When switching from direct sales to a channel strategy, vendors must do more to bridge the cultural barrier.
Fiona Doak, director of EMEA channel sales at cybersecurity firm Appgate, agrees. Doak is currently in charge of developing a European channel strategy.
Vendors, according to Doak, must show the sales staff that the channel can deliver opportunities. This is especially true when pursuing prospects in the business and big to midmarket segments.
She believes that language is crucial.
“I prefer direct touch to direct selling,” Doak explained. “I believe that is more appealing to both the direct teams and the channel.” It fills in the gaps and avoids the traditional experience that we’ve all encountered when companies sell straight and have a channel. That’s a difficult bridge to construct.
“In certain cases, it’s just the way things have always been and how they’ve always worked.” “Unless you force a change, that’s how it’ll always be,” she explained.
“From a direct standpoint, how you treat the channel can make or break you,” she remarked. “Working together on a contract is one approach to create trust. Partners will appreciate it and, more often than not, return the favor. However, if they have not been treated well, [or] if deals that they worked on have been taken directly from them, they will live with a partner for a long period. That is something I would emphasize that we are doing with Appgate; we are bridging that gap.
Incentivising Direct Touch Teams
“The benefit of direct touch teams working through the channel is that they will have a large net of clients, opportunities, and verticals to work with.
“I’ve stood in front of direct touch teams time and time again. ‘Make friends with the partners, help them, and go shoulder to shoulder with them,’ I’ve stated. You’ll notice that you and that partner develop a natural friendship or relationship, and they’ll remember it. It’s a natural way to build a relationship with a partner to support your direct contact methods.”
Building an EMEA Channel
Before Doak’s arrival in March, Appgate had several EMEA partners but no formal channel structure. “We haven’t focused on that yet,” Doak explains, “so we haven’t worked on that yet.”
“Even though I work with a direct sales team, they recognize the value of the channel,” she explained.
They’re “forging wider and deeper ties with the channel” and “creating a different way to market,” according to Doak.
“I never like to talk about the number of partners because I believe it is more important to talk about the quality of partners. It’s all about finding the appropriate collaborators. Tiering programs and such things do not appeal to me. I prefer the question, “Are we a good fit?” It’s all about having a common vision.