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Channel execs tout new programs for EMC partners

EMC channel executives said the company will take steps to make EMC partners an extension of its sales force and reward them for greater commitment.

LAS VEGAS -- Ahead of today's EMC Global Partner Summit General Session, SearchITChannel caught up with company channel executives Gregg Ambulos and Scott Millard who talked about the rollout of the EMC Business Partner Program (BPP),  a new partner focus on EMC's  "federated companies," more alignment between EMC direct sales teams and EMC partners, and a new Loyalty Rewards pilot program in North America. EMC federated companies include EMC II, Pivotal, RSA, VCE and VMware.

At this time last year, Ambulos, the company's senior vice president of global channel sales, did not have an Americas channel chief counterpart. That changed recently when EMC appointed Millard, a 15-year company sales veteran, as vice president of Americas channel sales.

Ambulos  began the interview by providing an update on BPP, which went live earlier this year and marked the first major overhaul of EMC's partner program in more than a decade. When it was introduced at EMC Global Partner Summit 2014, Fred Kahout, vice president of global partner marketing at EMC, called the EMC partner program a "clean sheet design" that unified multiple partner programs, shifted its focus to high-value solutions and services, and increased rewards and enablement for partners who invest more with EMC.

Ambulos on BPP changes:

Last year, we announced the new Business Partner Program, built in concert with our partner community, and went live with it in January. It's been very well received for a couple of reasons. First, we made it simple, predictable and profitable with an all-in revenue goal. In the past, partners had revenue goals based on different product offerings and if they didn't hit those goals they didn't get the [rebate] money. If they got 60% or 70% there, they didn't earn any money because they didn't hit their goal.

Now there's one revenue goal and also dollar-one rebates on everything they sell [across the entire product portfolio] which means they can predict now that whatever they sell, they know what they'll earn and they can do whatever they want with the money, such as put it back into the relationship, put it towards the bottom line, etc.

These are the two changes to the program -- one goal and dollar-one rebates -- that partners really love.

Ambulos talked about what's new for EMC partners in 2015:

The first thing that's new is what we're calling on the power of the Federation. EMC is trying to get more tightly aligned around the Federation with the announcement of federated solutions, the first of which was the Federation Enterprise Hybrid Cloud. Then we just announced Federation Business Data Lake and Federation Security Analytics.

When a partner sells a federated solution, we want the experience to be frictionless. So when a partner registers an opportunity, they're protected on that opportunity. We're going to work with our federated relationships to validate that no one else is working on that same opportunity and that the partner also gets rewarded for it.

We're also working on a deal registration program for the Federation as well as specific Federation rules of engagement. Our target is to go live with this in July 2015.

How much of a problem has this been for EMC partners?

Ambulos: It hasn't been a major problem but as we start scaling, it could be a potential problem, so we're trying to get ahead of the curve.

Another piece that we've changed as it relates to partners and the Federation is that when a partner completes the sales, the technical and the service requirements around a federated solution, a partner is going to earn the distinction of being called Federation Ready. That's also a trigger point for additional benefits and resources. So just like with deal registration and rules of engagement, we're trying to create a frictionless experience for our partners.  When someone becomes Federation Ready, we're going to assign a Federation lead to that partner relationship. That person would be the one to coordinate meetings [and] the business planning, and really work hand in hand with the other resources assigned to that relationship with the Federation and the partner to drive these solutions to market.

Also, when a partner becomes Federation Ready, they'll earn additional benefits from the federated companies, and we're currently working through what those benefits will be.

Ambulous and Millard described other new features for 2015:

Ambulos: Another program that's new is EMC Ready. We had a breakthrough program that we put together a number of years ago that accelerates our sales team's ability to go out and drive solutions.

Millard: [EMC Ready is] part of our sales transformation initiative -- a biannual enablement event where we bring in our sales management and sales leaders and they get endorsed on the latest messaging.  It's part of our evolution to transform from a product-led sales force to a solutions sales force, positioning outcomes versus speeds and feeds. We're on year four of this program.

Now, we're opening up the program to partners. We're going to provide them access to all of the content and the partners will have the opportunity to get endorsed with our sales reps and demonstrate their capabilities, which will help build trust and confidence between our sales teams and channel partners around the competencies or endorsement topics. Topics vary from EMC Ready session, but a recent one was beginning to train our teams to have the hybrid cloud conversation as well as data analytics and new concepts such as line of business, for example.

Why is EMC opening up EMC Ready to partners? Why now?

Ambulos: One, our partners wanted it. Two, partners need to participate and hear everything that the sales team is being taught. This way, partners can become a true extension to our sales organization. We made a statement last year that all of the standard training collateral that we provide to our sales organization is the same now for our partner community. We're not going to create something separate for the channel. … Whatever we give to our sales people, we're giving to our partners.

We're seeing tremendous results with EMC Ready and our sales team. They absolutely love EMC Ready. We do surveys among the sales team, and this program is one of the highest rated. Our partners need to be a part of it. So that's new for this year.

Are we seeing EMC move to more tightly align its internal sales teams and partners?

Ambulos: Kind of. What we're trying to get away from is … Did you ever watch young children play soccer? It's all bunch ball. What's great about EMC Ready is that when the partners can come in and get certified alongside the EMC sales people, then there's trust that's built, relationships that are built. But there's also respect for what one's capabilities are and so we don't want to have three-four-five-legged sales calls. We want to be able to find an opportunity, bring it to a partner, and have that partner run all or some part of the sales campaign. And the partners want that, too. So, it gives us a way to validate our partner's capabilities around specific use cases and offerings with the sales teams there, because our sales teams are getting validated as well, so it goes hand in hand with one another.

The goal is to get more reach and scale.

How much of EMC's business goes through the channel?

Ambulos: Over 60% globally. When I took over 13 years ago, it was 27%.

Is EMC looking to grow that figure and do more business with partners?

Ambulos: Absolutely. Partners are critical and essential to our success. To get to our stated objectives, we need our partners. We want our teams to work together with partners. If you look at our portfolio today, it's extremely broad. That's one of our strengths, but we need our partners because we can't be subject matter experts on everything that we sell.

Has EMC changed its internal compensation structure for the sales teams? What's going to incent them to work with EMC partners?

Ambulos: We have a compensation-neutral program so there's no disincentive for them so they want to work with partners. Naturally, they have their favorites … and as you know, from the midmarket and down, everything has to go through a partner.

Millard: We have a channel-only segment and a channel-optional segment, and the channel-optional segment continues to get smaller. We move more accounts down to our partners, just like we do every year. There aren't any accounts that are blocked off to partners; they're just channel-optional.

Is there anything else new in 2015?

Ambulos: Yes, we announced a pilot program in North America called EMC True. It's a loyalty program. Through our voice-of-partner surveys and feedback over the years, all of our Silver, Gold and Platinum partners said they're placing a bet with EMC, and we thank them for it. They're valuable and they're critical to our success. But there are some partners that place even a stronger bet with EMC, or there are some partners that want to make a stronger bet with EMC.  So [EMC] felt it was appropriate to come out with a program that was going to reward those partners for placing a stronger bet with EMC.

There are two versions of the program: one for partners who are exclusive 100% EMC and another [for partners] who are loyal where there's a finite subset of competitors, but where 80% of their storage and backup business has to be with EMC.

We offer a slew of benefits that are material in nature, not soft dollars but hard dollars. So we'll give them an uplift on tier compliance. So for every dollar they sell, we'll give them an uplift to help them either maintain their tier status or help them get to the next tier level more quickly, which is more dollars. We also give additional rebates, and all certifications, which they had to pay for in the past, are free.  We give more co-op for funded headcount. … I may be missing a few other benefits.

We started this pilot two to three months ago, and it's been well received. Over 10% of our Silver, Gold and Platinum partners have applied and qualified for the program which is quite frankly more than we expected. We're going to expand it to other geographies and theaters over the next 12 months.

Scott, what are your top goals as Americas channel chief?

Millard: So, I've been in this position for 90 days but with EMC for over 15 years, primarily on the sales side, sales management and some staff work for the president of Americas sales and customer operations.

Right now, because I don't have a pure channel background, I'm spending quite a bit of time getting to know the channel partners, listening to them to know what's working and what's not. [I'm] evangelizing the new BPP -- and, frankly, Gregg chose me for the role because of my sales background and relationships with our sales leaders in the field – just to get better alignment and to get us [direct and indirect channels] rowing in the same direction when it comes to the company priorities around enterprise hybrid cloud, converged infrastructure, XtremIO and big data.

The opportunities for the channel partners are the ones I just mentioned – these are our primary focus area.

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