SOAR vendor Siemplify stresses Partner First philosophy, enablement focus, in new partner program

Siemplify has moved to a model that directs all new business through partners, and will support them with a new single tier program that has a high emphasis on partner enablement and a commitment to protect partner profitability through margin transparency as well as deal registration.

Bradd Barmettler, global head of channel, Siemplify

Late last year, SOAR [Security Orchestration, Automation and Response] provider Siemplify brought on board Bradd Barmettler, most recently director of Americas’ channel sales at cybersecurity vendor Carbon Black, as their first global head of channel. A plan had already been put in place to transition the company’s business to a new Go-to-Market model that would send new business through channel partners, which came into effect at the start of the new year. Barmettler was asked to design a partner program and develop operational processes to support the model. The first step, the company’s new “Partner First” worldwide channel program, is being announced today.

“There was a partner program in place before, which was very simple, and had no channel management behind it,” Barmettler said. “We had no program manager for the simple program that we had. We had no pricing structure to the program. It was just ‘let’s do the deal and we will figure out afterwards what we will pay you.’ We were fair with the margin after the fact, but the partners still didn’t like that system. There was also no portal, so there was no self-service ability. There was a de facto deal registration system in place, but it wasn’t documented.”

Barmettler said the company ran with such a program because they weren’t solidly committed to the channel at that time.

“The company wasn’t ready then for a 100 per cent channel strategy,” he said. “They hadn’t given guidance of a switch to an indirect model. We signed some partners early on, but if was often just because of the request of a customer who wanted to work with a particular partner.”

The new program philosophy, in contrast, has a partner-first attitude.

“We will make it a true partnership, which is why I named it Partner First,” Barmettler said. “We have a goal of having 100 per cent of business go through the channel, which is a great goal to have. More realistically, I hope it will be 90 per cent because of deals that are in flight that went direct, and because some existing customers will want to stay direct. However, as of January 1, all net-new opportunities have been brought to a partner and completed with a partner.”

The new program has a single tier structure.

“In 14 years, I have found that multi-tier programs make sense for billion-dollar vendors,” Barmettler said. “Typically, they produce a cookie cutter system, and the challenge is that the biggest partners have such a competitive advantage, they can take away deals from registered small partners. That penalizes new partners just coming in with a small Silver margin. I’d rather make it single tier and make it about partners offloading sales efforts and if they do that, then pay them like a Platinum Partner.”

The plan is also to have a fairly small channel, so that partners don’t trip over each other, and so they can be allotted deals. Siemplify now has 16 partners worldwide, and have an additional 26 unique partners going through the process.

“I think between 16-20 of those are likely to sign, and I think we will bring on another 5-10 through osmosis,” Barmettler stated. I don’t want to dilute things by signing up too many partners and having each do one deal. I would rather have a smaller partner base and push deals to them.”

A high priority has gone into the development of a comprehensive partner enablement system.

“We will offer direct training on a broad range of topics to help partners build their SOAR practice and create new revenues generating professional services,” Barmettler emphasized. “We will do this through two options – one on one and one on many training, and they can do it online or live. We are also putting these on video, and they will be on the new portal, which will be there at the end of February.”

Barmettler emphasized that their enablement activities won’t consist of having someone come in and read a data sheet.

“Partners want to know how to position you, and your competitive differentiators,” he said “That’s our Stage One enablement – helping them understand the space, and the particulars of Orchestration, Automation and Response. I want them to confidently be able to discuss how to add a SOAR on top of a SIEM.”

Stage Two Enablement is about the partner being able to make an effective presentation.

“They have key folks present back to us for 10-15 minutes about SOAR and why we should be interested,” Barmettler noted. “I have learned with other organizations that it’s a very powerful tool and gets partners and sales engineers comfortable.”

Stage Three is when Siemplify’s SE’s work with partner SEs to show them how to demo product for 30 minutes, and Stage Four is the ability to do a Proof-of-Concept.

“We are starting to build out Stage Five, which is how to deliver services around our product,” Barmettler said. “I want to work toward getting enough time with partner SEs or their professional services teams so they can deliver and customize the product for customers. By Q2 we should be at Stage Four and Five.”

Barmettler also emphasized that the program will protect partner margins with both deal registration and margin transparency.

“We will stand true on deal registration,” he said. “The customer can still buy elsewhere if they want, but only the registered partner can get the special price. We will also offer marginal transparency. Partners have been frustrated when negotiations on special prices have had a tendency to cut margin on partners to reach the goal, which is what the industry generally does. In the software space today, between 50 and 90 per cent of transactions are at a price of low or no profitability because partners get a special price, but no guaranteed margin, and that’s where the partner gets shorted. We have an up-front margin. We ask only that they use it to incentivize themselves rather than lower our street price. We are in this together. We want partners to make good margins, and so we give it to them regardless of the price.”