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Relationship skills

Andy Bogdan, Kaspersky Head of UK channel, is calling on parties throughout the IT channel to rekindle the human touch and improve cybersecurity skills levels.

His call follows a survey in which two thirds (65%) of UK resellers and distributors expressed a desire for stronger relationships with vendors and more than three quarters (77%) agreed that having personal relationships with vendors is important.

These findings dovetail with one of Bogdan’s core objectives since joining the cybersecurity specialist 18 months ago, which is to change the common perception of Kaspersky as ‘that Russian company, that AV (anti-virus) company, that consumer company’.

“We have always been known as an anti-virus company but that’s just a very, very small part of what we do,” he said. “One of the objectives I had for this year was to change the perception of Kaspersky as a company.”

He aims to do this by re-focusing on relationship-building rather than just selling, by building on Kaspersky’s 23 years of experience, quarterly threat reports and events like its Security Analyst Summit to position the company as a source of information and training on cybersecurity.

“What we are trying to do is say ‘This is the landscape; these are the problems; these are the threats; these are the actors; this is what we see as best practice; and this is how we do it’. I believe it is the vendor’s responsibility to do that. It’s an important part of the channel relationship,” he said.

There is clearly an appetite for such an approach among resellers, with 86% of distributors and resellers surveyed saying they would much rather work with a partner that offered education services and training services.

Need for education
More to the point, Bogdan argues that there is a growing need for this type of engagement among resellers and their customers.

“The IT team in an average SME might have three to five people. Ask if any of them understands the basics of cyber security and it is rare to find even one person that does, yet they all know, from years of experience, how to support a desktop or change a hard drive in a server. There’s a good opportunity for vendors, not just Kaspersky, to work collaboratively to help educate channel partners and the market because the cyber threat isn’t going away,” he said.

Channel partners should take advantage of the opportunity, Bogdan suggests, because there are strong commercial benefits in doing so as the market shifts from managed services to managed security services and the skills shortage makes recruitment difficult, including an uptick in sales.

“I was surprised that only 60% of people we surveyed agreed that providing education helps sales. What I have learnt from talking to customers myself is that we have a very good conversion rate when we are able to engage with the customer in that way, when we can assist them,” he said.

But do resellers have time to master a subject as complex, fast moving and protean as cyber security? Ultimately, aren’t they better off relying on the expertise of security vendors like Kaspersky?

“The reality is you won’t have all the necessary skills, so there is an element of relying on the vendor. But partners also have a responsibility to be learning at the same time,” said Bogdan.

“Digital transformation is changing the need for understanding, the need for knowledge. As a partner, you need to understand your customers inside and out. Why does your customer want to work with you as a partner? Because you add value. There is a joint responsibility for education throughout the channel, from the vendor right down to the customer.”

Bogdan adds that there are also strong practical benefits to this. “Let’s not forget, cybersecurity is not just about technology; it is also about the human touch. In fact, 84% of cyber incidents are created by human beings – we are the weakest link,” he said.

What the channel thinks

*65% of resellers and distributors wish the relationship with their vendor was better.
*69% would like more personal contact with a dedicated account manager.
*65% are finding it increasingly difficult to build relationships with vendors.
*71% say they feel the onus is on them to establish relationships with vendors.
*77% agree having a personal relationship with vendors is important to them.
*65% feel they could seal more business opportunities if they had closer relationships with vendors.
*47% agree that customer service is the most important consideration when deciding which vendor to work with.
(Based on an online survey of 150 UK resellers and distributors by Arlington Research)

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