AT&T, Sprint see arena as growth area
Telecom service providers that are cutting personnel in other departments are pinning at least some of their hopes on internal channel departments to help increase sales during the slower economy.
AT&T, for instance, said its channel department is expanding despite news on Jan. 5 that the company will trim its workforce by 5,000 people, bringing recent layoffs to more than 10,000.
Keith Olsen, vice president indirect channels at AT&T, said the carrier's channel group has seen a 28 percent increase year over year in budget and resources. Recent layoffs won't negatively impact service to the channel, he said.
AT&T top brass sees the channel as a growth area and increases in resources prove it, he said.
"I'm not seeing a downturn at all in my numbers," Olsen said of recent sales. "The economic climate has impacted many service providers and you are seeing a flight to quality."
Similarly, Lee Priest, director of indirect channel marketing at Sprint, said he expects a sizable boost in his budget but won't have a specific number until the end of the month. Sprint recently laid off 6,000 workers.
Priest said in addition to the up to 21 percent commissions rolled out last year, Sprint is looking to aggressively recruit new partners, such as small VARs, and provide more spiffs and incentive programs.
"Our sales have been lower than anticipated," he said. "We saw very high growth rates but expected to get more [revenue out of it. We'll be offering more incentives than we have in the past to help drive sales."
Solution providers said they are reaping the benefits of service providers that are aggressively courting the channel,particularly in better commissions and new incentive programs.
Brian Hanna, director of carrier services at Data Processing Sciences, a solution provider in Cincinnati, said he sees opportunities to pick up new customers as a result of all the layoffs. "Cuts that all the carriers are making, in combination with the demise of many of our direct competitors, is a great opportunity for [Data Processing Sciences," he said. "After all, there is a large telecom user base that will continue to need to be serviced."