Jim Barnet is the director of sales and marketing for Fivel
Fivel is a micro-learning application platform. Need some training on web presentation tools, Webex or Office 365? Fivel’s cloud-based video content, delivery and reporting platform is designed to do just that, and it also updates users of frequent updates and other changes that come with the software on an ongoing basis. But Fivel users don’t have to trudge through hours of boring training material in one sitting. The training is delivered in bite-sized sessions in order to ensure complete retention, and Fivel’s partner program supports both new deployments and a managed service that keeps users updated with software versions as they are released throughout the year. It also supports sales and marketing, too, in addition to generating leads with its own marketing campaigns and webinars. The service also includes a dashboard tracks each employee’s progress in the training. CDN spoke with Jim Barnet, Fivel’s director of sales and marketing.
CDN: What led you into a career within the channel?
Barnet: When I joined Fivel six years ago, they had a 100 per cent direct model. They were doing very well with that model and had some very large customers, including one of the country’s biggest retailers, one of the biggest telecommunication companies in canada, a department of defence contract…we had tremendous success in signing big spot light customers. But after that, we had to talk about how the organization was going to scale. We said we can keep hiring direct sales people and do what we’re doing, or we can look at building a channel. And the reason we thought the channel was so attractive was because of our sister company, Promys.
Promys sells operational business software to channel partners. What we started doing was using Fivel to help with Promise deployments. And we got really good feedback from those channel partners. The online video learning combined with the preliminary webinar training worked very well. And then those partners kept coming back to us and asking, ‘can you do the same thing for Webex?’ It was a nice combination of circumstances that led us to building a channel, and it was really the customer that pushed us to go down this path.
CDN: What is your definition of channel at Fivel?
Barnet: When we think of a channel partner, we think of a Cisco channel partner, a Microsoft channel partner, a Dell channel partner – those are pretty straightforward definitions, but things are changing. The channel used to be very segmented. You would have people who would self identify as an MSP, a systems integrator or an ISV. What we’re finding now is that those lines are really blurring, and we’re seeing a systems integrator with a managed services line of business. Even Cisco is encouraging its traditional channel partners to develop their own proprietary value added software on top of their platforms. People used to be very motivated to stay in their lane because a certain specialization was what helped them differentiate themselves. But now, while channel partners still want that, it’s more of a vertical market expertise rather than a technical market expertise, so they’re expanding how broad their technical offerings are.
CDN: What are the three largest areas of responsibility in current role as Channel Chief?
Barnet: It’s basically identifying new channel partners to expose our value proposition and to see if they’ll become a fivel reseller, help existing channel partners deploy successfully and grow their user adoption business, and I’m responsible for supporting partners’ marketing activities and other programs for implementation and training, and help them become successful with the Fivel line of business.
CDN: What can the Canadian partner community do better to ensure the partner ecosystem is one where companies can thrive?
Barnet: There has been a gap in the channel market for creating specific success criteria to define channel management roles. The c4 mandate is exciting to me because it’s creating the a level of credibility for a channel management role that targets very specific skill sets and has a support infrastructure to back it up.
CDN: What piece of advice would you give someone who aspires to be a channel chief?
Barnet: Find a mentor. I am so grateful for the opportunity that C4 provided me with and the mentorship from Donna Whitman. As part of my 25-plus years of sales and marketing experience, I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I got into the channel with a lot of preconceptions, thinking building a channel would be easy. I thought we were crushing it with our big spotlight accounts and that the channel would welcome us with open arms. We think, as a vendor, we’re coming to save them. But that’s not the case. The fastest way to develop interest in the channel is to bring them leads.