Sophos partner program revamped with higher incentives, deal registration

Sophos is rolling out a major revamp to its partner program, with four tiers, higher incentives, deal registration, lead generation and training.

Last year was a big year for the Sophos Ltd.'s channel organization. The company brought in new top talent -- Michael Valentine, senior vice president of worldwide sales; Kendra Krause, vice president of Americas channel sales; and John Keenan, vice president of sales -- invested $3.5 million to $4 million in 42 new hires in its field organization and made a significant investment in channel enablement. To kick off 2014, the vendor today announced a new channel program for North America designed to support the company's "channel-first" mantra.

The new Sophos partner program has been dramatically simplified with a new tier structure, according to the company. It also offers deal registration protection, higher discounts, lead generation and new training. Sophos has about 2,600 partners in the Americas.

"Sophos was trying to be a channel company, but they weren't really a channel company. Instead, Sophos was more an enterprise company that evolved into channel fulfillment," Keenan said.

To better align with the company's channel-first mantra, Keenan said he and his team spent the past four months putting together a channel program that works from top to bottom and incents its partners.

For example, according to Keenan, the average base margin has increased from 12% to 25%, and deal registration provides a level of protection of 40%, 15 percentage points higher than before. "Depending on the SKUs [stockkeeping units], there's 20 points of protection or 15 points of protection on any deal registration," he said.

"In a short period of time, we have tremendous opportunity to make our existing partners more profitable and enable them across different products lines," he said, pointing to data encryption, cloud antivirus or unified threat management. "We have a lot of products that have been reviewed extremely well and recognized but … our expectation is that partners under the new program will be incented to sell the broader product portfolio."

The goal is to increase the frequency of partner transactions, increase the average transaction value and grow the Sophos partner base.

The new tiered structure has four levels: Silver, Gold, Platinum and National. Silver, Gold and Platinum levels have base tier margin pricing according to tier and annual volume commitments for Gold- and Platinum-level partners ($50,000 for Gold and $200,000 for Platinum). National-level Sophos partners are very large VARs; they have an annual volume commitment of $1 million.

Moving to a more traditional channel model, Sophos now has 24 field-based territories with a channel executive mapped to a pre-sales engineer to develop the channel relationships. The company has also established "direct-touch" overlay teams in nine territories across the U.S. that are responsible for working with the partners to drive their end-user opportunities, according to Keenan. There's also an inside channel account manager to support a partner's day-to-day business.

Sophos has also beefed up its marketing, training and certification and promises to do a better job of communicating its offerings. There's new sales certification, sales engineer certification and classroom architect certification. The sales and sales engineer certifications are free, interactive and online.

Marketing assistance, such as turnkey marketing campaigns for the territories, is currently being developed.

Sophos also has a task force in place to drive a major revamp of its partner portal.

In a separate announcement that went out today, Sophos' full security suite is now available through Ingram Micro and its 15,000 security-focused partners in the U.S.

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