The role of the traditional channel manager is becoming less valued by resellers, Clearswift has asserted, following its decision to shake up its channel account management strategy.
The content security vendor has made its two channel manager roles redundant in the UK.
Instead, it will plough investment into its inside sales team to help its resellers win business.
Talking to ChannelWeb, Clearswift chief executive Richard Turner said partners had complained of diminishing returns from channel managers that "come into their offices and swill their coffee".
"We are refocusing our investment on staff who can help partners grow sales and generate revenue, rather than on stuff that, frankly, looks like overheads for both them and us," he said.
Clearswift plans to increase the size of its UK inside sales team from 10 to 17, Turner said.
"Resellers want access to technical and telephone-based resource when they need it," he explained.
The move met with a mixed reception from partners.
James McKee, security manager at VAR Qual, said: "I would say that channel account managers are important because they are the link between us and the vendor. You tend to get more information from someone sitting in your office – or down the pub – than over the phone.
"But if Clearswift can maintain the level of communication and insight we previously got from them, it is not a problem. We are pleased with the relationship we have with them."
Paul Prior, managing director of Foursys, said: "We have a close working relationship with Clearswift's sales team and I cannot see that changing."
A third partner, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed concern that the absence of a channel account manager would make it difficult to get decisions signed off quickly.
"The clue is in the job title – who is going to manage the relationship now? I am also surprised Clearswift had not communicated the changes to the channel," he added.
Turner stressed the re-jig was planned before Clearswift's acquisition by private-equity house Lyceum in November, since which several of the old-guard management – including global channel boss Miles Rippon – have left the firm. The vendor has also since taken on a new chief marketing officer, Libby Koehn.
Acquisitions to expand Clearswift's geographic presence or functionality are also very much on the agenda following the £30m deal, Turner said.
"Lyceum was in eight companies when it acquired us and those companies have bought 30 other companies," he said. "We were the ninth, and there is no reason to expect its form with us will be any different."
"We are predominantly a European player which is a strength most of the time but occasionally a challenge," he added.
"We have also acquired our two largest customers – one which is 150,000 seats and the other 350,000 seats – in the past two years and there are some subtleties to operating in that very-large-enterprise space."
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