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Three ways security vendors should support the channel

18 Feb 2015

Selling security requires vendor support. Michael Lee, RSA security evangelist, outlines what to look for in security vendor's partner programmes.

Selling information security is a unique skill. Not only is there the obvious sensitivity of matters, but as security is often mission critical, it takes the notoriously complex technical nature of IT projects a step further.

Aside from the basic confidence a reseller should have in a vendor's product, this industry demands that security vendors have an increased focus on supporting the channel. But what are the signs that a security vendor will support or abandon you?

A focus on enablement

A security vendor serving the channel should invest heavily in a multi-tiered programme aimed at educating and up-skilling resellers, according to how involved they want to be with the vendor. 

These programmes should help resellers become proficient and comfortable having conversations with their customers at all points of the buying cycle. 

At the lowest tier, enablement includes comprehensive and regularly updated online training material. Mid-tier workshop sessions should build on this foundation of knowledge, with the vendor working with resellers face-to-face to reinforce material and provide practical experience in providing better value to prospective customers. The highest tier effectively educates the reseller at a level so that they can become an extension of the vendor's own team.

The programmes should continue to evolve, taking into account changes in the industry, noteworthy highlights, such as breach incidents of legislative changes, and ultimately provide an anchor point for the reseller to return to in order to keep themselves up to date and knowledgeable about the market they are targeting.

A tailored approach

Even though a security vendor should have a multi-tiered enablement program, it should only be the starting point for a larger, bespoke interface between vendor and reseller. 

Resellers will have their own strategies for how they go to market, including whether they want to simply sell products on a short sales cycle, or whether they want to provide a full maintenance and support service for high-value customers.

While a multi-tiered programme certainly provides the necessary foundation for product and service education, security vendors should understand and tailor these programmes further. This ensures the reseller's envisioned method of sales delivery can be realised, and the security vendor can also provide guidance around products that can be sold in the manner that the reseller so desires.

A ‘one size fits all’ approach will leave resellers with no differentiating features, and in the long-term, reduce innovation and competitiveness in the marketplace.

A consistent multi-rebate programme

While there should be multiple tiers of partnership in order to recognise and differentiate the involvement of resellers, security vendors should ensure their rebate programmes for each of those tiers is consistent and well-established. 

A consistent and proven programme ensures resellers can easily align their efforts towards generating predictable cashflow. Frequent changes to a rebate programmed can force resellers to rethink how they go to market.

With a consistent multi-tiered rebate programme in place, resellers can also decide how to invest their resources in following a vendor's vision. Consistency also provides resellers with the peace of mind that the rewards of reaching a higher tier of participation will still be there and that a multi-year investment strategy in their staff with not go wasted.