The Engage Partner Benefit of Working with Channel Sales Engineers

By Fortinet | December 29, 2022

Cybersecurity offers a range of careers from being in research and development to being a threat researcher and more across both technical roles and nontechnical roles. One role within cybersecurity is being a channel sales engineer, which at Fortinet is an integral part of the sales team. Fortinet Engage Channel Sales Engineers (SEs) provide technical enablement for channel partners, building long-lasting relationships with them and helping them maximize opportunities selling Fortinet’s Security Fabric solutions.

Jon Axford is a recent addition to Fortinet’s UK channel sales team. He began his career working at a help desk and quickly moved to providing technical support for Windows Servers. From there, Jon moved into networking, where he remained for 15 years doing pre and post-sales, technical design and delivery for networks, and working alongside large systems integrators, all while using Fortinet products. We recently had a conversation with Jon to learn more about his experience working as a channel sales engineer at Fortinet and why SEs are so vital for partners.

Jon Axford, Channel SE at Fortinet

How Fortinet Sales Engineers Help Channel Partners

What does your role as a Fortinet Sales Engineer look like?

Jon Axford (JA): I work with some of our global system integrator (GSI) partners in the UK. My role as a channel sales engineer is to help our partners know how to position Fortinet with their customers and make sure Fortinet is at the top of their list when they approach them. My duties include a combination of helping them respond to bids and RFPs for new contracts, as well as helping them understand how a Fortinet solution could facilitate that. At the same time, I’m encouraging them to take full advantage of Fortinet’s sales enablement resources, like our Fortinet Training Institute’s Network Security Expert (NSE) training curriculum, Fast Tracks, and workshops, so they can get skilled in cybersecurity skill sets as well as Fortinet’s solutions.

What is the partner benefit of having access to and working with a channel sales engineer?

JA: Having worked for the partner side, I know there is always a plethora of different technologies they can be using and they’ve got multiple vendors coming in and saying, “Use our technology.” It’s my job and the role of the channel team to try and make their lives easier when it comes to choosing the right technology. And in my opinion, the easier the channel team is to work with and how helpful they are, the more likely they are to keep finding opportunities to work together. I believe always building and nurturing my relationship with partners and being an extended part of their team is critical, so that when their customers are looking for cybersecurity solutions they know to come straight to us.

What are some of the values the channel team provides to partners?

JA: Having a channel team as a whole means that you can have a lot of influence in important circles, like GSIs, and work with them strategically. Part of our role is to show them what skills and technology to invest in and how it can help them to expand their own portfolios, products, solutions, and other things they can go to market with. I’ve found that it's less about selling something once and it’s more about building a foundation that they can continue to build on, which we offer with the Fortinet Security Fabric.

How can partners leverage the Fortinet channel sales engineering team?

JA: I would say it depends on the partner. We advertise and run as many events as we can to get people in front of the technology and try to pull their interest. The other side of that is the channel team is available for our partners all the time and committed to our collaborations. If they have problems with any technology, design, or proof of concept they’re struggling to get going, they come to us first and we can help them work through it or at least point them in the right direction. And then there are some who come to us for product training or learning about applications and we’re a value-add through enablement.

Having been with Fortinet for six months and working across sales engineering teams, what would you say makes Fortinet's team unique?

JA: Many of the people I work with have either come from partner teams or have experience working with partner teams and I think that brings in a lot of unique experiences to the table. When you are trying to sell someone something, you've got an appreciation for how it's actually going to be deployed, the bumps in the road that we're going to face, and you could add more value to that because you’ve been on their side before and know what they’re dealing with.

From my experience as a customer, you need someone who will understand your environment and there is a lot of experience on our team with varied skill sets. There are people from different walks of life, including people on our team who have come from the endpoint or antivirus backgrounds to people like me who have networking backgrounds. Because of that, there’s always someone on the team who will have the right breadth of experience and knowledge to provide support and value to the partner.

What excites you about your role in helping partners?

JA: I really enjoy meeting people and using my experience to help them. The role is less about sitting in front of a computer and typing commands into a firewall. It's about understanding what they're trying to do and how we can help them. Meeting people face to face, and talking about things, is the kind of interaction with partners that I really enjoy.

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.