Sales Samurai program highlights new announcements at Sophos partner event

Sophos also launched a new Hot Line to provide competitive intelligence, made changes to their post-sales technical skills certification and should have a new Cloud Security Provider program by the fall.

Kendra Krause, Sophos’ Vice President of Global Channels

Last week in Las Vegas, Sophos held its annual North American Partner Kickoff – the first of the three global partner events it does each year. The security vendor made several programmatic announcements with the most head-turning being a reboot of their sales program which both simplifies it, and adds a new sales skills component.

The invitation-only event had over 500 partners present, with a ‘This is Next-Gen’ theme.

“There was a tremendous amount of positive feedback,” said Kendra Krause, Sophos’ Vice President of Global Channels. “They believe that we have the strongest and most complete next-generation security strategy.”

Krause said that InterceptX – the anti-malware solution to stop zero-day malware and unknown exploits, including ransomware, that Sophos bought from Dutch vendor SurfRight and released last September, has already become a key offering for partners.

“Intercept X was the most important thing to them, that’s going to drive their revenue,” she said. “It has driven the highest percentage of growth, and many are leading with InterceptX.

Sophos’ key foundation products remain their XG Firewall and their Sophos Central cloud-based management platform.

“They are what drives our synchronized security story and a lot of partners sell both of those,” Krause said. “We have seen a growth of over 40 per cent in the number selling both XG and Central, so there is quite a bit of cross-selling going on. Sophos Central was a key breakout session at the event, and we are always looking for ways to enable partners to be selling Central. We now have 90 per cent more partners selling it than at the same time last year, just after it was introduced.”

Krause said there was a lot of partner excitement at the event over the machine learning technology Sophos acquired from Invincea in February.

“It’s still early, and our engineers are still adding it into our solutions,” Krause said. “Ransomware was the biggest driver among the partners, which is why InterceptX was the most important thing to them, but acquiring new technology is also very important.”

The MSP program was also a hot topic, and the second most popular breakout, after InterceptX.

“A year ago, we launched our MSP program, managed through Sophos Central, and over 2800 MSPs have signed up in the last year,” Krause said. “Last year, we also acquired Phish Threat technology, which lets partners offer new services. It lets partners do simulated phishing attacks for customers.”

Krause said some partners are selling Phish Threat to customers, where they get regular simulated attacks on a regular basis for continuous training. Some also offer it as a one-time service, either as a free service or a paid one.

On the programmatic side, Krause said that one new program for partners is on its way.

“We are in the process of designing our Cloud Security Provider program,” she said. “An issue for partners is how do they secure customers when they move things into the public cloud. An issue for us in designing that capability is how do we make that channel friendly. We are working on this now, and hoping to launch the program in a few months.”

One new enablement program introduced at the event was the Sales Samurai training program.

“Historically we have had a basic sales certification program where the emphasis has been on providing a great wealth of product knowledge,” Krause said. “Sales Samurai both reboots and simplifies the program, and adds true foundational sales skills.” The program has two levels, the foundational Blue Belt and the advanced Black Belt. Sales certification is required for all the Sophos partner tiers.

For the post-sales technical skills certification, Sophos is also making some changes.

“We are introducing a Fast Start program to allow very skilled people to get certified faster,” Krause said. “We are also adding a customized learning capability to make the learning more a hybrid approach. It has been all virtual classroom or face-to-face in some areas, where it is available.” Post-sales training is required for all Sophos partner tiers above the entry-level Silver Tier.

“We have also announced and launched a competitive hot line for our Platinum partners,” Krause said. “We have had this internally for our own sales teams. In very competitive sales situations, it lets them reach out to the hot line and get back competitive intelligence before going in to the customer.”

While this service is available to Platinum partners now, it may be available to Gold later.

“With the Platinum partners, we want to make sure it’s successful and that we can have a solid and quick turnaround,” Krause said. “If all goes well, we would expect it to be extended to Gold in the second half of the year.”

Finally, Sophos is launching a Channel Influence Community, to provide feedback to the company.

“Partners have to sign up for it, and if they do, we will reach out with questions and surveys for feedback about products and support,” Krause said. “It will be global, and significantly larger than our Partner Council. Our North American Partner Council is twelve people. The Channel Influence Community will also require significantly less time than the Advisory Council.”