New Avaya Channel Chief Pushes Voice Partners to Sell Data

By Kelly Teal Comments
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Avaya Inc., fresh off the hiring of a new channel chief, has added elements to its Connect Channel Partner Program for 2012 as it pushes dealers and resellers to reach more customers, particularly with data products. The business communications supplier aims to achieve that goal with the help of three new facets: a "Partner in Customer Excellence" designation, a benchmarking tool and a streamlined workflow processing portal. Overall, Avaya wants to push legacy voice partners into data so the company – which is preparing to go public once again – continues its "growth trajectory," said Karl Soderlund, vice president of U.S. channels.

Soderlund was hired in mid-October to fill the position vacated in April by Carol Giles Neslund.

Soderlund came to Avaya with 20 years in the communications industry and 15 in sales management. Most recently he worked for WAN optimization software developer Certeon, where he served as senior vice president of worldwide sales and business development. Soderlund also has held channel management positions for HP ProCurve and Fortinet Inc. and worked for Cisco Systems Inc. He reports to Steve Fitz, Avaya’s vice president of U.S. sales, and is based out of the company’s Basking Ridge, N.J., headquarters. "A lot of past roles have given me the experience to parlay into this role," he said. "I'm not from a traditional voice background ... I have a good, balanced background [and] bring a fresh set of eyes."

Perhaps the biggest step Avaya itself has taken to help partners shed the legacy voice mantle was to roll out more than 60 new products since late 2009 — not coincidentally, the same time Avaya closed on the purchase of bankrupt Nortel Networks' enterprise assets. The company has paid particular attention to unified communications and collaboration over the past couple of years. "We have a tremendous amount of innovation [partners] can now sell," Soderlund said.

To help spur sales, Avaya in November rolled out new promotions and incentives as it seeks more market share through resellers and dealers. Above all, Avaya hopes to encourage partners to increase their margin potential by adding data networking to the platforms they sell. The company is providing greater discounts for that approach and changing its loyalty program from a voice-based one to data-based. "What we're really trying to look at is the end-user's perspective and the value from the partner community," Soderlund said. "CIOs are looking for the complete solution that incorporates networking, video, the services that wrap it all together."

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