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Here’s How 30 Channel Execs Are Working With Channel Partners Amidst The Pandemic
Channel executives on the CRN 2022 Channel Chiefs list describe the impact of COVID-19 on their channel strategies and operations and how they have helped partners survive – and thrive – throughout the pandemic and economic turbulence.
Threat Or Opportunity?
As the IT industry and the channel dealt with the second year of COVID-19 in 2021, channel executives continued working with channel partners to weather the seemingly never-ending pandemic and its resulting economic impact and supply chain disruptions.
But unlike 2020 when survival was the goal, many IT vendors and their channel partners stepped up in 2021 and took advantage of the new digital/virtual ways of doing business to provide IT products and services to their customers more efficiently. IT vendors and partners have also applied their new ways of operating to other go-to-market tasks such as customer recruitment and demand generation.
Some IT companies and their channel partners have even thrived in the turbulent environment as they meet growing demand for next-generation communications and collaboration and for IT and services to facilitate cloud migration and digital transformation.
We asked the honorees of the CRN 2022 Channel Chiefs list to tell us about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their own channel strategies and operations in 2021, the impact on their solution provider partners, and the steps they took during the year to succeed. Here’s what some of them had to say.
VP, U.S. Channel
COVID-19 impacted each of the verticals differently - some negatively as business stalled to a crawl, while other verticals were experiencing record growth. At Acer, we had to pivot early to make sure we were properly aligned to where the opportunity presented itself. Early on, some OEMs were giving prices for air shipment versus sea shipment production. Acer has been flying product in from the onset of COVID-19 and absorbing these extra costs that were not forecasted by us. In a lot of cases, we have drop-shipped product directly to the end-point destination saving our partners money on SG&A costs.
Executive VP, Worldwide Sales
After a rough period at the pandemic‘s beginning during which we saw project business shelved, organizations realized their outsourced technology providers were critical to keeping them up and running as well as productive during a shift to remote working and the continued threat of ransomware. Turns out that partners have more than survived the pandemic. They have begun to thrive. Post-merger, we’re focused on delivering account management that goes above-and-beyond in meeting the needs of the partner, as well as doubling down on our support offering to bring our partners world-class support, indicative of the importance of data protection.
Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
VP, Worldwide Channels
All of our partners and their customers have been affected by the pandemic in varying ways, so we‘ve continued to evolve our program in response to those changing needs. We continued to focus on providing micro-branch solutions that deliver secure connectivity to organizations supporting work-from-home initiatives. And, recognizing that the reduction of capital requirements and/or investments is still top of mind for our partners, we offered more solutions through HPE Financial Services to help ease financial burdens. With hybrid workplaces becoming the norm, we continue to focus in these areas to help drive the opportunity pipeline for our partners.
President, National Business, Channels
COVID-19 re-enforced the importance of our indirect strategy and investments. As customers shifted from a centralized workforce to a work-from-home and now a hybrid work environment, indirect sales advisors and solution providers were key to that shift. They were positioning cloud, security and virtual solutions that enabled customers to survive and thrive during the pandemic. By investing in indirect, we were able to reach customers that historically did not work with our direct teams, which led to tremendous growth from our indirect sale channels across both AT&T and ACC Business.
VP, Strategic Partnerships
The impact has been positive. Surprisingly, customers are not pulling back investments and instead have been investing heavily in data and analytics, knowing that when the next global disruption occurs, they‘ll need a solid IT foundation. Organizations are also overwhelmed with the surge of data due to all business being conducted online. Our partner program has been critical to responding to this demand. We’ve helped them capitalize on the market growth by expanding our global enablement and go-to-market opportunities and improving our partner processes to make it easier to do business with us.
Head of Channel Sales
Covid has not greatly impacted our channel strategy, but it did impact our approach to enabling and co-selling with partners. We found that since no one was traveling we were able to work more efficiently with partners. Building out enablement plans with shorter timelines than anticipated. We also were able to coordinate sales rep introductions and co-selling efforts much more quickly than in non-Covid-19 times. Both of these led to our focus on partners coming up to speed and driving deal registrations at a faster rate.
VP, Worldwide Channel Sales
First, with people still working remotely, we focused on consistent communication, and began offering new enablement and learning opportunities to address the challenges of remote work. Next, we found recruitment of new partners to be much easier as many were open to new ideas and alternative vendor solutions that would help them to grow their businesses. As a result, we increased our partner investments with SPIFFs and incentives.
Senior VP, Global Partner Operations
I think the pandemic has had very little impact on our channel strategy. If anything, it‘s helped to validate that our strategy is working. Our partners are enjoying the same record growth as Dell, and we’re all focused on helping customers implement their own digital transformation plans. We accelerated our efforts to modernize and improve partner experiences to ensure that they can take advantage of these new, highly sought after as-a-service consumption models and are all moving at a rapid pace to ensure our partners are trained, enabled and ready to adopt these new business models.
Commercial Integration Leader, VP, Data Center Channel Sales
COVID-19 has driven increased demand for our solutions as the changing IT environment facilitated the need for innovative power management technology. This has created a challenging environment for partners as pandemic conditions led a shift away from on-site customer engagements. Eaton recognized early that on-site assessments were critical to helping our partners drive revenue in this difficult time and took steps to make our sales and technical teams available for on-site support, whether in-person or virtually throughout the pandemic, leading to a more than 90-percent win rate when sales took place on site at end customer locations.
Director, Commercial Channel Sales, Marketing
The pandemic has impacted all aspects of business. Putting our partners first, we focused on how we can assist them with the credit side of their business. We have invested in digital marketing communications to help existing customers and new customers who had to find a new way to do business. We have also focused on helping partners adapt and take advantage of the bright spots of markets, such as the re-emergence in meeting rooms and the acceleration of business inkjet printing, to succeed.
Head of Channel, Americas
To help partners weather the COVID-19 storm, we extended our Lending Enablement and Assistance Program (LEAP) to provide partners with flexible financing options and give them the necessary support to continue to close deals. We have also conducted partner trainings that are specifically geared toward helping partners transition to sales strategies for new products. Additionally, because the pandemic has greatly impacted customer demands, we have rolled out additional programming to train partners on new strategies for marketing to end users.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
VP, Worldwide Partner Program, Operations
COVID-19 definitely had an impact on our company‘s channel strategy for 2020. But when it came to 2021, we saw more demand from our partners. From 2020 to 2021, our partners needed to reach certain monetary thresholds depending on where they were located throughout the world. To support this demand and our partners as they recovered from the challenges brought on from the pandemic, HPE eliminated this threshold going into 2021. Year over year, we’ve learned that our partners wanted predictability and that is something we implemented in our channel strategy for 2021 and moving forward.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Worldwide Head of Partner Sales
We‘ve helped partners embrace XaaS at their own pace while protecting their margins via our Partner Ready program (compensation and deal registration), as well as incentives for selling to new logos (also through HPE Engage and Grow), and HPE’S offerings to help optimize investment capacity, move to as-a-service faster, or even double down on transformation. We’ve helped partners deal with supply chain constraints through both Mainstream (to “standardize” CTO) and Flex Offers (to “customize” BTO) and focused on improving partner and customer experience.
Senior VP, Strategic Partners, Alliances
Like so many others, we‘ve had to step up our digital engagement with our partners and customers – from virtual meetings to increased digital marketing – to provide air cover for our partners in their new customer acquisition and customer refresh endeavors. To support partner financial growth and success in a challenging market, we expanded our flexible financing options to include a 90-day, interest-free financing program and a new financing option that allows partners to finance an entire deal – from storage through services.
GM, U.S. Channel, Partner Program
The last two years have been full of uncertainty for our partners and business has been unpredictable. Because of this, for the upcoming 2022 program renewal, we made the decision to forego any downgrades in Tier for 2022 – you can only go up. This was based on ongoing COVID-19 impacts to business as well as the global silicon and supply chain challenges. Despite the uncertainty in the market, there is still much business opportunity for channel partners to deliver the technology needed for business transformation and Intel is providing the platform and solutions partners need to be successful.
Since we provide the tools that help businesses connect and collaborate from wherever work is happening, the impact of COVID-19 has been nominal from a business perspective. We meet and work with partners remotely and help them pitch and close deals remotely. Though I will say we are starting to see in-person visits and trade show attendance pick back up again, and that connection has been missed. The ability to sell UCaaS and CCaaS solutions has certainly helped partners through this time, and it appears will continue to help as hybrid-work models look like they are here to stay.
VP, North America Channel, ISO
Our customers are looking at new consumption models and different solutions to meet the needs of all types of work environments. We believe “as-a-service” solutions will continue to accelerate. As a channel-first company, Lenovo‘s focus is on enabling our partners to deliver these solutions. We know that driving as-a-service options through the channel will build new recurring revenue streams for them. We will continue to invest in new ways to engage, understand customer needs, and provide leadership in delivering solutions for the hybrid environment.
VP, Global Channels
COVID-19 has definitely changed the way partners go to market with customers and vendors. For us, this has meant a far greater burden on remote support, online content, and telepresence systems. One way we‘ve helped partners is making sure they have plenty of resources for remote enablement and personalized attention from our Success Teams. We assigned success managers and enablement points-of-contact to our Strategic and Focus partners, and we grew our team substantially to be able to give partners more one-on-one time. We are in the process of revamping our online presence, including deploying a new partner portal.
Senior VP, Worldwide Partner Organization
During the COVID-19 pandemic, NetApp helped its partners enable business continuity and progress for our customers. We‘ve helped organizations support remote-access workers, ensure the availability of data and applications, and prepare for and avoid the next wave of potential disruptions. Understanding the potential related impacts on credit and cash flow due to continuing business disruptions, we extended partner credit terms by 30 days, extended eligibility for achievement in a partner growth program and all certification expirations by six months, allowed more time for customer deployments, and delayed compliance reviews.
VP, Americas Partners Organization
COVID-19 has been instrumental in us rethinking how we engage and enable our Nvidia Partner Community. We‘ve recognized the value of digital and virtual interactions and have shifted all of our enablement to support and embrace this new way of work. We’ve shifted resources to our inside sales model to help scale our virtual interactions while using this as an opportunity to diversify and upscale our talent to drive Nvidia Partnerships.
VP, Channel, Field Marketing
When COVID-19 hit, we immediately shifted from a very physical, event-heavy marketing team to one who could deliver in virtual environments. We had great success by adapting to focus on quality audience engagement. We helped partners continue to engage and network with one another in casual and creative ways. For example, we hosted a webinar and afterparty with our RMM partners where we sent cocktails and played trivia games to help educate them on trends in the cyber security market in a fun, friendly setting. Additionally, we provided easy-to-leverage content for their marketing efforts, such as thought leadership videos.
Head of Global Partner Ecosystem
We collaborated with partners to create multiple COVID-19 solutions, including an Employee Safety and Business Continuity Tracker and a Crisis Small Business Lending application. Training and certification programs became fully online to ensure that partners could maintain their technical and sales skills currency. A new project registration tool raised the visibility of partner projects since Pega‘s teams could no longer join them onsite. We converted PegaWorld, from a three-day, in-person event to a 2.5-hour virtual event. Quarterly Partner Town Halls maintained partners’ access to Pega leadership. Dedicated people and resources address customer needs and assist partners with remote delivery.
VP, Global Partner Organization
Poly experienced incredible demand increase for our products and solutions due to COVID-19 with the shift from office to work-from-home. We made enhancements to our channel program to simplify the program and to accommodate the market changes. Our engineering teams have been working around the clock to qualify new components that are more widely available today and we expect will be more widely available in the future. We are working closely with our suppliers, channel partners and customers to minimize the impact as much as possible.
Senior VP, Worldwide Channels, Partners Sales
The COVID-19 crisis reinforced the need for Proofpoint‘s people-centric cybersecurity and compliance offerings as its customers and partners endured the situation, with their employees exposed to an increasingly active threat landscape. This has undoubtedly been a challenging environment for many organizations as a result of the pandemic and recession. However, Proofpoint has strong relationships with its customers and partners and we are working with them as they navigate this unprecedented time. The Proofpoint team worked diligently to ensure our partners could continue to safely and productively provide counsel to organizations as everyone went virtual.
VP, Global Channels
With the pandemic causing so many challenges for our customers and partners, we have focused on providing the most flexible purchasing options to ensure we can continue to help our partners keep their customers safe and secure. We offer SentinelOne CORE and our rapid deployment options free of charge for 30 days to help our partners help their customers cope with the challenges surrounding remote work and protecting the network perimeter.
VP, Worldwide Channel
Overall, we‘ve had to accelerate a lot of enablement work with our partners. Economically, we’ve assisted with financing programs and expanded our monthly subscription services to cover many products we introduced in the past year. To assist our partners, we offered new and deep discounts on our remote access products and services to aid new and existing customers, as well as introduce new 30- and 60-day VPN spike licenses for SMA 100 and 1000 existing customers. Additionally, SonicWall has expertly managed the supply chain crisis and consistently provided access to our products for all our channel partners.
Senior VP, Global Channels, Sales Operations
As the pandemic wears on, we‘ve all been faced with Zoom fatigue after dealing with non-stop calls and chats. Because of this, we’ve had to get more creative in capturing our partners’ and customers’ attention. To do so, we prioritized shorter sessions and faster content delivery to avoid the long webinars and trainings we‘ve all come to dread. Sophos continues to adapt its strategy – not only for sales, but for training and enablement for our partners.
VP, U.S. Channel
Our customers are purchasing via marketplaces, which was accelerated due to COVID-19. We‘re working with our partners to help them transform. It was less about MDF and lunch ’n learns and more about what‘s the offer in the cloud, how do our customers want to pay? And we moved in that direction.
VP, Worldwide Channels
We doubled down on thought leadership pieces with our partners for demand creation and reinforced use case sales motions with our partners. With the reduction in the ways that we could communicate with our partners, prospects and customers, we needed to ensure that our time with them was well spent and maximized value for all parties. Our partners appreciated the way that we simplified our messaging and focused on the lens of the customer in our communication and enablement efforts. We were much more efficient and value oriented.
Executive VP, Chief Operating Officer
The pandemic has not altered Wasabi‘s strategy. In fact, due to the increasing reliance on cloud-based solutions and necessary data protection due to remote work, the Wasabi partner program has accelerated, and Wasabi is on a mission to help partners capitalize on one of the biggest opportunities today – data storage in the cloud. Wasabi continues to invest more and more to support channel growth in this environment and will use its $137 million in recent funding to do so while driving real, tangible value in its offerings for partners and empowering them with a high-performance solution they can fully trust.