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New Avaya Channel Chief Pushes Voice Partners to Sell Data

Avaya Inc., fresh off the hiring of a new channel chief, has added elements to its Connect Channel Partner Program for 2012 as it pushes dealers and resellers to reach more customers, particularly with data products. The business communications supplier aims to achieve that goal with the help of three new facets: a “Partner in Customer Excellence” designation, a benchmarking tool and a streamlined workflow processing portal. Overall, Avaya wants to push legacy voice partners into data so the company  which is preparing to go public once again  continues its “growth trajectory,” said Karl Soderlund, vice president of U.S. channels.

Soderlund was hired in mid-October to fill the position vacated in April by Carol Giles Neslund.

Soderlund came to Avaya with 20 years in the communications industry and 15 in sales management. Most recently he worked for WAN optimization software developer Certeon, where he served as senior vice president of worldwide sales and business development. Soderlund also has held channel management positions for HP ProCurve and Fortinet Inc. and worked for Cisco Systems Inc. He reports to Steve Fitz, Avayas vice president of U.S. sales, and is based out of the companys Basking Ridge, N.J., headquarters. “A lot of past roles have given me the experience to parlay into this role,” he said. “I’m not from a traditional voice background … I have a good, balanced background [and] bring a fresh set of eyes.”

Perhaps the biggest step Avaya itself has taken to help partners shed the legacy voice mantle was to roll out more than 60 new products since late 2009 not coincidentally, the same time Avaya closed on the purchase of bankrupt Nortel Networks’ enterprise assets. The company has paid particular attention to unified communications and collaboration over the past couple of years. “We have a tremendous amount of innovation [partners] can now sell,” Soderlund said.

To help spur sales, Avaya in November rolled out new promotions and incentives as it seeks more market share through resellers and dealers. Above all, Avaya hopes to encourage partners to increase their margin potential by adding data networking to the platforms they sell. The company is providing greater discounts for that approach and changing its loyalty program from a voice-based one to data-based. “What we’re really trying to look at is the end-user’s perspective and the value from the partner community,” Soderlund said. “CIOs are looking for the complete solution that incorporates networking, video, the services that wrap it all together.”

As such, the Avaya Connect program now contains the following:

  • Partner in Customer Excellence” This designation identifies and rewards channel partners who achieve significantly higher scores in their customer satisfaction surveys. Customer satisfaction now serves as a critical element in determining partner level status. Partners in Excellence are highlighted in the Avaya Partner Locator.
  • Benchmarking tool This business intelligence tool tells partners their exact sales per product line and compares their activity to all partners in their category. The idea is to help partners determine their strengths and target areas where they can improve.
  • Avaya OneSource A new workflow platform being rolled out throughout fiscal year 2012; it consolidates tools, pricing and operational processes.

Meanwhile, keep an eye out for new Avaya promotions surrounding services, large enterprises and SMEs. The company couldn’t provide details at press time, but Soderlund said Avaya is working to shorten time to revenue for partners, especially as the company recruits more dealers and resellers. “Even though we do have 1,800 partners, we still have a tremendous amount of white space in certain geographies,” said Soderlund. Avaya is looking to fill in those markets, which it wouldn’t identify, and would like to do so with more certified partners. The company hopes the additions to Avaya Connect will help it achieve that goal.

“It’s all about execution in fiscal year 2012,” said Soderlund, a focus that comes as no surprise as Avaya preps once again to become a public company. In early June, the vendor filed with the SEC for a proposed initial public offering of $1 billion. Avaya said it plans to use the proceeds from the sale of common stock to pay down some long-term debt, among other items. For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, Avaya reported a $936 million net loss on revenue of roughly $5.1 billion. Fifty-five percent of the companys revenue is generated in the U.S., according to the filing. Avaya traded on Wall Street before being bought out by private equity firms TPG Capital and Silver Lake in 2007. The company expressed an interest in going public not long after winning the bankrupt Nortel Networks enterprise division at auction in late 2009.


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