The key, he says, is not only understanding the importance of technology, but being able to communicate it.

Buffy Naylor, Senior Managing Editor

March 5, 2021

6 Min Read
Connect the dots
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SOCSoter’s Eric Pinto

Eric Pinto attributes his success in the channel largely to his ability to connect the dots. Pinto, senior director of channel and product strategy for Maryland-based network cybersecurity provider SOCSoter, is a new member of the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board. He has worked “both sides of the table,” as he puts it, working with end customers and vendors. And on both sides, he found himself well served by his ability to communicate, to help clients and partners see the big picture.

Pinto, who graduated from Boston College with a degree in advertising communication, grew up in something of a tech environment. “My dad was always tech-oriented,” he said. “He was a middle-level manager with several different tech groups coming up through the ‘80s and ‘90s and told me, ‘You really need to pay attention to what’s next.’”

With that advice in mind and new degree in hand, he saw a job posting for selling DSL service and he jumped on it. “I had no idea what it was, other than a way to get higher-speed connections into both businesses and homes, which had previously been unattainable,” he said. “I thought it sounded interesting, like something my dad would say is what’s next.”

After a brief time at the job, Pinto realized he could do more than just dial the phone and make a sales pitch. If given the chance, he could conduct the higher-level conversation about technology. Those were currently being handed over to another team member. Being able to do so, he thought, would help him maintain rapport with the client. It would eliminate the awkwardness of having to introduce new parties to the process and bring them up to speed on what had happened so far.

The Higher-Level Conversation

Pinto got his hands on the materials his team members were using. He then educated himself about things like networking and how the infrastructure worked. “I learned what the key and important points were and just started doing it,” he said. “And I quickly moved out of the seat I was in and into a sales engineer role. From there, I continued to roll, continued to be trained, continued to train myself, continued to work with groups like CompTIA. Through the years I came to understand not only the technology, but the practical application of that technology. And that’s sort of my thing — that I can connect those dots.”

“And now, looking at security, it’s awesome. I’ve been in security for the bulk of my career, in anti-spam and security. I must connect those dots for business owners. I’m asking them to spend a little more — or a lot more — than what they’re spending now or asking them to make fundamental changes in their organization and how they work. So I need to convey to them the reasons why it’s important, why it matters. And those are the conversations I found I am really well-suited to have.”

Into the Channel

In the early 2000s, Pinto and a friend started their own security shop, DefenderSoft. In 2011, they sold their customer base to Spam Soap (later Nuvotera, which was acquired by Excel Micro in 2015). Pinto moved to Spam Soft as well, making the move to the channel in the process. “It was really interesting to come on board with Spam Soap and see the other side of the house, understand what the relationship looks like,” he said. “It really helped me to frame the larger picture.”

As Pinto sees it, that larger picture includes a middle space between vendors and partners. It’s “a channel space that acts as a conduit up and a conduit down — for information, for support, for billing purposes, all those things. It was an unfamiliar space for me, so it was great to have that as my introduction to what has become my career in working in channel sales.”

Security Challenges

One of the biggest challenges in security today as Pinto sees it is awareness at the user level. And not just that threats exist, but how pervasive they are and the extent of the damage that hackers can do.

“Hackers, or those with malicious intent, don’t really care if they get 10,000 financial records from one computer or…

…one financial record from 10,000 machines,” he said. “It makes no difference to them. It’s the aggregate, the volume. They’re going to send out a program. That program’s going to sniff around, it’s going to discover what it discovers and then it’s going to report home.  And if the findings are a lot of individual computers, great, or one network and a lot of data, great. Doesn’t matter. Success either way.”

To promote end-user awareness of how extensive the need for cybersecurity is, Pinto focuses on helping MSPs communicate with their clients. “It’s not that they [MSPs] don’t get it, because they’re technologists and they understand technology,” he said. “But they need help translating that message in a realistic way to the end customer — the business owner, accounting group, financial services, whatever they do.”

“Help them to understand that they’ve got to do a little bit more than they did last year to maintain or achieve some level of security. Or that there’s a new compliance requirement or regulation that demands they take the next step”

Where the Channel Shines

“It’s incumbent on the service provider to now be prescriptive and direct about the concern, the path to resolution and the components to get there.  If the customer is still unwilling to do so, then there are some other decisions that need to be made. One of the biggest impediments now is helping partners to understand that gap, that delta, that challenge and then to be able to message it and communicate better downstream.”

And communication must reflect the fact that end customers are now more savvy, Pinto says. “End customers are becoming much more aware of the challenge, the concern and ways to mitigate it.” Mitigation involves more than just buying the lowest-priced product off the internet, he says. Much more.

“Technology today cannot be about price,” he said. “It’s not about the product, it’s the total package — the ecosystem of support and service that comes with the product. The more we get into technology, those are the sort of intangibles that business owners who are looking to consume new technology have to be increasingly aware of.”

“The service provider still is invaluable. The service provider’s role has shifted. It’s not just ‘Hey, sell me a product.’ It’s ‘Help me understand this technology, help me make this technology work for me and my business and help me overcome obstacles and challenges when they occur.’ Those are the things service providers bring to the table.”

“When something happens, when there’s a problem, when there’s a challenge, who’s there for you? What type of resources do you have available? And that’s where we start to shine.”

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About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Senior Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is senior managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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