Websense's new private-equity backers are keen to make the security vendor more channel-friendly after concluding that indirect sales are the best way to return the firm to growth.
At least that's the message picked up by UK partners who have spoken to Websense staff in the wake of its recent global sales kick off in San Diego.
The web filtering specialist, which was taken private in a $907m takeover by Vista Equity Partners last summer, has endured a mixed reputation in the channel, with some partners grumbling that its margins are stingy and processes tough to navigate.
However, several partners we spoke to understand from conversations with Websense staff that the new backers see indirect rather than direct sales as the best avenue to reviving the vendor's flagging top line. In the last reported quarter before Websense was taken off the NASDAQ, sales fell four per cent year on year and the vendor remains heavily reliant on renewals.
"The best way to get new customers is to get the reseller base to go out and talk about the products," said one partner, who had head Websense will try to get "more involved" in the channel.
"Websense needs to understand that the channel needs to make margin. They want to increase sales and to do that, you can't have the channel working against you. The problem we've had with them is that their sales people have always been told to maximise their returns. Because of this, they've dictated end-user prices, which means the reseller is working on two- to five- per cent margin. You can't run a business on that."
A separate partner had heard a similar message.
"They're changing their business processes to go back to becoming a bit more channel friendly," they said. "For many years it's been very inefficient as you've had to get a quote on every single deal from Websense and they're talking about making that easier."
Neil Langridge, marketing manager at Websense distributor e92plus, said: "There's been a definite change of focus towards giving more support and enablement to the channel."
"The change has come from Vista. Now Websense is no longer public, it has much more flexibility to do what it wants to do and not feel constrained."
A Websense representative said the vendor is not in a position to comment currently but would open up on its channel strategy later in the year.
At the time of its takeover last May, Vista chief executive Robert Smith said his firm consists of "long-term investors in enterprise software and data companies that are committed to being leaders in their markets".
"We look forward to working with the company to enable it to reach its full potential," he added.
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