Sophos channel bosses have swiped at cybersecurity vendors who use partners as fulfilment vehicles and then claim to be 100 per cent channel.
Speaking to CRN at the Sophos Discover partner event in London, Sophos UK channel director Jon Bartholomew and VP of global channels Kendra Krause said that the vendor's competitors are guilty of claiming to be channel focused, but a lot of the time just use the channel to close deals.
Bartholomew said security partners are growing tired of these fulfilment deals and instead want to be involved in deals earlier, so they have more opportunities to add services and increase their own margins.
"What you have in the market is the traditional vendors - and I include us in that - who are continuing to go down the route of a direct business model and a channel that work in conflict, or they have a channel model where they don't manage their people properly," he said. "We broke away from that many years ago.
"We have a strict rules of engagement policy in the UK; we do not go down the route of fulfilment.
"There are no enterprise deals where we work on the deal and give the partner five per cent margin. We don't do any of that and that is hard to do because it is hard to say to a salesperson ‘no, you have to do this', and manage that. We have 38 people in the UK whose job is to manage that.
"Now you have all the newer players that say they have to be channel first but they don't have the resources to back that up."
Krause said Sophos turned its back on these sorts of deals when Kris Hagerman joined as CEO in 2012.
The vendor has since listed on the London Stock Exchange and seen its valuation more than double.
"The organisation took a big change when Kris Hagerman joined," she explained.
"That really brought a focus to the company that we were lacking and he basically said we are focused on security, we're focused on the mid-market and we are focused on channel.
"It's one of those things where it sounds simple, but it wasn't before and we were in every different direction. We were channel but we had a fulfilment element, we were mid-market but we had SMBs and enterprises.
"What we have been doing in acquisitions and innovation has also contributed to the valuation of the company. Looking ahead to what we need in terms of innovation, a lot of it we do internally but we also acquire. The latest acquisition of Invincea, bringing on machine learning, is a good example of that."
Bartholomew explained that some partners were concerned that Sophos would lose its channel-only approach when it listed on the stock exchange because they feared the vendor would come under more pressure to hit quarterly revenue targets.
Some vendors in this situation, he claimed, take deals direct towards the end of quarters and scramble to hit targets - something he said Sophos has not done.
"Even in a regional office, you'll have the RVP of the UK who is also responsible for the high-touch sales business," he explained.
"I've been there as a channel manager; you get to the end of the quarter and you have an opportunity where the partner can't do something [and they say] 'alright let's take it direct, we need the numbers'.
"The big concern in the UK from our partner community was ‘that's it, game over - Sophos is going to be like everyone else because you're going to get to the end of the quarter and be driven by the market'.
"We haven't done that, we've stayed true to what we do. One deal is one deal - it shouldn't affect the relationship with our long-term partners and that has held us in good stead."
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