Bridget Bisnette of Riverbed on Channel Innovation, Incentives and Outcomes

Published On: August 16, 2018Categories: Buzz, Uncategorized, Women Who Make it Happen in the Channel Series

Bridget Bisnette’s three-decade career in the channel – marked by nearly 20 years at Cisco – is awe-inspiring. Last year she made the move to Riverbed Technology as Senior Vice President, Global Channels and Commercial Sales and has hit the ground running, starting with embedding a profit and loss model into the company’s channel strategy for the first time.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Bridget to discuss how Riverbed is innovating and incentivizing its partners. As always, she surpassed our expectations and also offered her sage advice for women working their way through, and up, the channel.

Q: What was your first order of business at Riverbed?
A: I wanted to look deep inside our channel business – to know what was working, what wasn’t, and where adjustments were needed. Establishing a profit and loss model allowed me to do that. Backed by hard numbers, I had the data I needed to transform our overall strategy and one of the first things we did was change the conversation. Today, we focus on incentivizing our partners based on their ability to deliver outcomes to the customer. We’re supporting their success every step of the way and have modernized how we execute channel engagement and enablement in order to guide them.

Q: What are the major factors you see impacting partner strategy?
A: Everyone is focused on customer success. All the vendors get it, but what’s been lacking has been a real focus on partner success as it relates to selling in that lifecycle model. There are companies out there doing amazing work in customer success and spending millions of dollars putting together complex journey maps for their enterprise customers, but they still haven’t figured out the partner side of it.

Historically speaking, Riverbed’s portfolio hasn’t been “customer success dependent.” Our main optimization product shipped, was plugged in, and immediately started doing what we said it was going to do. That track record is what has fueled our growth. But as we’ve expanded to three solution categories, we knew we needed to formalize our approach to customer success and we’ve offered our partners a Riverbed framework that guides them in building their own customer performance command center to drive it.

Q: How would you best summarize Riverbed’s current strategy for partner success?
A: Our new Riverbed Rise channel program incentivizes those who sell Riverbed, helps them create competitive advantage, and makes it easier for them to do business with us. It delivers profitability through a performance-based incentive plan. Partners can now interact with us through a partner portal, which provides access to digital marketing and social media services to create greater demand. It also offers partners a more simplified discounting schedule, encouraging them to rise to new levels of business success.

Our program is geared around helping prepare partners for success as they roll out their own performance-based services using one, all or any combination of our performance-based software offerings. We’ve also completely re-architected our accreditations to be outcome-based, not product-based.

Q: What is your ideal partner profile?
A: We need partners that have the ability to embed and/or build managed services and cloud-based services with our software. Or they can resell our software on an appliance or deliver it to an enterprise environment as a service. We want partners to be able to offer our technology in a way their customers can and want to consume it. To make this work effectively, our partners need to really understand the philosophy of business outcomes as well as how to service customers in a way that adds value, be it through regional or vertical expertise.

Q: How, specifically, is Riverbed now incentivizing partners?
A: Our new program incentivizes partners for building digital performance capabilities. So our program actually pays partners more money for setting up a service based on Riverbed’s software than it does for reselling it. Our highest payout category is when partners bring us new customers who have not previously purchased Riverbed. Partners also get extra incentives if they sell across our portfolio and rewards can be utilized for rebates, business development funds or training resources. Partners are building and reselling some combination of managed services, cloud services and/or professional services based on our software, so we’ve built a program that incentivizes them across that continuum.

Q: What advice do you have for other women in the channel?
A: Some say that companies hire or promote men based on potential and hire or promote women based on their experience. I don’t think it’s necessarily men establishing this dynamic, I think we women sometimes do it to ourselves. We focus on what we have done or delivered versus what we have learned and the capabilities we have developed that would make us successful in the next job opportunity. Sometimes, Women show up defending their worth. Men show up knowing it, and take what I call an offensive position.

So my advice to other women would be to hone your communication skills and get comfortable with being assertive. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room but have the ability to speak and articulate your point of view and to persuade others. Don’t be afraid to speak up, and always try to be on the offense versus the defense.

Q: If you could give one reminder to today’s IT channel leaders, what would it be?
A: A partner will sell inferior technology if the vendor is easy to do business with. Take control of your partner’s experience and consider the ways you can support sales and marketing motions across the entire customer lifecycle. Do everything possible to make doing business with you easier and more profitable for your partners.

This is the third of a four-part series focused on three trailblazing women who are transforming the channel. Go here for the first blog post.

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