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EMC traditionally has been known as an enterprise storage company, but that changed last January after Steve Houck became vice president of sales for the vendor’s Insignia.

With a 100 percent channel play, the vendor in the past year has created a storage market for solution providers selling into the small and midsize business sector. Houck said the elements for the program were already in place when he joined EMC from Corel, but he is the executive who has been evangelizing the Insignia product line to recruit partners. Since January, Houck said he has signed up 1,300 solution providers to carry EMC’s SMB products.

Once word started to spread about EMC’s SMB line and the company’s seriousness about supporting partners, Houck said recruitment took off. Partners started talking to other providers, and soon he was just trying to keep up.

“Now we’re relevant to then,” Houck said.

Houck attributed that success to a combination of good products architected with the needs of the target customers in mind, a solid channel program designed to prevent conflict between partners and the vendor, and his own background working with distribution channels at Corel.

“The way we’re set up is to completely support the partner in the selling process,” Houck said.

He cited pre- and post-sales technical engineering teams, sales account managers, and constant communication with partners. Houck holds quarterly conference calls with partners, going over Insignia promotions, pricing and future release plans, as well as sounding out what marketing and support tools are working for the partners and inquiring about their needs. He uses the partner feedback to tweak the program.

Diane Krakora, president and CEO of Amazon Consulting, a channel consulting services firm in Mountain View, Calif., said Houck understands the pivotal role solution providers play in selling solutions to SMB customers. Houck, she said, “has helped EMC Insignia quickly structure itself to take a leadership position in the highly competitive SMB storage space.”

Houck said his decision to join EMC had a lot to do with the 100 percent channel go-to-market strategy for Insignia, a strategy he added has the support of EMC CEO Joe Tucci. Houck’s mission, he said, is to not just engage the channel, but to engage it properly. In the coming year, he said, the vendor will launch more Insignia products and evolve its channel programs.