Move over, Tom Brady.
Intelisys brought the New England leg of its Mindshare road show to the Cross Pavilion at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Monday. About 280 partners and suppliers gathered to hear from the master agent’s Rick Ribas, Rick Dellar and Andrew Pryfogle — as well as representatives from a variety of suppliers that included EarthLink, XO Communications and CenturyLink.
Channel Partners was there. Click through our image gallery that shows who was there and offers a recap of the important topics – think contact centers, cloud, international sales and more – that were hot on the agenda.
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Supplier fair participants had prime real estate on the balcony of the Cross Pavilion, with a view into the stadium. While Boston’s weather thus far in May has been hit-or-miss, the Intelisys event saw ideal temperatures and sunny skies.
Intelisys co-founder Rick Dellar kicked off the day by discussing the growth of the company’s East Coast office from two to 12 employees, including the cable team. One headline: Don’t let competitors own customers’ moves to Microsoft Office 365.
Dellar threw out some numbers: 68 suppliers currently with an additional 24 in the pipeline, many of them IT-focused and global; 370,000 commission line items monthly; $150 million in expected revenue for 2016; $1 billion in total billings expected by 2018; $1.5 million in investment funds available to partners.
Next up, a panel including CenturyLink, Level 3, TierPoint, and UnitedLayer.
Andrew Pryfogle, Intelisys’ SVP of cloud transformation, calls Microsoft Office 365 “the biggest channel land grab opportunity since cable.”
To help partners capitalize, a panel including (l-r) Pryfogle; Frank Sheridan, channel sales manager at CenturyLink; Marvin Rosado, Northeast channel sales director for Level 3; and Bob Buchanan, VP channel at TierPoint; addressed ways to move customers to cloud.
Buchanan says just as the golf community welcomed Tiger Woods’ success, AWS’ $10 billion business is good news for the cloud community and partners. While Sheridan acknowledges that “co-opetition” with massive cloud providers can be a challenge for companies like CenturyLink, there are workloads that are more suitable in a colo or managed model. He defined “bare metal in the cloud” as an architecture where a demanding application like Oracle can be run without an underlying hypervisor.
Rosado says Level 3 advises partners to include the cost of knowledge in a flattened world when discussing cloud versus on-premises for workloads, because performance is now as good or better in cloud.
“Go out and sell the cloud,” says Rosado. “You know how to do it.”
Business coach and author Chuck Mache fired up the crowd, exhorting partners to embrace the rapid pace of technology evolution — even given the impossibility of being an expert in everything and the difficulty of hiring the right sales engineers.
The worry? “Who’s going to one-up me?” says Mache. “Who’s smarter than me at this?”
Mache says trying to learn everything isn’t the answer because tech is changing fast. His advice is to become a “cloud general contractor,” likening specialized expertise to the building trades. “Quarterback the deal,” says Mache. “The question to ask suppliers is, ‘Who is willing to go cradle to grave on a deal with me?’” By building relationships and being expert on no more than five areas, you can be a one-person shop and still have a deep bench.
One other thing: “If your business says ‘telecom,’ I recommend changing that to ‘technology,’” says Mache.
Arunas Chesonis, chairman and CEO of Sweetwater Energy, shared 10 business success secrets he’s learned over the years. Chesonis, who founded PAETEC, says to find partners and customers who will tell you what they really think, build a cash cushion twice as big as what you believe you need, and never let attorneys operate without business stakeholders in the room.
While he believes cloud is huge, Chesonis says clean energy and health-care tech are also major opportunities, and that partners should be engaging beyond the CIO with business executives. Chesonis says successful suppliers consider the channel just as important as direct sales, because business is about trusted relationships — and the channel has those, more than in-house teams. In addition, custom application development can help keep customers engaged long term.
In response to a query by a 24-year-old partner asking for advice, Chesonis said he advises those starting out to make their first jobs in service, like working in a NOC, and then moving on to the sales side. “See what it’s like to have a door slammed in your face,” he said. “Then you know which side you belong on.”
In closing: “Hire two executive assistants,” says Arunas. “A good executive assistant costs not much more than one good residual, and they will take so much pressure off.”
Contact centers were the focus of a panel featuring (l-r) Pryfogle, Karen Bowman, Liveops’ VP of channel and partner development; Brandon Knight, ShoreTel director of consulting services; IntelePeer COO Felipe Rodriquez; and 8×8 VP of channel sales Chris Peters. All agree that contact centers belong in the cloud; Liveops rebuilt its entire platform in AWS.
”There’s no more ingress/egress,” says Bowman. “We’ve gone to a gateway model.” She adds that customers tend to be surprised at the breadth of features and speed of setup available.
“The contact center can become profitable,” says Peters.
“Customer experience and satisfaction are the ultimate key,” says Rodriguez. “Technology drives that.”
To start the conversation, Knight says to ask how end customers interact with your customer’s business. Shoretel’s consulting arm can take it from there.
“You don’t even need to know what questions to ask,“ says Knight. “Just put us in the room.”
International business was a big focus at Mindshare. Intelisys’ new European director, Stephen Hackett (left), joined Masergy global account manager Jim Moineau, PGi partner exec Don Felman, Expereo global channel director Victor Hou, Aryaka regional sales manager David Chase and Tata Communications’ partner development manager Michael Lau. The consensus: Global is not just for very large companies, and the U.S. channel model is more advanced than what’s available in Europe.
Chase says Aryaka can trim costs by about 75 percent over MPLS and add locations quickly, within a week in most cases, based on the company’s global PoPs.
“The relationships we’re building in the U.K. are relationships for you,” said Hackett.
Olen Scott, EarthLink‘s new channel chief (left), says the company is closing a $100,000 deal every month and has relaunched its $150,000 Perfect Game SPIFF.
Jason Cutler of SADA Systems, a premier Microsoft and Google for Work partner, says solutions providers should be going to customers and actively asking about their productivity suite licenses — even customers with existing Office 365 accounts can be switched over to deliver CSP revenue.
The UCaaS panel included (l-r) Tom Sullivan, VP direct and wholesale, Calltower; Skip Lane, SVP of channel sales with Star2Star; Brian Crotty, Broadview COO; Josh Redick, Vonage N.E. channel manager; and Alex DiNunzio, director of product management at fuze.
“People aren’t afraid anymore,” said Sullivan. UCaaS is now the norm in all-size companies, and it’s proving valuable in helping customers improve service to their own customers.
Still, the panel sees challenges. Crotty says he’s seeing instances where employees don’t know how to use UCaaS technology.
“If end users can’t figure out how to use the product without training, without IT involvement, you’re dead in the water,” he said.
Vonage’s Redick says customization can help — mobile and Millennial workers need different tech than contact-center agents.
Speaking of Millennials, DiNunzio calls fuze a software development and R&D company.
“You’ll start to see in the next month or two some revitalized clients that are pretty sexy,” he said. “We’re pretty proud of them.”
Speaking of challenges, Pryfogle pressed the panel on Microsoft’s E5.
“We see Microsoft as a competitive threat, but they have a ways to go on the PBX side,” said DiNunzio.
Not everyone was so sanguine. “If customers love Microsoft, we have to love Microsoft,” says Sullivan.