NetApp talks program changes and introduces new channel chief for Americas

NetApp’s new channel chief for the Americas, Jim Elder, has a simple philosophy about his role: “It’s all about the partner sellers,” he said.

Jim Elder, Channel Chief Americas, NetApp

After about 30 years in various channel positions and three years at NetApp running commercial sales and worldwide distribution, Elder took over the Americas channel chief role around six months ago. And this month, as NetApp realigned for its new year, the Latin American business, which is 100 per cent through partners, was added to his portfolio.

“I think it’s pretty easy to figure out what motivates the partner sellers,” he noted. “First of all, they sell what they know. Secondly, they sell with whom they know, and who they trust. And lastly, and probably most importantly, is they sell what they know they can make money selling. When I look at our strategy from a NetApp standpoint, I really don’t worry too much about points two and three, I think our partners know they make money selling NetApp, and a lot of them make a lot of money when they wrap their own services around our products.”

“What I spend a lot of time worrying about,” he went on, “is how we enable those partner sellers to sell our ever-expanding portfolio, and some of the challenges over the last couple years is just making sure they’re always up to speed on our newest offerings and really trying to expand the lens that they use when they look for opportunities for NetApp. So, just from a channel strategy, is where I’m spending a lot of my time.”

At the beginning the COVID-19 crisis, added Chris Lamborn, NetApp’s head of worldwide partner go-to-market strategy and programs, he realized that NetApp’s shift to hybrid cloud, its deployment of cloud volumes in all ONTAP solutions, and its recent acquisitions like CloudJumper have put the company in an ideal situation to help its customers.

Chris Lamborn, Head of Worldwide Partner Go-to-Market Strategy and Programs, NetApp

“What we’ve been able to do is to spend a lot of the last 12 weeks going back to partners and saying ‘you already have the solutions in play that will enable you to go and make the most of this opportunity,” he said. He is also encouraging customers and partners to use existing tools that they might not have focused on before.

To assist partners further, Elder said, their certifications will be extended and no-one will be demoted during this time of crisis. The Partner Academies roadshow gone virtual has had record attendance and based on that, he’s confident that he will find that a lot of NetApp partners are now caught up with their technical certifications.

“So from that standpoint, I would say, the channel has adapted very well to COVID,” he said.

Program-wise, Lamborn said, NetApp is making a few changes.

“We’re really trying to simplify how we drive everything and taking away the need against product,” he said. “We’re doubling down on investments into new accounts. Those partners that have a solid delivery arm in creating new business now will earn twice as much as they used to before. From a competitive takeout point of view, we’re both reducing the entry-level at which people can earn and increasing the return in that mid-market space. And so, when I put it in there in the face of the Canadian market, what we do see is a lot of our net new business in the Canadian market comes in at that mid-market size. Previously, we didn’t necessarily have as much of an investment there in the programs.”

The company has also introduced a tech refresh program. And it pays any partner at any level five per cent on every cloud services transaction, regardless of whether they’re buying through AWS or if it’s a Cloud Volumes ONTAP purchase through NetApp.

In the Americas, Elder added, NetApp is investing in Technical Partner Managers (TPM), adding an incremental resource in western Canada, which had previously been serviced by a shared resource in Seattle. It comes back to enabling sellers to look for broader opportunities for NetApp, and when they recognize an opportunity, giving them the resources to qualify that opportunity.

There’s also a business analyst team that will sit down with a customer and a partner and work through how NetApp can lower the total cost of ownership. These analysts have no product knowledge; they’re speaking purely from a business point of view.

“This is where we’re really seeing a lot of take up of the resources we’ve employed,” Lamborn said. “To come on board in that space to really help partners build out their go-to market models, their financial models.”

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Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree

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