Level 3 Clarifies VAR Strategy

Level 3 Communications Inc. is targeting VARs and managed services providers to join its Business Partner Program, but not at the expense of its traditional agent channel, according to Craig Schlagbaum, vice president for indirect channels for Level 3, responding to rumors reported by PHONE+.

We are every bit as committed to the traditional agent channel as we have always been. That remains the core base of our partners and very important to what we do, Schlagbaum told PHONE+.

That said, he acknowledged that the company has an aggressive campaign to recruit VARs and MSPs to sell its services. However, those new partners would sign the same agent agreement, not a referral agreement, as some have alleged.

In fact, Schlagbaum said that VARs and MSPs not interested in becoming full-fledged agents are referred to Level 3s master agent and direct agent partners that have referral programs. At Level 3 we currently do not have a referral agreement in order to support those kinds of companies directly, so we would send them to our existing agents to handle them, he explained.

Schlagbaum said Level 3s direct sales team is considering implementing a referral program, but a decision to do so has not been made.

Despite the focus on recruiting VARs and MSPs, Level 3 also is growing its traditional agent base, Schlagbaum said. The companys recent promotion, Connect Now, which offers a bonus equal to 50 percent of the MRC has been a successful enticement to agents to try out the carrier, he said.

Today, Level 3s partner mix is 75 percent traditional agents and 25 percent VARs and MSPs. He expects the mix to tip to be 60/40 or maybe even 50/50 over the next few years.

Whether the VARs provide leads to agents or become agents themselves, they are the ones finding deals because they are the ones building solutions that customers want to purchase and that incorporate services, he said.

To support the companys recruiting, Schlagbaum is beefing up his nationwide partner sales manager team from 10 presently to 17 or 20, which he expects to be on board in time for the Level 3 sales kickoff meeting in Orlando in January.

We are investing heavily in those resources as well as partner support and sales engineering resources, which is huge considering how difficult the economy has been, he said. Despite that we have decided indirect [sales] is where we want to put more money and invest more.

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