McAfee channel chief: This is how we win

Alex Thurber, McAfee channel chief

No regrets: McAfee channel chief Thurber says move from Cisco was the right one.

McAfee channel chief Alex Thurber closed out the partner track of the company’s Focus 10 security conference in Las Vegas by outlining the company’s strategy for winning in the channel and in the marketplace.

McAfee called Partner Day at Focus 10 “an incredible two days,” an accurate assessment numerically as “Partner Day” covered all of Monday and most of Tuesday, and heralded some rapid growth in partner attendance for the second year the company has hosted a partner event within its user conference. Last year, the company hosted 200-plus of its best partners. This year, Thurber said the company had to close down its attendance at 743 partners. The increased attendance, Thurber quipped, led to hasty negotiations to get more partners in the door at the company’s Partner Party at Tao in the Venetian Monday night.

Thurber told partners that 2010 was “the year of the partner” at the security vendor and that “this continues on to 2011” – in fact, he said that channel success is one of the five key goals for the company’s board of directors.

Thurber discussed his decision to join the security vendor, and offered his top reasons why the company will win with its partners.

But first, a little disclosure – attended Focus 10, and therefore Thurber’s presentation to partners, as a guest of McAfee Canada.

Thurber admitted that he made a “leap of faith” when he left “the company with the best channel model in the world” (Cisco, where Thurber headed up worldwide channel go-to-market) to join McAfee.

“Not only did I make the right decision. I’m happier now than I was 18 months ago before I made that decision,” he said.

So what are the biggest four drivers for continued growth in Thurber’s mind? Here’s the numerical breakdown.

Portfolio: With its acquisition spree and new offerings, Thurber said it’s “no joke to say end to end” with McAfee, and urged partners not to forget “those three little initials”: GTI. The company’s Global Threat Intelligence, he said, is the company’s “secret sauce.”

“If we get out customers to understand GTI, we win the deal,” he said.

Profitability: Thurber said that the company, from CEO Dave DeWalt on down, understands that partner profitability is a key differentiator, and pledged to “improve our profitability position,” including rolling out partner incumbency for renewals around the world and revamping the company’s McAfee Rewards program for partner sales reps.

Thurber also detailed a profitability promotion aimed at competitive displacement (namely, Thurber said, “our friends in yellow”) called Bring McAfee To the Game, which offers resellers 25 to 35 per cent more margin as well as cash for partner reps.

Protection: The channel chief urged partners to invest in complete protection, and said in return, the company would look to protect partner deals. “If you invest in us, we will invest resources back in you,” Thurber pledged, adding the company was rolling out a Partner Preference Model that aims to make sure McAfee inside sales teams are aware of partners’’ investments in the vendor.

And finally, in case there was any doubt – Partners: “The number one reason is you,” Thurber said in a feel-good moment, calling the company’s channel “the partners we need .. the best partner group in the world.”