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Q&A: Broadview Networks Channel Chief Rob Westervelt

Broadview Networks in March promoted Rob Westervelt to senior vice president of channel partner sales with responsibility for the day-to-day management of the companys channel partner sales organization and overseeing the recruitment and training of new channel partners. Westervelt previously was vice president of channel sales, reporting to Chris Eldredge, executive vice president of alternate channels. Eldredge, who came to the newly created post in summer 2009, recently left Broadview for another opportunity, leaving the channel chief post vacant. In his new role, Westervelt reports directly to Broadview COO Brian Crotty. The 17-year telecom veteran joined the CLEC in 2005 through its acquisition of InfoHighway. Previously, he served as president of indirect channel sales at XO Communications Inc. Channel Partners interviewed Westervelt about his plans for the Broadview Networks partner program. The following is an edited transcript of that interview.

Channel Partners: Is your role a new one for Broadview? Broadview Networks' Rob Westervelt

Rob Westervelt: Yes. I have a new and expanded role that includes nationwide channel partners with responsibility for growing this part of Broadviews business. Previously, I was the vice president of channel sales. I managed our in-market channel sales (Boston to Washington, D.C.) for Broadview.

CP: Will you have responsibility over wholesale as your predecessor did?

RW: No, Michael Hou has responsibility for this area of our business. Michael has been with Broadview for 13 years, and is really best suited to continue to manage the wholesale channel.  He has vast experience in this market and is making great progress.

CP: Are you planning any changes to the partner program, e.g., structure, compensation plan?

RW: Yes. We are changing the nationwide structure to focus more on some of our larger, nationwide master agents. Were looking at opportunities to grow our business on a nationwide basis as we enhance our product portfolio. For instance, our new cloud computing services have no real geographic boundaries, so partners everywhere can take advantage of our unique unified cloud approach that blends both voice and data applications in the cloud. 

CP: How many partners do you have? Are you recruiting?

RW: We currently have 350 partners. And yes, we are bringing new partners on every day, especially with the launch of our cloud computing portfolio. Cloud services are changing the fundamental nature of our sales, moving us away from transactional sales to more consultative, solutions-based selling. As a result, the partner profile is also evolving and bringing in more IT shops, more MSPs and data-savvy partners.

CP: How much revenue is coming from the channel?

RW: Approximately 30 to 35 percent of Broadviews business comes from the channel.

CP: What are your goals for the channel?

RW: Among my goals is a full-out initiative to train and educate Broadviews existing partners on our comprehensive portfolio of cloud services, and to increase the total number of partners who can expertly sell cloud-based products. This will be key to growing sales and, ultimately, increasing our overall revenues.

CP: What are your key partner-enablement initiatives?

RW: We are doing a lot of training and education, which takes the form of road shows, online collaborative tools for training and meetings, teleconferences, etc., to equip as many partners as we can with the knowledge and tools to sell our hosted and cloud-based products.

Another future initiative is to enable our agents to be able to quote and order business online. We want to provide our agents and partners with robust and automated proposal and contract tools that will allow them to be more self-sufficient during the sales process. Broadviews very capable sales support teams will still be available to help agents, however. 

CP: What products do you think will be successful/hot for partners in 2011?

RW: Well, OfficeSuite and its enhancements, such as our new ACD hosted call center capability, are strong sellers. Also getting a lot of traction are the cloud-based infrastructure and software solutions we introduced earlier this year. We expect to be firing on all cylinders on cloud services going into the second half of 2011 as we arm our growing partner base with the knowledge and tools to transform their sales.

CP: What will be the biggest challenge/opportunity for channel partners generally in 2011?

RW: I think a big challenge will be for channel partners to learn and understand how to sell cloud services using the total cost of ownership (TCO) model. Why do I say this?  For starters, it is a totally different kind of sale. Its not like traditional telecom sales.  Explaining cloud services and options is more of a solution-based sale with a lot more moving parts. Moving from selling traditional products to cloud-based services using the TCO approach will take time, but I expect it to become the new standard for our business.


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