Everybody wants the cloud.
One of the hottest trends in business and computing in general has been the emergence of cloud computing, which lets businesses outsource much of their technology and business processes to services that are available over the Internet.
When value-added resellers approach clients, talk of the cloud comes up quickly; what can the VAR do for the firm in terms of cloud offerings?
ShoreTel (News - Alert) has recognized this need of its VAR community, and it has recently unveiled a new cloud partner program to enable its partners to offer clients its ShoreTel Sky suite of cloud-based VoIP services.
"This is a highly anticipated event," said Heather Bennett, vice president of worldwide channel programs and sales enablement at ShoreTel, in a recent article about the program. "Partners have been asking since the [M5] acquisition about when they would be able to have access to the Sky suite of products."
One of those asking about the Sky suite has been Joe Rittenhouse, president of business development at Converged Technology Partners, a Chicago-based ShoreTel Gold partner. He said this launch is a big win for ShoreTel partners.
"From where we are at, and where we are going, probably two out of every three [client] appointments, we're talking about cloud," Rittenhouse said. "And it's not that everybody knows what it is, but they want to hear about it, and they want to know how it can benefit their business."
ShoreTel has worked with its partners on a cloud program that fits with various levels of cloud sales experience. The program, part of ShoreTel’s broader Champion Partner Program, includes three different levels depending on how experienced the reseller is with the cloud.
These levels include Referral, Approved and Enabled.
The Referral level is the most basic, and it is intended for ShoreTel partners who are new to cloud sales. At the Referral level, partners hand leads over to ShoreTel, which then handles the deal directly. ShoreTel gives partners a one-time payout for each lead, in what amounts to a typical referral system.
At the middle tier, Approved, ShoreTel works with the partner on the sale. Approved partners not only identify leads, but they also qualify those opportunities and work side-by-side with ShoreTel on closing the deal.
The final proposal and actual implementation of the Sky technology is left to ShoreTel in this second level, however.
Approved partners get a one-time payout plus a percentage of the monthly recurring revenue ShoreTel takes from the deal.
The highest partner level is the Enabled level, which is for partners who handle the sale end-to-end. Partners at this highest level get a one-time payout plus a larger percentage of the monthly recurring revenue than Approved partners. To qualify as an Enabled partner, however, the organization must have a dedicated ShoreTel cloud sales resource on staff.
"We designed it in a way where partners can choose how much they want to be a part of the sales process," Bennett said. "A lot of VARs out there are new to cloud solutions, while some of them have sales people that are used to selling clouds and the monthly recurring revenue model that comes with it. We've designed it with three different levels so that they can decide for themselves how much help they need in the sales process."
Both Approved and Enabled partners must hit a sales threshold to qualify, but there is no quota for the Referral tier.
It also is worth noting that customer billing and the actual technology deployments for ShoreTel Sky currently is handled directly by ShoreTel, no matter the partner level.
That will change eventually, according to ShoreTel, since some partners have voiced the desire to manage billing. But for now, ShoreTel is handling that part of the process.
"As of today, at all of these tiers, ShoreTel is billing the clients directly," Bennett said. "We have got a lot of feedback from partners and some of them want to do the billing, and that is something we are going to put on our road map, for sure."
ShoreTel currently has about 600 North American channel partners. Until this announcement, only about 160 or so of ShoreTel’s partners have been able to sell its Sky solution.
Those partners who have been able to sell the Sky service to this point where those that came over when ShoreTel acquired M5 in 2012, the hosted VoIP company that developed the technology that now largely powers the ShoreTel offering.
With the new program, however, now all partners have access to the Sky service.