Nutanix Channel Chief On New ‘Black-Belt’ Partner Certification And Transitioning Into A ‘True Software Company’ In 2018
Leading The @Nutanix Channel Charge Nutanix has a critical year ahead of it in 2018 as the hyper-converged pioneer begins to transform into a software-only company. Tasked with leading its channel community into this new era is Nutanix channel chief Bob Wallace. “As we’re making this transformation in Nutanix into a true software company, channel partners become more important, not less,” said Wallace, vice president of channel, OEM and inside sales at Nutanix, in an interview with CRN. “It puts more of the work of bringing this total solution together into the hands of the channel partner.” In an interview with CRN, Wallace explains his channel vision for 2018, new trainings and tools available to partners, and if Nutanix plans to on-board more solution providers this year.
What’s the channel charge for 2018?
As we’re making this transformation in Nutanix into a true software company, channel partners become more important, not less. We couldn’t make this transition into a software company if we didn’t already have a foundation of committed channel partners. We couldn’t do it. It puts more of the work of bringing this total solution together into the hands of the channel partner. They become that key integration point. If we didn’t have those partners, it would be much more difficult to make this transition into software.
What is one big partner initiative this year?
We are expanding the training available. The highest level of training, really a black-belt level of certification that we call NPSX [Nutanix Platform Sales Expert], mirrors our highest and deepest level of technical training, which is called NPX [Nutanix Platform Expert] — which is really an internal focus certification. Our partners are now able to sign up and achieve that highest level of certification. The NPSX involves an in-person certification and testing around being able to not only communicate the Nutanix messaging, but to be able to accurately deal with questions and concerns that customers have. It’s an in-person certification to simulate being in front of a customer.
What makes this certification so unique in the market?
When I was with EMC, we did the same thing for our internal sellers but never offered a certification or this type of training level for partners. It’s a big resource commitment from Nutanix because to do an in-person certification takes commitment from executives. That’s a big initiative we’re rolling out to really make sure that our partners are equipped to be successful in talking about this next-level of enterprise cloud because many of them come from a hardware-centric background and maybe have layered on or expanded into hyper-converged. In an enterprise cloud world, it’s exponentially more important to be able to articulate that value to customers.
What else will you be offering solution providers in 2018 to help drive more sales?
We have a tool called XTribe that we use for engaging with customers to really give them a source of information. Customers can log in. We provide information to them that’s significant to their business and contextual to the products they have – a source of information to get customers into Nutanix. We’ve extended that in a separate database course into our channel partner seller community. At a high level, it’s a rewards program where we can do contests and give them prizes that tie them back into Nutanix in a way that makes them like a customer but like also our sales team. I know some vendors have partner training portals, but this really takes it to the next level.
Does Nutanix expect to on-board more partners with the new software-centric approach?
I think we will. We will add some partners that really specialize in software sales. There is an opportunity to get closer to [solution providers] who maybe weren’t interested in Nutanix before who are application sellers that are selling the software. VARs that are selling those types of products as opposed to hardware-centric VARs. But it will be fairly minimal.
So you don’t expect many changes in the channel this year?
The majority of our change from a channel perspective and our shift to software as a company really ties in with many of the goals that our existing channel partners have already seen. Nutanix partners are willing to be disruptive in the market and see the change that has been coming, which is what Nutanix has been talking about since the beginning. Many of our top partners today have invested in Nutanix because they understood that this shift to software is not a flavor of the month or reactive thing, in my mind, it’s the fulfillment of the original promise of Nutanix.
Are partners ready for this shift?
Many of our most successful partners saw this shift coming. They understood that Nutanix would need to not only talk about being a software company, but start operating in the market as a software company. It creates a lot of opportunity for them. They get the opportunity to get engaged with the customers at a more expanded consulting engagement level, bringing the solutions together because we’re not only talking about hyper-converged these days, we’re talking about enterprise cloud. That’s the next wave we’ve been talking about. … The vision of an enterprise cloud and what people are calling hybrid cloud, we’ve been talking about that and pointing at how hyper-converged is the first step.
Why are solution providers sticking with Nutanix when there’s larger hyper-converged players now like Cisco-Springpath and Hewlett Packard Enterprise-SimpliVity?
Our partners gravitated to Nutanix because when they look at the options in the market, they can see that the completeness of vision from many of [our competitors] are dead end and/or is kind of a me-too approach.
It’s also how we treat them. We are really partners. For manufacturers in many cases, it’s very one-sided. It’s an arrogant approach to looking at channel partners and doing score cards on channel partners. The traps that they walk into is that many manufacturres get fired by their channel partners, they just never know it. So we take a different approach to understand from them, ‘What is it you’re looking to get out of Nutanix and this partnership? How is our own score card?’ So that way we don’t get fired by our channel partners.
What percentage of Nutanix sales are direct versus indirect?
It’s nearly 100 percent. There may have been a customer we went direct with, maybe a government customer, but our policy is 100 percent channel. Our reps don’t do direct deals.
Why should partners increase their Nutanix investment in 2018?
Our channel program is really focused around driving the competency of our partners around Nutanix. One of the key benefits of moving from just being an authorized partner to a higher-level Gold or Platinum partner is the engagement of our channel sales organization. From a strategy perspective, our basic tenet is focused partners. My organization has designated and defined those partners that we as a company are going to invest in. It’s about the partners who are making the commitment and investment in working with us. At the lower tier, they don’t get the benefits of working with us or our investments from an MDF or access perspective.
How many ‘focused partners’ have you chosen?
We have picked out a select per-region group of partners. It’s several hundred per theater. It essentially requires them to make a commitment to Nutanix, then Nutanix will invest back in them from a deal registration perspective, the pricing from Nutanix and access to MDF programs.
Why should partners be pumped about Nutanix in 2018?
Nutanix is only limited by our ability to tell customers about what we do and what we can do for them. It’s an exceptional product. The challenge we have is that the majority of people who understand what we do want to take the next step. Then the majority of people who receive a demo on it want to try it; and the majority of people who try it, buy it; and then the majority of people who buy it, buy again and buy more the next time. We need to get what we can do for customers in front of as many people as possible. The key to that reach and leverage is this commitment to our channel community. We have an ecosystem of partners that we’ve grown with over the years and they’re giving us that reach.