Four years after acquiring its first agent program with the purchase of Xspedius Communications LLC in 2006, tw telecom inc. has decided that theres something to indirect channel sales and in 2010 it relaunched its program, changed some of the rules of engagement and is investing in more support for agents.
Prior to Xspedius, then Time Warner Telecom Inc., had only a referral-based program, wherein agents worked with direct sales teams on deals. The company, which was renamed tw telecom in 2008, contemplated its channel strategy while integrating the systems, people and processes from its new merger, said Dale Kammerich, vice president of channel sales, who came to the company in 2006 just prior to the merger.
At the time, PHONE+ readers will recall, Xspedius agents were quite nervous that tw telecom would convert them to referral partners or shutter the program all together. What actually happened was something in between.
Ultimately we did integrate both models under one umbrella, one program,” Kammerich said. We spent a good 18-24 months fully integrating the programs. When we got into 09, we operated under an integrated model with both of the legacy programs under one agreement type and one organization.”
The combined program allowed agents to sell commodity” products, such as voice services, integrated services and bandwidth, through a traditional channel manager but advanced data services, such as its Ethernet services, were sold in collaboration with the local direct sales reps under a channel integration model.
Kammerich said tw telecom signed partners to new agency agreements. In that process, he said, more than 75 percent of Xspedius agents re-upped with tw telecom.
In 2010, Kammerich said the company relauched its Authorized Representative Program. We have taken the program that we had in place. Weve looked at it and made some adjustments to it,” he said.
Among the changes is that tw telecom is making its advanced data products available through the traditional channel sales model.
We built in some flexibility in our program that didnt exist before,” Kammerich said, noting that agents can work with tw telecom both under the traditional channel or channel integration models depending on the opportunity. We support either model. That is a change for us.”
tw telecom also is increasing its channel management support to handle the expected increase in business. The company is hiring 12 new channel managers, which were expected to be on board by August, bringing the total to 15. Each channel manager will support agents within a regional territory, but agents can sell deals that are national in scope with the assistance of their CM. There are opportunities where it makes sense to integrate with a local AE and there are those that are more national in scope. We offer either option depending on the individual dynamics of the opportunity to the channel where we didnt before,” Kammerich said.
The channel manager has become the primary contact point for all opportunities. However, sales for advanced data products go though deal registration to determine if its a current customer or an incremental opportunity and whether it should be handle through the channel or integration sales process, Kammerich explained. Compensation on the sale of the products is greater through the traditional channel model, he said.
Kammerich said tw telecom also has invested in additional dedicated support in the areas of order management and applications engineering, but he did not specify the numbers.
In addition, the company launched its first agent portal in January, and is in the process of completing a major upgrade that will be rolled out in third quarter. A significant change will be the addition of quoting functionality to the existing address-validation feature.
The reason for the investment in the program is simple: results. Weve operated in this program and really looked at our results in 2009 and they were favorable,” said Kammerich, noting that the channel exceeded tw telecoms overall 2009 performance, which was about 5 percent year over year from 08 to 09. When we looked at our companys overall growth initiatives as we moved into 2010, our indirect strategy is a significant part of that. We elected to invest in it. We wanted to be ready.”
tw telecom is actively recruiting new agents, Kammerich said. He declined to reveal the current number of agents or their contribution to the company’s revenue.