5 Channel Program Snags Encountered By Security Minded VARs

Security Vendors Don't Always Get It

Security vendors often fail to fully embrace the channel and unintentionally create a go-to-market strategy for their products that disrupts committed partners. An inefficient channel program with a competing direct-sales force can result in confused customers, said a group of security-minded solution providers recently interviewed by CRN at the Kaspersky Lab North American Partner Summit. Leaders with knowledge of the channel are needed to execute on a strong program, the panelists said. But even that doesn't always create the cohesiveness needed to effectively get a program firing on all cylinders. CRN uncovered five problems frequently encountered by security-minded solution providers.

5. Failure To Build, Maintain A Partner Advisory Council

Partners want to be on a winning team and can provide valuable advice to security vendors. Sometimes vendors fail to establish an advisory council or, worse, they don't engage advisory council members enough, the panelists said. Advisory councils help foster strong ties among its members and are a link to creating consistency over time, they said. "We've all developed good relationships among the pack and it has fostered net-new ideas," said Robert McMillen, president of Portland, Ore.-based All Tech 1. "No one is shy in speaking their mind."

4. Inconsistent Programs Produce Inconsistent Results

Vendors need to demonstrate that the channel program has consistency and isn't constantly changing, said Todd O'Bert, CEO of Minneapolis-based Productive Corp. Successful vendors have management that has stayed on board their channel team for years and can respond quickly to market changes and partner needs, he said.

Terms and conditions that change and program tiers that are constantly restructured can erode momentum, O'Bert said. Vendors often create a whole new set of problems when they tweak program guidelines to correct issues or address changes.

3. Partners Have A Brand To Maintain

Partners have to build and maintain their own brand, said Michael Knight, CTO of Greenville, S.C.-based Encore Technology Group. Every solution provider that has built up its own brand is respected in its market segments, he said. Vendors often fail to use the partner's brand and the regional awareness that's been created. Partners who have built a strong reputation in their region can often work closely with field reps early on in the sales cycle, the panelists said. Long-established relationships can be the ingredient needed to help close a sale against competitors.

2. Customer Confusion

A vendor's field sales reps that are out to meet a quota sometimes sidestep longtime regional partners that have established customer bases, which results in customer confusion, said Encore's Knight. Customers at times don't understand who is supporting them, he said. "We often have to go in solve issues for deals that had gone direct," Knight said. "It turns into a one-night stand vs. a long-term relationship for the vendor."

1. Competing Against Inside Sales Teams

Vendors that rely on a strategy of both direct and indirect sales nearly always have channel conflict, the panelists said. Partners always win the deal in cases when they are competing against a vendor's inside sales team for a sale, said Productive's O'Bert. Even when sales teams are incented to take on a deal with a partner, often it creates problems. "The inside sales team often can't differentiate between partners that can complete the sales cycle and other partners that want the vendor to run the majority of the sales cycle," O'Bert said.