IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Rackspace Goes Deep

The hosting giant turned cloud and managed services titan has a new channel program aimed at cultivating close relationships with its most committed partners. By Rich Freeman

READY TO GET SERIOUS about partnering with Rackspace? Your timing is excellent, because Rackspace is ready to get downright fanatical about partnering with you.

As of April, the cloud solution and managed services vendor has a brand-new partner program with brand-new tiers and benefits, not to mention a big new mission: turning its most committed partners into a “fanatical channel.”

“Rackspace has been built on fanatical support,” says Rackspace Channel Chief Lisa McLin (pictured). “What we want is to take that mentality, the mentality of the customer getting fanatical support, and bring it forward through the channel.”

In fact, from McLin’s point of view, Rackspace must realize that goal in order to achieve its larger ambition of becoming the go-to service provider for the age of IT on demand.

“Customers today want to pay for a technology as they consume it,” McLin observes. “We’re going to be that IT-as-a-service offering.”

To that end, the San Antonio, Texas-based company has been expanding far beyond the hosting services it’s best known for into cloud infrastructure and software-as-a-service offerings from leading third-party providers, managed security services, and much more, all backed by configuration and deployment assistance plus ongoing support.

“Now Rackspace has the ability to manage the professional services, manage your co-location platform, move you over to a cloud platform of choice, whether it’s VMware, or [Amazon Web Services], or Microsoft, and then continue to manage that,” McLin says. Partners, she continues, are the critical final link.

“They have the true customer relationships, and people buy from people,” McLin observes. “They’re going to guide their customers through this journey.”

Collaborative Relationships with Committed Partners

Since stepping into her current role last July, McLin’s top priority has been designing a channel offer capable of attracting and retaining skilled partners. The program she came up with is the first from Rackspace with formalized tiers, structured benefits, and strategic go-to-market agreements. The goal, McLin emphasizes, is to drive deep, collaborative relationships with truly committed partners.

“We don’t have a quota on how many partners we want to work with, because we really don’t want to go wide,” she says. “We want to go very narrow and deep with these partners.”

To reward those strategic allies for their dedication, Rackspace will provide them with partner account managers, access to a newly created team of technical sales specialists, market development funds, quarterly business reviews, and more.

Online tools include an enhanced partner portal offering detailed information about closed and pending deals, customized reports, actionable intelligence on untapped sales opportunities, as well as a “cloud guide” solution that helps partners conduct requirements-gathering discussions with sales prospects.

“It allows them to go down the path of determining the best cloud opportunity or option for the customer,” says McLin, adding that Rackspace saves that information for future use by its own salesforce.

“When Rackspace gets on the phone with that partner and customer for a three-legged call, we have the notes, so we’re not starting from scratch,” she explains.

At present, the new partner program has about 340 members. Though strategic partners will get most of Rackspace’s attention, McLin recognizes that there are plenty of other channel pros out there eager to do business transactionally with the company.

“We do have a lot of partners who just want to refer something, pass it over, and then continue to go their merry way,” she says. An extensive set of self-serve resources, including brandable marketing materials and portal access, will allow such firms to earn one-and-done sales commissions for closing new deals.

That kind of something-for-everyone approach to partnering is typical of instincts McLin has developed across 15 years at Rackspace in a variety of sales and support roles, and is likely to continue being reflected in her policies going forward.

“My mind just works in that business development concept of ‘How do we grow together?’” she says.

About the Author

Rich Freeman's picture

Rich Freeman is ChannelPro's Executive Editor

ChannelPro SMB Magazine

Get an edge on the competition

With each issue packed full of powerful news, reviews, analysis, and advice targeting IT channel professionals, ChannelPro-SMB will help you cultivate your SMB customers and run your business more profitably.