A channel sales engineer is the face of Fortinet to many of our channel partners. Fortinet channel sales engineers (SEs) are responsible for technical enablement with our channel partners, helping them maximize the opportunity with Fortinet’s Security Fabric solutions. Chris Nguyen, who has been with Fortinet 11+ years, is one such dedicated channel sales engineer.
Chris wasn't always an SE. Before Fortinet, he worked in retail and when he started at Fortinet it was on the help desk—providing technical support for Fortinet products. Chris says that his prior experience working with different types of people is an ideal skill that he has used since becoming a channel sales engineer in 2016. Recently, Chris shared his thoughts on being a channel sales engineer and why he loves working at Fortinet.
Chris Nguyen (CN): My role as a channel sales engineer is to help our partners become better at selling and positioning Fortinet products. Channel sales engineers are responsible for technical enablement for the partner community—from the smallest partners all the way up to our larger named partners. We typically interface with partners to help train them or make them aware of the training options that we have available. So, we're generally 100% focused on technical enablement.
Also, there is a relationship building component in my position. We try to expand the relationships between partners and Fortinet. Our goal is to try to build rapport with partners to help Fortinet become top of mind, so that when their customers come to them looking for a solution, they think, “Okay, I know this great Fortinet solution. I was just talking with my channel SE Chris Nguyen and I think this would be great for you, Mr. Customer.” That’s the ultimate channel SE team goal.
CN: I think most partners end up drinking from a fire hose because most of them represent anywhere from 10 to 200 different manufacturers. Obviously, it's a challenge for them to keep up with what’s going on with the technical landscape. We help our partners narrow their focus. With Fortinet being one of the largest—if not the largest pure-play security company—we can better position them to succeed by minimizing the number of vendors that they need to interact with.
Fortinet also puts partners in a position to architect and craft better solutions. They might be able to create a Fortinet-based solution for a customer and solve a business need, that if we were not there helping them—if we didn’t have their mindshare—the partner might try to work with three or four different manufacturers to craft that same solution, resulting in more time spent on a less desirable outcome.
And, of course, Fortinet is a 100% channel company. That fact strengthens partner relationships. Our partners know they can interact with us and not have to worry that we're going to take the deal direct. Many of our competitors cannot make that same claim.
CN: Our team is really needed because there are so many different vendors. It's really important for our team to communicate and evangelize the Fortinet technology story. We need to carve out a piece of our partners’ mindshare to say why partnering with us can lead to more success—whether that's from our technology or the way we do business right.
It's also important for us to re-engage with some partners that know who we are but maybe haven't kept up with us in the past couple of years. It is really about us staying engaged and updating our messaging with partners.
Our SE team helps partners filter out a lot of the noise. And ultimately, at the end of the day, we give them something to sell. We've got such a broad portfolio of products that you know if they engage with us and they're willing to let us work with them from a technical perspective, it puts them in a better position to drive their revenue, because it gives them additional products or additional solutions to sell.
And from their customers’ perspective, it puts them in a better position to be able to solve some of the business problems that their customers bring to them. The fact that they can work with us to make all that happen, I think, is a huge benefit for them.
CN: Our goal is for all our partners to know who we are and to know what channel SE supports them. We want them to feel they can build a relationship with us, so that we can help them on individual opportunities or deals. Or, so that we can refer them to the appropriate field sales teams. Or, so we can set up training and enablement actions to help them become better at selling. Partners can reach out to Fortinet channel sales engineering team whenever they want, and we'll certainly do whatever we can to try to help them.
CN: What makes us unique is that we have a pretty senior-level team. Almost everybody on the team here has at least a decade of experience within the industry—while many of our people have been in the industry 15 to 25 years. We're all very seasoned because most of us have worked for multiple vendors in this space. A lot of our team members actually came from the partner community, so they've been on the other side of the fence. We have team members that know what it's like to walk a mile in a partner’s shoes. I’m sure that makes us a better at support for them. I think that our team is uniquely suited to help partners grow their business.
CN: It's really fun and really rewarding to do a lot of enablement for our partners. Some of our partners may not have much experience with Fortinet, but we stay engaged with them. We answer their questions. We enable them via things like our Fast-Track program or even through training and certifications programs through Fortinet Training Institute where I see them grow to understand the product. That's something that's really rewarding. It's nice to see because we invest time in them, and in return, they invest in us.
When we work with our partners, they become our friends. We can talk about things other than work, so it's really about building a relationship that flourishes. I think people tend to work more with the people that they like. So that's my whole approach to supporting our partners. It's really refreshing to see our history of innovation shine with our partners and create amazing opportunities for them to grow their businesses.
Learn more about Fortinet's Engage Partner Program and how your organization can benefit by joining. Current partners can visit the Partner Portal to find important updates from Fortinet and our partner program.