GTT Channel Chief Touts SD-WAN, Addresses 'Misconceptions'

Rob Westervelt says the "GTT story" is a deal-winner.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

April 17, 2019

6 Min Read

GTT Communications is growing, and so is its indirect channel.

Rob Westervelt assumed leadership of the company’s partner program back in January. The company quadrupled in size from 2016 to 2018, fueled by acquisitions of Access Point and Interoute, Westervelt noted that the channel is growing at a double-digit rate.

Channel Partners caught up with Westervelt at our recent Conference & Expo to discuss the state of GTT. We’ve edited the transcript for length and clarity.

Channel Partners: How does it feel starting the new job, and what are you hoping to do with it?

Rob Westervelt: It feels good. I’ve been here for about 22 months. I was running the indirect East channel, which I had been doing for about 20 months before I got promoted. And obviously the success in the East is what helped drive the promotion to becoming channel chief.


GTT’s Rob Westervelt

What I’m excited about is that because of GTT’s network and the fact that we’re a Tier 1 ISP, there’s so much opportunity that’s coming our way through the partner channel. And it’s not only international; it’s domestic as well. What a lot of people [say] is, “Hey, you guys are an international player.” Yes we are, but we play just as well domestically as we do internationally. What I like about the international side is that [for] U.S.-based companies that have both a U.S. and international presence, the amount of options for a company to look at for a provider drops drops by almost 50 percent. That’s really exciting because most of the opportunities that we get into are domestic and international combined — we win a good majority of those. We’re seeing some really big logos coming through the channel, because the channel partners are typically the trusted advisers. When we get down-selected, we’ve got a really high chance of winning those.

And the majority of what we’re winning today are SD-WAN deals. Two years ago people were kicking the tires on SD-WAN and saying, “It’s something that’s coming down the road.” They’re now signing contracts. We’re seeing large international networks actually changing providers now because there’s a change in the industry. Typically somebody wouldn’t just move a 100-site network for 5 percent or 10 percent savings; it’s not worth the forklift. But with the technology change of SD-WAN, customers are now making that change because they’re not happy with their incumbent, and they’re looking at GTT and a better way to serve them through the cloud. When we’re able to sit down at the table with a customer and tell them the GTT story, our close ratio skyrockets. That’s really exciting.

CP: What are the differences between your SD-WAN and that of other providers?

RW: We were built for the cloud. Our network is built into the data centers where all of the cloud exchanges are, whereas your traditional old-time carriers have clunkier networks. They’re not really made for cloud exchanges. Our network is really a Tier 1 ISP network. We’re No. 5 in the world for IP ratings for providers. I think a third of the internet traffic traverses our network. Our network from an IP perspective is bigger than Verizon or AT&T from a Tier 1 rating perspective.

We have 3,500 access providers. That means last-loop providers that we can get to. In your SD-WAN I can give you a primary circuit, I can give you the secondary circuit, and they can be from two diverse providers. They can have …
… PoP diversity. They can have network diversity. So I can give you a one-stop shop. If you find somebody out there that a customer wants us to get access to that we don’t have in our portfolio today, we’ll actually go out and try to negotiate deal with that provider to be able to offer that. We’re always looking for ways to make it simpler for the end customer to do business with us.

CP:How is your partner profile evolving?

RW: There [are] a lot of subagents out there. Today we have agreements with all the master agents, and what we’re really looking for are the premier subagents that actually sell into that midmarket/enterprise account. I think that they’ve always been the trusted adviser for those accounts, just maybe not on the WAN side. A lot of times they do other things, and now they’re [saying], “I’m the trusted adviser on inside wiring or other services that I offer. Now the customer’s saying to me and saying, “I need to replace my entire WAN.” We’re always looking for that next subagent that can sell our products and services.

CP: How is GTT’s channel changing?

RW: I just backfilled myself with a VP for the East. His name is Gene Elmore, based out of Atlanta. We are adding a fourth vice president. Currently we have three today. What I call the back office – which is the quoting and the contracts – we’re streamlining that. We acquired a company called Access Point back in October. Probably 80 percent of what they did was agents, so we looked at what their back office was and how they were interacting with agents. We’re changing our back office to be a little bit quicker on turning quotes around and pricing around, and we’re getting good feedback already. That’s really exciting. The good news is we’re able to adapt and make changes, because as more and more partners are coming in, we want to be able to turn those quotes and pricing around quicker and get contracts out. We’ve probably cut the timeline down by 50 percent already, and it’s only been a couple of months.

CP: How has your portfolio changed?

RW: We offer all types of connectivity today, whether it’s MPLS, DIA — we do offer voice services. When we acquired Access Point, we acquired UDP, which is POTS lines. I never ever thought I would sell POTS lines again, but it’s back. I don’t think POTS lines ever went away. We have the complete networking products, from voice to data to any kind of interconnection that a customer wants. It doesn’t always have to be SD-WAN. It can be MPLS, it can be DIA, and through all the different access modes with the partners that we team up with.

CP: What’s your message to partners?

RW: I think there’s a misconception …
… of what GTT is and whom we serve today. My goal has been to push our channel managers out into the field more so that they can go and tell the GTT story. Every time we go and tell the GTT story, we typically walk away with a good-size deal and somebody saying, “I didn’t know you guys can do that,” or, “Hey, I didn’t GTT was that big, and you offered all that.” One of the reasons for changing the back office was to get our channel managers out meeting with partners and taking them through the whole GTT story.

CP: Anything else you want to add?

RW: It’s an exciting time. It’s an exciting time with everything going on in the industry today. It’s an exciting time with the our launch of SD-WAN. With our integration of Interoute. We’re actually more dense in Europe than we are in the U.S. today. We’ve got a lot of assets we’re putting in place. We went from 350 PoPs to 600 PoPs. It’s an exciting time for being at GTT. There’s so much opportunity.

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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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