The Qwest Business Partner Program is the fastest growing channel within the Qwest Communications International Inc. Business Markets Group (BMG), according to company executives presenting at the annual partner event, Q.Marketplace, held this week in Denver where the ILEC is headquartered.
“We had a very good year in 2007,” said Tom McGrath, vice president of alternate channel sales for Qwest speaking to about 400 indirect sales partners at the Denver Convention Center. “You folks are increasingly becoming an important part of BMG. By that I mean we are going to grow at a faster rate than the other channels in BMG. There is a lot of emphasis on our channel. There is a lot of support coming to our channel. And, with that, are huge expectations coming from our channel.”
McGrath, who has headed up QBPP and three other Qwest channels since January 2006, said QBPP exceeded its 2007 goals in every areas but one. For example, partners achieved 111 percent of goal for long-distance sales and 127 percent of goal for IQ Networking/WAN sales. Significantly, customer retention was at 175 percent of plan. OneFlex, the companys VoIP product, fell short at 91 percent of the revenue goal. McGrath blamed the shortfall on technical platform issues.
McGrath said Qwest recruited 70 new partners, above the target of 64. With 29 partners leaving the program, the net new additions were 41. In an interview following his address, McGrath told PHONE+ a significant number (about 25) of the new additions came as a result of new partner tiers with lower revenue commitments that the company rolled out in late 2006 and early 2007. Qwest Select Partners have a monthly billing commitment of $50,000 and Qwest Authorized Partners must sell $25,000. These stand in contrast to the Premier Master Business Partner and Business Partner levels, which require monthly sales of $500,000 and $100,000, respectively. It is allowing people at smaller companies to get into the program. It gives them a foot in the door and they can grow from there,” McGrath said.
In addition to adding partners, McGrath told PHONE+ QBPP is growing at an unprecedented rate. They are increasingly becoming more and more important to BMG if you will. What we are seeing is the integration of the partner and the direct side more so now than it ever has been. These people are working together. Together, what we find is that we bring a better value to the customer than either of us would alone.
As an example of how this is being facilitated, in 2007 channel sales manager (CSM) compensation schemes were realigned to match those of the partners by adding incentives for retention as well as new sales. What was happening was the CSMs were paid based on new sales in a monthly regardless of whether they lost all the business they had, McGrath told partners in his address. Now they are tied to your business. They own the base as much as you do.
In 2007, Qwest also rolled out a partner planning process to help agents set goals and achieve them. McGrath told PHONE+ all channel sales managers have been trained on the process and a majority of the agents took advantage of the exercise to some level or another. He said he expects it to be more successful in 2008 due to the experience gained in 2007. Its just going to start to snowball, he said. While its difficult to tie revenue to the planning process, he said it helped the company to gain visibility into partner revenue forecasts and also a greater ability to help them achieve that.
Another change included the addition of a new order manager position, a single point of contact for end-to-end management of an order through implementation and billing. What we have found is that it has accelerated the delivery time and its less prone to errors because one person has had responsibility from end to end, said McGrath. The order managers were added to the staff in midyear 2007 for select products, including integrated access, IQ networking and VoIP. It was so successful that Qwest has hired an additional 70 people to be order managers and the company is evaluating extending it to additional products.
Sandy Spencer, regional vice president of sales for QBPP and McGraths go-to guy for the program, told PHONE+ the order managers work hand in hand with the partners to take the order through completion. It will be a mutual effort. The partner can be part of that; they will work as a team. Some partners may want to have our people do it, but the idea is for them to be in concert, he said.