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Channel Chief: Babatunde Abagun, Channel Sales Manager, WECA, Nutanix

Channel Chief: Babatunde Abagun, Channel Sales Manager, WECA, Nutanix

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Babatunde Abagun, Channel Sales Manager, West, East and Central Africa at Nutanix, a global provider of hybrid multi-cloud computing solutions. Abagun talks about his current job role and how Nutanix is recruiting partners, working with the channel and developing it business across the African continent.

Describe your current job role and the parts that are somewhat challenging?

My current job role entails recruiting and ensuring that recruited partners are successful across West, East and Central Africa. I also execute on sales campaigns, marketing campaigns and growing partner competency through certifications. In addition, I help partners to sell and carry the Nutanix mission and vision through to their customers the same way Nutanix does.

The somewhat challenging part is ensuring that we have the right level of C-suite support from partners so as to keep maximum mindshare and thus investment on the Nutanix brand from partner organisations. Further, as we move to a subscription model, we need to get partners to see and know how profitable a subscription business can be and aligning them to this has also been slightly challenging given that partners have over time had a greater percentage of their revenue through perpetual software sales and CAPEX-driven hardware sales.

In a market where many technology decisions are made based on the brand or vendor popularity, I have also found that helping partners to see the unique differentiators of a solution is a challenge. Getting them to drive an offering after seeing its unique differentiators and getting them to highlight your solution over and above an already popular brand in the market in the infrastructure space isn’t always easy. Still, we have made a lot of inroads here, and perceptions are changing, causing us to really differentiate innovators and early adopting partners from the rest.

Can you explain how your company works with channel partners?

For us, we aim to achieve a true partnership with our partners where both entities work in collaboration – contributing in terms of leads, sales activities, and building competencies with a profitable rewards model to reward partners as they grow competency as well as ensuring that they get additional leads to pursue over and above their typical day-to-day business.

The Nutanix Elevate Channel Programme helps our partners to differentiate themselves in the market by “elevating” them. This ensures that they get maximum returns on their sales investments, cost of sales, and competency builds.

How do you ensure channel partners flourish in a highly competitive market?

How I ensure channel partners flourish in a highly competitive market is by helping them differentiate themselves and helping them to adopt a solution-oriented approach to sales. Our Elevate Partner programme is built to allow partners to develop their competencies to enable them to leverage solution sales plays, which in turn helps them build a solution sales approach with their customers.

We also provide a very robust and profitable rebate programme. As part of our Elevate 2.0 launched in August, partners continuously get rebates in alignment with their customer lifetime value. We also have a formidable deal registration programme, one of the best in the industry currently. Partners can essentially differentiate from a margin perspective to win more opportunities.

One unique way we ensure channel partners flourish is by building dedicated channel programmes based on the type of channel partner. Whether you are a systems integrator, a service provider or a reseller, Nutanix has built dedicated and specialised channel programmes for each partner.

For instance, our distributors have a dedicated channel programme and our service provider partners and managed service providers have a different one and so forth. By building these dedicated programmes, we can cater to our partners’ needs and essentially help them flourish.

What are the latest trends you see emerging across the channel?

So, some of the trends that we see emerging are channel partners looking to make additional revenue from other sources. They are looking to make more revenue from services, residencies and support, not just from the initial sales. So, partners are looking for those OEMs and vendors that will support them to expand their revenue base and sources.

Secondly, we see a multi-cloud trend. More partners are getting into a multi-cloud solutions business, where they provide solutions that sit on-premise and deliver solutions that sit across multiple clouds. Whether via an infrastructure- As-a-Service or platform-As-a-Service or even Software-As-a-Service to customers.

The second trend distils into a third trend, where several partners are also looking to make recurring revenue instead of one-off revenue. This ties into perpetual verses’ subscription licensing. We are seeing more partners choosing a subscription model, and that number will increase substantially in the next couple of years as they see the benefit.

What is your management philosophy?

My philosophy is radical truth and radical transparency, and I’ll explain. Partners need to trust you, to build a collaborative partnership and that trust needs to be unwavering. Partners need to have all the information required to succeed, so my philosophy is to be open and transparent with them.

I have a weekly newsletter that we share across WECA called 2x Tuesdays. The objective is to share material and ensure partners have access to the same level of information we have as Nutanix to succeed in their own business. My radical truth and transparency approach ensures that partners trust us. It ensures that C-level executives at a partner can trust me personally and can reach out to me at any point in time to confirm that they are getting the correct information.

When you look back at your career, what has been the most memorable achievement?

I think, for me, my most memorable achievements would be a recurring theme throughout my career. I’m proud of building the business from nothing to being one of the pivotal OEMs in the region. In my previous role, I took a business from being a new entrant in the market to one that proliferated and one that customers demanded feature in their projects. At Nutanix, I’m taking the business and making it one of the veritable logos that customers are proud to have. Beyond that, I really obsess over customers so another recurring memorable achievement is helping customers meet and surpass those priority business objectives for which they work with me and my partners. This in turn leads to outperforming quarterly or yearly sales goals which are also memorable achievements.

What made you think of a career in technology?

I started a career in technology to essentially help individuals and businesses achieve their objectives, solve their problems, circumvent major obstacles and get them to think big to achieve great things with technology. Seeing the light in people’s eyes when you solve a problem or see the commercial and otherwise positive outcomes that organisations get to experience when they solve a business-wide issue fills me with pride and purpose every day.

What do you think will be the hot technology talking point of 2021?

I think the top technology talking point for 2021 would be the “journey to recovery”. After the onset of the pandemic, organisations went through a crisis where many of them had to find ways to reduce costs. When you think of the kinds of technologies that can assist with revenue streams, you think of the Edge, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Yes, you think of hybrid multi-cloud solutions, but more so around technologies that can help customers maximise their cloud investments. So, for the rest of the year and early next year, there will be a strong focus on technology and targeted investments into technology that can help businesses rebuild while maintaining a competitive advantage and growing through new revenue streams.

What are your personal interests and where do you like to spend most of your time after work?

I love to spend my time at home with my lovely family. I also enjoy catching up with my wife, as she’s also a career person and a very important part of my life is being involved in supporting her career growth. I like to read a lot of books, the Bible included. I also enjoy listening to podcasts, reading technology blogs, and being aware of what’s happening in the technology space. Since I’m in that space, I want to be the technology advisor my customers and partners need me to be. When I’m not doing these, you probably would catch me watching a movie or movie series.

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