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Citrix’s new channel chief ups investment in SMB market

The virtualization vendor has a new focus on the SMB and is looking for new partners to tackle the opportunity

After 11 years with virtualization vendor Citrix Systems (NASDAQ: CTXS) working on the sales team, new channel chief Mike Fouts has a pretty good idea on where he wants to take the Citrix channel: more partnering between the Citrix sales team and its partners, and more investment to drive growth in a market the vendor hasn’t played in before: the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market.

Fouts took on the role in October as senior director of Americas channels and field operations for Citrix. He took over from former channel boss Craig Stilwell, who moved to Fouts’ old role as vice-president of sales for the Southeastern United States.

Coming out of that role, where he led deals sold with and by partners, Fouts said he had a good understanding of Citrix’s go to market and what’s working well. The learning curve has been around how the regional go to market can vary in Canada and Latin America. While some vendors are looking to standardize in this area, Fouts said he believes regional differentiation is important and should be maintained.

“Even as we make programs uniform to leverage economies of scale, at the same time it’s important to realize that certain geographies may need to be more focused in what they do as the regional market dictates,” said Fouts. “We need to give them programs they can tweak to fit the market.”

Speaking with partners since he took on the role, Fouts said he has heard that among the things Citrix does well is a rich partner rewards system and products that are needed and wanted in the market. Where he’d like to see improvement is around collaborating at the field level with channel partners and doing more collaborative selling.

“That’s where you make or break,” said Fouts. “The better the field level engagement the more we’ll sell and the better-served customers will be.

That’s why Fouts is planning to unveil a number of initiatives in 2012 centered around partner profitability, including tools, rewards and incentives to help partners sell more Citrix products and better collaborate. A regional enablement calendar will be unveiled with no-cost training around technical, sales and marketing support as well as an “adopt a partner” program to help Citrix coach and mentor newer partners through the sales process. All told, Fouts said Citrix investment in enablement in the Americas will increase by 25 per cent, year over year, in 2012.

Citrix is also opening-up new opportunities in the SMB market, following its acquisition of Kaviza earlier this year and the launch of Citrix’s VDI-in-a-Box 5. The moves give Citrix an opportunity to play in the SMB market for the first time with products that will scale into the segment, and last month the vendor launched a new SMB channel program to help build the channel opportunity.

“This lets us go to an entirely new market segment of customers that may not have had the budget for our enterprise-grade offerings, but still need virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure.”

Fouts said Citrix will be both recruiting new SMB-focused partners and encouraging existing partners to enter the SMB market. He has targeted 30 per cent of existing partners to enter the SMB, a figure that will likely be higher in Canada. The SMB program is designed to be simple with a low barrier to entry; it’s one tier, costs $350 to be certified, and there’s no cost for the training and no minimums to meet. There’s also a path for partners to start in the SMB and then move-up to sell other Citrix offerings.

“We’re going to be spending a lot of time with enablement (in 2012), asking partners to grow alongside us,” said Fouts. “We’ll provide them with resources and enablement to help them grow, bringing it direct to major cities in Canada, to make it easier for partners to come and be enabled, sell more, and me more profitable.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.