Times, Resources & Content: A Partners’ Top Challenges

11 Jul 2013

Times, Resources & Content: A Partners’ Top Challenges

Kaspersky Lab’s Channel Chiefs Leslie Bois and Jim Sullivan will be presenting on October 1, 2013 at the 6th Annual Channel Management Summit. More information on their presentation is available via the website.  Following is an interview that they participated in advance of the event.  

In this interview, Leslie Bois and Jim Sullivan, Directors, North American Channel Sales, Kaspersky Lab, discuss the main challenges of educating and managing channel partners. They also address how to name effective strategies for identifying and recruiting the right partners, motivate and drive sales and communicate value propositions.

What are some of the main challenges of educating your partners quickly and effectively in order for them to know how to successfully your product or service?

Time, resources and content are the top challenges that partners face.


Time is the most challenging aspect! The time required by the partner to really understand the offerings, programs and product is pretty substantial. It requires repetition and application. The traditional quick methods of educating partners such as mass email/newsletter style communications, webinars, online training tools and phone calls are a diversified approach but the follow up and application of the information is key to ensuring partners understand your product offerings. The ability for the channel sales team to reinforce the information, get the partner engaged with a deal and take them through the process is the best way to transfer knowledge as a real-world example.


There are quite a few resources needed to execute on such a demanding task, not everyone has these dedicated resources available to address this adequately. The number of times that content needs to be delivered and reviewed by a partner is at least six before the message and the information actually gets absorbed in an effective way where it can then be adequately applied. Therefore all of these issues combined need to be successfully addressed and executed. The method and frequency of delivery of content, the different options of consumption of information (self service, instructor led, 1:1 or webinar style) and then the actual content being reviewed. This process needs to be managed, changed, repeated and requires multiple resources.


You walk the fine line of spamming your partners and giving them enough information and reminders to help them be successful. Meaningful, relevant content that relates to their business and allows them to consume in different ways is absolutely key. The content must be relevant to the partners. Here are things to consider: How do they make money? Who is the target customer? How do you differentiate from the competition? How do you help the partner differentiate themselves from other partners by partnering with your company? A healthy balance of all of them is necessary to give partners the option to review this information in the way in which is most beneficial to them. Again, it takes time to move through this process and should be a constant effort and focus to ensure success.

How do you motivate and drive sales through innovative incentive programs? Could you walk us through a training program that has been particularly successful?

As we all know, incentives are used to drive specific behaviors, incremental results or focus to a certain product or service. In my experience incentives need to be clear, uncomplicated and substantial enough to have an impact and motivate someone who is consumed by many other products, services and customers throughout the day.

Ultimately we strive for additional mind share during the incentive and promotion period. Incentives should be structured in a way that drives repetition and volume and rewards reps for the right activities that will drive the results you are working toward and hopefully continue past the promotional period.

Incentives will be different based on your target audience and developed in a way that addresses the most valued thing for that person’s role. For example, sales managers are focused and compensated on margin growth so implementing a “Double Your Margin” program would be effective to gain the support of management. For a sales rep, they are concerned about lining their pockets and incremental income. Cash rewards are the best way to get quick mind share and change behaviors for sales reps.

An example of a successful program:

While security is something every customer is using and is extremely important to end users, it is not always one of the top five things that sales reps focus on in their day-to-day interactions.

Our Goal:

1. Increase mindshare and change the behavior. Get people talking security.

2. Differentiate our company from our competitors.

3. Drive more opportunities

4. Increase our chance in closing new opportunities.

5. Rinse and Repeat!

The program: It starts with the deal registration program, ensuring we offered enough margin for protection but to get Kaspersky Lab to the table. We know we increase our chance significantly by engaging the customer in a web demo or POC, we provide additional margin for engaging in this type of activity. (This is the part of the program that is the constant, not an incentive, something they can rely on).

The incentive is for closing the deal now! We initiated a per node incentive, the higher the volume the higher the payment. The higher the license term, the better the incentive. We have offered this consistently—as described in the challenges section, it takes a while for something to catch on.

Motivation: We implemented a double incentive at a time a new product was released, during a period that has historically been slower than other quarters and when we knew we needed help. It caused buzz, got people talking, created a sense of urgency and the flood gates opened.

The Result:

1. More people selling

2. Volumes increased

3. Length of terms were higher

4. Attained significant overachievement of our goals

5. New business up immensely

Why and how do you communicate value proposition based on the partner you’re addressing?

Communication of our value proposition takes place through different mediums: monthly newsletters, monthly partner calls, updates through the Partner Portal, weekly/monthly webinars, social media, and proactive communication from our Regional and Inside Channel Account Managers.

There are multiple stakeholders that we’re trying to influence and get support from to establish or advance a partnership.

Business owner or VP Sales: With the owners and leaders of a partner’s business, we take time to learn about our partner’s business before presenting the value proposition. We align our value proposition with the goals and strategic objectives of the partner because these are the things that have highest visibility, priority and resources assigned. If we can align with a partner’s strategic objectives and have a measurable impact, we have become an integral part of the partner’s business.

Partner sales rep: It’s important for us to perform the proper discovery with the partner sales rep about his/her business:

  • Does she hunt for new buying accounts, or sell into a named list of customers?
  • Does she manage new business and renewals?
  • How is she compensated? On Gross Profit? On volume (revenue)?
  • What verticals and business segments (size) are her customers/prospects in?

If we can understand the sales rep’s business, we can align our value proposition to what he/she is trying to achieve.

Could you name some effective strategies for identifying and recruiting the right partners?

Profiling is the name of the game when it comes to identifying the right types of partners to recruit. If you know what you’re looking for, it becomes a matter of where to look. For example, one of the partner profiles we’ve identified looks like the following:

Annual Sales = $25M-75M
Security Sales = >10%
# of salespeople = 10-20
# of engineers = 10-30
Local/Regional coverage
Managed Service practice
Virtualization practice
Currently partner with Kaspersky competitors

Once we have identified and profiled the partners, it’s time to recruit them and onboard them into our program. Kaspersky Lab sources partners in a variety of ways:

  • Competitors’ websites
  • Google searches for technology resellers in key geographical areas
  • Working with our distributors
  • Meet-up groups
  • Aligning with complementary vendors to establish common a common value proposition

There are some keys to approaching a prospective partner. First, preparation is very important. The more we demonstrate that we know (or have attempted to learn) about their business, the more likely they are to engage. Second, using relevant proof points of how we’ve helped transform other partners’ businesses helps make the opportunity for success real. Finally, we make our offering relevant to their goals/objectives, and what they’re trying to accomplish.

For onboarding partners, we have a guide that informs partners of what they need to complete in designated timeframes, along with what Kaspersky Lab needs to provide. There are 30-, 60-, and 90-day milestones on the way to becoming a fully-on boarded partner.

How do you establish a new route to market strategy and recruit partners that understand your business model?

We identify lines of business (LOB) that are consistent among resellers, and then we craft our value proposition to the LOB (or practice) leader based on our solution’s alignment with their LOB. For example, Kaspersky Lab has a great security solution for virtual environments, with some great comparative and unique differentiators. So we look for resellers with virtualization practices around VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft Hyper-V. These resellers already have a customer base that we can tap into, and they’re eager to sell solutions that attach to something like VMware and offer high margins.

Interview by Hannah Hager
Online Content Manager


This interview is also available on the Channel Management Summit website for download.