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CenturyLink Preps Channel Future Post Blake Wetzel

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Edward Gately**Editor’s Note: Click here to see which channel people were on the move in April.**

Bill Corbin has just begun as CenturyLink’s new senior vice president of strategic partnerships and channel operations, and already he’s charged with hiring a new channel chief.

Blake Wetzel (a member of Channel Partners’ Circle of Excellence) said last week that he’s leaving his position as CenturyLink Channel Alliance vice president to join RackSpace in a similar role. The new channel chief – whoever that may be – will report to Corbin in his newly created role.

CenturyLink's Bill CorbinCorbin assumes responsibility for all business channel alliances, including establishing, maintaining and enhancing CenturyLink’s relationships with SIs, distributors, VARs and ISVs. Many of these responsibilities previously were handled by other internal organizations.

CenturyLink said the consolidation into one organization will enable the company to further enhance its commitment to serving its partners.

For the past decade, Corbin has served in senior-level positions at Westcon Group, most recently as executive vice president of global sales and partner management. Prior to that, he was founder and managing partner of RedCard Solutions, and president/CEO of Network Catalyst.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Corbin talks about the challenges facing CenturyLink and what he will be looking for in a new channel chief.

Channel Partners: With Blake Wetzel gone, what’s the status of selecting a new channel chief? What will you be looking for in candidates?{ad}

Bill Corbin: I haven’t even begun the search. I’ll look internally, I’ll look externally. But what I really want to do is understand the landscape internally, and where we have strengths and where we have weaknesses.

Blake was the face of the channel for CenturyLink and moving forward I’ll have somebody else who is in that role who will report to me, and my plan is to get somebody in there. I’ll be looking for experience and knowledge, and a knowledge of the partner base. I also want somebody who’s going to think outside the box on not only how we service our existing partners, but how we attract net new partners to the business so that we can continue the growth that we’re on.

CP: Why did you want to take this position with CenturyLink and how is this role different than your role with Westcon Group?

BC: The reason I wanted the position at CenturyLink is because …

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… I’ve got a firm belief – and I think the market is proving it out – that the service-provider space, which CenturyLink fits squarely in the middle of, is the next generation of the go-to-market for all of the OEMs, VARs and partners moving forward. The channel has been serviced by the … various manufacturers, but I see a shift moving into the service provider, where the service provider will have kind of the keys to the kingdom and have all of the OEMs, as well as all of the VAR partners, SIs and strategic partnerships to be able to provide all of the solutions and services that small-to-medium commercial and enterprise customers will be buying in the future.

Rackspace's Blake WetzelI saw that shift happening when I was at Westcon and I ran all of the global SISP business there, and I thought it was a very good time to go join one of the best ones out there and help that change happen. 

CP: This is a newly created position and many of your responsibilities previously were handled by other internal organizations. What do you see as the biggest challenges in this new position?

Corbin: The organization is going through a lot of change in the last three months and probably will go through a little bit more change in the future. I think the biggest challenge is going to be melding the new sales organization from the global markets to the strategic partnerships, to the SMBs, to the fed, having all of those work streams and all of those routes to market work in conjunction with each other. But the team is exceptional. I’ve known some of them from past lives and the ones I’ve met at CenturyLink, there’s a common vision and goal to make this one of the best sales go-to-market teams in the industry.

CP: Do your plans include making changes in CenturyLink’s channel strategy and partner program? What are your primary goals in your new position?

BC: The primary goal is always to exceed plan. We have aggressive sales members and sales plans in the channel, so my goal is to continue to exceed those.

Am I going to change the partner program and channel strategy? It’s too soon to tell. Any changes will be enhancements to the program, it will make it more attractive to the channel partners and SIs to do business with us, but it’s too new to tell where …

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… those changes might be or what those changes might be. Ask me in another three months.

CP: Have you received any feedback from CenturyLink partners yet? Are there things they like/dislike about CenturyLink’s current partner program?

BC: I’ve talked to a number of the partners in the last few days and they seem to be excited about the changes they’re seeing at CenturyLink, and that the channel and partner program [are] going to become more important to CenturyLink moving forward.

They like the channel program … and we’re moving into our partner advisory council, which is in a couple of weeks, so that will be a great opportunity for me to sit down with our top 20 partners across the country and understand what’s good, what’s bad, what we need to fix and not break.

CP: What do you most want CenturyLink’s partners to know about you?

BC: I’m not somebody who is steeped in direct sales or in operations, or in finance, moving over to run a channel organization, and an SI and strategic partnership. I built my career in the channel. I owned my own VAR, so I know what it’s like to purchase from a CenturyLink. I had a channel consulting company for a couple years and I spent the last eight years running all of the SISP and strategic partnerships at Westcon on a global basis. So I understand the channel, I know the pain points and this is not new to me. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun moving forward.


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