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Top Gun 51 Profile: Erik Thomson Taps Into Military Experience for Work with Zayo Partners

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Erik Thomson has only worked in the channel for 18 months, but he’s already making a difference for Zayo partners.

Thomson started out working for the communications infrastructure vendor five years ago in sales, then transitioned into channel operations. Zayo is his first job in the tech and data industry.

Erik Thomson of Zayo

Zayo’s Erik Thomson

Yet here he is, selected as a Channel Partners/Channel Futures 2020 Top Gun 51 winner, recognizing channel executives who are driving partner success. Three criteria were considered for this year’s winners. They are channel advocacy; commitment to partner business success; and dedication to earning the channel’s trust. To come up with the list, we solicited input from those who know channel executives best — distributors, master agents and industry analysts.

Using his experience from the U.S. Marine Corps, Thomson knows how to make things happen for channel partners. At Zayo, he was recognized for his leadership and given the reins to the company’s channel program.

Thomson is senior vice president of partner channel and premier sales for parent company, Zayo Group. Zayo’s 133,000-mile network in North America and Europe provides a broad communications infrastructure for a wide range of businesses. The company is focused on data center connectivity and cloud offerings.

Before joining Zayo, he worked at Goldman Sachs in Salt Lake City doing back office and data analytics work. In the Marines, he served as a captain and assistant operations officer for an infantry battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He also served as a scout sniper platoon commander, first lieutenant and intelligence officer in Afghanistan.

Thomson recently shared his story with Channel Partners about how he’s approaching his important responsibilities at Zayo.

Channel Partners: You started your career in sales at Zayo in 2015.  So how did you end up working with the company’s channel partners by 2018?

Erik Thomson: When I started, I transitioned to lead the marketing group. Marketing is an extension of big data. I went on to help build an inside sales division. My whole career has been taking parts of teams that work well on their own and bringing them together. But we needed something more.

CP: What else was needed?

Zayo’s Erik Thomson is part of Channel Partners/Channel Futures’ 2020 Top Gun 51. This program recognizes today’s channel executives who build and execute channel programs that drive partner, customer and supplier success. See the full list.

ET: We needed to figure out how partners could get better visibility into what Zayo does and how it operates. The company has done about 50 acquisitions over the years. A lot of our partners have worked with a lot of those companies individually before the acquisitions. But the partners haven’t worked with all of them, so they don’t know all the pieces that are there. My job was to figure out how we can do a better job supporting our partners and customers.

CP: What did you do to accomplish those goals for Zayo partners?

ET: I just had to help the two groups work together more seamlessly. Talking with our partners, they all talk about the assets that Zayo brings to the table. We added a dedicated partner support team for white-glove treatment for everything we sell. I started doing that kind of work for Zayo 18 months ago.

CP: Tell us more about your channel operations at Zayo?

ET: In organizations like Zayo, we want to be extremely close to the customer experience. We seek scores from customers and partners on surveys to ensure they are satisfied. And what we ultimately realized is that customers have close relationships with partners. So we take this information and it helps provide better solutions for partners and for our customer base. Most important is building trust with partners. At Zayo, we’re going to provide a good solution for them and we want to partner with them long term.

CP: How has that worked out?

ET: With that baseline established, we beefed up our team and …

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