Right Touch at centre of new NetApp Americas channel chief Jeff McCullough’s plans

NetApp’s channel transformation includes the Right Touch Model, introduced for its new fiscal year, designed to better balance NetApp channel resources with its internal sales team.

‎Jeff McCullough, Vice President, Americas Partner Sales at NetApp

Longtime HP executive Jeff McCullough recently joined NetApp, replacing the retired Scott Strubel as VP of Channel Sales for the Americas. In his new role, McCullough comes into a program that has already begun a process of transformation and modernization, but which needs a little more definition and tuning. McCullough is also charged with implementing NetApp’s new Right Touch model, designed to get the optimal balance between NetApp’s internal and channel sales forces in servicing customers in a rapidly changing environment.

“Over the last couple years, NetApp has been transforming and getting stronger again,” McCullough told ChannelBuzz. “When I was at HPE, NetApp was always the compare. They were laser-focused on storage, and their partner program was focused on partner growth and profitability. Back then, our deal registration time at HP was 48 hours. NetApp was the same day.”

McCullough acknowledged that while NetApp has been rebounding and transforming its business over the last couple of years, the channel program needed to modernize in the same way.

“Some of the things haven’t been addressed as tightly as partners would want,” he said. “In stepping into this role, I see the opportunity to retain what NetApp is known best for in channel – profitability and great enablement. I also want to address things that partners want done, relating to things like deal registration, new logos and services expansion. Services is a big priority. Partners invested in services will have the greatest chance for growth, and no one does partner services better than NetApp.”

McCullough emphasized however, that the foundation is there already. He contrasted it to his last job. After he left HPE in 2016, he went to Dell to the unit which was spun out late in the year as Quest Software.

“I went to Dell and Quest because it was an opportunity to lead a channel team,” McCullough said. “I was heavily involved in channel at HPE, but the Dell opportunity was to lead a channel team – and also to define the program. I had seen very clearly the shift in the channel happening at HPE, so it was a logical step to move into software and services that were becoming most meaningful for partners. I joined with the very clear understanding that it would be a spin-out, but where I could change and define that program. But there, it was necessary to rearchitect everything from scratch on the channel program. Here there’s already a great foundation.”

McCullough defined his job at NetApp as helping partners deal with the transformation in both the company and the industry by helping partners move from a traditional on-prem sales motion to one based on services and recurring revenue.

“It’s about the change from selling storage to selling data management,” he said. “That’s the big transformation here. It’s not about selling capacity and more. It’s about helping customers get value out of their data. Customers are trying to right-size their applications and data sets on a very dynamic basis, making decisions about moving from on-prem to cloud and vice versa, and finding the right middle ground. My job is to help partners leverage our portfolio to help customers manage their data the best way, while moving from deal revenue to recurring revenue.”

A key part of this task is successfully operationalizing the Right Touch Model which NetApp formally introduced for the 2018 fiscal year.

“Right Touch is a big new initiative that centres around the channel,” McCullough said. “It is really our commitment to optimize our business around the right way to service and support customers and optimize our costs and route to market. A large set of customers want NetApp people calling on them – even though they may actually buy through the channel. Right Touch tries to get the right level of engagement relative to what we can do, and partners’ capacities.”

McCullough emphasized that 78 per cent of NetApp’s Americas business is channel, and that Right Touch will provide them with additional resources to go after new customers.

“Right Touch brings a lot of investment into the channel, like lead passing,” he said. “Partners will see more leads funneled to them. I want to drive hard on lead passing. The best currency now in the channel is leads, helping partners build pipeline. We have a team set up in Raleigh to provide solid qualified leads. These aren’t from business cards in a punchbowl.”

NetApp is also implementing a Hard Deck policy that is related to Right Touch. It will define NetApp’s top customers in North America – approximately 1000 – which NetApp wants its direct sales force to address more effectively. Partners selling into those named accounts can continue to do so. The difference with this policy is that everything below those named accounts will be explicitly partner-led.

McCullough indicated that the Hard Deck list has been completed, but has not been made public beyond NetApp.

“We have not formally published the list, but we have used it to model our field coverage and set expectations internally with our sales teams around engaging partners in their accounts,” he said. “There are 65,000 accounts we are looking to the channel to take the lead on driving, and have optimized our teams to support.”

McCullough said that partners should expect a consistent and focused planning cadence from NetApp.

“We want to set targets for partners and help them hit those targets,” he said. “We want to help them build joint plans, and put dollars to work to help partners hit those plans.”

McCullough also indicated that he is bullish on NetApp’s prospects in the Canadian market.

“The Canadian market is very midmarket and SMB focused,” he said. “We generally don’t talk about SMB as a focus area for us. We talk midmarket. But the reality is that we sell to SMBs. To be successful in the Canadian market, you have to be successful serving SMB and public sector, and we are very good at both of those.”

McCullough also noted that their key Canadian partners sell the broad spectrum of NetApp offerings.

“Our partners in Canada don’t do just one thing,” he said. “They are selling FlexPod SF, the E-series, cloud services. That’s really encouraging. It’s great to see the diversity around the SF business. Long View’s OnDemand cloud platform is built on top of FlexPod, and they are selling it as a backup target and a managed service. Scalar is growing even faster than us in terms of the flash segment.”

McCullough also emphasized that NetApp is in aggressive recruitment mode for new partners.

“Our message to partners who are looking for alternatives, is that we are growing, we have a channel-centric strategy and we are eager to expose any partner to the NetApp ecosystem,” he said.