Kaspersky Lab looks to increase solutions sales, decrease transactional business with new global partner program

Kaspersky Lab says the market is moving decisively away from transactional sales, so they are changing their channel program to meet this new reality.

Maxim Frolov, managing director of Kaspersky Lab North America

Kaspersky Lab has launched Kaspersky United, a new global channel program. It is significantly different from its predecessor, and allocates additional resources to upskill partners, in order to get more to move beyond transactional selling and deepen their Kaspersky Lab practices. This will involved them becoming certified and selling endpoints as part of solution sales with Kaspersky’s enterprise solutions.

These changes to the program are significant, and are being dictated by the changes in the market to endpoint security.

“The partner ecosystem in North America will start to consolidate, and the reason is pretty simple,” said Maxim Frolov, managing director of Kaspersky Lab North America. “The value of transactional partners is getting less and less. That’s being driven by customers’ consumption practices, as they increasingly buy through MSPs or trusted advisors who will guide them through the whole security process. That’s why we made the decision to start the evolution of the program. We want to help partners evolve from being transactional partners to being trusted advisors, and use the knowledge we have here at Kaspersky Lab to do so.”

Frolov said the reality today is that partners who just sell the endpoint solution find it almost impossible to make money.

“In doing fulfilment in the endpoint market today, it is literally impossible to make more money,” Frolov said. “Every deal for endpoints barely reaches $1000. We want partners to sell our non-endpoint solutions on top of endpoint. This is the paradigm solution we are designing into the new program.”

In theory, partners should be clamouring for this, to give them much higher profit potential, but the reality is rather different, Frolov said.

“Many partners are happy with what they have today, and the last thing they want is change, which compels them to change their business model and their P&L structure and change their business approach, he said. “That’s a harsh reality. But more focus on solutions has much more potential for them. It’s a whole new approach to build true value-add. Higher average deal size also has implications for customer retention and upselling their own consulting services.”

The new program structure provides more money for partner rewards than the old program, but it is specifically allocated to rewarding partner investment in broadening their competency in other Kaspersky Lab solutions that are natural adjacencies to the endpoint business.

“Five years ago, we were literally invisible in the enterprise space,” Frolov said. “We didn’t have things to sell. Now we do, and it’s the fastest-growing lines in the company’s history. The certifications are around these.” They include solutions like hybrid cloud security, threat management and defense, and fraud prevention, and services like managed service provider, managed detection and response provider, and authorized training centre.

“We had certifications before, but not with this kind of depth,” Frolov said. He noted that the competency training is free of charge, with the partner investment being limited to the trainees’ time.

While the new program is a four tier one like the last – Registered, Silver, Gold and Platinum partners – certification is now part of the requirement to advance in tiers, which is also new.

“Before the tiers were based solely on revenue threshold, and we have changed that,” Frolov said.

Certification is also being rewarded by changes to the system of compensation through the program.

“We never had payment accelerators or extra rewards for partners before,” Frolov said. “We have added an upfront discount for value-add capability which will be different with certified and non-certified partners. We have also added a back-end rebate of up to 20 per cent around the specializations.”

Other enablement support and tools have been enhanced, and in some cases, introduced as net-new additions.

“We are now providing access to knowledge at Kaspersky Lab for certified partners which partners didn’t have access to before,” Frolov said. “We are also now prioritizing presales and implementation resources. They are now available only for certified partners, which wasn’t the case before.”

Marketing and sales toolkits have been improved and made more systematic.

“There has been a big change in logistics here,” Frolov stated. “These are now global, and based on the partner program, which improves their structure and ease of adoption, Before, we used to invent these new with pretty much every release.”

Finally, a new partner portal, designed by a specialist in these things, is in the final stages of design. It is scheduled for release by the end of Q1.

“The old portal hadn’t worked well for many years,” Frolov indicated. “The new one is up to date, and is on the most modern platform. It will provide a very different look and feel, and a better user experience.”

Today, Kaspersky Lab has around 1200 partners in North America, of whom 143 are managed partners, who are at one of the metallic tiers in the partner program, The objective is to grow that number, although in the short term it might go down a little.

“In the beginning the number of managed partners might be slightly adjusted down for partners who won’t change their model, but we expect that number will be small,” Frolov said. “What I expect is to get more quality, and grow the number by 12-15 per cent year over year. These partners will grow their average revenue and average deal size, and increase the number of sales which are true solution sales.”