January 19, 2010
By Khali Henderson
PAETEC Holding Corp. (PAET) has named a new channel chief. Effective Jan. 1, 2010, Donna Wenk, senior vice president of sales operations and customer care, began overseeing the agent channel program in addition to her responsibilities for the CLEC’s call centers, account development and sales operations.
Wenk, an original PAETEC founder, fills the post left open in mid-September when John Leach, president of the South region, left PAETEC after serving as channel chief for less than a year. Previously, the role was held by Chris Bantoft.
PHONE+ spoke to Wenk at the end of December about her plans for the PAETEC indirect sales program. What follows is an edited transcript.
PHONE+: PAETEC has an unusual structure for its channel leadership. Can you explain that and your role within that structure?
PAETEC Channel Chief Donna Wenk
Donna Wenk: Yes, we designed this structure to stay close to our customers and business partners and meet their unique needs. Based on our combined experience in supporting the agent channel, we believed that to best support our partners we needed two distinct types of support — one specific to the needs of the region and one with a national focus to ensure consistency. For example, an agent competing in Manhattan will run into very different challenges and prospects than one in Iowa. So, it made sense for us to push the day-to-day management of the channels towards each region. As part of the structure, we run our company in four geographical regions with a regional president responsible for all sales and service in that region. Under each regional president is a vice president of channel sales who is responsible for channel sales and management of our agent partners in that region.
But, at the same time, we needed to ensure that each partner and customer has a consistent experience with unmatched support regardless of where they are. That’s where I come in. My current role running sales ops and customer care is to manage the inside teams that support the four regions. For the channel, that includes processing agent contracts and customer orders, agent commissions, contests and incentive plans, and managing our quote team and quote tools.
We believe that this two-pronged support strategy will better serve our partners than any other competing program nationally.
P+: Your previous role was sales operations. How does that influence your role as channel chief? How are you able to do both?
DW: Our sales operations team currently includes the support teams I just mentioned, so assisting the channel has already been a part of my focus. Fortunately, I have a strong management team under me that includes three highly tenured VPs, which will allow me to spend more time with the channel. I will help our regional leaders eliminate any obstacles or barriers that our channel partners are experiencing in doing business with PAETEC.
P+: Do you have previous indirect sales or sales experience that informs your new post?
DW: Absolutely. I have been in telecom for 25 years, with over 11 at PAETEC as an original founder. During that time, I have run direct sales for the North region, as well as inside sales and account development nationally. Through my career, I’ve recognized that the needs of the channel are unique — there’s no doubt about it. And my sales and support experience well positions me to drive innovation and help grow the partner base.
P+: How much revenue does the channel bring to PAETEC? Do you expect that to change in 2010?
DW: The channel accounts for about 20-25 percent of total company revenue and 30-35 percent of all retail revenues. We expect that percentage to increase slightly now that we have a national footprint and as we continue to add new markets. We will be able to add new partners as a result and our existing partners have more opportunities to sell us.
P+: What are your goals for the PAETEC channel program in 2010?
DW: Our goals for 2010 are to not only increase the number of agents, but the activity and productivity of each as well. I believe our diverse portfolio, aggressive commissions and industry-leading customer care present a better opportunity for agents to thrive than with any other provider. My personal goal, along with the other leaders in our channel, is to simply make our partners as successful as they can be. We’re going to find and eliminate the hindrances, continue to adjust our support and systems as needed and truly listen to each of our partners on how we can best serve them.
P+: What are your key partner-enablement initiatives for 2010?
DW: We are expanding our product portfolio to offer more differentiating solutions to our customers. This includes our Allworx IP-based customer premises equipment as well as energy resale. We are making significant capital investments in new data centers, expansion and upgrades to our IP network and wireless services. We will be providing training to our partners on these solutions throughout 2010.
We are also building enhancements to our quote tools for partners and better integrating online support systems so it’s easier than ever to do business with PAETEC. And of course, in addition to our regular commission program and periodic incentives, we will once again be offering an annual trip for our top partners.
P+: PAETEC has taken on major acquisitions in recent years. Can you update us on the progress in integrating channels from those acquisitions? How about the systems?
DW: Yes, we have been busy. Our networks are fully integrated and our complete product portfolio, order flow system and billing system, quote tools and commission plans are now consistent for all new sales. We are still actively working on converting previously sold customers to single billing and order flow platform.
P+: What do you think will be hot product/solution opportunities for partners in 2010?
DW: In a word, data. Demand for bandwidth continues to increase and the need for secure multisite connectivity is something we can fulfill nationally and internationally. I expect those will continue to be the hot sales for 2010. In addition, we expect a buzz on our energy resale, fixed wireless and data centers.
P+: What will be the biggest challenges for channel partners generally in 2010?
DW: I think the biggest challenge for our selling agents will be to continue to stay abreast of the changes in technology and all the many products that are available so our partners can differentiate themselves from their competition. We plan to help our partners with both training and technical sales resources to assist them.
Despite the challenges we all face, I couldn’t be more optimistic about our channel in 2010, and I look forward to spending time with our partners and continuing to grow both PAETEC and their companies.
Read more about:Agents
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