Kaspersky releases survey examining impact of COVID on channel relationships with vendors and customers

The survey also found minimal differences between American and Canadian respondents, even though the U.S. is opening back up at a much faster rate than Canada.

Matt Courchesne, Head of B2B Channel, North America, at Kaspersky

Today, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky is releasing a report based on a survey of their channel partners, which examines the impact that COVID-19 has had on the way they conduct business with both their vendors and their customers. The forced move to Zoom calls and other non face-to-face methods of engaging in relationships is likely to have some long-term impacts. While less personal than face-to-face, and less impactful in some areas, it also provides some advantages, and so is likely to be higher post-COVID than before. The online survey was conducted on Kaspersky’s behalf by research firm Opinion Matters between late February and early March 2021. It targeted 252 IT channel partners, resellers and distributors, 129 of whom were based in the U.S. and 123 of whom were based in  Canada.

The purpose behind the study was for Kaspersky to learn how partners have evolved their sales strategies in response to the pandemic.

“People are looking to get back to more in-person events, but at the same time, partners have found value in virtual settings as well,” said Matt Courchesne, Head of B2B Channel, North America, at Kaspersky. “It will be more of a hybrid model going forward, in both relationships with their vendors, and their customers.”

Courchesne noted that video was really the product of COVID in Kaspersky’s own dealings with their partners, but that its use soon hit a peak and then dropped off.

“Before COVID, phone calls were more typical than video, and you would see people face-to-face at events,” he said. “Platinum partners would typically get a visit. As things went online, online events were initially well attended. As it went on further, screen burnout became a big thing, however.”

The survey found that partners in both Canada and he U.S. agreed that video or phone calls are the best ways to engage existing partners, with 54% answering in the affirmative. Courchesne didn’t think that number was particularly high, however.

“You would expect that number would have been higher,” he said. “I think it reflects that fact that while initial conversations start from an outreach, relationships are based on close conversations, and those who tend to get best from face-to-face interaction.”

Other responses indicate a preference for a more hybrid system than existed before the pandemic.  For example, 76% of respondents said they will go back to pre-pandemic models for generating sales, including in-person sales meetings, once COVID-19 is on the decline, while 73% of respondents also said they will continue to conduct video calls and meetings once COVID-19 is declining.

“I thin that shows that people aren’t just abandoning the model we have now,” Courchesne said. “The remote model does expand your reach much wider. An  event that was 3-4 days with travel  before is now a 5 hour commitment, so offline events will likely have an online component, especially as some people will still be nervous about attending. You have to adapt to that.”

44% of respondents said speed of response has become more difficult due to COVID-19 when it comes to working with vendors. Related answers  said that the ability to make fast purchasing decisions (42%) and adapting to the fast-changing landscape (40%) were the top problems here.

“It’s an issue of people and resources,” Courchesne indicated. “You don’t have the ability to walk down the hall and get help if you get a tough question. People’s days are full and more limited by calendars and planning. The vendor doesn’t have resources easily accessible if you don’t have an answer. At Kaspersky, we have always provided ourselves on speed of response but we specifically addressed this with out team, telling them that even if you don’t have an answer for the partner right away, let them know you are working on it.”

The survey found 42% of respondents said providing leads is the most important thing vendors can do to help them drive more revenue for their business, a number Courchesne didn’t find particularly high.

“It shows the vendor relationship is about more than feeding a funnel,” he said. “There has to be additional value, educating our partners, and educating partner sellers. It’s also why a lot of endpoint vendors have been adding more security services.”

37% of partners both said they would shop around to find vendors that would give them a better deal, and that they would continue working with existing vendors.

“During the pandemic, the number shopping around was higher than I expected,” Courchesne said. “I initially thought renewal rates would go up because changing is complex. and you don’t have people in the office. In a pandemic the tendency would be to kick it down the road for another year.”

While the study differentiated between U.S. and Canadian responses, Courchesne didn’t find the differences remarkable, even though the U.S. has been opening back up at a much faster pace than Canada.

“Canada is more of an SMB market, but the responses are similar across the board,” he indicated.