Ortega Revamps Cogent's Channel Strategy

By Khali Henderson Comments
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**Editor's Note: Click here for a list of recent channel-program changes you should know.**

Cogent Communications Group Inc. took the wraps off a new channel program last week, including signing contracts with two master agencies.

Cogent, a high-capacity IP network provider serving 180 markets globally, is no stranger to the channel, but its approach was decentralized and ad hoc, with referral agents managed by direct sales reps, commissions capped at two years and no channel leadership.

That's changed with last week's announcement. Cogent is investing in the channel with dedicated resources that will assist partners from quote to close, including a new partner portal and a dedicated team to run the program. The initial beta launch will include two master agents, WTG and AB&T Telecom.

Cogent's about-face is being driven by Chief Revenue Officer Ernie Ortega. Ortega joined the company in summer 2013 after 14 years with XO Communications, most recently as executive vice president of sales and marketing. In an interview with Channel Partners, Ortega said he has revamped Cogent's go-to-market strategy, starting with direct sales, including focusing on segments (SMB, enterprise and net-centric companies) and stratifying its sales teams based on geography (global, national regional). The company's 315 salespeople report into  four vice presidents -- three in North America and one in Europe.

That same disciplined approach is being applied to the indirect channel, Ortega said. He has hired a channel chief, Michael Kopp, as director of partner channel. Kopp came to Cogent in December after four years as a partner  sales manager with Level 3.  Kopp oversees three regional partner channel managers, including Andrew Bondi in the East region, Rob Keres in the Central region and Gary Prescott in the West region.

Ortega said Cogent's relatively simple product portfolio – point-to-point Ethernet, DIA and VPLS – dictates a simple approach to its channel program. He said simplicity will extend to rules of engagement, contracts  and compensation, which now includes evergreen commissions. Further, he said Cogent is implementing MasterStream for its quoting platform. Ortega's goal is for 90 percent of the sales cycle to be self service for the agents.

As far as transitioning its existing agent base, Ortega is not in a rush; 2014 will be business as usual, but it may change in 2015. Agents will have the choice of signing under one of the new master agency contracts or remaining part of the Partner Alliance referral program, with capped commissions.

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