December 2009 Feature

A Reward Program That Rewards All Involved

SonicWALL Secures the Right Solution

Channel Management Insights speaks with Ted Hulsy of SonicWALL Inc.

Ideally, a reward program should provide benefits for the channel marketer and its partners. But for this to happen, the channel marketer can’t just implement an “off-the-shelf” solution. The company must first determine what it hopes to accomplish with the program, the type of reward(s) it should provide, and the wants and needs of its channel partners.

Also, the vendor must remember that what worked 10 years ago, or even last year, may not be the best program for today or tomorrow. So, the channel marketer must revisit the program periodically to update its elements to meet the demands of the marketplace and stay ahead of competitors in growing business and partner loyalty.

SonicWALL, a leading secure network infrastructure company, recently realized that its existing reward program wasn’t producing the results it hoped for. In response to this development, the company created a new program that is proving to be popular with its partners — and a successful business driver.

To find out about the new reward program, Channel Management Insights recently spoke with Ted Hulsy, director of channel marketing for SonicWALL Inc. The following is a summary of that interview.

CMI: What type of incentive/rewards program does SonicWALL have?

Hulsy: In April 2009, we started a point-based partner reward program that is exclusively available to our gold and silver partners. We award points for meeting sales objectives for specific products within a certain period of time or for doing partner development tasks such as product or sales training.

CMI: What are the core goals or objectives you had for establishing this program?

Hulsy: Our first goal was to provide partners with additional cash resources to incent their teams and put together their own internal bonus programs for their work force. We also use the program to drive strategic products — product lines that need extra incentives. Plus, we want to encourage partners to attend shows or participate in training that SonicWALL provides.

CMI: How did you structure the program to address these objectives?

Hulsy: In the past, we had a reward program that gave spiff dollars to high achievers at partner companies, but many business owners wanted to be in the driver’s seat on compensation decisions from front-line salespeople. So, we decided to have the cash benefit sent on a monthly basis to the partner organizations. Then, our partners can use the rewards to pay spiff to salespeople or spend it on other things.

Larger rewards go to our gold partners — approximately twice as much. The partners are aware of this and the benefits of becoming gold partners. Our rewards are easy to understand: Silver partners get points equal to $1 U.S.; gold partners get points equal to $2 U.S. We refresh our rewards or incentives every quarter, changing the range of products or behaviors we’re incenting.

To get our activities in our partners’ minds and build awareness of the program in the partner community, we produce a partner newsletter twice monthly, host road show events in cities where our partners are located and hold Web seminars. Our account teams manage the program in the field.

CMI: How do you determine the program’s ROI?

Hulsy: We measure it according to growth in strategic product lines and the qualitative feedback from our partners.

CMI: What have you learned as a result of implementing your program?

Hulsy: It’s a little early to know what the results will be, but we predict they will be positive. The program is focused on driving the visibility of enterprise-class products, which have a longer sales cycle on the part of our partners, including more presales activity. Our partners appreciate getting extra incentives for the level of work they do. And so far, the program’s logistics and the process of getting out the checks have been quite smooth.

Right now, the program is only in North America, where we have 800 gold and silver partners, but we’ll take it worldwide eventually.

CMI: How does this program fit into your firm’s channel partner program and/or marketing and incentive programs?

Hulsy: For some partners, money for sales rewards is important, but having funds for training is more important to others. The partners like the fact they can go online to our partner portal and see the reward offerings and program details. They can also check to see where they stand, to know what’s getting disbursed.

We view the program as one of the many benefits we provide our partners. We try to have a very feature-and-benefit-rich program, but it’s not our No. 1 important thing.

CMI: How has your program provided more insight into the marketplace, marketing activities, and/or channel partners’ needs and expectations?

Hulsy: We had the idea that we wanted the program to be simple to understand, exploit and administer. The ease of participating is important to the program’s success. Most of our partners deal with 30 or 40 other vendors. We want more of their mind share — and to be well down the hassle list.


Ted_Hulsy Ted Hulsy, director of channel marketing, is SonicWALL Inc.’s ambassador to the channel. He has been with SonicWALL for four years and is responsible for channel marketing and partner relations. Prior to heading up channel marketing, Hulsy served in a variety of product marketing roles with SonicWALL. He previously worked as a marketer with Netopia, NorthPoint Communications and Sprint.