Unitrends looks to recruit smaller VARs with move to 100 per cent channel model

Unitrends only added a channel component to their business in 2013, and now are dispensing with direct entirely to give partners the confidence their vendor won’t poach deals from them, which will in turn encourage them to invest more in Unitrends.

Mike Dalton Unitrends - 300

Mike Dalton, Unitrends’ SVP, worldwide channels and international field operations

Backup and data recovery vendor Unitrends, which sold direct for a quarter century until adding a channel component to their business in 2013, has announced they are now selling one hundred per cent through channel partners, and will be launching a new channel program in September. While the company is expecting an increase in partners across the board, they are especially hopeful of attracting ones who work with smaller customers, a market where Unitrends now has relatively little penetration.

The decision to change the go-to-market model is related to the appointment in January of Kevin Weiss as Unitrends’ president and CEO, followed by the March hiring of Mike Dalton as senior vice president, worldwide channels and international field operations.

“Kevin is very much a channel person, and I was brought on to help him revamp the approach,” Dalton said. “It was made clear to employees once I was brought on the direction we would go in. By moving to an all-channel model, we want to give the channel confidence to invest in us as an organization, by removing the risk that after they spend time working on a deal, that Unitrends will try and take that deal direct.”

Since adding the channel component, Unitrends has added approximately 6000 partners globally, and the channel had grown to doing between 70 and 80 per cent of the company’s business.

“We are already passing leads out to partners now,” Dalton said. “We have made it clear to our teams this is the direction we are taking, in order to change their behavior. When our sales teams speak to end users now, the first question should be if they have a preferred sales partner.”

Unitrends’ previous channel program was their UniRewards program, which focused on rewarding partners for registering deals.

“With the new program, we are working with some external vendors to change our internal processes to allow partners to register deals more easily, as well as to allow customers to find them easily,” Dalton said. “Our goal is to have the program completed and roll it out in the September timeframe. We still have some things to do, including back end work to do, but we don’t anticipate a lot of heavy lifting, because we are using a Salesforce platform and working with them. I’m confident we will be ready for September.” Details of the new program will be available then.

Dalton said their existing partner base is a mix of traditional VARs, DMRs, and MSPs, although the MSPs are becoming a smaller part of the mix.

“We have less and less MSP partners these days as we focus on sales of appliances,” he said. “We give the customer a choice of software or of appliances, but today the appliance is the more preferred.”

Dalton also said that they are looking to the new program to increase both the number and effectiveness of feet on the street working the smaller side of the SMB space.

“We want to reach a lot of customers,” he said. “Our main play is SMB and its hard to reach the S part of SMB without a really strong channel program, so it makes sense that as we mature we adopt this approach. There is a tendency when selling direct, for the sales guys to gravitate to larger customers, and for the smaller customers tend to get a little ignored. We want to make it easy for mom and pop shops to be able to work with us.”

To reach those smaller customers, Dalton said they will need more partners who reach that market.

“We aren’t dealing with as many small VARS as we need to reach that smaller audience,” he said. “We would expect the number of partners to grow quite a lot as a result, with a large increase in the next 6-12 months.”