Verizon Segments Partner Program

By Cara Sievers and Khali Henderson Comments
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One year after Verizon Communications Inc. announced the 2007 Verizon Solutions Partner Program, combining the former MCI and Verizon channels, the company plans to segment it into two parts — one under Verizon Telecom and the other under Verizon Business. The bifurcation officially will begin on Jan. 1, 2008.

Verizon Telecom includes consumer, SOHO and SMB targets; large national and international enterprises are served by Verizon Business. The Verizon Solutions Partner Program has been under the purview of Verizon Telecom.

Under the new program, customers billing $250,000 per year, with 500 employees or more, and usually having multiple locations — and the partners associated with those customers — will be assigned as “enterprise” into what will be dubbed as the Verizon Business Indirect Channel Alliance. Partners representing customers billing less than $250,000 per year with less than 500 employees will be in the Verizon Telecom program.

“By aligning our indirect channels more directly with the Verizon teams that serve each one of these indirect markets, we actually think that we’re going to be able to better support the partner community, but also do a better job at serving our clients and really drive in greater affinity with our clients,” says Maggie Hallbach, regional vice president of indirect and inside sales solutions for Verizon Business.

Partners who currently are part of the program can choose to participate in either segment of the program or both, depending on the customers they serve. It’s not an either-or situation.

The Verizon Business Indirect Channel Alliance will offer partners a few extras. Hallbach says there will be enhanced training for partners in the Alliance that will focus on solution selling. Partners also will have access to sales force automation tools, including real-time pricing and quoting tools and contracting and ordering tools. “These have been some of the things that [partners] have been somewhat distanced from through kind of what I would call manual intervention; and we’re going to really be bringing them in much closer to many of the tools our direct team leverages today,” says Hallbach. “We also are going to be providing a nice support surround for the technical resources necessary for these complex sales engagements [such as IP transformations]. The sales engagements usually tend to be longer for these complex solutions and also need to have additional levels of resource as the complexities increase,” she continues. Additionally, Hallbach says there will be some changes in the financial rewards for Alliance participants.

“What we think we’ll see is that the programs will be tailored to greater success for each of those segments because they are very different segments in terms of what the customers are purchasing and the types of products and services that the various partners can then opt to deliver in the marketplace,” says Verizon Business spokeswoman Debbie Lewis.

Verizon currently is designing and structuring new contracts for 2008, “so there will be some different qualifications to anticipate,” Lewis says. “Certainly, this also opens up the door for new partners who may not have previously been part of the program to give us another look.”

Upon the announcement of the creation of the Verizon Business Indirect Channel Alliance, Verizon Telecom spokesman Jim Smith says the Verizon Telecom, or small business side of the program, would “stay the course that was established during the reconstruction last year.”

The post-merger 2007 partner program has drawn fire from former MCI Solutions Partners who complained that many of the new “rules of engagement” cut them out of accounts and that the compensation structure disincented renewals and cut evergreen commissions.

Ken Mercer, senior vice president for Telecom Brokerage Inc., a master agency that’s one of about 100 companies that signed on to the 2007 VSPP last fall, says if companies like TBI are allowed to work with both groups, he welcomes the change. “We can get people that know [Verizon Business] and then get people that know [Verizon Telecom] and that would truly give us better support.”

While he doesn’t have all the details, Mercer concedes the move in general is likely to frustrate those agents whose contracts were cut when Verizon purchased MCI. “Those MCI agents were cancelled, and now they split the channel up again and [there is a] focus back on MCI products and territories,” he says.

And, he says, the change appears to do nothing to address concerns with the 2007 program commissions, namely, that compensation for renewals is significantly lower than what is paid for new sales.

Details were not available at press time.

“Right now, we’re all focused on the continued success of this year’s program, which does continue through the remainder of 2007,” says Lewis. “And as we develop the new program, and communicate [more] details of those programs in the coming months, we hope to set the stage for a strong kickoff and even greater success next year.”

Links
Verizon Communications Inc. www.verizon.com
Verizon Business www.verizonbusiness.com
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