Images: Avant Special Forces Wrap — Up-Market Growth, Microsoft Opportunity

Enterprises are more and more interested in doing business with agents.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

September 30, 2021

16 Slides

Channel partners are landing a larger and larger piece of the enterprise pie.

So says Avant co-founder and CEO Ian Kieninger, who encouraged agents and VARs to move up market. In 2019, 23% of Avant’s top 50 agents had sold a deal to a $1 billion company. This year, 45% of the top 50 have sold to a $1 billion company.

“There’s an absolute trend that larger customers are now willing to buy from and work with smaller, laser-focused trusted advisers,” Kieninger told Channel Futures. “As we continue to move forward in the evolution of this channel and the evolution of technology, we’re seeing that our trusted advisers are getting engaged in larger deals than they ever have been.”


Avant’s Ian Kieninger

And a new customer demographic may lead to a different engagement model. For example, Kieninger said partners should consider charging for their time. That’s due to a couple of reasons. One is the increased risks that come with selling to larger customers.

“There’s more time being spent working on deals [and more] investment of resources. And if those deals don’t come to fruition, it could be a long time for the next one to come around, or to get paid,” he said.

In addition, charging for time helps brokers earn upfront cash flow as they build residual revenue. Kieninger also said enterprise buyers will appreciate partners charging for their time. It shows the customer that the partner is motivate to maintain a relationship beyond a one-time transaction.

“I think the enterprise account absolutely wants to see that,” Kieninger said. “Small business maybe not so much, but as you go up market there’s an expectation that you need to put a value on your time so they put a value on you as well.”

The Microsoft Question

Kieninger and fellow Avant executives frequently asked vendor keynote speakers and panelists about how they are dealing with Microsoft. Evolve IP, 8×8 and Zoom, in particular, fielded questions about whether they will partner or compete against Microsoft.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Wow, they’re so large, and they’re everywhere, and everybody has some version of their software. Do they have an advantage to go own the UCaaS space?’ I probed that question to the UCaaS providers to see if they’re afraid of that. The audience wants to know too, because if it all went in that direction, [the UCaaS opportunities] would dry up, because there could be a monopoly,” Kieninger told Channel Futures.

However, Kieninger noted that Microsoft specializes in software, not services

“Companies like Evolve IP, RingCentral and 8×8 are all plugging into their platform and providing an enterprise end-user customer experience that Microsoft’s not doing at this time,” he said. “That gives them a window of opportunity to go capitalize where Microsoft’s not focusing.”


Opkalla’s Jim Campbell

Jim Campbell, founder and managing partner of Opkalla, said his firm has aligned with Microsoft. Opkalla is a Microsoft gold CSP that supports about 60,000 Microsoft licenses.

“It’s part of our business and will continue to be, because Microsoft’s not going anywhere,” Campbell told Channel Futures.

In addition, Opkalla teams with Avant vendors that integrate with Teams. As a result, Microsoft represents an opportunity – not a threat – for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm.

“When we talk about COVID-19 and moving people to cloud telephony, Microsoft Teams has been our largest area of cloud communications. I’d say two out of three customers wanted to talk about Teams since they had such a large Microsoft investment,” Campbell said.

See pictures of the final day at Avant Special Forces Summit in the gallery above.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email James Anderson or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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