Q&A With Cavalier Channel Chief Michael Gough

April 29, 2010

5 Min Read
Q&A With Cavalier Channel Chief Michael Gough

By Khali Henderson

Cavalier Telephone, a full-service telecom company serving the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Southeastern United States, announced the addition of Michael Gough as its new channel chief in March at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo. Gough, formerly vice president of dealer sales for business telephony system vendor Vertical Communications Inc., actually came on board in December 2009 to fill a new post in the company as its vice president of channel partner sales. While the carrier already had a channel, the vice president level leadership was brought in to design a new program for a more “sustainable partner plan” going forward. PHONE+ interviewed Gough about his new plan in early April.

Cavalier Channel Chief Michael Gough

PHONE+: What is your previous channel experience?

Michael Gough: My career began as an engineer, designing central office equipment and CPE. I found engineering design to be terribly boring for me and determined that sales was more my forte. I ran national sales for Comdial, Vertical Communications and Vodavi — all phone systems manufacturers that primarily sold through the indirect channel. Additionally and perhaps just as significant, I was the president of a large interconnect in northern Virginia where I sold Cavalier, Sprint, Verizon and PAETEC services.

PHONE+: How will that experience inform your new role as channel chief?

MG: My experience affords me understanding of all aspects of the business — from the engineering phase through to the end-user and customer. My reputation speaks for itself in that I have built strong relationships across the U.S. with the partners that are solid and trusted. A specific positive element of not coming from the agent community unquestionably is my fresh outside-the-box thinking regarding direction. This unsullied approach will be more and more evident as we roll out our 2010 program.

PHONE+: How has the Cavalier channel program changed?

MG: The fundamental change in our go-forward strategy is the human element of the program. We want partners not agents. Those partners will be rewarded very smartly for their performance. The more productive they are, the more favorable the rewards. Our new contract is completely polished and we will start the ball rolling by inviting selected partners to come aboard this month [April]. Master agents, which we call Platinum Partners, will be a significant part of our 2010 focus.

PHONE+: How much revenue does the channel bring to Cavalier?

MG: Our indirect channel is growing and currently represents approximately 25 percent of new sales bookings.

PHONE+: Do you expect that to change in 2010?

MG: My goal for 2010 is to increase that to 30 percent with 10 percent growth year over year thereafter.

PHONE+: How many agents are in the Cavalier program?

MG: Unfortunately, and as humorous as it may sound, too many. We have roughly 200 agents in our current program where the typical 80/20 rule applies. Our 2010 channel program will reward those committed to Cavalier with new spiffs and a lucrative residual for productive partners.

PHONE+: Do you expect that to change in 2010?

MG: Definitely. There are areas where we have facilities but not sufficient penetration. We are offering our current partners an opportunity, through a combined marketing and sales effort, to proactively expand those areas, and of course, certain areas will undoubtedly require relationships with new channel partners. Our program departs from the typical “agent” model in which the provider signs as many agents as possible. At Cavalier we’re adding partners that see the same value we do in a long-term relationship.

PHONE+: What are you goals for the Cavalier channel program in 2010?

MG: Our goal for 2010 is to increase new revenue to 30 percent for the indirect channel. Further, our program and approach in 2010 will also encourage our indirect channel to become more of an integral part of the Cavalier family — once again — partners, not agents.

PHONE+: What are your key partner-enablement initiatives for 2010?

MG: The primary initiative is to roll out the “Performing Partner” element of the 2010 program — the better one performs, the more one earns. In an effort to be easy to do business with we have enhanced the Partner Resource Center and the Partner Portal, giving partners access to critical information about our customers and their services. Later this year, we will offer performing partners complete access to our “CORE” system for quoting, provisioning inquiries, trouble tickets and the like. We’re also increasing the level of technical and sales support for the channel, with new sales engineers and a process for requesting assistance with RFP responses.

PHONE+: Cavalier recently bought a data center/managed services company. Will this product set be emphasized in the partner program?

MG: The acquisition of Net Telcos extends Cavalier’s stake in the growing data center business. The SAS70 certified facility we added in the Richmond area is in addition to similar facilities that our partners are able to offer throughout our footprint.

PHONE+: What will be hot product/solution opportunities for partners in 2010?

MG: Our 2010 strategy is to leverage the strength of our network for higher capacity solutions, leading with IPeer (our hosted PBX solution) and Ethernet over copper, SIP trunking and VPLS (next-generation private networking). As bandwidth demand continues to rise, Cavalier and our partners are well positioned to leverage our network, with 17,000 miles of fiber across 50 major markets.

PHONE+: What will be the biggest challenges for channel partners in 2010?

MG: It’s simple — the challenge is maintaining a base of revenue. Customers want to reduce costs and increase bandwidth. …Partners will also be challenged to sort out more complexity than ever for their customers. They’re faced with new technology choices that are often delivered by non-traditional service providers. The partner’s role as solution consultant will be more important in 2010 than ever before.

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