When cybersecurity vendor SonicWALL was acquired by Dell in the late spring of 2012, the folks at partner Stronghold Data scrambled to reassure clients that the merger would ultimately be in their best interests.
A Joplin, MO-based managed services provider (MSP), Stronghold leveraged its relationship as a “trusted advisor” to convince customers that their networks would remain as secure as ever using software from the new Dell SonicWALL.
In June – just more than four years after the Dell acquisition was finalized – Stronghold learned that SonicWALL was being sold again, this time to a pair of private equity firms that vow to return the brand to a standalone company.
Representatives of Stronghold Data recently sat down with MSPmentor during the Dell Peak 16 security conference in Las Vegas, to discuss how they’re navigating the customer relations challenge posed by the vendor flux.
“If you’re not adept in terms of embracing change and you’re in security, you’re obviously doing it wrong,” Stronghold project director Brad Schneider said, citing a talking point from a conference keynote speech.
Stronghold Data has been in business for 26 years, generating revenue during much of its past as a reseller and integrator.
It pivoted to managed services just more than a decade ago and now boasts customer relationships so rich that Schneider is routinely tapped to weigh in on customers’ broader technology strategies.
“As a trusted partner, we’re really their security department, in a number of the cases,” he said. “We have that insight into the metrics of their firewall – of their security.”
“We actually have some clients where we sit in their IT meetings,” Schneider added. “We have that level of trust.”
The strength of those relationships has been tested since Dell first bought SonicWALL in May 2012. Customer reactions can run the gamut.
“There are some that stay abreast of all of the changes in technology and they kind of reach out to us, but that’s a very small population,” Stronghold sales director Jason Rincker said. “At the other side of that spectrum, there are those customers that don’t care.”
“They are looking to stronghold to make the best decision for them and their business,” he continued. “Whether it’s a SonicWALL or someone else, they just want to know that they’re protected.”
Customers who are interested are encouraged to discuss the changes with Stronghold Data officials during gatherings like lunch and learn sessions, or marketing events.
“We try to get out in front of it and really embrace it and answer those questions,” Rincker said. “When we can go in with those right solutions, it presents us as the expert in that field.”
Often, reassuring customers comes down to simple practicality, Schneider said.
“We have had a couple of our clients ask us about the transition,” he said. “Basically, I said, the firmware is the same. The engine is the same. The engineering team is the same.”
“We were strong as a SonicWALL partner before (and) will be again,” Schneider continued. “That was a very satisfactory answer for clients.”
Himself an engineer, Schneider said the latest SonicWALL transaction is being welcomed by many technicians.
“One of the things that we liked most is the renewed responsiveness we’re expecting to see from the engineering staff,” he said.
“In the pre-acquisition days, SonicWALL … we could have them on speed dial and make a feature request and they’d be immediately responsive,” Schneider explained. “And I think you’re going to see that kind of responsiveness come back.”