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Top Gun 51 Profile: Chris Jones on the AT&T Agent Channel Approach 'Changing Rapidly'

The carrier has been working to make its channel programs more responsive to the unique needs of master and subagents.

James Anderson

October 6, 2020

4 Min Read
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AT&T has been fine-tuning its agent channel approach, according to Chris Jones.

So says Chris Jones, associate vice president of channel sales for AT&T National Business and Channels. He spearheads AT&T’s recently formed master agent organization, which encompasses partners from the AT&T Alliance Channel and ACC Business. AT&T last year announced that it was separating traditional agents from master agents in order to support their unique business models. As a result, companies belonging to both the Alliance Channel and ACC Business started working with a single channel manager.

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AT&T’s Chris Jones

Jones recently landed on the prestigious Top Gun 51 list, which honors the industry’s most influential and respected channel chiefs. Distributors, master agents and analysts voted on the winners, weighing their channel advocacy and commitment to partners.

So we chatted with Jones about his experiences with AT&T and the agent channel.

Channel Partners: Could you share a little bit about your role within AT&T’s partner organization?

Chris Jones: I am responsible for managing the AT&T Alliance Channel and ACC Business Masters organization. This organization focuses on driving increased sales production and revenue growth nationally between masters and their subs for the Alliance Channel and ACC Business. This encompasses channel transformation, retention, marketing, operations, automation and sales effectiveness.

CP: What are some of your highlights from the last year?

CJ: I have been extremely pleased with everything we have been able to accomplish this year. We built a new national organization that combined Alliance Channel (teamed selling) and ACC Business (non-teamed selling) into one organization. We also added master-focused national channel managers and life cycle managers to focus on masters and their subs. And we have three regional sales teams focused on going deep and wide with subs. Finally, we introduced new solutions into the ACC Business portfolio to enhance the opportunity for masters and subs to sell in a non-teamed way.

CP: Tell us a little bit about your career. How did you come to work in the channel?

CJ: I have worked for AT&T, including a stint with Cingular Wireless, for over 25 years in a variety of sales, marketing, operations and strategy positions. My current role marks my second time working in the channel. The first was almost 12 years ago when I led the mobility practice with responsibility for the introduction of mobility to the AT&T Alliance Channel before moving to manage our channel marketing team. I then left the channel to manage the Southeast region small business team. In 2016 I returned to the channel to lead our East region team, focused on our legacy solution provider channel while working on our strategy to “go big” with masters and subs.

AT&T’s Chris Jones 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.

CP: Our industry looks very different than it did 10 years ago, both from a technological and go-to-market perspective. What must the modern channel program do to support its partners?

CJ: In my opinion, modern channel programs must listen to and evolve with the needs of masters and subs. The solutions we sell are changing, but at the core, I believe our purpose has stayed the same. Masters and subs have great relationships with customers and understand their technological needs. They are looking for …

… service providers to invest in and grow their business with over the long term. With this in mind, masters and subs need to recognize that the solutions and solution providers they recommend will help enhance their customer relationships. Similarly, channel programs must ensure that they have the products and service customers want and products that master and subs can sell. They must offer equitable compensation and focus on the master/sub experience.

CP: What advice would you give to partners reading this?

CJ: In the new era of COVID-19, masters and subs need to make sure their customers are using enterprise-grade solutions. Our employees are essentially all working remotely. They are connecting from home on residential-grade services. Unfortunately, we did not anticipate them being in this environment for an extended period. When the circumstances surrounding a remote work environment were first being implemented, customer decisions were being made quickly. So we would suggest that masters and subs check back in with their customers to make sure they feel about their decisions from March and April.

“Are customers running enterprise networks?”

“Are these networks highly secure?”

“Have they created more opportunities for malicious content to gain access to their network?”

AT&T is not a new provider in the industry, but our approach through masters and subs is changing rapidly. If a sub has not worked with us recently, they should consult their master about how AT&T has changed over the last 18 months when it comes to indirect channels.

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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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