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Symantec offers rebates to partners to boost new business growth

Symantec partners can now receive rebates and other rewards for exceeding sales goals -- part of the company's plan to drive new business growth, which has fallen short of its targets.

Symantec Corp. is sweetening the deal it offers partners in an effort to overcome its own problem making sales to new customers and make the second half of its fiscal year more positive than its first.

During Symantec's second-quarter earnings call on Oct. 24, CEO John Thompson said his company's new business generation has been "weak" and that he has a "cautious" outlook for the rest of the year. To address the issue, Symantec has introduced new sales incentives, made operational changes so the company is easier for partners and customers to work with, and is hiring most of its new sales staff in emerging markets outside North America, Thompson said.

The major incentive for Symantec partners is the Aspire Rebate Program, which launched in North America about two weeks ago. Under the program, Symantec will give a 10% rebate to partners who surpass their sales goals on eligible products, including Symantec Endpoint Protection and Symantec Backup Exec. Partners who have achieved the new SMB Specialization, which certifies that they have had specific training to work with small and midsized customers from Symantec, can receive 15% rebates through Aspire.

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Another incentive is the Big Draw Promotion, which rewards partner sales representatives with cash. Those who persuade existing Symantec AntiVirus customers or customers of another antivirus vendor to purchase Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0 can receive as much as $425 per order. Sales reps can also earn $25 for each SKU of Symantec Backup Exec 11d they sell.

Symantec's goal is to give partners financial incentive to narrow their sales focus to the products executives believe will yield the best results for both the company and its partners, according to Randy Cochran, Symantec's vice president of channels and alliances in North America.

"As you evolve, you've got more products to sell," he said. "It's a good thing, but it can also be a challenge."

The problem that Symantec faces is not unusual for a company of its size and market share, said Jonathan Dambrot, managing director for Prevalent Networks, a Symantec partner in Warren, N.J.

"It's a bigger ship, so it's harder to steer," he said.

Not only is it hard for partners to sell a large number of products, but technologies such as antivirus, firewall and intrusion detection have nearly saturated the market, according to Mark Shavlik, CEO of Shavlik Technologies, a Symantec partner in Roseville, Minn.

That means new business can come only from customers a partner can persuade to displace a competitor's product in favor of Symantec's -- which requires a lot more effort than convincing a prospect to buy security software for the first time, he said.

"Who doesn't have antivirus?" he asked rhetorically.

Symantec's release of Endpoint Protection 11.0 last month helped address that problem by combining those longstanding technologies and more into a single console. That adds a level of innovation through convenience, and also helps Symantec and its partners focus their limited sales resources on those areas, Cochran said.

"We're not opportunity-constricted," Cochran said. "We're resource-constricted."

During Symantec's earnings call, Thompson also cited the "uncertain" economy as a reason for slow new business growth. That is a problem in certain markets, particularly the federal government, where spending has been stagnant recently, Shavlik said.

But in other industries, like the financial sector, the economy doesn't come into play because businesses and organizations face regulations that mandate high-level security and storage practices, Shavlik said.

Although Symantec has not met its new business targets, Shavlik, an OEM partner, said he has not seen any discernible decrease in the quarterly fees his business receives from Symantec. Prevalent hasn't felt the effects either, Dambrot said.

"Right now, our pipelines are pretty healthy on the Symantec side," he said. "We haven't seen a slowdown."

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