Avaya Mounting Massive Partner Recruitment Effort


Avaya is mounting a sizable effort to recruit net-new channel partners, while at the same time continuing to cut underperforming and non-participating VARs from its channel program.

It's all part of what Avaya's top channel executives called a clean-up of the Avaya channel, two years after it acquired Nortel's former enterprise unit and the sizable partner community that came with it.

"They are partners that want to make more money and more margin and have a better future than what exists with our competitors," said Tom Mitchell, senior vice president and president, Avaya Go-to-Market, discussing the partners Avaya is targeting. "Really, it's that simple."

"We have plenty of people approaching us," said Jeremy Butt, vice president, worldwide channels. "It's not like we're going to have to look for partners. I think the piece we have to continue to improve is our ability to enable partners to be successful even more quickly. I see existing partners coming to us saying, 'I want to pick up that piece of your portfolio,' which says we're getting something right."

In 2010, Avaya cut about 1,200 partners globally, and plans to cut nearly 1,000 more during its new fiscal year, Butt said. Avaya is instituting sales thresholds -- $50,000 in sales for enterprise partners, and $5,000 for SMEs -- as one way to weed out quick-sign-up, opportunistic or underperforming partners.

"You have to protect the partners that want to invest," Butt said.

Mike Ferney, vice president of merchandising for distributor Catalyst Telecom, confirmed that a big recruitment effort, particularly of small and midsized-business focused Avaya partners, is underway.

"In the past year, we recruited about 45 net-new partners in the SME space," Ferney said. "This year, our target with Avaya is 400 net new partners. That's a big deal, and for us, it plays to our strengths."

Ferney sees Avaya's recruitment effort is a tighter alignment between Avaya's sales force and its distribution channel, and Catalyst earns incremental rewards from Avaya for its role in that recruitment, he said.

There's also a push to develop partners by segment, Ferney said, especially in major metropolitan areas where the population of Avaya-focused partners is dwarfed by Cisco parnters.

"Their perspective is, we're under-distributed," Ferney said. "It's 'We've gone too long really not trying to expand and we haven't made it easy for new partners to get in.' It's not that they'll lower the bar, it's a conscious, focused effort to bring good new partners to the table. It's a real alignment between the distributor, the new partners we bring to the tables and the Avaya sales force."

Butt said that Avaya will continue to promote partners up its various partner tiers -- Silver to Gold to Platinum at the higher levels -- and during the new fiscal year, begin measuring those partners on customer satisfaction as a requirement to preserve their status.

Partners will also have more opportunity with Avaya than with larger competitors, said Mitchell, who "will be forced to cut margins in a place where there wasn't much margin to begin with," and with smaller competitors who saw VARs through a honeymoon period before those VARs realized that those vendors can't help them sustain profits and lead generation with those vendors.

"Partners want to make money in a sustainable model," Mitchell said. "With the competition, if you look at the major players, it's going to be difficult."

Avaya has also been cracking down on gray market resellers, Butt said, including a pair of raids, led by U.S. marshals, on secondary Avaya equipment reseller businesses in Los Angeles and New York earlier this year.

"UItimately, the secondary market is basically stealing from the channel, stealing from the customer experience and stealing from us as well," Butt said. "When we've got reports on it, we're in now in a better position to see who did what to who, and when and how. We've stepped that up enormously in the last 24 months."