Selling Splunk: Keeping Splunk’s sales strategy up to date with Splunk Next’s technology advances

Splunk introduced six new offerings at their .conf18 user conference, which are entering beta, and which are designed to open Splunk to large numbers of new customers. That market expansion will create new opportunities for the right partners.

Susan St. Ledger, Splunk’s President of Worldwide Field Operations

ORLANDO – At their Splunk .conf18 event, Splunk announced a raft of new and updated products as part of their Splunk Next vision of expanding Splunk’s applicability to more types of users and more data sources. What the company anticipates will be a vast expansion of their Total Addressable Market compels the company to reassess its sales strategy to address the new markets effectively. It’s a transition that is also highly likely to increase channel opportunities for partners with the right kinds of skillsets and solutions focus.

Splunk’s existing strategy is a hybrid one. Splunk does not publicly disclose how much of their business goes through channel partners, but Susan St. Ledger, Splunk’s President of Worldwide Field Operations, said that partner-led sales are significant.

“We have a large direct sales force, but the majority of our business is a co-sell level of model,” St. Ledger said. “Partners play at all levels of the pyramid, but how they play does tend to vary depending on the part of the pyramid. Partner-sourced deals definitely play more at the fatter part of the pyramid and the direct part is more at the upper end of the pyramid.

“The partner role reflects the fact that we all came out of the world of traditional software in an on-prem world, where most customers have partners that they want to buy through,” St. Ledger added. “The specific opportunity matters a lot in determining whether a sale is partner-led. The partners who lead in the sales process –  the ones that really thrive – are the ones who create solutions to add value, and who are not just transaction and fulfilment partners. We think that going forward the most prolific partners will be ISVs and solution partners who integrate their own solutions on top of our platform.”

Going forward, St Ledger also said that Splunk’s premise is that what they term the three pillars of Splunk Next – access to data wherever it lives, actionable outcomes, and  allowing more users – will drive the next big shift in Go-To-Market strategy, although it will be a gradual shift, and not an overnight one.

“When you look at the level of innovation that we have just announced here – it’s not just product — product – product,” St. Ledger said. “We have 282 patents to date since our inception and another 500 pending. We’ve been in business a very long time, and no platform does what we do. It’s nice to be in the lead.”

That being said, St. Ledger said that the new products  — six Splunk Next apps are now entering beta – will significantly expand Splunk’s Total Addressable Market. Splunk Business Flow, for example, provides a revolutionary way to give business analysts and product managers a way to understand what’s happening with customer engagement, and optimize processes, by giving instant access to onboarded data, and simplifying correlations for cross-session and cross channel visibility.

“Splunk Business Flow is a game changing application which allows business users to use Splunk and visually see business process flows,” St. Ledger said. “It will be of enormous assistance in selling to business users. It gets us immediately thinking about verticalization, and is one of a number of things that can help us get there quickly.

The new Splunk Developer Cloud is another of these things, St. Ledger added.

“DevCloud takes Splunk and turns it into a series of microservices, and gives access to developers so they can build on Splunk in the cloud,” she said. “Building on the cloud will be massive for us. The original Splunk Enterprise in 2006 was a traditional monolithic software of that era, and while it had APIs, it had no microservices. We do have our Splunkbase with over 1800 applications and add-ons for Splunk, but these are basically pre-built integrations and small apps that help you do tedious things. The new modern IT world is building cloud-first, with no time to spin up. DevCloud  will deliver that developer experience.”

It will also deliver more revenues to everybody in the ecosystem.

“There are lots of integrations today, but people on these integrations today don’t make money from them,” St. Ledger said. “With this, we are talking about a REAL ecosystem where they can make money. That will also let our partners make money, since they are active in the development of applications that go on top of Splunk. And that should have a multiplier effect for Splunk.”

St. Ledger also pointed to the newly introduced Splunk App for Infrastructure as something that will open a lot of doors for direct sales and channel partners alike.

“Our commercial team is really excited about the ability of App for Infrastructure to ‘land’ new customers and bring in net-new logos,” she said. “This free app is ideal for starting with small use cases, to get our foot in the door, and then it is much easier to expand because we have clear value paths up from there.”

The broadening out of the Splunk user base with the new platform to many more Line of Business users will also enhance channel opportunities.

“We do sell to the business-side today to some degree, but it will be a heavier task to go much more broadly into this market,” St. Ledger said. “The IT specialists and security specialists in the partner community will make it much easier for us to go deeper into the business side. What we are delivering here is what our customers are asking for. The power of Splunk today is still mostly in hands of Splunk Ninjas – technical people. But even these Splunk Ninjas want more actionable outcomes. And we want to unleash Splunk beyond Splunk Ninjas. Tomorrow’s theme really is the next wave of users.”

St. Ledger noted that even as the market moves massively towards machine learning, with vendors in every sphere attributing machine learning capabilities to their solutions, Splunk still retains key advantages which she believes will enable it to rise above the Big Data cacophony in the market.

“Ultimately, what makes machine learning valuable is massive amounts of data – and no platform has more data running through it then Splunk,” she said. “The advantage that we have is the volumes of data that is what makes machine learning valuable. It’s a very unique advantage.”

St. Ledger said that as a result, Splunk has just ‘high class problems,’ to deal with going forward.

“We have to continue to evolve the ecosystem, and get the best partners to come along with us,” she said. “We need to be thoughtful in how we approach the market. Being able to operate on data in motion is game-changing in terms of the use cases we can address. It will open opportunities to a whole new set of use cases no one has imagined. Still, while Splunk can fit into all these different use cases, some of them make more sense than others. We have to look at where money will be spent, and not chase every corner case you can use Splunk for.”