Cloud security vendor SilverSky is looking to reverse its direct-dealing ways and build a channel-centric organization. Going from 80 percent direct to almost 100 percent channel is a tough goal for any organization of any size, but Del Ross, the company’s new worldwide channel chief, believes the company can pull it off within a year.
Like many growing companies before it, SilverSky formerly known as Preimeter E-Security, started out selling predominantly direct. And like many growing companies before it, SilverSky has realized that to keep that growth going, and to expand its reach into the market, it needs to look beyond its four walls. Ross said the company has worked with some 100 or so partners worldwide to date, but it has yet to do so in any kind of systematic fashion.
“Typically, our partners came on board with an opportunity, and we worked with them on that opportunity, but there were no gives and gets defined, no program, no metrics, no basic partnering framework,” Ross said of the way things have been done.
And while some of those partners have become regular sources for the company’s offerings, that haphazard approach has also spawned “a lot of one-hit wonders,” partners who would do a deal and then never be heard from again.
Ross’ first two priorities in his new role are to get together the kind of formal partner program the company has lacked in the past, and to assess it current base of partners for their coverage, and their ability and willingness to grow with SilverSky. The framework, he said, will debut in the new few weeks, and the rest of the quarter will be spent assessing current partners and fitting them into the new program. From there, Ross said, he intends to recruit a few key partners, but not build a big-tent channel program.
“I’m a big believer that it’s all about building trust and relationships with these partners,” Ross said. “This organization is doing a great job in transitioning from a direct model, and we’re putting a big investment into this.”
Although the company is shifting from predominantly direct to predominantly channel, Ross’ style seems to favor metrics and hard facts over a feel-good approach to building a channel community.
“A lot of channel managers go out and coddle partners, and hope they sell,” he said. “I want to make them money, to help them drive more revenue. Let’s have a defined business plan with defined goals, and then I’ll have the equations necessary to cover what my investment in them is.”
As the company makes the shift, Ross said formerly direct-facing sales resources will be turned into a co-selling model with partners, including both field sales reps that can be used for joint sales calls, and inside sales teams to drum up initial contacts. That’s a balance that needs to be carefully maintained, and Ross said sales compensation has been shifted in recognition of the company’s shift towards channel partners. SilverSky has also inked a North America-wide deal with Synnex to provide distribution support.
Ross comes to SilverSky from SugarCRM, where he served as vice president of mid-market and channel sales, and has previous stops in channel and sales roles at SAP and Sage Software.
The company has key verticals in financial services and telecom, and will be looking for partnerships with focus on that area. Beyond that, Ross said partners with experience around messaging sales, and particularly with experience in security around messaging, are most welcome. And given its cloud-centric nature, Ross said partners who understand SaaS and cloud sales issues and who have developed a sales culture that is cloud-ready in terms of compensation and incentive, will be most welcome.
“I a want a smaller, very capable channel, with very specific resources going to them,” Ross said. “Think of it as a boutique program.”