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Interested in Selling International Services?

Think selling overseas services is overwhelming? Six overseas operators with partner programs say its not.

May 27, 2010

12 Min Read
Interested in Selling International Services?

By Khali Henderson

Selling international services to U.S.-based multinationals has gotten the attention of many telecom agents in the past 18 months or so. And who wouldnt be interested in what is practically a greenfield opportunity? The perfect storm of drivers includes the sluggish U.S. market, businesses of all sizes going global, agents increasing comfort with bigger bandwidth sales and customers increasing interest in outsourcing procurement for multilocation communications.

Many of the first movers report getting into the international telecom sales by chance namely upon customer request and have gone to their U.S.-based global providers such as AT&T, Sprint Nextel Corp. and Global Crossing Ltd. to make the deal work. Others have been pioneering partner relationships with international operators. But more recently international operators are seeking out U.S. agents. Case in point: four international carriers China Unicom (Americas) Operations Ltd., NTT America, Pacnet Services (USA) Inc. and PCCW Global exhibited at the Spring 2010 Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.

China Unicom Americas partner program is relatively new, debuting in fall 2009. Patrick Zhang, deputy general manager of product and marketing, said the event demonstrated the timing of our program couldnt be better. He said the carriers reason for launching a channel is due to the relationships business customers have forged with third parties to manage their communications services. Building a channel program opens the door to establishing relationships with these influential entities, he said.

In addition, Hutchison Global Communications USA (HGC) is launching its U.S. program this summer and Telstra International is relaunching its 3-year-old program later this year.

There are around 40,000 individuals associated with the commissioned agent channel today. The channel is mature and its operations [are] transparent. It is too big to ignore, said Andrew Kwok, senior vice president of international business for HGC, explaining why the company is launching a U.S. program later this year. We believe an optimal mix of HGC sales force and indirect sales channels can enable us to effectively reach our target enterprise customers in the U.S. and further grow our business in the Americas. Kwok said the company expects the channel to become a significant revenue line item.

Tata Communications Americas U.S. partner program is a bit more mature, starting in February 2008 with a referral program and evolving into an agent program a year later. In that time the company has found numerous benefits from VARs as an extension of its sales and support team in markets where it does not have a local presence. In addition, VARs can bring specialized value-add to our product offerings for specific markets, said Dave Ryan, executive vice president, Tata Communications Americas. Combining Tatas capabilities with VARs means the customer doesnt have to assemble separate suppliers for an integrated solution. We are able to manage their entire project for them.

Ryan said Tata Communications is in phase two of the partner life cycle. Formerly, it was sell to and through, and now we are selling with. We are moving up the chain in the evolution of sales, engaging on a deeper level with fewer partners and complementing each others strengths, he said. In phase two we need the kind of partners who are willing to invest with us to achieve greater success.

NTT America, the pioneer of the group with a partner program thats more than a decade old, also has found greater success focusing its attentions and resources on a few agents. Shuichi Ikeda, vice president, sales and business development for NTT Americas Global IP Network Business Unit, said the carriers focus is on a smaller, select group of high-performing channel partners rather than a larger group which may be of less quality.

To help agents get more acquainted with some of these providers, PHONE+ interviewed them about their U.S. partner programs.

China Telecom Americas Corp.

Web site: www.chinatelecomusa.com
U.S. headquarters: Herndon, Va.
Parent company: China Telecom Group

Geographic coverage: China, Asia Pacific, United States, Canada, Latin America, Middle East and Africa.
International services for U.S. businesses: international private lines, international Ethernet private lines, MPLS VPN, Ethernet VPN, IP access, managed services, wholesale voice

Domestic U.S. services: N/A

U.S. PoPs: New York; Washington D.C.; Miami; Seattle; San Jose and Palo Alto, Calif.; and Los Angeles. 
Channel chief: Thomas Lam, managing director for sales, and Kai Wang, agent program manager
Partner program: CTA has had an agent program since 2006. It now claims more than 50 agents (master agents and direct agents) and plans to grow that to 80 in 2010. CTA declined to disclose how much revenue the channel contributes to the company. Agents are compensated on a residual basis and support with dedicated management and sales teams.

China Unicom Americas Operations Ltd.

Web site: www.unicomamericas.com
U.S. headquarters: Los Angeles
Parent company: China Unicom

Geographic coverage: International reach with branches in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe and Americas with access to numerous international submarine cable systems. Its strength is in the Asia-Pacific region and as a primary service provider within China.

International services for U.S. businesses: international private lines, Ethernet private lines, MPLS VPN, IP transit, Internet access in China and colocation in China.

Domestic U.S. services: IP transit

U.S. PoPs: Los Angeles; Chicago; New York; Miami; Dallas; San Jose and Anaheim, Calif.

Channel chief: Victor Apodaca, manager of channel management

Partner program: China Unicom Americas started its indirect sales program in November 2009 targeting telecom agents and VARs. The companys primary target is master agencies, but its open to relationship with both large and small agents. Presently, it works with five master agents and a number of smaller agents, but it has plans to grow the program in 2010. The company pays agents on a residual basis but it will offer an upfront one-time as an option. Agents are supported by regional teams on both the East Coast and West Coast with headquarters providing oversight of the program and management of key agents.

Hutchison Global Communications USA

Web site: www.hgc.com.hk
U.S. headquarters: Los Angeles
Parent company: Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings Limited

Geographic coverage: HGC owns and operates one of the largest fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) networks in Hong Kong. HGC has established network reach into mainland China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, the Hutchison Group has a global wireless footprint with its 3 brand of 3G services in the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Macau, Norway and Sweden.

International services for U.S. businesses: international private lines, MPLS VPN, Ethernet private lines, VPLS, IP transit, managed CPE, HutchConnect, Hong Kong backhaul, local loops, Metronet and dedicated Internet access, colocation and telephone services.

Domestic U.S. services: Riding on partnership with local partners and virtual PoPs in the United States, HGC can offer some domestic services, such as IP transit, in the  United States.

U.S. PoPs: HGC serves all NFL cities through its own PoPs, virtual PoPs and partnerships with  other operators.

Channel chief: Paul Greenawalt, channel manager

Partner program: HGCs commissioned agent program should begin by mid-2010. The company is recruiting systems integrators, equipment dealers and telecom agents. It already has channel partners in Asia and Europe and is in discussion with agents and master agents in the United States. HGC plans to pay agents a residual or one-time basis depending on the nature of the arrangement. Once signed up, the individual agent gets the training, pre-sales, post-sales, technical and program management support available to any member of the Hutchison sales team. In addition, HGC is planning to select a core group of highly motivated individual agents to receive gold-plated support.

NTT America
Web site: www.us.ntt.net
U.S. headquarters: New York
Parent company: NTT Communications

Geographic coverage: NTT America operates the NTT Communications Global IP Network (GIN), a Tier-1 Internet backbone that serves the United States, Central and Latin America, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, Japan and Asia, as well as strategically placed data centers located across these same locations. NTT Americas sales territory includes North, Central and South America.

International services for U.S. businesses: The GIN team operates 10 points of presence (PoPs) in the United States.  These PoPs are designed to accept network connections from customers via Ethernet, TDM, OC or STM.

Domestic U.S. services: NTT America is comprised of the GIN and Enterprise Solutions Business Unit, both of which provide domestic U.S. services. GIN operates a global Tier 1 Internet backbone and is involved in the sales of direct IP transit connections. ESBU is focused on providing private networking and data center/colocation solutions to Web 2.0, enterprise customers and multinational corporations. 

U.S. PoPs: New York; Washington D.C; Miami; Chicago; Atlanta; Houston; Dallas; Seattle; Mountain View and San Jose, Calif; Los Angeles.

Channel chief: Shuichi Ikeda, vice president, sales and business development, Global IP Network Business Unit

Partner program: The GIN Solution Partners Program has been in operation since 1998. It focuses on telecom agents, VARs and systems integrators that focus on the content and high-bandwidth prospects it markets to. The program includes both master agents and direct agents. The privately held company declined to reveal the channels contribution, but said it was a sizeable percent of its overall revenue.
NTT America provides partners with sales training, online portals and technical support. Qualified participants may enter the Referral Program, Agent Program or Reseller Program. Referral Program partners receive a one-time commission on the monthly recurring revenue. Agents receive monthly commissions on the MRC of a closed opportunity. NTT Americas sales team and the agent work together to close the customer business. NTT America is the customers first line of support, enabling the agent to concentrate on their core business and finding more opportunities. Resellers do not receive commissions but are given a discounted static pricing book. The reseller is the customers first line of technical support and billing support.

According to Channel Chief Ikeda, the GIN Solution Partners Program is one of the few channel-neutral programs in the market today. Our direct sales team and channel team work collaboratively to close each sale and do not compete against one another for the business, Ikeda said. The channel agents have access to the same support staff utilized by our direct sales team. All parties receive appropriate compensation.

Tata Communications Americas

Web site: www.tatacommunications.com
U.S. headquarters: Herndon, Va.
Parent company: Tata Communications
Geographic coverage: Europe, Asia including India, North America, Africa

International services for U.S. businesses: Tata Communications has a global transmission network spanning five continents. Its TGN cable system is more than 200,000 kilometers. On top of this network, the company has built an impressive array of value-add services, such as wholesale voice, data services, enterprise and consumer voice and data services, MPLS, telepresence, colocation, data centers, hosting, managed hosting, Ethernet and IP-based facilities.

Domestic U.S. services: Telepresence, MPLS, colocation, data centers, managed hosting, IP transit, security, enterprise voice, CDN, hosting, Video Connect and Mosaic (digital media management).

U.S. PoPs: New York;  Newark, N.J.; Ashburn, Va.;  Atlanta; Miami; Chicago; Austin, Texas; Los Angeles; Santa Clara and San Jose, Calif.; San Francisco and Seattle.

Channel chief: Paul Wiltshire for Europe and the North America

Partner program: Tata Communications has been operating indirect sales channels in India for many years already. The company is taking what they have learned in India and are spreading the model globally. They started the referral program in February 2008 and began a commissioned agent program in February 2009. The carrier works with systems integrators, business process outsourcing companies, consulting first, technology partners, VARs and project management firms. Presently, it works only with direct agents and has approximately 30 in the United States. Presently channel revenues represent 12-15 percent of Tata Communications global business, and the company expects that share to increase over the next two years. Agents are compensated with one-time and residual payments depending on the provisions in the contract. The carrier has a dedicated channel team in the United States that consists of sales and commercial components. This structure is replicated globally with all teams working in concert.

Telstra International
Web site: www.telstrainternational.com
U.S. headquarters: New York
Parent company: Telstra Corporation Ltd.
Geographic coverage: Asia Pacific

International services for U.S. businesses: MPLS, Ethernet, SONET-based international private lines, wavelengths, Ethernet private lines, VPLS, Ethernet virtual private lines, Global Internet Direct, IP transit services

Domestic U.S. services: Not available to agents customers

U.S. PoPs: New York; New Jersey; San Jose, Calif.; and Los Angeles

Channel chief: Will Hughs, senior vice president of product and design

Partner program: Telstras partner program was started in 2007, but it will be relaunching the program in late 2010. The carrier targets VARs and telecom agents and has both master agent and direct agreements. Its agent roster numbers less than 15 and accounts for less than $3 million per year. Agents are compensated on a residual basis and supported with dedicated account executives and sales engineers.

Essential Skills for International Telecom Sales

The key to success selling international services is an adventurous spirit at least according to Will Hugh, senior vice president of product and design for Telstra International. Selling international services is part teaching, part tour guide and part monger, he said. Listening to the customer and finding out the key drivers are extremely important. Customers are usually nervous or confused about how to take their IT overseas. A good agent will be able to ease those fears by demonstrating that they have the relationships with an operator who has taken many enterprises on this journey.

International service providers offered the following advice for improving your chances of success:

  • an understanding of the international telecom industry thorough data services product knowledge

  • experience serving enterprise customers with international connectivity needs

  • experience in international business

  • focus on vertical markets

  • willingness to be trained in the providers strengths 

  • ability to speak global

  • strong relationships with clients

  • an understanding of target markets

  • clear understanding of customers business and technology needs

  • direct contact with the end-user as early in the sales process as possible

  • involving the service provider in the sale

  • knowing the right solution before engaging in a pricing war

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