Four weeks into his new role as senior vice president of worldwide sales and de facto channel chief at Sophos, Michael Valentine has identified a pair of top priorities: getting partners more committed to the vendor and selling across the company’s product portfolio, and building out its distribution coverage around the world.
“The channel here is in an evolutionary state, and we have some room to grow,” Valentine said.
And that’s a good thing for the veteran executive, for whom building up channel organizations has become something of a calling card. He joins Sophos from UTM vendor Fortinet, where he headed up a similar round of channel expansion. Before that, he worked for SonicWall and WatchGuard, again, in channel-building roles.
As he gets accustomed to his new role, he said he will prioritize building up new channel programs, building out new supports for partners, and making more resources available. In return, he said he hopes to drive more commitment from the company’s partner base. “I need them to focus on me as well,” Valentine said.
In particular, he said he wants to create an environment where more of the company’s partners are selling across the company’s product lines. Today, the company has a base of partners focused on its UTM products, and other, more specialized partners, focusing on some of its other enterprise software offerings, including encryption. In part, he said, this has been because Sophos has opted to have different conversations with different partners. He expects that to change.
“The reseller base is in good shape, and the next step is to get the product set more converged,” Valentine said. “I want to talk about what we can do at the gateway, what we can do at the endpoint, the entire solution set for [partners’] end user base.”
While convergence is definitely on his mind, Valentine said he won’t push it to the point of existing partners who specialize on a given product line. Instead, he said the company will seek to get partners cross-selling where it makes sense, and make selling the company’s entire linecard a portfolio when recruiting new partners.
Valentine said the company has done well with a one-tier distribution approach, but in order to reach the kind of growth it wants, ramping up distribution is a necessity. The company’s exact needs in distribution depend on the region. In Europe, the company mostly has to hone its existing base. In Asia Pacific, Sophos’ efforts are more nascent, and the company is building up its distribution network. Closer to home, Valentine said the company will likely look to expand beyond its current distribution footprint with D&H and Lifeboat in the U.S., and will look to build distribution support from scratch in Canada and Latin America.
“We have good partner bases, but we could service them better through distribution,” Valentine said. “We’ve done very well in the software world, and haven’t had the need to develop two-tier distribution, but that’s going to be very important for us going forward.”