Partners need to sell the foundation of the dream, says EMC Canada’s Kerr

EMC’s Canadian channel chief lays out EMC’s value proposition and how partners can best position themselves within it.


EMC Canada channel chief Michael Kerr

In a changing storage market, EMC Canada channel chief Michael Kerr says the company’s partners not only need to be selling business value, but also need to be able to sell the customer on EMC’s vision of the IT future.

“One of the efforts we are trying to put into the channel deals with reconciling the hundreds of different elements of messaging that are coming out, because they create a certain amount of fatigue in the client set,” he said.

“Our messaging isn’t just about the array, and why ours is a little better than the others out there,” Kerr explained. “There is a saying we have here – ‘sell the vision, install the solution.’ It refers to the fact that clients are really looking for an end-to-end solution, but the challenge they face is that the infrastructures they have in place don’t always lend themselves well to that. For example, they put a subset of data into an ad hoc infrastructure to do the analytics. Our job is to show how our technology better suits the data because it will be part of a greater analytics environments.”

To this end, Kerr said EMC is continuing to introduce products under a total framework, and getting partners to understand this, and the longer term goal of selling to it.

“You start planting seeds now for something like data analytics,” he said. “You don’t sell it tomorrow. You sell the foundations of the dream.”

Kerr pointed to the company’s EMC Ready vison, which its goal of redefining the way EMC has customer conversations on key business and technology issues.

“We are retraining every technical and client-facing person in the company, and retraining around having conversations around analytics, software-defined and other new terms,” he said. “We will still continue to advance arrays, but we are pushing the business value, because customers are demanding business relevance.”

From the partner perspective, Kerr said their task is to get EMC’s data centre vision and pass it on to their customers.

“The challenge for partners is to sort it all out, and understand how a complex product set fits into an overall vision,” he said. That’s tough for partners because their heritage is selling a thing like a flash box and selling it fast, as opposed to asking the customer what they are using the flash box for.”

Even though the days of selling on feeds and speeds and technological wiz-bangs are gone – for the most part – Kerr said most partners still don’t sell the total vision often enough.

“We see resellers still react to a simple model – sell the new machine – which is very much a finite sell,” he said. “It’s much harder to sell a complete plan for a data centre and the components along that path. Most partners still address a very narrow piece of the data centre. Very few address the entirety of the data centre play.”

It’s increasingly necessary for partners to do this to remain relevant, Kerr said.

“It’s not about selling stuff, it’s the partner putting it in context,” he said. “If you don’t do that, you are less relevant. It’s positioning things like Isilon in this broader context that we are working on.”

While Kerr said much progress still needs to be made, there are positive signs.

“Our attach rates are growing and we are very high on secondary sales,” he said. “We are still growing in a market that IDC says is shrinking as far as pure array sales goes.”

EMC is also putting a major push on its Federation, something else Kerr said partners need to leverage.

“EMC has become far more relevant to partners as a business than when we were just a storage company,” he said.

Kerr commented on how EMC would be handling the latest Federation member, Virtustream, which provides application lifecycle automation and orchestration for enterprise applications, and which will form the basis of EMC’s managed cloud services business.

“Virtustream will play with a select group of customers,” he said. “We have learned from the example of Pivotal, that you can overwhelm a smaller company with hundreds of leads from clients, so with Virtustream, we are making sure we are introducing it with manageable criteria. Clients say it’s an area they are starting to explore, and with Virtustream, we don’t have to quilt together a million pieces of technology to make that happen. That’s the value we bring there.”

Kerr also dismissed the impact on their business of all the rumors that have swirled around EMC this year, whether it be pressure from activist investors to divest Federation companies, or rumors that EMC will be acquired by Federation partner VMware.

“All the rumors are more interesting to people who are buried in the bowels of the industry, while clients have no idea what all this is about,” he said. “Customers aren’t as interested in the business of IT as much as how to make their own businesses more relevant.”

Ultimately, he said that business relevancy works in EMC’s favour.

“Every single day there are new entrants into the market, and five years from now, greater than 80 per cent of them will not be there, as they get absorbed or they fade,” he said. “Customers know that EMC will give them a longer lifespan in their business than just buying these bits and pieces.”