Of note, Verizon is requiring its partners to complete the new certification within 180 days or it will cut them off from products they are not certified to sell. Be aware that the certification difficulty and time investment varies depending on your partner commitment to Verizon. So, certification could take as few as five hours per track or up to 20. There are five tracks: advanced communications (such as VoIP), networks, cloud/IT, M2M and mobility.
How you partner with Verizon determines how deep you need to dive into certification. When selling with Verizon, for example, partners will spend less time on certification. But as an agent or reseller, the commitment increases. However, Verizon is willing to credit partners who already have earned certifications from suppliers in the areas it’s focusing on; in other words, if you hold a Cisco networking credential, for instance, chances are you will get credit toward Verizon’s curriculum. “These partners are really stretched right now to evolve their businesses into a new model," said Schijns. “The last thing they need is for me to be so onerous in certifications that the investments they’ve made previously are not honored."
Verizon used a team of in-house and outside experts to craft its certification. Schijns developed certification for Motorola, as one example, and thus was instrumental in creating Verizon’s. The company spent about 18 months on the project. “It’s field tested, customer vetted and ready for prime time," Schijns said.
Partners will study online, although Verizon also will offer in-person training to select partners. The carrier is increasing its focus on the SMB sector and looking to partners to help it gain traction in that market. Certification will help both sides achieve that goal. “Customers are asking questions partners frankly can’t answer," said Schijns. “That’s not good for their business. We need to make sure we help our partners, they’re the lifeblood of the small and medium business in the United States."
There are incentives to attain certification. The higher you go in the program, the more rewards come your way. Rewards include marketing development funds, more lead registration and a top spot at the top of Verizon’s partner locator tool.
What Agents Think
For agents, certification marks a game-changer. And those who don’t get on board will face big challenges. “It’s going to take a much greater volume of the old transactional … business because prices will continue to erode and clients will continue to see [these partners] as selling a commodity," wrote Marko Spremo, co-founder and vice president of sales of independent agency Telapprise Inc., in a blog for Channel Partners. Fortunately, CenturyLink’s early success, plus partner feedback relayed by Verizon and EarthLink, all indicate that serious agents, of which there are plenty, are eager to distinguish themselves from their legacy peers. Underscoring that is a Channel Partners poll, conducted in January. The outcomes show nothing but support for service providers’ certification efforts.