CenturyLink Shares 2011 Channel Report Card

By Khali Henderson Comments
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At the first partner program event since its merger with Qwest in April 2011, CenturyLink Inc. reported channel gains in 2011 and goals for 2012.

Channel revenue was up 2.3 percent and sales increased 6 percent through third quarter 2011, according to Chris Ancell, president of CenturyLink Business Markets Group, who addressed an audience of some 400-plus at the CenturyLink Channel Alliance Expo 2012, which is being held in Denver, Jan. 18-20. In contrast, he said BMG revenue overall was flat, but strategic products (e.g., MPLS and hosting where agents focus) saw growth "in the 5-6 percent range."  

Despite a slow start, sales kicked in during the second half of 2011, he said. But revenue remained solid due to improving retention rates. He praised the channel for reducing churn. "In a lot of ways, this group leads the way in terms of best practices around retention," he said.

Ancell said BMG, which was legacy Qwest, was not heavily impacted by the merger, but it has had to reconcile rules of engagement with legacy CenturyLink. "Over the past nine months, we have made significant progress on those rules of engagement," he said, noting that trials are under way. "CenturyLink had a program that was significantly different [than Qwest's], so we've done a lot of education around what the program does, how it works, the benefits it derives. We've come a long way in that education and creating that appreciation within the new leadership team."

The carrier just released interim rules of engagement for CCA agents selling hosted services from its Savvis acquisition in summer 2011. Agents told Channel Partners they were unhappy with the compensation model, which reduces commissions by half on hosting sales to existing CenturyLink customers. Ancell said the rules are likely to evolve as processes are established.

CenturyLink's Blake WetzelBlake Wetzel, vice president of sales for CCA, praised partners for helping the carrier to build an ecosystem around data centers. To date, CenturyLink has built fiber into more than 140 data centers; most based on relationships with partners. The difference in the carrier's strategy is to not to justify investment based only on a customer build, but on the promise business around the data center.  So, far the initiative has resulted in $500,000 in MRC.

"I'm extremely excited about 2012. We have such great momentum," he said. "BMG hit 3 percent growth last year. This  year, we should hit 5 [percent], but I really think we should set our goals at 10 [percent]," he said.

As evidence of the potential of the channel, Wetzel noted that three partners are halfway to achieving a million-dollar bonus for increasing their business by $2 million within five years, starting July 1, 2010.

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