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More is less at NFR Security.

To expand its channel program, the maker of intrusion security and prevention appliances actually cut its partner roster in half.

“Everyone thinks more is better,” said Tim Koubek, NFR Security Inc.’s executive vice president of worldwide sales and marketing.

“Becoming a partner is as easy as picking up an application. If you want to sell my product, why should I say no?”

But over-distributing, Koubek said, has watered down the channel, resulting in low margins for VARs and limited investment from both sides.

“Letting just anybody sell your product isn’t fair to the ones who have invested in it, and you can’t be everything to everyone,” he said.

“Shrinking the number of sellers means you are making a bigger investment in the ones you have … a tighter relationship and more sales opportunities.”

As it cut its seller list from 120 VARs to 60, the company, based in Rockville, Md., compounded benefits for remaining partners:

  • Resellers may register opportunities online to receive an additional 15 percent discount when the deal is closed;
  • MDF (Market Development Funds) are replaced by Fully Funded Marketing Programs & Events, financed in full by the vendor;
  • The partnership is reviewed quarterly to ensure that both sides are meeting expectations;
  • More intense training and technical support are available.

    “It’s all about scale, and we probably couldn’t do these things if we kept a full roster of 120 partners,” Koubek said. “The bigger your budget the more partners you can carry, but why overdo it? The less you have, the more they are getting in return, and the more you will drive sales.”

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    NFR expects the reorganization to boost its channel output from 30 percent of sales to 50 percent, Koubek said.

    Paul Ghostine, CEO of Emergent OnLine, an IT integrator based in Reston, Va., called such financial commitment from a vendor rare.

    “We’re especially excited about the generous discount program that will give us the ability to drive sales and obtain good profit margins,” he said. “The fact that NFR is investing up-front money in making this program work is a true sign of their commitment to the channel.”

    NFR said it intends to be more selective in nominating VARs, requiring a proven expertise in network security and a demonstrated interest in NFR solutions. The company has also established an Advisor program, in which VARs may register to sell their solutions, but will not receive partner benefits.

    NFR’s new channel program comes as the company launches its next-generation intrusion prevention appliance for the enterprise, Sentivist 5.0, which is designed to automatically detect and protect vulnerable points on a network.