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Point/CounterPoint

The first general session of the 2004 Channel Partners Conference & Expo promises to be a lively time, bringing vendors and partners together on one stage to discuss compensation, support, ROI, evergreen clauses, channel conflict and other hot topics. Ernie Kelly, senior advisor for The KDW Group, will moderate the event.

Six industry leaders are scheduled to participate on the panel. They are: Estelle Conover, vice president of indirect channels for BellSouth Corp.; Pat Lewis, senior vice president of business markets for Qwest Communications International Inc.; Harry Campbell

president of emerging and mid-markets for Sprint Business Solutions; Robert Goble,

president of Venicom Inc.; Douglas Boyce, vice president of finance and sales for Spring Valley Marketing Group; and Michael Emanuelo, president of sales and service for Reignmaker Consortium Inc.

Conover – who has been with BellSouth since 1990 and spent the previous 19 years working for AT&T Corp. – hopes to address several issues of importance to agents during the session. She says the brand and financial strength of the vendors agents choose to represent is key, as is a vendor’s commitment to a channel, financially and strategically. She says the BellSouth Distribution Channel "offers the full portfolio of telecom business voice and data services. Through affiliation, we are also able to offer Internet, long-distance and wireless services."

She adds that BellSouth offers a full range of agent support, including dedicated channel managers, training, marketing resources, online tools, product support, strong customer service and ability to use the BellSouth brand. "These, combined with a competitive commission structure, monthly incentives and company financial stability make our program very attractive," she says.

BellSouth recently introduced a multi-tier sales plan. The company has managed an agent program since 1985 and, says Conover, continually enhances its partner channel through incentives, new product offerings and customer promotions.

Conover is responsible for overall growth and leadership of BellSouth’s Authorized Partner Program and channel. The company says her vision and strategy have resulted in revenue growth from $10 million to $1 billion in the past five years, while also achieving industry-leading benchmarks in partner channel management and support.

Pat s oversees the channel sales and support efforts of Qwest’s Business Partner Program (QBPP). During this general session, Lewis says he wants to contribute to what he sees will be a valuable panel discussion that "identifies best practices and focuses on effective sales resources, tools, tips and products that can enable the agents/partners to grow their sales and revenue."

One way QBPP does that is by continually enhancing its channel program, Lewis says. "Recent channel program enhancements include the rollout of our Leading Practices Study, which serves to drive factors in performance among top Qwest Business Partners," Lewis says. "Through this study, we are opening the doors to ideas, which may be implemented as new channel-wide programs or suggested to our partners as ‘best practices.’ We also have enhanced our pre- and post-sales support with the experienced resources of our inside sales team and channel sales managers, as well as through Web-enabled tools and extranet sites."

Lewis joined Qwest in March of 1999, and has been regional vice president of national accounts and vice president of Qwest Total Care. Prior to joining Qwest, Lewis was with GTE Communications Corp. for 12 years, where he held positions in sales, product management, marketing and operations.

Meanwhile, Sprint’s Harry Campbell – named president of emerging and mid-markets within the SBS Division of Sprint Corp. in October 2003 – looks forward to touting his company’s agent programs during the panel. He says Sprint has augmented its partner program to allow agents to sell Sprint’s complete product portfolio, which he calls "an industry first."

"Before, we had four separate programs, one for each of our product groups," Campbell explains. "This required four separate contracts and four different people from Sprint to work with. Now there is one contract, one contact, one portfolio of products and services."

Like its competitors, Sprint does not divulge its agent compensation rates, but Campbell does say, "our commissions have been enhanced and are competitive with other carriers."

Campbell previously was president of Sprint’s Mass Markets Organization. He returned to the company in 2001 after leaving in 1997 to join Marketing Associates International (MAI), a sports marketing firm, as executive vice president and co-owner.

Next, Robert Goble, president of Venicom Inc., brings his more than 20 years of experience in telecom to the panel. His channel background began in the early 1990s in Seattle, with one of the first Cellular One Group agencies. His positions have included director of international operations for ICE, vice president of business development for AirTel and sales manager for Inter-Tel Inc.’s local services division.

Douglas Boyce says he wants to talk to agents about channel integration and conflict during the general session, as well as the effects of carrier support staff downsizing, and product innovation and pricing competitiveness. Boyce is the vice president of finance and sales for Spring Valley Marketing Group, a company he joined at its inception in 1993. As a master agent, Boyce wants to ensure that agents provide the best products and services "from the best carriers at the best commission rates with full customer service support. Our focus is not simply to sell the lowest rates available."

Boyce designed, developed and implemented the customer-agent-commission database system in use at Spring Valley. He also manages the carrier and agent relationships, as well as the product portfolio and sales efforts throughout the organization.

Finally, Michael Emanuelo, president of sales and service for Reignmaker Consortium, wants to talk with agents about diversifying their carrier offerings, including new technologies in their portfolios, maximizing revenue by creating a sub-agent model and focusing on total solution selling. Emanuelo is a telecom veteran with more than a decade of front-line experience in telecommunication sales. He has held sales positions for Intermedia Communications, Sprint, Worldcom, Nynex Mobile, and, most recently, Cbeyond Communications. During his 4-year tenure at Intermedia, he increased revenue from $0 to more than $70 million annually, and built its indirect channel. Most recently, Emanuelo was vice president and general manager of channel development at Cbeyond Communications in Atlanta.


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