Live coverge of McAfee's annual partner conference from Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS – After two full days of McAfee’s Focus 2012 conference featuring one of the company’s co-presidents and its new worldwide CTO, on Thursday the limelight turns to the company’s Global SecurityAlliance Partner Summit.
The partner conference kicks off with a Thursday morning keynote session featuring co-president Mike DeCesare, worldwide sales chief Joe Sexton, and Gavin Struthers, senior vice president of global channel operations for McAfee.
And of course, I’ll be there, front-row-centre, bringing the liveblog action of all the events of the day.
Expect the liveblog to go live around 9:00 am Pacific (noon Eastern), and please join me for as-it-happens news from the event.
And here we go… the opening video with the co-presdients talking up McAfee’s mission means there’s going to be some main-stage action in the near future.
The opening video is highlighting the “Partner Connected” mantra of the show, designed of course to go hand-in-hand with McAfee’s overall “Security Connected” slogan.
And Gavin Struthers takes the stage to kick things off.
“This partner session is all about building relevance… with you, with Partner Connected, and with our mutual customers, with Security Connected,” Struthers says.
With that, he brings up his channel leadership team from around the world on stage to say hello, starting with Americas channel chief Fernando Quintero.
“The industry is transforming, and we’re going to be at the forefront of taking that transformation and turning it into growth,” Struthers tells solution providers.
His goals for the show: To provide inspiration, to provide information, and to make it all actionable.
Like Alex Thurber before him, McAfee channel chief Struthers started out as a VAR. “I remember we played a lot of golf those days, and made 40 per cent margins on fax machines,” he jokes. But seriously, he does remember valuing predictability and consistency with vendors.
“I’m pleased to say there’s not a lot of change today, I’m not here to announce a lot of new red shiny toys,” Struthers tells partners. “The strategy remains the same from what we announced over a year ago.. increasing the relevancy of McAfee to you, and of you to McAfee.”
Struthers walking partners through the “Invest. Grow. Optimize.” three pillars of McAfee’s channel program.
So far, year to date, McAfee has paid out 30 per cent more in MDF, rebates, and rewards, compared to last year, Struthers says.
“We’re growing with you.”
The company’s top 25 performing partners are growing north of 30 per cent per year, Struthers says.
And while keeping on numbers, he says the company has pared the effort and time required for sales certifications by 30 per cent and tech certifications by 50 per cent.
“But we’re not done yet. This is a journey.”
Trends driving opportunities for McAfee partners:
- The advancement of malware with up to 100,000 new pieces of malware per day.
- The uptake of technology is outpacing security adoption in many cases, especially with personal mobile devices finding their way into the enterprise.
- Market consolidation. “Markets become efficient,” he says, with fewer, larger vendors providing more solutions. “Security will be no different. The security market with consolidation, and organization like McAfee and Intel will be making acquisitions make sense.” That happens because customers want integration, “fewer throats to choke.”
“Customers are a lot more savvy than in the good old days when we played a lot of golf and thew a lot of parties,” Struthers says. 60 per cent of the decision is made before customers engage a supplier in many cases.
Customers don’t want to hear the “what keeps you up at night?” question. “They want new insights, they want directions around the issues and big disruptions, they want to know how a provider is going to help them be more secure.”
“There are worse places to be than in security,” Struthers says as he addresses the growing TAM for security. He urges partners to think about where they want to focus in the increasingly diverse security market.
“Sell the sizzle, and drag the steak,” Stuthers tells partners.
“We are that point in time where we can now have a conversation with a security strategy with a long-term vision, this is it,” he says of McAfee’s recently-announced Security Connected Platform. Now he’s looking to partners to help take that message to the market.
“McAfee is perfectly positioned” to take Security Connected message to customers, “but we can’t do it alone. We need partners who are willing to stand together with us” to realize the vision, Struthers says.
“I believe there are too many partners sitting on the fence. If you double down to working with a handful of vendors that give you the coverage you need, that’s a good decision to make,” Struthers says — and that’s the decision he sees the company’s fast-growing top 25 partners making.
- Pick a capable partner, a financially successful larger vendor who’s going to be in for the long haul.
- Pick a partner who can innovate because if the vendor doesn’t keep up, the customer will be forced to go in another direction.
- Profit is “the Jerry McGuire for me,” Struthers says.
- “And most importantly, I want to deal with people that I like, people that I trust, people who are smart,” Struthers says.
And then he outlines why he feels McAfee meets those key partner requirements.
Struthers’ second action item, “Focus.” — these seem like simple things, but they are absolutely key, he says, calling back again to his days as a sales director at a VAR in South Africa. The company kept taking on new roles for its customers, but eventually had to decide to focus on what it was really good at.
“We’ve had conversations with many of you about picking your swim lanes,” picking areas where a given partner “is going to be really good at.” “You should double down on five or six core solutions areas, including a few cash cows … and a couple of rising stars.”
Basically, pick things that your sales team can really focus on and promite.
He also urges partners to focus on given verticals, and specific market segments, most notably SMB, where McAfee is “investing more heavily for 2013, and we’re looking for partners to go to battle with us.”
And it’s important that McAfee know where partners are focusing, so it can take that information back to its own sales team, and know who its “go to” partners are for given opportunities.
After that, Struthers’ third item, “build a a plan” through quarterly business reviews with McAfee. “We need to get together more after the quarter, look at how it went” an then re-optimize the plan quarter-by-quarter.
Number four: enable your team — “You don’t want your sales people sitting in front of customers asking dumb questions.”
Struthers detailing how the company took its internal sales training, StarTrac, and extended it to channel partners earlier this year. 62 per cent of partners who went through the training grew their business.
And on the technical side, Struthers talks up the Accredited Channel Engineer — ACE, very fitting for Vegas — program for top partner tech people. Struthers says he wants more of these ACE partners “to go to the next level” with POCs and more hands on.
And point five, leverage McAfee’s Profitability Stack, its new channel compensation/profitability model introduced earlier this year.
Struthers walking partners through a case study of how the “Stack” can grow partner profitability on a deal, with potential in an optimal case to take a McAfee-found deal from ,000+ in partner profitability to almost ,000 with rebates, incentives, rewards, etc.
Things get richer still when it’s a partner-found deal, as the blocks tell the story.
And with that, Struthers wraps up his presentation and out comes Jo Sexton, EVP of worldwide sales.
“I’m going to talk to you the same way I talk to my sales guys,” Sexton says — he’s going to take partners through the Security Connected Platform story.
“The reality is, when you look at our industry, it’s time for a platform,” Sexton says. Going through other “platform” evolutions in the past, including CRM, ERP and database, which have all whittled down to two or three dominant players.
“The cost savings, as well as the increase in capabilities, is overwhelming” in each case, he says.
Sexton says the company’s purchase of SIEM provider Nitro last year provided “the glue” to bring together McAfee’s various technologies as well as those from the Security Innovation Alliance of 150+ related vendors.
Partners — like his own sales people — need to get comfortable getting to, and talking to, the CIO, rather than the CSO, because that’s where the budget is, Sexton tells partners.
If partners go in with a plan, engage the CIO to point them to the right people, and suggest a few options in terms of plans, they’ll inevitably walk away with two or three opportunities at a customer, Sexton says, before sharing a story about learning how to call on CEOs as a young salesman.
“When you start at the top and work your way down, you’re in a much better position to engage,” he tells partners.
McAfee has a gerat brand, he says, but the addition of Intel (which he says is the 7th-strongest band in the world) has been very powerful for the company’s — and partners — sales efforts, Sexton says.
“The real payoff is not products, it’s process,” because automation with the Security Connected Platform delivers on the “do more with less” goal.
“There are tremendous opportunities to do managed services, both on-prem and in the cloud,” Sexton says.
And the Security Connected Platform and ePO Realtime discussion, partners can rise above the antivirus vs. antivirus battle, “and do so in a way where the margins are better for you.”
He says he expects to see a “lot of me-too versions” of the Security Connected Platform in the near future, “because that’s the easiest thing to do,” but that as of now, he is not aware of “anyone else even thinking” of something like the SCP.
Sexton walking partners through a quartet examples of major platform-level wins for McAfee with partners.
Sexton offers partners 5 steps to success in selling the Security Connected Platform.
And with that, Sexton wraps up his presentation and hands things over to a video where “Deal Reg” is in a support group. “I want my partners to take advantage to me.”
The last 15 months as co-president “have been a lot of fun,” DeCesare says. He feels he and Todd Gebhart have stabilized the organization, and attrition is at an all-time low.
“The more time I spend under Intel, the more fired up I get long term about this business,” DeCesare says, pointing to the long-term collaboration between chip design and software design.
“What’s not going well? The growth,” he admits. The market has been tough and he doesn’t see it getting better in 2013, but being part of Intel “is very reassuring during that.”
An interesting approach – McAfee is conducting a Twitter poll of the partner base in attendance on where the interview between Struthers and DeCesare should focus.
DeCesare, to his credit, doesn’t just hit the softball and walkoff. He says McAfee has to get better with partners “about how often we put ourselves in a position where we try to use you as little as possible and pay you as little as possible.”
“We want you to play a larger role,” including demand creation, POCs, etc. “If you’re doing things where it takes cost off of us, you deserve to make more for that,” he says. “We still have a long way to go in that.”
What makes a good partner in DeCesare’s estimation?
“Clearly, we’re looking to figure out how to get closer to fewer partners,” he says. “We want everyone to be a partner,” but the goal is to have a large base, and then work more closely with a select few – most notably “the people in this room.”
He says McAfee’s channel teams needs to look at things more from a partner’s perspective in totality, and not just in how much that partner does business with McAfee.
DeCesare on leads: “This is one of my huge frustrations in our business,” he says.
“I think the perfect relationship is that about half the business you book should be stuff that you found, and half the business you book with us should be stuff we found,” and for 2013, DeCesare says McAfee is going to put much more significant resources around “100 per cent new demand creation.”
“I’m hoping we can create a noticeable dent on this,” he says.
To his credit, DeCesare is not holding back on criticizing where McAfee’s channel organization can improve, including responding to a question about a CAM who’s too focused on finding new deals and not focused enough on enabling a partner by telling that partners “You should ask for a new CAM.”
“If they’re working deals without you or your people in on the opportunity, they should honestly be fired from McAfee,” he says.
Is McAfee still in the market for acquisitions?
DeCesare says the company does well in consumer, and does well in the very high end of the market, but needs to get better at everything in between “in order to get big cheques from Intel to make these acquisitions.” That said, he’s got one that’s done but not yet announced, and three more that are on the way, including one “of fairly significant scale.”
“We’ve got to have more organic innovation, we know that, and match that up with strategic acquisitions.”
“We have to do a significantly better job with our data centre strategy as applications move towards the cloud,” DeCesare says.
And being part of Intel is a big part of its ability to do that. He challenges partners to develop their data centre strategies, “packaging up a data centre offering, embracing that, getting your teams ramped up and going after that.” The data centre market is a billion overall opportunity, and DeCesare suggests that security spend there “is going to rocket” over the next few years.
DeCesare on SMB market: “We’ve done a poor job over the last couple of years,” in a space where some of his competitors have done a good job. “Our market share” in some parts “is painfully low,” he admits.
Shifts have been made to get the channel more involved, but the company needs to ratchet up the products for the market — he hints that at least one of the acquisitions the company is eyeing is in aimed at fixing those problems.
In security “there are a lot of companies that do a lot of business through the channel, but are not necessarily channel-friendly,” DeCesare says in summation. McAfee wants to be the company of choice for channel partners when it comes to profitability, ease of use and more.
And with that, DeCesare and Struthers wrap up their interview.
Up next is guest speaker, author Scott McCain on “creating distinction through the ultimate customer experience. But this is where I call it quits with this liveblog. Thanks for joining us… much more from McAfee Partner Summit later today.