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September 12, 2011
Zane Long has been at the helm of Cbeyonds indirect channel program since April of this year, and hes spent the past few months making some changes. For example, in August, he helped institute a Swat Team Cloud Services program for certain agents. The Swat Team was training that took place in the providers 14 markets and covered products, process, configuration and pricing. The goal was to certify participating agents to ensure theyre proficient in selling cloud services. Longs ideas come from his 11 years experience in the channel and 20 in telecom overall working for companies including Focal, Broadwing, Level 3 and GENBAND, an IP equipment vendor.
Channel Partners: How will your equipment background, specifically, impact how you approach your new role?
Zane Long: When launching new products, such as the cloud services product line, it is essential to deliver a simplified training process to our core agent base, enabling them to quickly understand how to identify potential customers. In the last four years, I created and launched a global partner program that enabled VARs around the world to sell, support and install complex products and services, including DPI, session border controllers and media gateways. We will use channel best practices to ensure consistent growth for Cbeyond.
CP: How have you changed the Cbeyond Agent Channel program since you took over, and why?
ZL: The channel program has been given a new focus. We have recently re-written and simplified the agent agreements and now have four categories of agents Master, VIP, Core and Standard. The master agent program in particular is new to Cbeyond and is made up of a very exclusive group of nationally recognized master agents in the telecom industry. We are choosing master agents based on extensive reviews of their capabilities, and we have determined that they are best positioned to add tremendous value to Cbeyond.
In addition, we are very focused on training for our new products, which include PRI, MPLS and cloud services. We have also recently implemented bi-monthly training webinars for all products and processes for each.
CP: How many agents does Cbeyond have and how do you expect those numbers to change in the next 12 months?
ZL: Currently, we have a large number of referral partner-type agents (e.g., phone vendors, consultants, etc.). We have just launched our new agent agreements and seek to add several regional and national agents to our program over the next couple of months.
CP: What are your goals for the Cbeyond channel program over the next 12 months?
ZL: The ultimate goal is to have Cbeyond be recognized for having a world-class indirect sales channel program by our peers and agents alike.
CP: Looking through the last half of 2011 and into 2012, what products strike you as particularly hot for partners to be selling?
ZL: The fastest growing technology segment by far is cloud-based services. That includes products like cloud PBX, virtual servers and dedicated servers. Most SMBs dont have the technical resources on staff to navigate through the choices. As their trusted technology adviser, you can help sort it out and make the benefits of the cloud a reality for them.
CP: What are the biggest challenges facing partners the rest of this year and in 2012?
ZL: The first challenge is sorting through the technology clutter. There are so many offerings and providers, its hard to get your arms around it. Huge companies like Amazon and Microsoft are now selling cloud services to SMBs. Additionally, there are hundreds of telecom, hosting and other technology companies in the game. Getting a lay of the landscape and narrowing your focus to a handful of companies that you would recommend will keep you busy.
The next greatest challenge is being able to articulate the technology benefits to your customers. For example, weve found that if you begin the conversation with a rundown of how cloud servers work, the customers eyes will glaze over pretty quickly. Technology means nothing if you cant relate it to the customers business in simple terms.
Instead of talking about how the technology works, relate it to their everyday reality. For example, if they need to replace their outdated phone system but dont have the capital expense budget to do it, cloud PBX is probably a good fit. Or, if the extent of their backup and recovery plan is hoping the server underneath the IT persons desk isnt accidentally unplugged, they are a good candidate for a cloud server.
While there are challenges, there are also great opportunities to carve out a more strategic role in your customers business.
Read more about:Agents
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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