Phoenix-based Telesphere, a nationwide hosted PBX business phone and Internet services provider, has hired Greg Rosengarten, a former regional sales director for Qwest Business Partner Program (QBPP), as its director of indirect channels, taking the reins of the two-year-old program. He is filling a post previously held by Dean Jordan, who left the company earlier this year. However, this is the first time that Telesphere will have someone 100 percent dedicated to driving the channel. PHONE+ interviewed Rosengarten about his new role and his plans for the program.
PHONE+: What about your experience at QBPP will inform the way you run the channel at Telesphere?
Greg Rosengarten: QBPP was my first experience in the channel. I really felt like I found my calling with indirect sales. I loved developing relationships, earning channel partners trust and helping them provide a solution for their customers. From that perspective, nothing has changed other than I am more passionate about the channel today. I feel that my sense of doing business the right way enabled me to be selected to advisory committees that helped shape Qwests Channel Integration model, as well as revised QBPPs internal support structure. I plan to utilize that experience as we continue to grow Telespheres indirect channel.
P+: Your new home is a smaller, entrepreneurial entity. How will you run things differently than would a larger company like Qwest by choice or necessity?
GR: Being part of a smaller, more entrepreneurial company is exciting. There is less red tape and fewer decisions being handed down from the top. I am part of a channel team that is enabled to help shape strategy, structure and policy for our program. If someone has a good idea on how we can improve our channel and make it easier to do business with us, they are encouraged to share the idea and be involved in creating a solution. At the same time, we all wear many hats. We all participate in creating marketing campaigns, promotions and programs. Everyone feels they are invested in the success of the indirect channel here at Telesphere.
P+: Has the program been changed in any way since you took over?
GR: We have launched some new and improved tools to make it easier for channel partners to do business with Telesphere, such as our agent portal, which allows channel partners to access pricing and marketing materials, create proposals, track orders and submit and track trouble tickets for their customers. We have also added two new channel managers, and were adding additional channel managers and support headcount to continue to provide partners with quality service and outstanding support. Lastly, we revised our Master Representative Agreement to allow partners a ramp period to get to our highest commission levels in order to be more competitive with our compensation program.
P+: How much revenue does the channel bring to Telesphere? Do you expect that to change in 2010?
GR: To date, the Telesphere Indirect Channel contributes about 30 percent of the overall revenue. For the remainder of 2010 and 2011, our business plan calls for that number to increase substantially.
P+: How many agents are in the Telesphere program? Do you expect that to change in 2010?
GR: We currently have approximately three dozen active channel partners. I do expect that to change in 2010. As we continue to grow our program to meet the needs of customers nationwide, I expect we will be an attractive option for channel partners across the U.S. who are looking to add hosted telephony to their product portfolio.
P+: What are your goals for the Telesphere channel program in 2010?
GR: Our goal for the Telesphere Channel Program in 2010 is to have channel partners who are subject matter experts in hosted VoIP enabled to sell any Telesphere solution, anywhere across the country, providing critical business communications solutions to their customers. We want our program to be seen as one that is critical to our channel partners success something that they simply cannot survive without.
P+: What are your key partner-enablement initiatives for 2010?
GR: The two main partner enablement initiatives are the continued enhancements and improvements to our agent portal and the continued expansion of our nationwide network. We want to make it easy to do business with us, and we want to enable our partners to sell anywhere across the country.
P+: Hosted VoIP has had an icy reception with both telecom agents and hardware VARs. Are you seeing signs of a thaw? If so, why?
GR: We are seeing signs of a thaw from telecom agents and VARs. Telecom agents are beginning to see the value of hosted VoIP rather than just selling the circuit, they can get paid on the circuit, the seats and the hardware. As for VARs, they now have the vehicle to augment their current business model and add a residual revenue stream to support their financial health. VARs are beginning to see that Telesphere can expand their product offering as opposed to replacing it. If a customer cannot afford the upfront capital cost of an on-premises PBX solution, they can now sell a hosted solution that meets the customers needs, and enables the VAR to build that residual base.
P+: What are you doing to encourage more indirect sales partners to take on hosted VoIP?
GR: We have revised our Master Representative Agreement to be more competitive. It now gives partners a ramp period to take advantage of our highest commission rates for an initial period as they grow their hosted revenue. We have launched promotions that enable partners to get paid more and begin receiving their residual payments upon signed contracts rather than on install. We also have promotions that spiff them on the phones and give their customers credit for their old phone systems and handsets to make the transition from traditional phone services to hosted business communications easier. And finally, we are awarding all qualifying partners a trip to our 2010 Presidents Club. Any partner at our Standard level that sells $50,000 in new MRR, or any at our Master Agent level that sells $75,000 in new MRR, will earn a trip for two to Hawaii.
P+: Your company is on record as looking to grow by acquisition. How will this help or challenge your channel?
GR: Whether we grow by acquisition or organically, the opportunity to grow the Telesphere channel program is exciting. I experienced many acquisitions and mergers during my time at Qwest, and each one presented unique challenges, but overall they also presented great opportunities by adding talented channel partners who were enabled to expand their product portfolio and bring additional value to their customers. I foresee that with any potential acquisition, Telesphere would have a similar opportunity to work with new channel partners to help us drive revenue.
P+: What will be the biggest challenge/opportunity for channel partners generally in 2010?
GR: I think the challenge and opportunity is the same for channel partners in 2010. The challenge is to figure out how to negotiate the current telecom landscape where the traditional telecom giants continue to consolidate and make changes to their indirect programs. Additionally, margins on equipment continue to shrink, and with todays economic conditions, customers are more reluctant to spend money on new equipment. With that comes this reality: the way companies look at their communications needs and solutions is evolving. More and more, business communications solutions are being pushed into the cloud as managed services. How do channel partners make the pivot to get on board quickly and keep up with the evolving needs of their customers? The opportunity is to select the right company to meet the needs of their clients and build a strong, long lasting relationship with that provider. I believe that Telesphere should be at the forefront of that conversation for every channel partner and VAR.