Infinidat tweaks channel management to sell datacentre storage in age of COVID

Infinidat has done well in the last two quarters, and credits a channel management strategy that goes beyond switching to Zoom calls.

Mitch Diodato, Director of North American Channel Sales, Infinidat

Enterprise storage provider Infinidat has been doing well in 2020, despite the fact that they sell expensive on-prem storage to enterprises in the middle of a pandemic. That has involved getting more from the channel partners who make up the large majority of their sales, and that in turn has involved tweaking channel management to adjust to the realities of today.

Mitch Diodato, whose background is in distribution, joined Infinidat as Director of North American Channel Sales in January 2018.

“I spent 16 years at Arrow, and had IBM business over there,” Diodato told ChannelBuzz. “I took on the Infinidat relationship there as a sideline four years ago, and that’s why I jumped on this opportunity.”

Infinidat has a hybrid Go-to-Market model where most sales, and most new sales in particular, go through the channel.

“We are a channel-led organization,” Diodato said. “85% of our business goes through the channel. Our goal is to be 100% at some point in time. That’s tough because there are some legacy accounts, but there is no channel conflict. We  want to work through distribution, and we get more leads from partners than we do ourselves. If we treat our partners the right way, they will continue to sell Infinidad. 90-95% of the deals themselves are channel-led.”

At the same time, Diodato acknowledged that the channel management needed some fine-tuning when he joined the company.

“There wasn’t a ton of vision from a channel perspective when I came in,” he said. “It was just a means to an end. For example, we needed a portal that was about more than just deal registration. Those kinds of things are what we have been able to do.”

While Infinidat’s channel roster comprises about 400 partners globally, about 100 do the vast bulk of their business.

“We are contractually bound to 400 partners today, and we do a consistent business with about 100 of them,” Diodato indicated. “We sell to enterprise end users, not mid-range,  so to get 100 partners selling our technology is a very good thing.”

The goal here, he said, is to make these partners more effective rather than to bring in more partners.

“I don’t have a mandate to recruit new ones. I want to make sure we aren’t stacking partners on one top of each other. I want ones that sell into large enterprise accounts, ones who can be taught how to hunt, who want to be disruptive. Many partners aren’t disruptive. They have relationships with suppliers so it’s a chore to get them to ride a different horse. It’s incumbent on us to be compelling enough to make them want to do that.”

Diodato said that COVID has changed HOW customers buy.

“The pandemic has changed the buying pattern,” he indicated. “They are buying earlier in the quarter rather than later in the quarter. The big vendors have trained customers to wait and get a better deal later in the quarter, but we have seen sales even throughout the quarters’ three months. In addition, we have done well in Q3 and Q2, and while Q1 wasn’t good, it wasn’t historically bad. That quarter is always difficult after you drain the swamp in Q4. The reality overall is that we have exceeded our expectations. We had a lot of concerns, but customers are still buying storage.”

Being able to sell the storage – specifically to get partners to sell it – has required some changes to channel management that go beyond Zoom calls with partners.

“The challenge for us with partners is mindshare,” Diodato said. “They have options and choices. A year ago, I would have said we had to be in front of partners. That’s how you create mindshare. With COVID, we lost that the ability to do that. So we had to make sure senior leadership is checking in with senior partners. We had to have plenty of technical content on WebEx for SEs and for sales folks. We checked in with virtual happy hours and with Uber Eats gift cards, and gave them a 15 minute update. The idea was to be as relevant as possible and gain mindshare in these times.

“I don’t like emailing people to death but we try and communicate and get the right type of information out,” Diodato added. “We did a five part series on how to scale in the enterprise and gave them an eBook around that. We have done many new things to be relevant at this point in time.”

The portal, which was recently remodelled, hasn’t hurt either.

“Before, it was rudimentary information and deal reg, and now we provide a lot more content. HiSpot delivers the content and Brainshark provides the online virtual enablement. We now give partners the same stuff our sales and technical people learn, and we can deliver partners things like a marketing campaign in a box.”

None of this was matter, Diodato said, if the technology wasn’t good.

“It’s a really solid offering, and we scale, and offer consumption models that end users can take advantage of. But what moves the needle with sales people is money. So we have developed some rich incentives to move the needle with partner sales teams, including new account bonuses. Our strategy is ‘land and expand’ – get in and then scale up to 50 PB of storage. As long as we land, we will continue to expand. That’s what this is about.”

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