ShoreTel VP: Avaya Channel’s Discontent Is ShoreTels Gain

Concerns over Avayas support of the Nortel line and competition with direct sales are resulting in a migration to ShoreTel by former Nortel and current Avaya channel partners, said Kevin Gavin, ShoreTels vice president of marketing.

We are seeing substantial revenue growth and are starting to see success in attracting new partners,” he said. Some of the Nortel dealers are in jump ball mode and frankly there is some chaos in the Avaya channel. Its nice when we can sit back and pick off highly desirable channel partners [from our competitors].”

ShoreTel has had a good year, capturing greater market share in the IP communications space and enjoying quarter-over-quarter revenue growth. Last month, research firm Synergy Research Group declared ShoreTel to be the fastest growing IP telephony vendor worldwide, based on the companys revenues and number of UC desktop deployments.

Markets crave three leaders in every technology, and in IP telephony it used to be Cisco, Avaya and Nortel. Now, with Avaya picking up Nortel, there are two seats at the table,” he said. We feel we are capturing that third seat.”

Gavin noted that ShoreTel is entering the conversation more frequently these days, after having worked hard to push its mantra of brilliantly simple” unified communications.

ShoreTel approached unified communications as an integral part of the business phone system,” he said. When you buy ShoreTel, you get unified communications. It comes with the desktop application. There are no attach rates, no extra licenses. We were early with this desktop application. Now everyone pretty much offers this notion of desktop management, but other players tend to have an attach rate whereas we have a universal take because thats all we sell. That is consistent with and contributes to whole notion of simplicity.”

Postitioning itself as a viable alternative to former Nortel partners has also helped ShoreTel shore up its channel partner base. Since January the company has signed up 22 Nortel partners and 18 Avaya partners, Gavin said. Noting discontent within the Avaya channel, ShoreTel made a play for former Nortel channel partners who decided not to sign with Avaya as well as current Avaya channel partners not happy with having to compete with Avayas direct sales force, Gavin said.

We are getting good traction attracting Nortel partners that Avaya had planned to pick up because Avaya has not committed to support development of the BCM line going forward.” Also, he said, some former Nortel channel partners arent wowed by the Avaya IP Office line, and we hear that they are finding that using Aura to integrate Nortel systems with Avaya is very complicated. As a result, we are picking up previous Nortel partners who are deciding to go with ShoreTel instead of Avaya.”

Gavin said his observations were the result of conversations he had with Nortel partners who have signed up with ShoreTel as well as those who are planning to sign up.

Steve Fitz, vice president of U.S. Sales at Avaya, noted that the company just released an update to BCM last month, and has created a roadmap to align and integrate the BCM and IPO product lines. There has never been any release of end of life of the platform,” he said.

Gavin also noted a large number of partners are signing on with ShoreTel because of its channel-centric sales model. Were aware that there is a significant amount of concern in the Avaya channel about the Avaya direct sales program that continues to compete with their partners and the partners wish that Avaya was 100 percent indirect like ShoreTel,” he said.

However, Fitz pointed out that the number of sales going through Avayas channel partners has actually grown, and its direct sales force is 100-percent channel neutral.

Two years ago we had 64 percent through the channel and today we have 77 percent of sales go through the channel,” he said. We actually encourage indirect sales, and [our sales structure] hasnt been problematic since Ive been here.”

Support pricing, too, seems to be a thorn in the side of Avaya partners, Gavin said an issue that will be addressed at the Avaya Partner Conference next week in Las Vegas.

This is the first time well be bringing two big partner communities together,” he said. Its not a flip-the-switch change. There are clarifications that will be addressed including simplified support pricing, margin improvement programs and changing engagement principles.”

Regardless of the reason, ShoreTel is making inroads with Avaya channel partners, Gavin said. Overall, Avaya partners are much more open to talking to ShoreTel, and several large Avaya partners have either already, or we think are about to, sign on with ShoreTel,” he said.

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