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Part of moving Websense from a direct to indirect channel has involved reorienting the salesforce to accept and work with the channel, channel chief Dave Roberts told The Channel Insider.

About half of the salesforce is now working with partners in territory organizations, while the remaining force continues the old practice to “keep paying the lights on,” said Roberts, vice president of sales and channel. By January, all is expected to be up and running with the channel.

But making the turn has involved indoctrinating staffers on channel culture, Websense staff and partners said.

The Internet security firm has been educating its sales representatives about working with partners, renovated its compensation models to incent partner involvement and will host a second convention of sales and marketing organizations this year to hammer home the channel message, Roberts said.

“They want to know what is my role in the company now,” Roberts said. “They want to know how do renewals work, how many partners do I need to work in my territory, how do I engage them.”

“I don’t know what else I can do but over-communicate to them,” he said. “And we’re spending money to get the message out internally.”

The additional sales convention, themed “Revival,” as in channel revival, is an example for the effort to get staff on board, Websense said.

“Not all will,” he conceded. “It is a transition, and some people just don’t get it or like it and we’re sorry to see them go, but we have had people leave already.”

Roberts is following a playbook he wrote at McAfee, where he repositioned that security vendor to be channel-centric after year of bad faith with partners.

Among the most significant “barriers to business” was compensation, Roberts said.

Inside sales representatives were not compensated for new sales by partners in their territories, so they kept those for themselves and left the channel to renewals, he said.

Sales personnel are now compensated on all channel action in their territory and incented to work with partners.

“Pissed isn’t the word”

The evangelism has also stretched over the channel fences, as Roberts and company have had to convince partners the sales force is an asset, not a threat.

Making friends again with the channel has been a priority, he said.

“Pissed isn’t the word for it,” Roberts said of the sentiment among partners and ex-partners as the vendor began to mend fences.

“It was one level above pissed. We had to make up for years of bad behavior.”

Partners have noticed the change, said Lee Carter, director of security at Alexander Open Systems, of Overland Park, Kan.

“It was clear in the past that reps weren’t interested in dealing with you, they were much more apt to take it direct,” he said.

“Now they are grabbing us on leads and we are grabbing them when we have a project in their solution space.”

Websense has made the process easier and less risky for partners with Deal registration, partners and staff said.

The pipeline went from zero to $3.5 million in just five weeks after launching, Roberts said.