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CHANNEL PARTNERS EVOLUTION — Avant (a Premier Sponsor), the Chicago-based master agent/distributor, says it is doubling its investment in partner resources.
Drew Lydecker, Avant president and co-founder, tells Channel Partners that his company has multiplied its channel support team by a factor of two over the last year. New staffers include engineers, inside and outside channel managers, pricing analysts and back-office order entry employees. Lydecker says Avant made the new investments because offerings like cloud security, infrastructure-as-a-service, software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) and unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) are “exploding.”
“We essentially tripled our SD-WAN revenue and doubled our UCaaS revenue, which was really difficult to do because we’ve been doing it for so long and have grown to be such a large player in the industry around UCaaS,” he said
Lydecker says Avant set out to sign every major SD-WAN provider available. The company announced partnerships with nine vendors back in January, including VeloCloud, Viptela, and Talari, and tasked its engineers with learning the ins and outs of those providers.
The distributor also had to push its partners to get on board with SD-WAN. Lydecker says that while the technology is drastically disrupting his industry, it fits many of his partners well.
“We encouraged our down-channel, our trusted advisers, the VARs, MSPs, systems integrators, to embrace this technology, be the first ones to get in there at the table and help customers who are all interested in looking at ways to maximize the Internet,” he said. “That’s what SD-WAN is doing. It’s a natural fit for the trusted adviser, the folks who have been selling wide-area networks for a long time.”
In addition to beefing up its staff, Avant has added machine-learning capabilities to its Battle App platform that will help partners search for and pick out sales and marketing resources. The company also rolled out support for installation management, quotes and order entry that it calls “concierge style.” Comcast was the first service provider to adopt the concierge service.
“This collaboration with Avant is certain to make a real difference in our ability to sell through,” said Craig Schlagbaum, vice president of indirect channels for Comcast Business. “We’ve been impressed with their service-first mentality — from engineers to executives. It makes all the difference. Avant knows how to deliver on its promises. For ensuring rapid lead turnaround, enabling instant access to important content, and helping our teams to work quickly and effectively, with a minimum of human intervention.”
Lydecker and executives from his company have repeatedly stressed that sales enablement for partners is going to be the most important capability of distributors and master agents going forward.
“We don’t believe [in] just having a catalog, just being a distributor — that’s just table stakes. That’s a given. We need to take it to another level,” he said.
Lydecker spoke to us at the Channel Partners Evolution conference in Austin, Texas.