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Symantec: At Conflict With Itself?

Have you ever adjusted your message based on your audience? Consider the situation at Symantec: Channel VP Julie Parrish (left) needs to engage partners while COO Enrique Salem (right) needs to engage Wall Street analysts. Their words serve separate audiences. But without careful coordination, their upbeat messages to one audience can wind up alienating the other audience.

The VAR Guy

July 17, 2008

3 Min Read
Symantec: At Conflict With Itself?

Symantec’s Parrish and SalemHave you ever adjusted your message based on your audience? Consider the situation at Symantec: Channel VP Julie Parrish (left) needs to engage partners while COO Enrique Salem (right) needs to engage Wall Street analysts. Their words serve separate audiences. But without careful coordination, their upbeat messages to one audience can wind up alienating the other audience.

On the one hand, Symantec COO Enrique Salem recently told Wall Street analysts how hard the company is working to drive efficiencies and direct sales to the company’s top 700 to 900 customers. CRN obtained a transcript of the statements, and partners (at least those contacted by CRN) immediately began to wonder if Symantec’s channel commitment was over.

On the other hand, Symantec VP Julie Parrish openly stated to The VAR Guy earlier this year that Symantec was working to identify several hundred large customers that would have the option to buy direct or through the channel.

Fact is, those large customers could always buy direct. But going forward, Symantec would actually name those accounts — so that partners knew they may occasionally run into Symantec’s sales team.

Parrish’s goal was to assure partners that they could continue to work with large customers — while conceding that some customers may opt to work directly with Symantec. Salem’s goal was to tell Wall Street how hard Symantec’s direct sales team was working for customers and shareholders. Ouch, something had to give.

Watch Your Words

Ultimately, Parrish and Salem were using vastly different words to say the same thing: Symantec’s top customers can buy direct or indirect. But Salem’s approach and language were super-aggressive, and he wound up alienating some partners once CRN published his words online.

Faced with the fallout, Parrish has been working overtime this week, clarifying Symantec’s partner strategy. Here are her three key points:

  • Named Accounts: For those big accounts — roughly 700 to 800 worldwide — customers can buy direct or indirect from Symantec. That’s always been the case for those large customers, notes Parrish. Is Symantec taking all of those customers direct? Nope, says Parrish. Rather, partners that add value will continue to do well in large account settings, she says.

  • Two-tier Distribution: Is Symantec abandoning it? No, says Parrish. In a handful of cases, roughly 30 deals per quarter, distributors aren’t involved because partners and Symantec are so heavily engaged on the projects.

  • SMB Renewals: Is Symantec taking SMB license renewals direct? No, says Parrish. Rather, Symantec contacts the reseller’s customer by email. The renewal notice includes the reseller’s name and tells the customer to contact the reseller for a renewal. CRN is quick to point out that the email lacks renewal contact info for the reseller. Still, shouldn’t VARs be taking proactive steps on their own — long before Symantec bangs on the customer’s door?

Frankly, The VAR Guy has a bit of a headache. Channel conflict stories have never really excited him. And in this case, the damage is already done.

Salem’s words to Wall Street are now etched in many partners’ minds. Some partners may believe Parrish’s take on the situation. Others may remain tainted by Salem’s statements.

Time and an ongoing channel commitment are the only two things that can fully restore partners’ faith in Symantec.

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