Q&A: 8x8 Channel Chief Don Trimble

Trimble has a long history in the communications industry and plans to use that experience to build a program that will entice VARs to sell 8x8s SaaS services.

Kelly Teal, Contributing Editor

March 24, 2011

5 Min Read
Q&A: 8x8 Channel Chief Don Trimble

8×8 Inc. has named Don Trimble as its new vice president of channel sales. The IP services and managed hosting provider is putting fresh emphasis on its channel, which remains small. Trimble, who has worked in the telecom channel sector for about 25 years, is tasked with developing 8×8’s indirect strategy. He reports to Kim Niederman, senior vice president of worldwide sales, who also recently joined 8×8.

Trimble comes to the job with experience in the channel divisions for NComputing, Hewlett-Packard, Polycom Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and 3Com Corp. He boasts “extensive” experience building channel programs from the ground up, he told Channel Partners in early March. 8×8, Trimble said, will offer resellers an “attractive, low barrier to entry” as those partners seek to boost their revenue with cloud-based communications services.

Channel Partners: How will 8x8s SaaS model work for partners?

Don Trimble: Were trying to combine the margins the channel would normally make on hardware with annuity revenue. Were going to launch that in probably 60-90 days. The key to the channels is minimal installation effort. We provision everything, and the channel can concentrate on selling and retaining the customer.

CP: Given your channel background, what tools would you like to have 8×8 provide to help achieve that goal?

DT: I am a firm believer in keeping things as simple as possible from a program benefit (discounts, rebates, etc.) and ordering perspective so that partners know exactly what they are getting and what they need to do to get it. One of the tools I would like to implement to facilitate the ordering process is a Web-based agent portal where partners can log on to quote and order our products and services.

How many partners does 8×8 have and how would you like that to change this year?

DT: While we have very few partners today, we are planning to ramp that quickly over the course of the year to help us extend our reach and move up market. Were going to launch a complete new channel program for resellers who concentrate on the SME market. That will supplement our existing referral program.

Whats special about the SME market that interests 8×8 now?

DT: The SME and distributed enterprise markets (i.e., multiple offices of under 25 people) are the sweet spot” for 8×8, as those types of businesses do not want to incur the expense of buying, installing and maintaining on-site communications equipment, so a hosted/managed solution fits their needs perfectly.

How will your experience help the company and partners target the SME market?

DT: Throughout my career, my primary focus has been on the SME market, as it is much more cost effective for a company to utilize existing resellers to penetrate and grow this market versus doing it themselves. The channel program and reseller profile I’ll be managing at 8×8 will be designed to focus on those partners that live in the SME market.

CP: What are some of 8x8s partner-enablement initiatives for 2011?

DT: The whole key is going to be not really tools but helping partners realize where they can make money. There are basically going to be three SaaS solutions: VoIP, video and hosting. Therell also be some unified communications including mobile apps. Once we sell a company a VoIP solution, they can roll into video, hosting and mobile apps. Itll be a channel self-sufficiency model but well build training programs and have channel managers around the country for hands-on training. Were still working on the details but we are going to be very specific about which partners we bring on board. We dont want to create in-brand competition.

CP: What do you mean by that?

DT: Take a hardware manufacturer, for instance, that has 50 channel partners in Chicago who all find out about a deal and keep discounting the product so theres no margin for anyone. We want to select people in different markets, in different verticals, so they dont compete with each other.

CP: What will be the hot products for partners to sell this year, and why?

DT: I think the hot market for the channel this year is to figure out a way to supplement hardware income. VoIP, SaaS and mobility apps are going to be key. SaaS-based channel models are still in their infancy, so partners who get in the game early will be well-poised to profit from the projected growth.

CP: What education or certification will 8×8 provide to help partners get in the game and stay on top of it?

DT: I plan to take the training, tools and sales development materials and programs that we use internally for our sales agents and not only make them available, but push them out to our channel partners, so they become as self sufficient as possible in selling our solutions.

CP: What are the biggest challenges facing partners this year, and why?

DT: Low gross margins on hardware and in-brand competition are hurting everybody. Plus, customers are expecting more services at a lower price, and they expect installation to be bundled into the hardware price. The other challenge is for partners to learn how to make money selling SaaS or hosted services. 

CP: Other thoughts?

DT: As the entire industry moves toward more of a cloud-based (SaaS) solution strategy, based on the demands and needs of the end-user customers, it will be imperative that 8×8 identify and develop those channel partners who get it” and see the need to add a SaaS solution to their line card and not spend too much time on selling other partners on why they should add it.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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