The channel has long been an important way by which Alteva (News - Alert) gets its unified communications solutions to market. Paula Bernier, TMC executive editor, recently interviewed Louis Hayner (News - Alert), Alteva chief sales officer, about the company’s channel strategy.
To what extent has Alteva used the channel to date?
Hayner: In numerous ways – the main being through our master agent relationships like Chorus Communications, and multiple sub agents. Most of our expertise from the channel comes from helping them learn to position the UC product in a different way. It’s not just a cost savings model; it also creates efficiency and productivity increases and a way for organizations to be more competitive. It all starts out by having the channel sell from a different positioning and posturing.
Who are Alteva’s channel partners and why?
Hayner: In 2003, Alteva started its long venture towards hosted UC by launching its hosted VoIP platform. Alteva’s partners used to solely be from the telephony community – telcom VARS, PBX (News - Alert) resellers, master agents, other friendly service providers, etc. As Alteva transitioned from providing just hosted VoIP to hosted UC, its channel has expanded to include other cloud and desktop VARs that are currently positioning and selling Microsoft (News - Alert) products, but without an added telephony solution. Alteva’s channel consists of a lot of legacy and telephony companies, but ever growing is its new brand of partners, which includes cloud companies and desktop solutions providers. Through its UC Sales Certification training course, Alteva is helping both types of partners bridge the gap between their telephony and desktop sales expertise.
What does Alteva do to support its channel partners in terms of dollars, education, referrals, etc.?
Hayner: Marrying the desktop and telephony is really what UC is all about from a channel partner perspective. Added revenue equals added commissions, and the best part is that the end user saves money and gets a tighter, more integrated solution. Since channel partners and businesses are paid on what they sell, the more products that integrate and are able to be sold and bought by the end user will drive higher commission. For example, X percentage of $1 vs. that same percentage (X) of $3.
In addition to healthy commissions, both residual and hardware-based, Alteva provides its partners with free quarterly webinars and quarterly networking events, where they get to meet with Alteva’s sales and marketing representatives and other industry representatives. In fact, at Alteva’s upcoming event in July, representatives from Broadsoft and Polycom (News - Alert) will be in attendance.
Alteva’s channel program has seen an incredible uptake through the use of its UC Sales Certification program. This program teaches the channel how to position and properly articulate the cloud. The program allows Alteva’s channel partners to learn how to position its cloud-based UC solution, expand their offerings, boost revenues and increase market share. The three-tiered program includes a technical overview of UC, education programming on how to sell and position UC, and impact/reinforcement training led by the Sandler Institute, a world leader in innovative sales and sales management training.
What are the training levels?
Hayner: Level one, day one training begins with a UC technical overview by Alteva – covering such topics as the history of telecom and the history of the desktop, LAN/WAN, customer network design, multilink internet, and much more. The latter part of the day’s training will concentrate on how to sell and position Alteva’s UC solutions.
Day two training is led by the Sandler Institute. The curriculum focuses strongly on providing Alteva’s channel partners with unique tactical sales and communication skills, outbound call scripts and techniques to use to control the buyer-seller dynamic that will help give channel partners a highly effective approach to prospecting. The second half of the day focuses on impact training in which Sandler provides a formula for successful selling, by teaching several of its proven techniques.
Level 2 training will take partners on a deep dive into the Alteva sales process and provide advanced questioning, presentation and closing techniques.
Level 3 training will cover the mastery of questioning techniques, negotiation strategies and techniques, behavioral profiling and more.
In addition to the three levels, there is an optional reinforcement training package, which comes in the form of several follow up web trainings. The Level 1 Reinforcement Training package includes Alteva’s Marketing Tool Box program, which is a marketing plan on a schedule, including content in the form of email templates, phone scripts and much more.
What are the big challenges of selling UC solutions?
Hayner: This effort has been ongoing for numerous years, but it wasn’t until recently that we realized the single biggest challenge with UC isn’t selling and positioning cloud based services, it’s more about having the concept come of age and focusing on helping the individual people outside of Alteva (i.e. our channel partners) to position and sell hosted UC effectively. It’s all about standardization and training and making the industry better than we left it. A high tide truly raises all ships.
Another benefit of working with the channel is that it allows Alteva’s salespeople to produce over five times of what our direct sales force can do. By leveraging the channel, our sales people become a ’one too many‘ relationship vs. a ’one to one‘ relationship from a revenue perspective.
Another advantage besides revenue and end user exposure is that the opportunities that are presented via the channel are a lot more focused to certain service provider’s sweet spots, as opposed to receiving opportunities that aren’t ideal fits. Having the channel know what our strong suits are and also what our weaknesses are, allows them to bring us opportunities that are viable prospects that fill Alteva’s sweet spot of 25 users or greater. The channel provides the best leads to that specific service provider based on the end user’s needs and what the service provider can handle. The channel not only provides added value to the service provider, but also to the end user, matching the service provider strong and/or weak points with the proper end user.
If there’s just one message about Alteva’s UC channel effort it would like to convey, what it is?
Hayner: As any agent knows, the key to healthy commissions are a healthy reoccurring revenue stream. Telephony channel agents have been selling carrier service for years, but haven’t been able to embrace PBX complexity as it was outside their typical sales model (monthly reoccurring revenue commissions). Now with hosted UC, they are able to maintain those healthy monthly annuity checks, as well as get paid on hardware, and reinvent their company. One of the advantages of selling cloud-based services is allowing the master agent to rebrand themselves and future proof their business, without making drastic business model changes.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.