RSA sets out to fortify Middle East channel

As security vendor RSA attempts to beef up its channel strategy across EMEA, the Middle East remains of particular interest for Miles Rippon, channel VP EMEA at the vendor. He expects to see a 100% increase in the number of resellers it works with in the booming region. During a recent visit to Dubai, he told Channel Middle about the security vendor's partner plans.

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By  Dawinderpal Sahota Published  October 2, 2007

As security vendor RSA attempts to beef up its channel strategy across EMEA, the Middle East remains of particular interest for Miles Rippon, channel VP EMEA at the vendor. He expects to see a 100% increase in the number of resellers it works with in the booming region. During a recent visit to Dubai, he told Channel Middle East about the security vendor's partner plans.

You've put channel recruitment into the hands of your distribution partners this year. How is that going?

The changes we've made are at distribution level. It's pretty fundamental because everything comes to a head at the distribution level. If we don't have the right business model and take the right message to distributors then the channel partners can't get rewarded themselves. Distributors are already loving it because we're rewarding them for what they do and we're getting a lot of value out of it. Not only are we getting the business dollars, but now we're also getting that additional value that value added distributors offer.

What stimulated the changes?

In any market, if you've got good technology, you've got a number of ways to grow your business. Firstly you assume the market will grow, and you will get natural growth. Secondly you simply want to sell your technology to more organisations, and to do that is by either hiring more direct sales staff - which we don't do - or you recruit more channel partners. Resellers only tend to refresh an average of 11% of their end-user community every year, so if you want to go beyond that, you have no option but to bring on new partners and we're looking to double our partner community in the Middle East.

Which markets do you expect to grow your partner community in the most significantly?

In EMEA, we're looking to increase our community by 50%, but in the Middle East I would be very disappointed if we didn't more than double our community. I think the majority of that will come from the UAE and Saudi.

What challenges does such a wholesale makeover bring?

It means you have to go through the recruitment process, the on-boarding process, you have to train them from a sales perspective, commercially, technically, help them market to their end-user community and motivate them. There are loads of components that you have to do, otherwise you're just hiring a reseller, leaving them alone and they do nothing. The objective is to take them from A to Z in the shortest time possible. So we've invested millions of dollars in our programme, the training and the on-boarding tools.

You also recently reviewed your channel marketing strategy. What are the primary changes that you made to that?

We've doubled our marketing dollars. Now we give it to the distributor so they're able to spend it more effectively with the resellers than we would be able to. We're also trying to reward the sales guys at the reseller, which is quite a pioneering concept.

How are you doing that?

We offer up front discounts and rebates, quite often the rebate goes to the company rather than the individual. That's been a criticism in the past, the sales guys would say, "you offer us a 5% rebate, but we don't get to see any of that, it goes to my boss' bottom line", so we've launched our visa card. If you give a sales guys a debit card, every time he sells one of our technologies or licenses, he gets dollars in his pockets, which he can spend on whatever he wants, whether it's going shopping or going on holiday.

What do you advise your channel partners to spend that marketing budget on?

RSA is giving dollars to our distributors to spend with their partner community on clear marketing responsibilities that we have, which are generic programmes. I would expect our distributors to spend the money on evangelising and promoting our technologies to a broader audience and assisting the enablement of on-boarding. When they're up to a certain level, I would also expect our distributors to spend money on the partner, marketing to their end-user community.

As RSA moves forward with its channel revitalisation, what can partners expect next?

We're about to launch an infrastructure that will allow our partners to electronically e-mail collateral or promotions to their own database contact list. So within 15 seconds, they can send a personalised vendor-VAR campaign to their end users. In this market, we do have a few more issues with education than we do in some of the more mature markets, but that's where I would expect them to spend the dollars.

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