MasterMinds: Avant SEaaS Is a ‘Game-Changer’

**Editor’s Note: MasterMinds is a biweekly feature in which we invite leading master agents to share information, insights and expert opinions about what’s going on in their agencies, the IT/telecom channel or the business community in general.**

Since its inception in 2009, born-in-the-cloud master agent AVANT has operated in a mode of sales enablement. That mode became a full-blown business model this past August when the Chicago-based company announced the launch of AVANT SEaaS, its sales enablement-as-a-service (SEaaS) platform.

AVANT's Drew LydeckerAVANT SEaaS utilizes an end-to-end life cycle approach for channel sales, starting with executive engagement and alignment on objectives, a sales enablement plan, and extensive tools and live support to accelerate revenue.

“We’re changing the game,” Drew Lydecker, co-founder and president of AVANT, told Channel Partners. “We’re not a master, we’re not a distributor — we’re more than that. We’re calling ourselves a sales enablement-as-a-service provider for a lot of reasons, the primary one being that it just happens to be what we’ve always done.

“My partner [AVANT Co-founder and CEO Ian Kieninger] and I came from large VARs and knew that simply having a catalog of providers just doesn’t work to empower the VAR community,” said Lydecker. “Disruptive technologies are everywhere, whether it’s in your consumer life or in your business life. There’s more choice than there’s ever been in the history of IT. There are more niche and small providers that could make major impacts in a large business. So how do you even get started? Enablement.{ad}

AVANT's Alex Danyluk“Having a catalog, a large portfolio of providers is table stakes; you have to have that, it’s part of the process,” said Lydecker. “But in order to make it move, you have to have enablement. And that’s how we came up with the core of what we do. We’re in the trenches developing technology and hand-holding throughout the entire process to allow our channel partners — VARs, system integrators, MSPS, agents, whatever the case may be — to really take advantage of the marketplace.”

Alex Danyluk, AVANT’s chief strategy officer, explains the company’s approach this way: “AVANT is a channel sales enablement company first. It makes money by proving out channel sales enablement, then sharing in its success by offering the distribution of products and services.

“The distribution channel is trying to figure out how to transition from software distribution to the new cloud world,” said Danyluk. “They’re trying to apply old models to the new world, and it’s not working. They’re all about driving operational efficiency and…


…not about transforming the channel from on-premises software and hardware distribution to cloud distribution.

“Fundamentally, we’ve taken the approach that in the new cloud world, you have to help channel people evolve and learn. OK, how do I sell cloud? How do I position it? How is it different? How do I leave what I’m used to for what I can do now, quit focusing on fear so I can see opportunity?

“We’ve sort of turned the distribution model inside out, and we’ve done it with our three core pillars: our people, our processes and our technology.”

Those three core pillars are combined in AVANT’s SEaaS platform, which consists of four components:

  • AVANT BattleApp is an industry-first, proprietary partner app. Built on Salesforce Communities using AVANT’s intellectual property, the app guides the seller through the sales process, from learning to closing the sale, and includes the use of Intelligent Qualifying Forms, an online tool to guide sellers through qualifying an opportunity. The app is operating system agnostic and available on Android, iOS and Windows.
  • AVANT R&D for cloud, colocation and connectivity provides AVANT with data for sales qualification and portfolio selection, and gives sellers access to AVANT solution architects to assist them in closing business.
  • AVANT BattleLab, a state-of-the-art sales enablement and immersion center based in AVANT’s headquarters, broadcasts live BattleBriefings such as sales enablement training, technical training and provider briefings.
  • AVANT BattlePlan, a life cycle sales enablement engagement, includes sales channel assessments, enablement plans and life cycle channel development.

Because it built the SEaaS platform on Salesforce, AVANT can leverage it to collect big data analytics that will enable it to identify and even anticipate industry trends and challenges. “We’ve got matrixes built out on every vertical, whether it’s UCaaS, infrastructure-as-a-service, disaster recovery, SD-WAN or security,” said Lydecker. “These matrixes are very similar to something that maybe a Gartner, Forrester or IDC would do, but because our volume is so large in the cloud space, we get to see trends before anyone else does.{ad}

“We’re vetting all of the cloud providers on what they really do well and what they don’t. And then we’re creating matrixes that are customer-facing so that salespeople can help their customers understand the ever-changing landscape. A huge part of our business has been the research arm we’ve developed. Our engineering team spends countless hours updating that and keeping that up to speed.”

“What we’re really building here is…


…a sales enablement engine, from educating the field to helping them in the deal flow,” said Danyluk. “And the channel has been telling us this is why they love working with us — because we make it easy for them. We’ve become their special forces — you know we have this ‘battle’ theme at AVANT — that they can call in for a strategic strike. And that’s what they want in this new channel, especially when the technology is evolving.

“Our methodology enables the next generation of complex IT sales to actually happen.”{ad}

“When people see what we’re about, it’s a no-brainer to partner with us,” said Lydecker. “We’re about enabling and arming everyone in the marketplace with the best tools possible in order to win when they’re in front of clients. And I think that’s the difference between being a distributor and a master, and being an enablement partner. It’s about research, it’s about learning, it’s about tools — it’s about making the trusted adviser look like the most powerful adviser in the market.”

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