December 1, 2001

5 Min Read
Partner Channel - Qwest Business Partner Program Gets Make Over

By Tara Seals

Posted: 12/2001

Partner Channel

Qwest Business Partner Program Gets Make Over
By Tara Seals

Qwest Communications International Inc. has given its business partner program (QBPP) a new look, sprucing up channel collaboration via the “channel optimization” process and trying to accentuate its best attributes with a sweeping reorganization of its business markets unit. The carrier expects the results to dazzle.

Channel optimization, begun in the fall, is intended to promote direct-indirect channel neutrality and collaboration.

The plan includes teaming Qwest business partners with the Qwest Growth Markets direct sales staff whenever it is necessary to close a deal. Qwest says the policy helps partners by expanding their pool of helpful resources. The collaboration is encouraged by commission incentives, and Qwest says it simplified the process of approving and working on channel-neutral opportunities while reducing the amount of required paperwork.

Business partners also can sell new IP, hosting, data or voice services to existing Qwest Growth Markets accounts. Previously, only select business partners could do this, and they needed pre-approval for each opportunity. The carrier now requests only a letter of agency saying the customer wants to work with the partner.

Michael McDonnell

“We’re moving forward in rapid fashion with the optimization,” says Michael McDonnell, QBPP vice president. “Channel optimization is very aggressive and a big, big change here in the company. We’re taking both pieces of our distribution channel and utilizing the strengths of both.”

From a business perspective, QBPP had gotten unwieldy, with many partners offering one or two pieces of business a year, says McDonnell. In order to give better support to all partners, Qwest has created a two-tier program.

The top 350 partners will work with Qwest directly. These partners have been assigned more robust support, including dedicated channel sales managers, inside sales and inside engineering. The other 700 partners will roll underneath the 350. The top 350 partners are expected to support and manage the accounts. To that end, the company is requiring the direct partners to get “Qwest Essential” certified by the end of the year. The certification requires partners to be tested.

“What we’re moving to is a much higher level of knowledge of our products and services so they can support these agents effectively,” says McDonnell. “And I’m not looking at these smaller guys to not have an avenue of representing Qwest. As they increase their knowledge and the regularity of sales, any one of them has the opportunity to become direct.”

Rick Dellar and Rick Sheldon, co-founders of Qwest’s largest

dealer, master agency Intelysis Corp., sit on Qwest’s advisory council.

“We believe it makes operational and financial sense to streamline the channel and try to put the right resources with the traditionally higher producing partners, and those which have the operational functionality to help Qwest meet its objectives,” says Dellar.

The two are working on assurance that smaller agents still will get commissions on existing business, says Sheldon. “One of the things we’re trying to do, and we’ve spent a lot of time working with Qwest, is to find ways to keep those agents alive. They may come through one of the national channel managers, but it may have a better end result for those agents in the long run.”

Also, Qwest has split its business-to-business sector in two. The company appointed Joel Arnold to be executive vice president of global accounts, and he will lead the company’s direct sales force with a focus on the largest global 1,000 accounts. QBPP will work with those accounts as needed.

However, QBPP officially has become part of the national business accounts side of the house, under Cliff Holtz, executive vice president. This sector also includes mid-size to large business accounts, the small business group, Qwest Growth Markets and a number of call centers.

The two new organizations collectively will add 1,000 new sales people as announced Sept. 10.

“This is a big positive for us,” says Craig Schlagbaum, director of partner program development for QBPP, explaining that the company now has the growth-market sales organization, some 1,200 people, under the same tent as QBPP.

“Channel optimization is taking off aggressively in certain parts of the country, and now with both of these organizations under the same management chain we expect to foster even greater working relationships, all for the end of incrementally growing our end user customer base,” he says.

Schlagbaum also explains QBPP will have more executive visibility. With Arnold’s division a separate entity, QBPP is a bigger piece of its organization than in the past.

In addition, the changes include new tools and resources, including a toll-free opportunity support line, web-enabled partner location and lead management. Qwest also is giving partners access to WebCore, a Qwest internal online system, to track data and IP order status and provisioning. Furthermore, two separate partner extranets, Q.Partner and Q.Marketplace, will be accessible with one ID for both systems.

McDonnell expects channel sales to grow within the next two years to drive 50 percent of the business. “It will level off somewhere between 50 and 70 percent between the next three to five years,” he predicts. “I can’t fathom a better time to be in partnership business — the growth potential is huge if you know the business and know how to do this job.”

He says the growth is driven by necessity. “We are at that point where the channel has to be used in order to efficiently be able to grow,” he says.

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