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Channel program changes spur top partners to sell RSA solutions

RSA is revamping its partner program, eliminating some rebates to pay for new market development funds (MDF).

RSA has created market development funds (MDF) and made other program changes that ask more of its top partners but also reward them more for selling RSA solutions.

The moves come as RSA shifts focus from selling tokens to deploying more intricate security products and services. They include the RSA enVision Platform for regulatory compliance and the RSA Data Loss Prevention Suite.

"The investment we needed from partners significantly increased," said Michael Ross, RSA's area vice president for North American channels. "Asking them to invest in us was important, but we needed to increase our investment in them."

That philosophy is a marked difference from RSA's attitude toward the channel over the past few years, said Andrew Plato, president and principal consultant for Anitian Enterprise Security, an RSA partner in Beaverton, Ore.

"They wouldn't help to make us competitive," Plato said. "They didn't really care if partners made money."

Anitian has started doing more work with RSA since the channel program changes came online.

"It's definitely better than what they had before," Plato said. "What I'm seeing looks pretty positive."

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MDF gives partners up-front money to create their own lead-generation campaigns, with the goal of attracting new customers to RSA solutions. Previously, partners had to request marketing money from RSA and justify the expenses.

"That's been rough," said Ira Silverman, CEO of Gotham Technology Group in Montvale, N.J. "I've been telling them they had to do this for 10 years. Every other company that we do business with has MDF."

To free up money to fund MDF, RSA has eliminated two partner rebates. Top partners, called RSA Solution Partners, will no longer get rebates for selling SecurID maintenance renewals. Ross said 17% of RSA's partners are at the Solution level.

The second-tier Access Partners won't get rebates for meeting volume sales targets.

"They're taking from the folks that don't have a big investment in RSA and giving to those that have made a substantial investment," said Mark Moretti, sales director for Atrion Networking in Warwick, R.I.

The volume rebates gave small rewards for meeting large goals, and the maintenance renewal rebates were too focused on sales to existing customers, Ross said.

"It doesn't grow our business," he said.

Silverman said he is not happy about losing the maintenance renewals rebate, but he understands why RSA is doing it. Moretti said he can live with it because Atrion will earn higher profit margins selling full RSA solutions than just selling point products.

"The margins you get on product aren't fantastic," he said.

The other major change to the RSA partner program is that partners must have technical certification to sell enVision. Previously, RSA required only a sales certification. RSA notified partners of the new requirement in April, and they have until the end of June to get certified.

"It lets partners who make the investment differentiate themselves from partners who don't choose to make the investment," Ross said. "You want partners who have that technical expertise representing the product to the end-user community."

Silverman said he is looking forward to capitalizing on this new opportunity and selling the new RSA solution.

"It will mean a lot less competition and a lot more we can invest in training our people," he said. "EnVision's a complicated sale. There's no doubt about it. … A lot of traditional RSA resellers are just used to selling a commodity."

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