CHANNEL PARTNERS Verizon Enterprise Solutions (Booth 8004), lured by the lucrative nature of the midmarket and that sector’s penchant for working with agents and VARs, has overhauled its channel partner program.
The news may come as a bit of a happy shock to partners. Since 2010, many have felt shut out by Verizon as the provider reclassified agent accounts lists as protected and cut commissions by an alleged two-thirds. Verizon did a U-turn in early 2011 but its reputation in the channel did not, anecdotally speaking, experience much improvement.
That’s about to change.
This week at the Spring 2013 Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Verizon is rolling out its revamped channel program, to some top partner acclaim. Ken Mercer, vice president of sales for Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI), said his agency is “honored…to move forward with the re-envisioning of the Verizon channel program.” And Charles Kriete, executive vice president of value-added distributor Tech Data’s TDMobility unit, said Verizon “has really stepped up in the channel.” Now, he said, Tech Data will be able to offer 4G tablet, including iPad, activation to resellers, as well as other hot mobility services.
That kind of praise has been a long time coming for Verizon’s partner program and is in large part a result of Janet Schijns’ efforts. Schijns came to Verizon in late 2010 from Motorola, joining the Business Solutions Group. She then moved into the vertical solutions and channels division in January 2012, where she works as vice president. Her direction has been key to Verizon’s new commitment to partners.
“I’ve never not been in the channel…so my being here should indicate to the partners that this is serious,” Schijns told Channel Partners in an exclusive interview. “I own the channel here with Richard [Williams, executive director of channels] and both of us are very trusted.”
But it’s not just Schijns and Williams driving or supporting the change. At a kickoff event earlier this year, Schijns said, Verizon Enterprise President John Stratton dubbed the indirect channel as one of his top priorities. The CMO is on board, too, as is the new senior vice president of Americas sales, among other company leaders.
Partners Are ‘The Critical Go-To-Market’
Of course, Verizon isn’t acting on a philanthropic urge it is a for-profit corporation that sees mid-market firms turning more to channel partners than to direct sales, and it wants in on those deals. Indeed, according to an October 2012 report from The NPD Group, SMBs (companies with fewer than 1,000 employees) expect to purchase more and more of their hardware and complex services from channel partners. Verizon is observing the same trend.
“The channel is where…where small and medium businesses, are turning for their solutions,” said Schijns. “Channel partners are the critical go-to-market.”
And because partners are so crucial to mid-market penetration, Verizon has beefed up its indirect compensation, support, partnering options and more. With that in mind, here are the changes Verizon has implemented to attract more mid-market-focused partners:
Agent Agreements. Verizon says it is simplifying its relationship with indirect partners — systems integrators, VARs, agents and solutions providers — by consolidating its business channel programs into one Verizon Partner Program. That means existing partners are signing new agreements; Schijns said all partners had been notified and would be under the updated contracts by the end of the first quarter.
Partnering Models. Expect to work with Verizon in one of three different ways but with the flexibility to change that model depending on deal type. In other words, partners get to decide on a case-by-case basis how they want to partner with Verizon. So, for example, if you’re an agent well-versed in selling voice but just getting started in cloud, team with Verizon as a “sell with” partner on the cloud portion. Here are the three different partner business models:
Partners then fit into one of four tiers: Member, Silver, Gold or Platinum. The higher tiers contain higher revenue requirements but offer more benefits, such as higher discount or higher commissions.
Money. Verizon caused a stir among its partners when, three years ago, it cut commissions and limited payment to one year. That’s no longer the case. Partners now earn residual commissions for the life of the deal, as well as commission on renewals. Cloud, mobility and M2M services also all are subject to residual commissions. They do have different structures than wireline “but it all models a long-term relationship and contract benefit,” Schijns said.
Rules of Engagement. Verizon is enforcing “clearly articulated” lead referral, Schijns said. Once Verizon approves a deal, it belongs to the partner, she said. “The direct sales team’s not coming in over the top of them.”
Support. Verizon has put in place field channel managers and phone-accessible channel managers, as well as marketing development funds, and engineering and technical personnel.
Certification. Increased dedication on Verizon’s part comes with the expectation that partners show similar commitment. To that end, the provider has spent 18 months crafting an in-depth certification program. Read the full details on the Channel Partners site.
Salesforce.com. Verizon has teamed with Salesforce.com for its partner relationship management platform, and is paying the license fees for its partners. That is “something that very few companies have actually done,” Schijns said. Using Salesforce.com will let partners register deals, track compensation, take part in training, find lead referrals and more. “This is a fundamental change and frankly, a lot of our competitors have never made the investment,” Schijns said. “It is a multiple millions of dollars investment,” which helps prove Verizon’s dedication to the indirect channel, she added.
So far, Verizon has announced TBI, Tech Data, CDW, SOVA and General Datatech as its premier partners in the new program. Visit the Verizon Enterprise booth this week to hear more from the company’s channel executives and managers.
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