Edmund Li joined ESET after four years of working at three of Australia’s biggest IT distributors – Ingram Micro, Dicker Data and Synnex.
My first job was at Harris Technology – one of the original computer stores. Initially I wanted to do retail and they said “you’re more suited to customer service”. And that’s how I started my IT sales career.
Afterwards, the natural progression was to move into either a vendor, distributor or reseller. I decided to give distribution a go – and [Harris Technology’s] primary distribution partner was Ingram Micro. In my next role, I wanted flexibility and to make a mark in the IT industry. Instead of working for an established company where there’s not a lot of change you can make, I wanted to focus on going out and improving my BDM work and to have the authority to make decisions.
Building a program
At the moment I’m working on a partner reward program. I’m working with one of our media companies to be able to build a portal, because we are looking at exploring the retail channel. We’re in talks with a few tier one retail partners – in the meantime we’re co-creating the partner program with our [enterprise] channel as well as our retail partners.
The changing channel
We’ve got it on our agenda, but we put it aside because there were some things we needed to sort out, such as legacy issues, taking over from our previous distribution partners. There were a lot of changes in our channel so we didn’t want to keep adding on too many things. We just want to make a simple channel program and this year will be the year we really reward our partners. We started going out with a lot more communication to our partners, and also to end users, in terms of monthly newsletters and educational content with the intention to inform on the changing security landscape.
The biggest challenge is to have the partners understand and convey their security strategy to their customers, it is no longer viable to be a transactional security player. The main intention is for our partners to have the knowledge to be able to position the need behind the security solution they are proposing.
There’s a lot of players in the Australian market alone – so how does ESET differentiate itself from the key players that have been here for a while? That’s the biggest challenge for me even with the relationships that I have, because sometimes what they see from the specs is that we do the same as everyone else.
To overcome that challenge, we run a demo or a virtual environment – that’s where we shine. Once you’re using our software, that’s when you really find the key differences. I usually put my name on the line and say: “Just trial it, I can guarantee you’ll see a massive difference.”
Some of the key differences between distributor and vendor is that partners tend to be the same, however, the message is slightly different. In distribution, its more about what services you can offer and the range of products you can provide to be able to tailor make a solution. What I find working for a vendor is that you’ve got to recruit the right set of partners who already have the capability or willingness to build the capabilities to deliver your solution. It should form a joint partnership, not a transactional sale.
It is a challenge, but the good thing is being able to identify and work on what you have to push the strong points of what you’re selling.