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Feature - 9 December 2020 (ChannelPro)

Pure Storage's latest partner initiative goes beyond training & rewards, encouraging techies from different partners to help each other out.

Channel initiatives commonly focus more on incentivising partner sales teams than the technical experts – so when cloud storage vendor Pure Storage put "techies at the centre" of its Pure WaveMakers programme, it made headlines.

Pure WaveMakers centres on an invitation-only technical community for sharing expertise, not just from vendor to partner, but among partners as well.

Matthieu Brignone, channel vice president for LATAM/EMEA at Pure Storage, tells Channel Pro the idea is that more open information sharing will build knowledge that boosts customer experience and sales alike.

"Like every vendor, we had a portal all the partners could access, and technical information available. But we were a bit weaker on the technical side," Brignone explains. "We had nothing really structured for those guys."

Whereas partner sales professionals typically compete with each other, technical professionals differ: They also care about the technology in its own right and so are often more motivated to engage with each other and exchange ideas, solutions and best practice.

Partners will join on a basic Member level, moving on to become Champions and Legends to reflect regular business, the partners they bring to the vendor, and interactions they have with the rest of the Pure WaveMakers community – for example, sharing best practices with other techies in the community.

Higher tiers broaden and deepen access to specific information and knowledge, around product roadmaps for example, or special or bespoke training and direct access to US product management. That's apart from the "typical rewards and gifts", he says.

"So it's privileged access to dedicated resources and information. Based on enthusiasm we have so far, I think it is super-promising," Brignone says.

"But [WaveMakers] will not be open to every partner, because for any community to work well you need to have people committed to it, with at least a certain level of awareness. Just look at football, or cycling; it doesn't make sense to commit to a cycling forum if I never cycle."

Different strokes for technical folks?

Martin Gibbons, EMEA channel head for datacentre backup company Cohesity, says technical aspects are definitely "pivotal" and that the "old formula" of accreditation can often fail to hit the mark when it comes to engagement, understanding and sales.

However, he also warns that partner programmes can become unnecessarily complex.

Partners often prefer a simple offering with strong basics including upfront margin, deal registration and, possibly, renewals protection.

"Our partner programme is easy to follow, predictable in remuneration, and profitable for partners," Gibbons adds.

Brian Allison, global channels vice president at SaaS-focused Snow Software, notes that many channel programmes are structured primarily around the economic transaction, which misses a sharper focus on how a more explicit alignment can drive customer success.

"We have built ours around solution providers that engage a customer throughout the lifecycle. We believe this approach is critical," Allison confirms.

Neil Stobart, systems engineering sales vice president at object storage provider Cloudian, warns however that many vendors "try and ram" deep technical training down presales throats.

"What is really needed is education – being able to recognise opportunities, understand ..."


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