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Sprint Stages Comeback for Wireline Channel

Sprint Nextel Corp. is staging a comeback for its wireline channel by refocusing on the segment and changing its approach.

Brian C. Wesolowski has been assigned the task of turning things around as head of the national wireline and master agent organization for the Sprint Business Solutions Partner Program. He reports to Jaime Jones, senior vice president for general business and public sector.

“We have to do some catching up,” said Wesolowski in an interview with PHONE+. He said while the carrier never discontinued any of its wireline services, they were “overshadowed” by a focus on wireless offers post-merger with Nextel in summer 2005. “When we merged with Nextel, we went from a 50/50 wireless/wireline to 85/15,” he said.

That lopsided ratio was accompanied by a drive toward wireless centricity in the channel as well with then channel chief Steve Rowley telling PHONE+ the goal was to get wireline agents to also sell wireless as part of businesses’ “core infrastructure.”

The growing importance of mobility to businesses was real, but the transition across the wireline-wireless chasm — in either direction — proved difficult for the channel, Wesolowski conceded.

After four years of beating the wireless drum with the channel, the carrier has decided to bring up the volume on the wireline messaging. That’s in part why Sprint wanted to brief PHONE+, but it’s more than just a PR effort. Wesolowski explained there is a four-tiered approach to raising the profile of the wireline channel, which went into effect at the beginning of the year and will continue throughout 2010.

The first, and most significant, change is migrating from a tactical to strategic approach to channel sales. Wesolowski said Sprint’s wireline channel will no longer be simply executing against a sales projection. Instead it’s working on joint Sprint-partner go-to-market plans that will be rolled out through second quarter. Among these is developing a turnkey managed IP solution in tandem with its VAR partners. In addition, Sprint will be prepackage basic business services such as local, long-distance, mobile and broadband with partners filling in gaps that Sprint doesn’t offer. Sprint also will be turning to its partner based to provide services to its customers that it cannot like bill payment and consolidated billing, etc.

“We want partners that can provide differentiated solutions, so we can turn to them for more management,” Wesolowski explained. “They can act as a one-stop shop for customer and help Sprint to provide unique and enhanced offerings.”

The second change is to improve internal support to partners through subject matter experts. To do this, Wesolowski said his three tenured regional channel managers will be working closely with Sprint’s Business Partners for knowledge transfer and opportunity assistance as well as a secondary resource for navigating the partner portal and escalating issues to tier two engineering support. This change was effective Jan. 1.

Third, the carrier is focused on an integrated product offering that includes 4G mobile broadband, unified communications, global MPLS, SIP trunking and Sprint Mobile Integration – all positioned to compete with legacy wireline network services. In addition Sprint is expanding its wireline services. In March it rolled out SIP trunking to the channel and it plans to double its Ethernet access services footprint by the end of the year.

A fourth change is the introduction of enhanced product training for master agents and subagents with an emphasis of 4G as an alternate access product. Education will include the basics, the competitive landscape and how to position 4G services.

Will the changes be enough to win back Sprint’s wireline agents? At least one wireline agent said he is willing to get them another chance. Chris Palermo, president of Global Communications Networks and a repeat Sprint President’s Club winner, said the carrier’s wireline team helped him build his agency, so he “owes” them this opportunity and he appreciates their long association. “We have worked with the same people for a long time, and I want to continue working with them,” he said. That said, he said, they have left the door open to a lot of wireline competitors. “Over the last few years while Sprint has been focusing on wireless much of my company’s focus has been on colocation, large bandwidth and MPLS, and we have found carriers around the world that have competed to win a lot of revenue,” said Palermo. “Due to this [recent] push, we have given Sprint some key opportunities to work on and these may be telling to see if they will be able to compete against Level 3, Global Crossing, AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest.”


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