Channel InfluencersInterviews

Transforming Distributors into VADs

Ehab Halablab, the Regional Channel Manager for MENA at A10 Networks, speaks to Arabian Reseller, about the role a channel influencer has in bettering the overall channel community

What are your career history to date and key career achievements?
I have more than 12 years’ experience in the IT industry. Prior to A10 Networks, I worked at security firm Symantec as territory manager for enterprise where I was instrumental in driving new business acquisition. I also held a regional channel leadership position at Blue Coat Systems (acquired by Symantec) and regional sales manager position at Sophos.

The early part of my career was spent at Naizak Distribution Services as an account manager for several key security vendors. I consider my current role working in A10 Networks with the A team in the region as one of my key achievements. The team is really dynamic and continuously growing. I am excited to be a part of this team and look forward to future successes we will continue to achieve together.

What are your roles and responsibilities in the company as a channel influencer?
I am responsible for developing & executing a regional channel strategy focused on partner certification, premier security partner recruitment, and direct & indirect channel enablement programs. As part of the strategy to grow the business, I am looking to transform distributors into value-added distributors (VADs).

The company is actively onboarding new potential partners in the region that will be focused on A10’s business. The internal sales team will also be seeding new business opportunities that will be fulfilled through resellers in the region. In addition, I am focused on strengthening local ties with the company’s alliance partners like HP, Nokia Systems, Ericsson and NEC.

What qualities should a channel influencer possess to lead the channel?
A channel influencer should possess important qualities such as loyalty, good at building strong relationships and strong organisation skills. All of these combined lead to building trust among channel partners and having a good plan to implement and grow the business.

What is your advice on finding success in the channel?
Choose resellers to work with based on a few select criteria, such as their trust in the technology, their drive to grow the business together and finally their reach into the correct customer vertical. Once the partners have been selected it is important to build a clear business plan and partner program. The investment into these partners through training and marketing is also key.

How would you assess the current state of the channel?
A10 Networks has a good channel, however, as with anything there is room for more growth in order to fully cover the gulf region.

What is the biggest challenge facing the IT channel in the region?
With the growing trend of cloud-based subscriptions, the danger is that customers and vendors will deal directly more frequently. In order to maintain a strong position in the channel, resellers must add value to both the customer and the vendor. This can be achieved by providing the customer with an easy solution to their requirements.

Maintaining the relation and loyalty and to keep consistent business. True collaboration at all levels can sometimes be difficult to achieve within a company let alone for an entire industry segment. However, the success of the channel can only go from strength to strength with a higher level of collaboration.

This can be achieved through building strong relationships between vendors, partners, and customers. We can then work together more effectively to develop a clear and detailed plan on how to drive business and technology while addressing key security concerns.

If you could improve one thing about the channel business what would it be?
Frankly, there has been nothing new or exciting to say about the channel business strategy for many years. It is difficult to single out one improvement. I see it as a six-step process when focusing on the head-to-head competition with other vendors:

  1. Make it a priority. Devote resources to channel management –whose sole responsibility is to manage those relationships and build the marketing programs to drive revenue through the channel.
  2. Develop measurements and track performance. Know who your best sales performers are
  3. Communicate! Build relationships at every level of the channel.
  4. Drive revenue through the channel. Take ownership of the marketing campaigns that will drive revenue at all levels through the channel. Partners have to focus on building their own customer base, not marketing just your product (remember that you’re not the only solution they offer).
  5. Avoid pricing conflicts. Establish a pricing strategy and stick to it. If channel conflict arises because of price, attempt to resolve it ASAP
  6. Address conflicts swiftly. Since distrust and channel conflict is common, it’s important to address problems quickly to find a solution.

How can partners work effectively to generate growth?
Partners should work together with the vendor to create a holistic approach to sales, pre-sales, and marketing to generate leads. Any generated leads require a strong follow-up by the partner to identify opportunities and drive closure through the implementation of the jointly agreed business plan with the vendor.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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