done pretty aggressively here at Xerox is making sure we've got the best in class security offering. All of our devices are extremely secure. And because a lot of the companies are connecting these devices to the network, that's a huge focus for us.