Training key for leading VAD
Exclusive Networks gains from major focus on empowering partners.
Value added distributor Exclusive Networks has elevated training into a major part of its business model.
The company is a distributor for a group of products all related to security, from gateway protection, endpoint security, data centre appliances, load balancing etc. Working through the channel, one of Exclusive Networks’ tasks is to educate and empower partners so they can integrate these solutions inside their clients’ environments.
The company has set aside dedicated classrooms in its Dubai headquarters exclusively for training. In these classrooms is a simulation environment, on a virtual appliance, designed to replicate a real network setting. Trainees can practice on this simulation environment and receive a sense of the threats they would face in their day to day operations. “The training is not limited to presentation and discussions - it includes hands-on practise. Trainees can experience the potential problems they may face, with a trainer at hand, to guide them through the configurations,” says Ali Yekrang, business unit manager, Education, Exclusive Networks.
Sales training is also major part of Exclusive Networks training programme, explains Saeid Marashi, director of Operations, Exclusive Networks. This is meant to help partners’ sales staff to effectively communicate to their potential customers what security products can do for their businesses, in addition to conducting PoCs. “We empower the channel via training, allowing them to install the solution, configure and support it. By doing so, we enable the partner to create their own success model through which they can generate new revenue streams through professional services,” Marashi says. “We avail our own sales people to interact with them as well as the technical personnel to highlight and endow them with requisite practical skills,” he adds.
“After the training, and after the partners gain professional skills and certifications, they become independent of us. Our margins then begin reducing and then we move on more towards the fulfilment model,” says Marashi. “Training is the difference between simply being a trader and being a solution provider, which comes through being skilled,” he adds.
The success of some of the major brands operating in the region goes back to the foundation laid by extensive training on their solutions early on. Marashi cites Fortinet, long term partner, which only had two people on the ground six years ago. Exclusive Networks’ initial responsibility was being the representative of the brand by building the channel and paving the road for the vendor to start its offices and start populating it.
“So how do people get to learn about Fortinet? At the beginning, we sell the product, install it and then we conduct a large number of workshops as well as formal certification trainings. By consistently training a large number of resellers, we empower them to go out and promote the brand,” Marashi says.
Exclusive networks provides the latest course material provided by the vendor. With security solutions technology constantly changing, and new patches being constantly updated, training has to keep abreast of these changes, including the literature.
The backbone of the training is the syllabus provided by the vendor, but based on the environment of each client, the company will customise the training to suit the needs of the customer. Elements could be added, or some more emphasised based on the clients’ environment and requirements, says Yekrang.
The company will sometimes undertake on-site training at the customer site. This option also covers partners or customers based abroad who desire acquiring the certification. The remote training is possible because Exclusive Network’s training lab is cloud-based, Yekrang explains.
Training is also an ideal means of communications between the Exclusive Networks and partners, explains Yekrang. “There have been times when people have come in for training on a specific product, but come to know about another related solution in our portfolio during the session. The partners coming are a security oriented audience, so when they learn about new related products that may cover their needs, they will show interest and then in turn we support them by connecting them to our sales teams for future potential business,” he adds.
Training is a fundamental part of the company’s business model, not just for partners but for Exclusive Network’s own staff as well. “Our inside sales teams undergo training typically three days a week,” says Marashi. “We understand that without training, you simply cannot understand and promote the brand.”
The company has access to hundreds of resellers through its channel with each of these organisations having their own network of people and offices across the region. “We have to train and empower the partners so they can take the message of our solutions to the market,” says Marashi. The success of our training programmes is success of the brand,” he adds.
Exclusive Networks staff is comprised of 40% technical, 40% sales and 20% support, explains Marashi. A typical distributor would have 80% staff in sales. “This focus on technical staff translates into significant investment in technical training. It costs to take people to training, sometimes abroad,” he adds.
What differentiates Exclusive Networks from other training centres in the region, Yekrang says, is that in addition to being an education centre, Exclusive Networks is also a distributor as well as a professional services organisation. This means that the person teaching the class is himself an expert who was involved during the design and consultancy of the project, as well as its implementation. “Such a person is able to elaborate and answer all types of scenario questions as they have real experience and can offer information beyond the syllabus,” Yekrang says.
Moreover, many of the trainees are experienced security professionals themselves so one can hardly get away with offering low quality training. Marashi says it is the reason why training at Exclusive Networks is able to achieve a typical score of 4.5 out of a maximum of 5.
Yekrang cites training for end users, some of whom have substantial infrastructure deployments and are eager to learn how to integrate these solutions themselves. With that, they are able to reconfigure, modify, change and troubleshoot themselves the first layer of the problem and only call upon the systems integrator if they are unable to handle it. Trained customers, Yekrang notes, can manage their infrastructure with little external help.