TBI Wants to Bridge the Gap between the IT and Telco Channels with New Referral Program

Mike Onystok talks about the blurring lines between traditional partners and master agents, and how TBI wants to help the two groups succeed together.

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

November 15, 2017

3 Min Read
Bridge the gap

As cloud computing and as-a-service models continue to propel rapid change in enterprise technology, we’re seeing an increased convergence between the traditionally separate IT and telco channels. In the past, hardware, software, and carrier services existed in rigid siloes, but as more hardware more and more often is offered as a bundle along with connectivity, those lines are continuing to blur.

Mike Onystok, Vice President at third-party technology distributor TBI, is seeing a corresponding increase in VARs, VADs, and MSPs into the telco channel. To help traditional partners in both spaces bridge the gap that’s historically divided them, TBI recently developed a new referral program geared specifically toward helping partners sell comprehensive solutions in a cloud-based world. 

Onystok cites two motivating factors that TBI used to guide the development of the program. First, no one can do a skill pivot overnight. It takes training not only in the technology, but also in how it’s presented to prospects and integrated into existing business models. 

Second, even if such a technological pivot were possible, the shift from upfront revenue to a recurring revenue stream would still be extremely difficult for many partners to execute solo.

As part of the new program, TBI has created a new training model designed to alleviate the pain points partners are experiencing all along their digital transformation journey. It starts with evaluating and understanding what their partners’ core competencies are. Then the disty pulls together members of its portfolio with complementary offerings and puts together a combination of onsite and at-your-own-pace training to support the skillsets of the VAR or VAD with cloud-based solutions.

The referral program is essentially a repository of sales resources that can look, act, and feel like part of the partner’s brand. Onystok calls it the ‘crawl-walk-run’ method.

“We start by doing the crawl, which is us supporting the customer sale from call to close mixed with the training. Over time, with the right hires or the right training into existing staff, it would turn into more of a sell-with opportunity. Last, when they don’t need us anymore, it becomes just a traditional distributor type of partnership where we do pre- and post-sale.”

Who are your competitors? Just about everyone

Onystok says that when a large VAR has multiple focuses such as storage, compute, on-prem PBX, and so on, there are typically subsets of staff that are focused on that silo and not considering how they can complement those technologies with their virtualized versions. And in a cloud-based world, that opens the competitive landscape up to anyone who’s packaging complementary products into holistic solutions.

VARs should be thinking about how to supplement their current offerings in order to have a hybrid Plan B and full-cloud Plan C solution at the ready. There are natural segues, he says: for compute specialists, there are cloud servers. For storage, it’s the software-defined data center 

“There’s no one large VAR or partner that you can point at and say, ‘That’s the threat.’ If [partners] aren’t adapting to these changes or gearing up to be prepared to handle them with their own customers, then the threats are everywhere.”







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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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